Nat'l Geo serving 'Hard Time'

Channel orders six-hour series set in prison

National Geographic is going behind bars with a new reality series set in a Georgia prison.

The rapidly growing cable channel will air "Hard Time," a six-hour series revolving around the inmates and correctional officers in the state's incarceration system. Producers were embedded in the prison for a year to capture the footage and were fortunate enough to be on hand when two prisoners staged an escape (one of whom hasn't been caught).

"This is what National Geographic does best," said Steve Burns, executive vp content at the channel. "A definitive look at a subject with access that other people cannot achieve."

One prison in the series is a Hi-Max facility, which the channel says is the most extreme disciplinary environment allowed in the U.S. As part of Georgia's unique paramilitary system, prisoners are treated as if they're in a military boot camp to try and shape convicts into acting like soldiers instead of criminals. National Geographic will debut "Hard Time" at 9 p.m. Feb. 23.

Since the network's debut, National Geographic has had six years of consecutive viewership growth. "We're definitely feeling the momentum going with this channel and plan to continue growing," Burns said.

The network also is set to announce renewals for several existing series:

-- "Dogtown," which transforms misfit dogs into adoptable pets, will return in the spring with 10 new episodes.

-- The critically acclaimed "Locked Up Abroad," which tells the story of kidnapping and imprisonment in other countries, will return in the spring as well, with 13 episodes.

-- "World's Toughest Fixes," with host Sean Riley, has been renewed with 10 episodes, showing some of the most difficult repair jobs in the world.

Also coming back: "Naked Science" for 13 episodes and "Deadly Dozen" for a third season.

The network plans to announce these shows during its session at the Television Critics Assn. winter press tour, which began Wednesday.