Discovery, TLC Roll Out Reality Skeins

New York -- Reality programming is alive and well at Discovery Networks U.S. as the genre represents a major portion of new, original programming for the programmer’s various networks, executives announced Thursday during its upfront presentation here.

Reality shows are especially big for TLC and Discovery Channel, both of which are hoping to jump-start struggling primetime-ratings performances.

TLC -- which has fallen on hard times since the ratings falloff on network staple show Trading Spaces -- will debut several “observational documentaries” that it hopes will capture viewers’ attention, according to network executives.

TLC posted a 0.7 rating last quarter, down 30% from the same period last year, according to a Disney ABC Cable Networks Group analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

Among the shows slated for TLC’s lineup are: Operation Homecoming, a five-part special series, premiering Memorial Day, that portrays the personal stories of American troops and their reunions with families and communities; Going Hollywood, showcasing interns learning the trade from high-profile celebrity mentors; Million Dollar Agents, profiling the luxury and excesses of the rich and famous; and The Adam Carolla Project, featuring the former TheMan Show co-host and his band of cohorts remaking several homes.

Also on the docket is Wedding Chapel, which goes behind the scenes at a Las Vegas nuptial parlor; Ballroom Boot Camp, a makeover show for would-be ballroom dancers with two left feet; Supernatural, about a group of “ghostbusters” who solve paranormal mysteries; Help! I’m a Terrible Parent, in which moms and dads are pitted against each other to see who the better homemaker is; and The Sit Down, in which mob bosses determine the outcome of court cases.

Discovery -- which saw its first-quarter ratings fall 27% to a 0.7 rating compared with the same period last year -- will offer a heavy dose of docu-reality programming through several new series, including Firehouse USA: Boston, which chronicles the lives of firefighters in Beantown; Deadliest Catch, which follows the exploits of Alaskan crab-wranglers; and Go Ahead, Make My Dinner, a competition-tinged series that pits two of the country’s finest culinary masters against each other in a cook-off, network executives said.

Other shows and specials slated for the network include Planet Earth, a unique special featuring never-before-filmed areas of our planet; Dirty Jobs, a documentary that looks at the nastiest of occupations; I Shouldn’t Be Alive, which portrays the true experiences of people facing difficult obstacles in their lives; and Pop Nation: America’s Coolest Stuff, profiling the country’s infatuation with pop-culture goods from the 1950s through today.

The new series will join returning series American Chopper, Monster Garage, Mythbusters and Monster House, as well as previously announced specials On the Road, SuperVolcano and its ambitious #1 Greatest American event.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.