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At TCA, New Twists on Reality

8/23/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

Several cable networks will
take the reality genre into unique and unusual
directions with projects announced
during the cable portion of the Television
Critics Association tour.

Investigation Discovery will take viewers
to America’s correctional facilities in a
search for musical talent, a la Fox’s hit show
American Idol. ID and prolific reality series
producer Mark Burnett are to develop a reality
series, tentatively dubbed Talent Behind
Bars
, that will give people who have been
convicted of nonviolent crimes and misdemeanors
a chance to showcase their talent.

Prizes will go toward the rehabilitation of
those convicted of these minor crimes and
to nonprofi t organizations that support victims’
rights, ID president and general manager
Henry Schleiff said during the network’s
Aug. 6 presentation.

ID hopes to pair the show with a second
prison-themed series tailored after ABC’s
Dancing With the Stars that will highlight the
fancy feet of prison inmates, Schleiff said.

TLC, ID’s sister service, will shine a light
on the subject of polygamy with the Sept. 26
debut of Sister Wives, a seven-part series following
Kody Brown, his multiple wives and
their combined 13 children living in Utah.

“It’s a raw, honest look at a hidden lifestyle
— plural marriage,” TLC president and general
manager Eileen O’Neill said. “This is a
way of life for approximately 40,000 Americans,
but it’s never been explored in this very
honest, real and authentic way.”

Ovation announced two new reality series
in its first ever TCA presentation. Scenic
Route, a series starring journalist David
Keeps, takes to off -the-beaten track cultural
treasures throughout the U.S.; the series premiered
earlier this month. Coming in September,
Faces of a Vanishing World tracks
19-year-old photographer Joey Lawrence as
he leaves his fast-moving, celebrity photography
career behind to capture ancient tribes
that are on the verge of extinction.

National Geographic Wild will launch a
week-long programming stunt dubbed “Big
Cat Week.” The programming event is part and
parcel of the National Geographic Society’s “Big Cat Initiative,” structured to raise awareness
of the declining populations of lions,
tigers and other felines, according to network
officials.

Older sibling National Geographic Channel
will host an event of its own, the sevenhour,
high-definition Great Migrations,
which will highlight the epic journeys many
species regularly take just to survive, according
to the network. The documentary, three
years in the making, will be the subject of a
cross-platform initiative from print (books
and magazines) to mobile to television, Nat
Geo said.

A&E Network green-lit a documentary pilot
from producer and director Doug Liman
(The Bourne Ultimatum, Mr. and Mrs. Smith),
titled The Unexplained. The show, which will
examine paranormal phenomena and experiences,
marks Limon’s first endeavor in nonscripted
television.

MILESTONE
On Aug. 30 USA Network will air the
900th episode of the World Wrestling
Entertainment’s Monday Night Raw
franchise. Here are some factual tidbits
surrounding the milestone:

Raw is in its 17th year on cable television.

In its first year on air (1993), Raw averaged
approximately 2.8 million viewers
per episode. In 2010, Raw is averaging
more than 5.2 million viewers per episode
— an increase of 86%.

Raw aired on The National Network/
Spike TV from 2000 to 2005.

Since its premiere in 1993, Raw has been
watched more than 3.3 billion times.

Other shows that debuted in 1993 include:
NYPD Blue (ABC), Monday Night
Countdown
(ESPN), Late Night With Conan
O’Brien
and Frasier (NBC), while shows
that ended their runs that year included
Knots Landing (CBS) and Cheers (NBC).

SOURCE: Multichannel News research

September