The Watchman: ‘Truck’ Time on History, ‘Idol’ No Longer Idle

We’re going with a competition series theme in this edition of The Watchman, starting with Truck Night in America, which debuts on History March 8. The show pits 50 truck owners in some stiff challenges for a $10,000 prize. Each episode has five drivers, and two finalists take on a hellacious three-mile obstacle course called “The Green Hell.”

There are busted fuel lines, popped tires and even, at one point, a truck on fire. “Every Green Hell is breathtaking,” promised Mary Donahue, History senior VP of development and programming, and an executive producer on Truck Night.

There are a half-dozen female contestants. One, named Missy, truly jumps off the screen. “She is so kickass,” Donahue said. “She has more chutzpah than virtually anybody I’ve seen on any show ever.”

Donahue called Truck Night “quintessentially American.” Research showed the network’s viewers own two trucks, making the show quintessentially History as well.

Donahue may soon join the ranks of truck owners, as Truck Night is inspiring her to swap in her current ride for a pickup, maybe a Ford F-150. “I’m kissing my SUV goodbye,” she said. “It’s time for me to be a little bad-ass.”

And American Idol starts on ABC March 11, nearly two years after its finale on Fox (see related story, page 20). Trish Kinane, FremantleMedia North America president of entertainment programming, said the essence of Idol will remain the same on its new network. “It would be wrong to tell you it’s a very different Idol,” she said. “But we did freshen it up a lot.”

That includes the judges, Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. A successful trio of judges is all about chemistry, Kinane said. “Until Day One, when they sit behind the desk together, you don’t know,” she said.

She calls Richie “the dad of the panel.” Perry is “very sympathetic to the contestants, but also tough.” Bryan is “warm and funny.”

Kinane said the revamped Idol will also feature contestants dueting with celebrity singers. A dozen celebrity singers, including Bebe Rexha and Allen Stone, are lined up for the new Idol.

ABC is a right fit for Idol, Kinane noted, because of the network’s proclivity toward family viewing and its ability to handle what she calls “big, iconic brands” such as The Bachelor.

She said Idol’s time out of mind has re-energized it. “After two years off the air, it has helped us refresh our talent pool,” Kinane said.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.