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CMT Orders Documentaries From Ridley Scott, Morgan Spurlock

The Viacom-owned cable network has launched a news and documentary division and ordered six new projects, including one that celebrates Johnny Cash.

Morgan Spurlock Writers Guild Awards - P 2011
Craig Barritt/Getty Images
Morgan Spurlock

CMT has launched a news and documentary division and is teaming with a few award-winning producers for its first slate of six projects, the Viacom-owned cable network announced Wednesday.

The cabler is looking to the likes of Ridley Scott and Morgan Spurlock for a wide range of subjects that will appeal to its core viewership. Scott will exec produce a documentary miniseries focusing on the American farmer. Spurlock (Super Size Me) will look at independence in a 90-minute film, while CMT shows will also explore country superstars and Johnny Cash, among other subjects.

"We’re fulfilling our promise to create a CMT news and docs division with a slate of bold and compelling stories that reflect big personalities and monumental events that helped define America, our music and our spirit,” said Jayson Dinsmore, CMT exec vp programming and development. “We’ve partnered with some of the most respected and visionary filmmakers working today, all charged with producing unique documentaries through an authentic and distinctive lens.”

The news arrives as CMT has posted four consecutive year-over-year ratings increases, with 22 percent total day growth and a 31 percent uptick in primetime. Its recently concluded first quarter was its highest primetime ratings period since 2009, ranking the cabler as one of the fastest-growing networks on cable.

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In addition to the news and documentaries, CMT also announced series pickups for Steve Austin's Broken Skull Ranch and My Dysfunctional Family as well as renewals for Party Down South, Dog and Beth: On the Hunt and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, the latter of which stands as the longest-running reality series for the network.

"We’ve had a tremendous year of growth at CMT,” Dinsmore said. “We produced the biggest show in the channel’s history, established a beachhead on the highly competitive Thursday night and have more returning series than at any point ever before. With more fresh content across all platforms, we’ve grown our audience and increased our social footprint to over 10 million active users. And by engaging our audience on a deeper, personal level and connecting with them beyond the linear channel, we’re laying the foundation for the next generation of loyal CMT viewers."

Here's a look at the documentary slate as well as CMT's summer and fall lineups:

NEWS & DOCS

PROMISELAND

Executive producer Ridley Scott and the producers behind the critically acclaimed and award-winning television events “Gettysburg,” “Killing Lincoln” and “Killing Kennedy” present an epic new documentary miniseries celebrating the unsung hero of our country: the American farmer. This groundbreaking four-hour miniseries highlights the captivating true stories of farming families with agricultural roots that trace back for generations. Featuring innovative storytelling and sweeping cinematic visuals, PROMISELAND reveals how these hard-working men and women form the backbone of our nation. PROMISELAND is executive produced by Ridley Scott, David Zucker and Mary Lisio of Scott Free Productions.

THEY CALLED US OUTLAWS: COSMIC COWBOYS, HONKY TONK HEROES AND THE RISE OF REDNECK ROCK

Presented by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, this eight-hour documentary event comes from the award-winning and critically acclaimed  filmmaker Eric Geadelmann  (“Dave” and “The Dance”), best-selling biographer Joe Nick Patoski (“Willie Nelson – An Epic Life”) and Emmy, Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning producer Mark Johnson (“Breaking Bad,” “Rain Man,” respectively.)  What happened in Nashville and in Austin in the late 1960s and early 1970s was nothing less than a tectonic shift in country music. From Tennessee to Texas, musicians were breaking all the rules, pushing aside long-established traditions and doing things their own way. THEY CALLED US OUTLAWS tells this story in four feature-length documentary films. It is an in-depth never-before-seen look at the pickers, the players, and the writers who altered the course of country music forever. THEY CALLED US OUTLAWS is “Willie, Waylon & the Boys,” and a few irreverent girls, at the height of their rule-breaking days; featuring over 20 American music icons including Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Bobby Bare, Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark, Billy Joe Shaver, Joe Ely, Ray Benson & Asleep at the Wheel, Rodney Crowell, The Flatlanders, Jessi Colter, Marcia Ball and Emmylou Harris. THEY CALLED US OUTLAWS is produced by Crowfly Pictures Entertainment and Filament Productions and was written, directed and produced by Eric Geadelmann, Kelly Magelsky and Ken Levitan, and executive produced by Mark Johnson, Joe Nick Patoski, Cal Turner, Margaret Turner, Craig Eiland, Randy Paul, Ray Benson & Mickey Raphael.

FREEDOM

From Academy Award and Emmy-nominated filmmaker/executive producer Morgan Spurlock comes FREEDOM: THE DOCUMENTARY. This epic 90-minute film takes an in-depth look at the idea of independence and whether we’re all still truly liberated in today’s America. Equal parts comedic and irreverent, we will traverse the country, meeting the outlaws, the outlandish and the outspoken freedom fighters who are fighting the good fight every step of the way. We’ll explore all sides of the issue, on an unheralded quest to understand the full scope of the freedoms afforded to us across this great nation. FREEDOM: THE DOCUMENTARY will finally ask and answer the ultimate question: “What does it mean to be ‘free’ in America?” FREEDOM: THE DOCUMENTARY is executive produced by Morgan Spurlock, Jeremy Chilnick and Ethan Goldman of Warrior Poets.

URBAN LEGEND: WHEN A NATION WENT COUNTRY

From the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning producers and directors of the ESPN “30 for 30” film “Pony Excess,” which debuted as the highest-rated documentary in network history, and the Emmy-nominated “The Marinovich Project,” comes URBAN LEGEND: WHEN A NATION WENT COUNTRY. The feature-length documentary delves into the phenomenon sparked by the 1980 film “Urban Cowboy” – when country music found itself in vogue nationally for the first time in history. At the center of the new country movement was Gilley’s, the largest bar in the world located in the oilfields just outside Houston. The documentary tells the boom and bust story of this Texas-sized phenomenon and the honky-tonk that inspired it – the true story about the moment when a nation finally went country. URBAN LEGEND: WHEN A NATION WENT COUNTRY is produced by Ten100 Productions and directed by John Dorsey and Andrew Stephan.

JOHNNY CASH – AMERICAN REBEL

JOHNNY CASH – AMERICAN REBEL is a celebration of the larger-than-life Johnny Cash from the unique perspective of the Man in Black’s 10 greatest songs. This feature-length documentary explores the life, music and artist expression of one of music’s most notorious rebels, from his first No. 1 hit, “I Walk the Line,” in 1957 to 2002’s “Hurt,” which is considered his farewell masterpiece and one of the most acclaimed music videos of all time. Combining cinematically filmed original interviews with Cash’s family and friends, and a broad array of international superstars, a classic Cash soundtrack, archival concert footage and family snapshots, the film is an epic tribute to this gifted artist, fighter of causes and legendary entertainer. JOHNNY CASH – AMERICAN REBEL is executive produced by Derick Murray and Paul Gertz from Network Entertainment.

INSIDE FAME
CMT takes us deep inside fame with today’s hottest country music stars. Each one-hour episode will feature a different artist and will include all-new in-depth interviews with the artists themselves, their families, fellow artists, producers and journalists, as well as personal photos, never-before-seen home videos and exclusive behind-the-scenes footage along with current and archival performance footage.  FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE and HUNTER HAYES will be spotlighted in episodes premiering later this year.

CMT’S SUMMER LINEUP

INSIDE FAME: FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE – premieres May 2014

CMT’s biography series INSIDE FAME returns to TV with the first in-depth look at country superstars, Florida Georgia Line. The duo dominated the country charts in 2013, achieving multiplatinum status with their debut “Cruise,” which was named the best-selling digital country single in history with sales of over 6.8 million digital downloads (Soundscan). INSIDE FAME takes fans inside the lives of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley with all new interviews, never-before-seen home videos, exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and more. Jayson Dinsmore and Lewis Bogach serve as executive producers for CMT.

CMT MUSIC AWARDS – premieres June 4 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT

It’s CMT’s biggest night of the year as the annual CMT MUSIC AWARDS brings the party live from Nashville with country music’s best-loved superstars and special celebrity guests. The annual awards show, now entering its 13th year, is the network’s highest-rated night each year. Michael Dempsey will executive produce the 2014 CMT MUSIC AWARDS alongside director Joe DeMaio. John Hamlin and Margaret Comeaux will serve as executive producers for CMT.

PARTY DOWN SOUTH – premieres June 5 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT

The eight housemates of PARTY DOWN SOUTH are back for another season of muddin’, funnelin’ and gettin’ country as they embark on an epic spring break. After an unforgettable summer in South Carolina, Daddy, Lil Bit, Lyle, Mattie, Tiffany, Lauren, Walt and Murray return to reignite old friendships and flames and even make some new connections along the way. This bold and hilarious dysfunctional family will work hard and party harder as this season is sure to be the most outrageous yet. PARTY DOWN SOUTH is produced by 495 Productions with SallyAnn Salsano, Joel Zimmer and Kyle Simpson serving as executive producers. Morgan Selzer and Jayson Dinsmore executive produce for CMT.

CMT CROSSROADS: KATY PERRY AND KACEY MUSGRAVES – premieres June 13 at 10 p.m. ET/PT


For more than a decade, CMT CROSSROADS has delivered some of the most unforgettable performances on television. Next up are global superstar Katy Perry and recent Grammy winner Kacey Musgraves, who will appear in the 50th episode of the critically acclaimed and longest-running music series of the network. For the first time in series history, this all-new episode of CROSSROADS will not only air on CMT, but will also air on multiple channels including VH1, MTV, MTV Hits and Palladia. The two stars will swap lyrics and share stories in a performance to be taped live in Los Angeles before embarking on a tour together later this summer. CMT CROSSROADS is produced by Tom Forrest and Kathryn Russ. John Hamlin, Margaret Comeaux and Bill Flanagan serve as executive producers for CMT.

DOG AND BETH: ON THE HUNT – premieres June 14 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT

The world’s most famous bounty hunters are at it again!  Dog, Beth, Leland and Dakota are back on the road, crisscrossing the country to train fellow bondsmen and helping track down some of America’s most dangerous criminals. With their trademark candor and strong belief in second chances, the Chapmans motivate and inspire both the local bondsmen and the fugitives that the Chapmans capture along the way. This season, Dog introduces new high-tech surveillance gear and the latest in cutting-edge ballistic equipment. Expect more adrenaline-filled hunts, dramatic captures and emotional moments of redemption than ever before. This season also includes a very special episode celebrating Dog’s birthday. DOG AND BETH: ON THE HUNT is executive produced by Duane and Beth Chapman and their production company, Entertainment by Bonnie and Clyde, and by Electus, LLC (Chris Grant, Ben Silverman and Corie Henson) and Alan Deutsch. Matt Trierweiler is the executive producer for CMT.

BROKEN SKULL RANCH – premieres July 2014


In this ultimate badass competition show, Steve Austin brings eight elite athletes to the Broken Skull Ranch each week to test their strength, stamina and endurance. Each episode, contestants go head-to-head until the last man standing earns the right to take on the toughest obstacle course in America, the “Skullbuster,” and the chance to win $10,000. STEVE AUSTIN’S BROKEN SKULL RANCH is produced by 51 Minds Entertainment with executive producers Christian Sarabia, Rabih Gholam, Steve Austin and co-executive producer Vincent Cariati. Julia Silverton, Jayson Dinsmore and Joe Livecchi executive produce for CMT.

MY DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY – premieres July 2014

Struggling parents call family fixer Dave Vitalli for help with their difficult teenagers, but anything can happen when he shows up. His years of experience working with families in crisis have taught him the apple usually doesn’t fall far from the tree, and parents soon find themselves under as much scrutiny as their kids. You won’t find Vitalli’s techniques in any textbook. Armed with lie detectors, drug-sniffing dogs and other surprise tactics, Vitalli pulls no punches digging out the truth and setting families straight. MY DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY is produced by Shed Media US with executive producers Pamela Healey, John Hesling, Dan Peirson and Jeff Cvengros. Matt Trierweiler, Jayson Dinsmore and Joe Livecchi executive produce for CMT.

DALLAS COWBOYS CHEERLEADERS: MAKING THE TEAM – premieres August 2014

America’s most iconic and beloved cheerleading squad and CMT’s longest-running entertainment series is back as DALLAS COWBOYS CHEERLEADERS: MAKING THE TEAM returns for its ninth season. This season, audiences will experience unprecedented access to America’s sweethearts. The making of this year’s squad will prove to be one of the most dramatic and competitive seasons ever as hopefuls from all around the world will attempt to survive a fierce audition process, a strenuous training camp and finally … opening game. Season nine will see familiar faces from the past and new characters who will surely have everyone talking. Expect surprise appearances by celebrities, musical artists and guest choreographers and a backstage pass to the famous jaw-dropping calendar shoot. DALLAS COWBOYS CHEERLEADERS: MAKING THE TEAM will capture all the dance, action and high stakes as 500 girls attempt to live out their dreams. DCC is produced by Triage Entertainment with executive producers Stu Schreiberg, Stephen Kroopnick, Eugene Pack, Peter Zasuly and Kelli McGonagill Finglass. Jayson Dinsmore and Jonathan Unger are executive producers for CMT.

CMT’S FALL LINEUP

DEATH VALLEY – premieres fall 2014


It’s called “The Gateway to Hell.” Here, every sunrise unleashes intolerable heat, every stranger is a potential threat and every hilltop crawls with deadly creatures. But for those brave enough to battle the elements, Death Valley offers up immense treasure buried deep within its hills and valleys. This series follows five unique individuals as they live off the grid, creating their own rules for survival in their quests to find riches in this treacherous wasteland. DEATH VALLEY is produced by Glassman Media with Andrew Glassman as executive producer. Julia Silverton and Jayson Dinsmore executive produce for CMT.

SWAMP PAWN – premieres fall 2014


A CMT fan favorite returns for a third season as Rick Phillips and the rest of the Bayou Pigeon crew brave the dangers of the swamp to hunt for crawfish, gators and other lucrative catches. SWAMP PAWN is produced by Pilgrim Studios with Craig Piligian and Scott Popjes as executive producers. Julia Silverton, Joe Livecchi and Jayson Dinsmore executive produce for CMT.

MY BIG REDNECK FAMILY – premieres fall 2014


America's favorite redneck family is back. MY BIG REDNECK FAMILY documents the laugh-inducing daily dilemmas, parenting predicaments and martial mishaps of the Clampet Family in their hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. These mud-ridin', gun-totin' rednecks know how to bring the laughs … and the beer. MY BIG REDNECK FAMILY is produced by Pink Sneakers with Kimberly Ehrhard and John Ehrhard serving as executive producers. Lewis Bogach and Joe Livecchi executive produce for CMT.