Discovery aims for big splash with slate

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Discovery Channel is set to unveil a sweeping new programming slate that includes a brand-expanding series about infomercial pitchmen and a rare venture into scripted programming with a two-hour movie inspired by the success of "Deadliest Catch."

The network has greenlighted at least seven new shows, including several from top docudrama creators Thom Beers and Craig Piligian, as part of an effort to continue increasing its number of original programming hours.

First is "But Wait … There's More" from executive producer Beers, which follows longform ad salesmen Billy Mays and Anthony "Sully" Sullivan as they evaluate quirky new products, craft pitches and take to the airwaves to push the goods.

The entrepreneurial advertising-age setting marks a departure for Discovery and Beers, the latter best known for his gritty, naturalistic series such as the network's top-rated "Deadliest" and History's "Ice Road Truckers." Discovery has ordered 13 episodes of "But Wait" and plans to premiere it in the spring.

"They're a pair of great characters who have become multimillionaires doing this business," Discovery Channel president and GM John Ford said. "Beers is the ultimate entrepreneur himself, so this is a labor of love for him."

Beers also will be a consultant on a two-hour movie based on the short-story collection "Working on the Edge," about a Bering Sea fishing vessel that sank and left its crew struggling to stay alive.

"It's a true story of survival of these guys who abandoned ship, and it will flow from the 'Deadliest Catch' experience," Ford said.

More in Discovery's traditional wheelhouse is Piligian's reality series "Out of the Wild," on which suburbanites are dropped in the Alaskan wilderness and must trek back to civilization. "Wild" has roots in previous Discovery project "The Alaska Experiment," which had a group living in a cabin.

"We wanted to ramp up the energy and have them going from Point A to Point B across really tough terrain," Ford said. "They have no food — nothing but training, the packs on their backs and hunting gear."

The eight-episode series will premiere in April during Discovery's "Alaska Week."

Piligian also will produce the new series "Swamp Blogging," about a logger who harvests trees in an extreme environment. Six episodes are planned.

"He goes where nobody else can go and where you shouldn't even be able to move around," Ford said.

Another Piligian show, "Moments of Terror," will be a companion to the producer's freshman series "Destroyed in Seconds." "Destroyed" premiered last year and was an instant hit for Discovery, with a recent Saturday marathon clocking the largest total-day average viewership in the network's history.

"Destroyed" shows structures that have been decimated by natural and man-made forces, and "Moments" will profile individuals who have had near-death experiences. Both shows use interviews and CGI re-enactment footage.

In addition to a 13-episode debut season of "Terror," Discovery will order a second season of "Destroyed."

But wait … there's more:

"The nice thing is we've broadened the mix of producers and content to give viewers the variety they crave," said Ford, who presided over the network's best-rated fourth quarter to date among adults 18-49. "We're ramping up the volume and keeping the quality high because viewers hold us to a very high standard." (partialdiff)
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