Once again, nonfiction entertainment juggernaut Discovery Communications is realigning to boost its smaller networks for the upfront season. Along with previously announced scripted green-lights Klondike (on Discovery) and 73 Seconds (on Science), DCI is investing in programming across its brands with new series like Science's The Meaning of Life starring Karl Pilkington, of An Idiot Abroad; Investigation Discovery will see an influx of hosting talent from Tamron Hall to Jerry Springer.
As for the flagship channel, viewers will get Big Brain Theory on Discovery, a competition show hosted by Kal Penn. As ever, cable is trying to drive live viewership, so it's green-lit two specials—Wallenda Life, which follows Nik Wallenda on a high wire across the Grand Canyon; and Fast 'n' Live, about Fast 'n' Loud's Richard Rawlings and Aaron Kaufman restoring cars for speed.
An odd hole in the Discovery lineup was the network's co-productions with BBC America—expensive propositions that have driven viewership both in the U.S. and abroad. There are still nature specials aplenty (Hidden Kingdom, about small animals surviving against the odds, looks promising), just none that appear to be co-productions.
New series at Discovery include two new shows about drilling for oil, two shows about people stranded with the world "Naked" in the title (Naked and Afraid and Naked Castaway), and a gemstone hunt show called Rock Raiders.
TLC's upcoming series don't need much description beyond the working titles: Alaskan Women Looking for Love, Husband Hunters, My Teen Is Pregnant and So Am I, Women of Homicide, and Best Funeral Ever (the network will also launch a spinoff of successful series Breaking Amish called Breaking Amish: Brave New World). Animal Planet's biggest offering is Eel of Fortune, about New England fisherman hunting the elusive elver eel, which goes for $2,600 per pound. We'll also see another extreme housing show: Treehouse Masters. And there's a spinoff of My Cat From Hell featuring disagreeable dogs and entitled My Tiny Terror (and yes, the network did decide to call their angling competition series Top Hooker). And there's a special on groups of animals that we'll file under "jobs we're glad somebody else has:" Swarm Chasers.
Science and Destination America are getting expanded slates in the new season: Science will run a companion feature to 73 Seconds (about the Challenger investigation and starring William Hurt as Richard Feynman) on Feynman himself, called The Genius of Richard Feynman. In the tradition the network has established of pairing film actors with high-concept science, James Woods will host a six-episode series premiering in November called This Changes Everything. Science does have a partnership with the BBC, by the way, for the primate-tastic Monkey Planet.
Destination America's new series include King of Thrones, about toilet engineering; Mountain Monsters, about mythical critters like Mothman and Chupacabra; and two real estate series set in Central Louisiana and Hawaii, respectively.
Investigation Discovery, which continues to over-perform for Discovery, is bringing back 22 of its current shows and green-lighting another 15, this time with established names like Jerry Springer (who will host a new series called Tabloid). Also on the slate: Surviving Evil with Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Charisma Carpenter; Deadly Affairs, hosted by Susan Lucci; and Deadline: Crime With Tamron Hall. The network continues to actively commission new series. One source said that in reality TV, "they're the only ones still commissioning in New York."
No word on OWN as yet, though Oprah Winfrey will appear on a programming block in the U.K., per this morning's Discovery International upfront.