Animal Planet goes wild with new shows

There's plenty of cuteness and adrenalin in the channel's line-up

Animal Planet wants to help you tap into your inner wild. That's the message as the channel - broadcast here via Sky Television - unveils 11 new shows along with 20 returning favourites in the season ahead.

There's everything from rampant cuteness - such as Animal BFFs, a new series about odd-couple chums in the animal kingdom - to wild things, such as Polar Bear Crossing, which will transport viewers to Manitoba, Canada, where the human population of the tiny town of Churchill is outnumbered by its not-always-so-neighbourly co-habitants: polar bears.

Underworld dives into underwater caves around the world, where mysteries lurk that were previously witnessed by few, if any, humans, and where danger is as prevalent as wonders.

And don't forget Billy and Ami Brown who, with their seven children, have taken residence deep in Alaska's wilderness. For this Alaska Bush Family a harsh environment, dangerous critters and a challenging terrain are just part of everyday family life.

Going wild is the latest step for Animal Planet, which previously recognised people as part of its animal equation with its "Surprisingly Human" push.

"There is no animal planet and human planet, it's all one planet," says Marjorie Kaplan, the network's president and general manager.

"So we decided to tell the human stories that happen at that intersection."

It worked. In 2012, the network grew by 17 per cent among American viewers in the 25-to-54 demographic, and by 23 per cent among men 25 to 54. It was the network's most-watched year among total viewers.

"But then we asked ourselves, is there more elbow room in this brand?" says Kaplan.

"The intersection of human and animal is really about the connection of humans to the wild. We're not getting rid of our animals, but there are places we can explore that are about how we, as humans, live on this wild planet." Example: Catch and Release, a back-to-nature game show that makes Survivor seem tame. On this show, a group of five of what are billed as "the world's most elite, thrill-seeking survivalists" choose one among them, then blindfold and dispatch him to a remote, unexpected location (whether a dense jungle or a frigid glacier) to fend for himself. He has 100 hours to find his way back to civilisation or he loses the game big-time.

"This is our idea of fun," insists one of these chaps.

"It's a hero's journey," says Kaplan, "but we also want to show the camaraderie of his friends, who are monitoring him on video. We want to show the fun of the game."

A different kind of competition is Top Hooker, which pits 10 expert fishermen against one another in a series of wild challenges with a US$30,000 ($35,600) prize waiting to be snagged.

"There's something about the rarefied, careful, air-conditioned lives that we live that leaves us wanting more," says Kaplan.

"We feel like we're missing something."

Other highlights will be the quest for tiny fish on Eel of Fortune, Clipped, about an "extreme dog groomer, Treehouse Masters and more.

- AP

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 22 Oct 2014 16:16:07 Processing Time: 443ms