With CNN Worldwide president Jim Walton heading out at the end of 2012, it's looking like CNN will take a decidedly non-newsy turn next year. The network has green-lit Inside Man, a new series from documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, of Supersize Me and The Greatest Movie Ever Sold fame. Spurlock's series will run on weekends alongside a new series from celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain (no title for that one yet).
The news network has created a new division to oversee material like this—the Talent and Development department, run by CNN Worldwide evp and managing editor Mark Whitaker. Whitaker, who oversees CNN Worldwide but reports directly to Walton (as does Ken Jautz, who oversees CNN U.S., and Scot Safon, who heads HLN), was installed in 2011 to help turn the company's fortunes around. Last year was a banner year for CNN, with years' worth of breaking news packed into just the first few months, but 2012 has seen the network's ratings plummet and its prime-time lineup falter. Amy Entelis is heading up the division's internal recruiting and development, while Vinnie Malhotra will deal with third-party contractors like Spurlock's production company, Warrior Poets.
Now, CNN is turning toward more conventional unscripted programming to goose its flagging numbers. The Spurlock series will air "alongside" the Bourdain show (presumably in a block) on weekends, debuting in April. It's a busy season for Spurlock—he's also exec producing A Day in the Life on Hulu and The Failure Club (a spinoff of his documentary Mansome) on Yahoo. Gun nuts, marijuana farmers, migrant farm workers and end-of-life caregivers will feature on Spurlock's show.
Spurlock says his imprimatur will be much more apparent on the new CNN show. "For this, when I'm on camera and I'm kind of the guy immersed in these worlds. I'm very heavily involved, much more so than when we're just writing scripts."
"The idea of doing very engaging nonfiction programming is smart; this is a network like a lot of other 24-hour networks who've realized that you run out of news," he opined. "They're looking to give people on weekends something else they can look at."
Spurlock balks at the word "reality." "We make very straight, deliverable, nonfiction programming," he said. "They said, 'We want to see something we've never seen on TV before.' That's a really exciting opportunity."