Discovery goes with dirt and dogs

Picks up series on coal miners, Iditarod from Original

Discovery Channel has greenlighted two series from the producers behind its hit show "Deadliest Catch," one of which revolves around Pennsylvania coal miners and the other on contestants in a sled-dog race.

Both series, from Thom Beers' Original Prods., have a common theme with "Catch" as well as other Discovery programming, said John Ford, who was named president and GM of the network in November.

"At Discovery, we look at ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things and show the heroic side," he said. "This is the DNA that ties all three shows together, and it's an important aspect of what Discovery Channel does. We're going out there into the tough places of the world where the temperatures and conditions are extreme."

Production starts next week on the tentatively titled "Coal," which will follow coal miners working at a small company in Brady's Bend, Pa., as they compete against the conglomerates in the constant struggle to find new coal to supply to buyers. Discovery said it will be the first time a TV program will show the jobs of coal miners, who must contend with the possibility of gas explosions, roof collapses and dangerous machinery.

Six hourlong episodes have been ordered for "Coal," which is being eyed for a fall debut, though Ford said he might order more episodes down the road.

Meanwhile, production has wrapped on the tentatively titled "Iditarod," a six-part series being eyed for a late-summer premiere. The hourlong series follows eight teams in the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race — a 1,151-mile race that takes place over two weeks each March in the subzero Alaskan wilderness.

Beers said that cameras followed eight of the 85 teams that competed this month, and as luck would have it, "we got the winner." He said he's actually been interested in doing a show about the race for some time.

"But we had to wait until technology caught up," Beers said. "We couldn't use ordinary cameras. We had to use something that would be light enough so it wasn't weighing down the sleds."

Ford emphasized that neither series has been scheduled yet but noted that "Coal" might be a good pairing with "Dirty Jobs," while "Iditarod" could work well with Discovery's adventure-themed programming.

Original's credits include Discovery's "Monster Garage" and History Channel's "Ice Road Truckers" and "Ax Men."
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