National Geographic Channel launched a new series - Rescue Ink Unleashed - Friday Sept. 25, amid the fall flurry of broadcast-network premieres. Fortunately, the 10 p.m. debut did have a strong lead-in from a new episode of TheDog Whisperer.
A fitting and fortunate lead-in, as the Rescue Ink troupe deals with many dogs, and these men and their Harleys are large enough that they don't need to do much more than whisper to get their point across.
Their point: Don't abuse animals. Or we will come rescue them.
On Wednesday night, Nat Geo threw a launch party for the show and the Long Island, N.Y.-based animal-welfare organization at a nightclub in midtown Manhattan. Network general manager Steve Schiffman said at the event that it was a bit daunting to kick off a new series in such a competitive TV environment - but it's also a time when lots of people are tuning in, and the show should benefit from good press.
"The media love these guys," Schiffman said, on stage with the show's heavily muscled and tattooed (all but Angel) heroes. "They're rock stars. Keep it up!"
Friends from weight rooms and autobody shops, the members of Rescue Ink - including Batso, Eric, Big Ant, G, Joe Panz, Johnny O., Des the Cat Man and "den mother" Mary Fayet - share a love of animals. They were galvanized into action in 2007 after a pitbull terrier on Long Island was found tied to a tree and burned to death.
In the premiere episode, screened at the party, their exploits include extracting three hungry pitbulls from a locked Bronx apartment after their owner, an Iraq veteran, was beaten and hospitalized; confronting a man accused by neighbors of shooting a pellet gun at feral cats in his yard; and, hilariously, chasing chickens that were let loose in a Queens neighborhood. It got a bit easier after they realized chickens can fly straight up.
The Wire, impressed by their work, even bought a T-shirt from Rescue Ink volunteers (available from Rescueink.org) at the party. Slogan: "Abusers are losers."
Schiffman said the network ordered six episodes of the National Geographic-produced show, with options to add more in a hurry.
Despite the fall competition, he said, "We're preparing as if this is going to be a hit."