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Exclu: As part of a jam-packed programming lineup next year, Discovery Channel has greenlighted two new reality shows that find hidden treasure amid everyday junk.
The network has ordered Desert Car Kings, about an Arizona family that restores classic vehicles, and Treasure Nation (working title), about an archaeologist and anthropologist duo who travel the country to find overlooked artifacts.
The shows represent just the tip of Discovery’s programming iceberg for 2011. The network plans to renew 15 shows and debut 25 new series — the most in the network’s history.
In addition to previously announced pickups for Discovery mainstays like American Chopper and Dirty Jobs, returning shows next year include Auction Kings, Dual Survival and Man Woman Wild.
Clark Bunting, president and general manager of Discovery, said the rise in programming also includes a widening of the network’s creative scope.
“We’re going from strength to strength — there’s not only a lot of solid returning series, there’s also a much bigger and broader editorial swing,” Bunting said. “We’re getting broader and looking into spaces we haven’t gone before.”
Two of the first new shows out of the gate, Car Kings and Treasure, are in the network’s wheelhouse, however. Kings stars the McClure family, who seek out old cars in backyards, barns and on their own massive lot. The show debuts Jan. 26. Treasure starts Feb. 15 and stars self-proclaimed “blue-collar scholars” Kirk French and Jason DeLeon, who find everything from antique weaponry and ancient Mayan artifacts to claims of Biblical relics in suburban backyards.
“There’s tension and uncertainty about the economy, and these shows are comfort food,” Bunting said. “There’s a sense that if everything went sideways, there may be stuff in your attic or backyard that might be worth something.”
All told, Discovery has six new shows debuting in the first quarter, including Flying Wild Alaska out Jan. 5 (about a family-run airline), Sons of Guns out Jan. 24 (about a man who rebuilds and sells unique weapons), Hogs Wild on Jan. 16 (docu-series about free-roaming hogs) and Kidnap & Rescue on Jan. 29 (rescuers risk violent reprisal to find innocent victims).
Flying Wild brings another Alaska-based reality show to cable, with the network recently scoring its biggest series premiere in years thanks to the record-setting debut of Gold Rush: Alaska. Bunting says the 49th state’s popularity with viewers taps into an urban escapist fantasy.
“The Alaska programming and shows like Man vs. Wild and Gold Rush goes back to what we started with,” Bunting said. “There’s a voyeuristic attitude if you live in a cubical that you want to see people living life on their own terms.”
The biggest Alaska show on Discovery remains Deadliest Catch, which broke network ratings records last year. The series will continue to evolve into a more nuanced and character-driven show in the wake of Captain Phil Harris’ death.
“Early on, the show was about the crabs and the danger,” Bunting said. “Now it’s more about the boys and how they and the rest of the fleet go forward without Phil. It’s not just about how much they’ve caught, our audience is connecting with these people in a way they haven’t done previously.”
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