Animal Planet, the “Surprisingly Human” network, announces an entertainment roster of 14 new series and specials and 12 returning hit shows this season.
“Animal Planet tells bold stories at the electrifying intersection of humans and animals,” says Marjorie Kaplan, President and General Manager of Animal Planet. “Whether through mysterious trips out into the wild, laugh-out-loud adventures with big characters, or moving and deeply affecting dramas, animals are a terrific accelerant to the wide range of raw, real, big entertainment audiences can expect from us.”
Animal Planet finished 2010 with the highest audience delivery in its history and with its average median age down again to 44 years. With all original content, the Planet’s 2011-2012 programming slate builds on the success of the network’s Surprisingly Human brand direction with new character-driven series as well as a lineup that explores the transformative power of animals to heal, discovers a new face of conservation, travels uncharted waters into legend, and continues the network’s dominance in the pet and natural history genres.
It wouldn’t be Animal Planet without RIVER MONSTERS, the network’s best-performing series ever. This Sunday, the season three debut of RIVER MONSTERS caught more than 1.6 million P2+ viewers and was the #1 non-fiction program among men 18-49 in its timeslot. With more monsters out there, the hit series returns next year as expert angler and biologist Jeremy Wade continues his quest to find the most monstrous legendary freshwater fish yet. And Jeremy isn’t the only great character who can take us to the river. Dive into HILLBILLY HANDFISHIN’ with Oklahoma hand-fisherman Skipper Bivins and his family as they happily introduce audiences and adventure-seeking city slickers to the excitement of noodling – the wild sport where you submerge yourself in murky water to hook catfish using just fingers and toes as bait while hoping to return with all of ’em still attached.
The Planet’s new season slate has lots of larger than life characters. PIT BOSS returns with foul-mouthed, big-hearted ex-con Shorty Rossi struggling simultaneously to run his little person talent agency and save his beloved pit bulls, and the fiercely determined Tia Torres continues to give ex-cons and maligned dogs a second chance in PITBULLS & PAROLEES. NED BRUHA: SKUNK WHISPERER and his crew join the line-up to hilariously and humanely get those bats out of your attic and rodents out of your rec room. Brothers-in-law, best friends and rivals, Wayde King and Brett Raymer, partner in TANKED and build the most audacious, jaw-dropping aquariums while dealing with an outrageous family and staff. It’s also all in the family for Daniel and LaDawn Ross, whose taxidermy shop in Romance, Arkansas, employs family members and an eccentric staff in the new series ROMANCE IS DEAD (working title), where the preservation of deceased pets provides the ultimate closure for people saying a final farewell to their furry family members.
Animal Planet remains deeply committed to exploring “muscular conservation” with its flagship series, WHALE WARS, returning for its fourth season this summer. Might this be the year the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society finally puts an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean? And now conservation has a deliciously different new face with animal warrior and vegan baker Danielle Konya in SWEET AVENGER (working title). Danielle is a tough cookie, determined to save the world one sweet treat at a time by creating decadent desserts without using a stick of butter or a single egg.
Of course, many of us love animals, especially our pets. Often we try to save them, and sometimes they save us. This season DOGS, CATS and PETS 101 as well as MUST LOVE CATS are back and even more chockfull of quirky facts and lively stories for animal lovers. Also returning is the complex, powerful and ground-breaking series CONFESSIONS: ANIMAL HOARDING, which takes an unflinching look at the people and pets affected by this difficult psychological condition. And new to the Planet, SAVED, a deeply moving series of first-person accounts of harrowing experiences in which animals have intervened to save people’s lives.
These series and more, including the CGI spectacular, MERMAIDS: THE BODY FOUND (working title), continue the evolution of Animal Planet as a competitive entertainment destination. Highlights of Animal Planet’s 2011-2012 Upfront programs include the following new and returning titles:
NEW SERIES AND SPECIALS (in alphabetical order):
DETROIT ANIMAL TATTOO (working title)
“There’s nothing more special than the link between an animal and a human,” says Detroit- based Tom Renshaw, a world-renowned tattoo artist specializing in photo-realistic wildlife tattoos. DETROIT ANIMAL TATTOO (wt) documents the professional and personal life of Renshaw and his motley crew of body-inking associates. Each hour-long episode follows the stories behind animal tattoos – from prep to ink – and the people who pay permanent homage to fallen pets and life-changing encounters with animals. There’s an intimate story behind every tattoo, and it’s Tom’s job to make sure those stories come to life.
From small towns in the South to remote areas of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, four eccentric but passionate members of the Bigfoot Field Research Organization (BFRO) embark on one single-minded mission – to find the elusive “creature” known as Bigfoot or the Sasquatch. Comprised of a former roadie (Bobo), a high school science teacher (Cliff), a skeptical scientist (Ranae) and BFRO president Matt Moneymaker, the foursome engage in the ultimate sleuth in search of proof that Bigfoot really does exist… and is alive and well in the United States! By examining photos and videos of the creature, speaking to local witnesses, using new technology and luring the mysterious beast with Bobo’s “Squatch” call, the team uncovers startling evidence of the mysterious and highly intelligent enigma that has eluded capture for centuries and fascinated man for just as long.
Welcome to the wild sport of noodling! In this series, adventure-thirsty city slickers head to Oklahoma to submerge themselves in murky waters to catch catfish with their bare hands and feet. It’s a trip of a lifetime for fish-out-of-water, adventure-seeking clients who want nothing more than to surprise themselves – and maybe gross themselves out – by doing things they’d never thought they’d do. Led by Oklahoma hand-fisherman and self-proclaimed hillbilly Skipper Bivins, these people get a taste of redneck lifestyle by going through the paces of noodling catfish with no fishing rods and no hooks. The only lures in this cat fishing are fingers and toes – which, by the way, can be just as attractive to the snakes, beavers, muskrats and snapping turtles that take over abandoned catfish holes as homes of their own. The experience might be uncomfortable, completely foreign and downright terrifying, but it promises to alter the lives and positively affect each newly crowned noodler long after the last morsel of deep-fried fish is gone.
LION KINGS OF LAS VEGAS (working title)
Meet the Fercos’, the Las Vegas family determined to ascend the entertainment throne once occupied by Siegfried and Roy. Big cats – tigers, panthers and a lion – are very much part of the Fercos’ way of life, and every member of the family has an intimate relationship with the cats they raise, train and love. When one of their tigers ran off after a rabbit, he roamed the streets of Las Vegas for hours until captured safely in a backyard. Led by sibling trainers and renowned illusionists Tony and Ferdinand, the family has traveled the world entertaining audiences, and now, the younger members of the family are poised to take the reins of the family business. Only one thing’s for sure, life will definitely be interesting.
MERMAIDS: THE BODY FOUND (working title)
In the early 1990’s, the United States Navy began a series of covert sonar tests that were linked to mass die-offs of whales washing up on beaches around the world. These beachings were well-publicized, but startling amateur video and photographic evidence – much of it never released until now – suggests that whales were not the only creatures affected by the Navy’s sonar. In 1997, scientists monitoring underwater microphones recorded a mysterious sound deep in the Pacific Ocean, a sound from an unidentified creature unlike any other animal recorded. What made that sound, dubbed “The Bloop,” has remained one of the greatest mysteries of the oceans, until now… as Animal Planet presents the CGI, two-hour special MERMAIDS: THE BODY FOUND.
MY EXTREME ANIMAL PHOBIA
Most people agree that dogs, cats and birds are loving and faithful companions. But for as many as one in 10 Americans, animals are a source of absolute terror. Each hour-long episode of MY EXTREME ANIMAL PHOBIA features a group of individuals debilitated by an irrational fear of animals. Some haven’t left the house in years; others are deeply ashamed, but all are desperate to find a cure that can help them live without fear. Under the guidance of psychologist Dr. Robin Zasio, each participant undergoes five days of intense emotional exposure therapy, coming face to face with their worst animal fears.
NED BRUHA: SKUNK WHISPERER
Are wild animals encroaching on your domestic bliss? Do you have rodents in your rec room or bats in your attic? If so, Ned Bruha, known as “The Skunk Whisperer,” is the man to call. A cross between Ace Ventura and Crocodile Dundee, NED BRUHA: SKUNK WHISPERER takes a hilarious look inside the unpredictable world of humane wildlife control in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the clash between man and beast. This series follows the exploits of Ned and his lively crew as they face the challenges of capturing home-invading critters and working with each other. Without the use of traps or killing them, Ned and his team tackle everything from raccoons, possums, bats and even mountain lions. Dealing with the wildest nature has to offer is all in a day’s work for the Skunk Whisperer crew, and taking a home and giving it back to the owners on a platter without harming animals is icing on the cake.
PUPPIES VS. BABIES
From cute and cuddly to adorable, hilarious and outrageous, newborns and zooborns are the most fussed over subjects on the Internet, and America just can’t get enough of them! Every other day, a star is born in cyberspace, and the question remains: who is the best?! PUPPIES vs. BABIES finds out with three one-hour episodes, taking the 16 most popular clips from that week and pitting them against one another in three rounds of playful competition for the coveted number one spot. With judging panels ranging from experts to comedians and even people off the streets, PUPPIES vs. BABIES is taking the vote to the masses and settling this showdown once and for all!
RAT BUSTERS NYC (working title)
New York City is made up of more than 300 square miles and is populated by more than eight million people and so many rats it’s impossible to count them. In RAT BUSTERS NYC (wt), New York’s toughest exterminators Jimmy Tallman and Michael Morales of Magic Pest Control scour the corners of the city, responding to calls involving unwanted pests and unearthing the most traumatic cases of rat infestations in the Big Apple. Each hour-long episode follows Brooklyn-born fellas Jimmy and Michael as they comb through the boroughs and get down and dirty fighting the city’s most notorious pests including rats, roaches, mice, bedbugs and other creepy crawlies. From the roughest streets of the Bronx to even the wealthiest parts of Manhattan, viewers witness Jimmy and Michael up close and personal with vermin and unwanted rodents. But it isn’t all work for these New York natives – the series also showcases Jimmy and Michael’s lives away from the rat race.
ROMANCE IS DEAD (working title)
Take a peek into the unusual. Snuggled deep in the backwoods of Romance, Arkansas is a taxidermy shop where people come far and wide to say farewell to their pets in a special way through pet preservation. Taxidermist Daniel Ross makes his business a family affair, employing wife LaDawn, who handles the books, and even seeking some help from his three young boys. With the help of three other eccentric employees, Daniel’s shop, X-treme Taxidermy, gives customers once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to cope with the loss of precious family members- their pets. While nothing can bring back these animals, Daniel and his artistic team attempt to come close by recreating the illusion of life so his customers can return home with their pet for eternity. Behind the scenes, Daniel’s three assistants often deliver more drama than product. Dixie is a veterinary student and newbie to taxidermy who ironically cringes at the sight of blood. Fred, a shoeless, shirtless classic redneck, has an accent so strong he’s often in need of an interpreter. Joseph, a hunky, part-time model from ‘big city’ Little Rock, suffers from OCD and contamination fears – a condition that doesn’t make the process of preserving animals easy. In this series, viewers watch Daniel console offbeat customers, including a burly farmer distraught over his chihuahua’s death and a waitress with a deceased pet goat that once occupied her living room. Viewers also get to watch Dixie go over the edge when stuffing her first poodle, Joseph’s dating life go awry because of the nature of his job, and LaDawn lose it when Fred moves his mobile home next to the Ross family house. Taxidermy is an odd business, but Daniel, his family and coworkers embrace their trade with the warm knowledge that they are providing a rare and lifelong gift to animal lovers.
Sometimes the art of living is all about holding on. And when in peril, help can often come from the most unexpected sources. Occasionally the bond that exists between humans and animals transcends the traditional pet-owner relationship… sometimes the emotional connection between a person and his pet runs much deeper. SAVED recollects compelling, true stories where animals have intervened to save people’s lives, but often not in the traditional sense. Told through first-person accounts by the people who lived through the harrowing experiences, SAVED shares incredible stories of animal heroism -both physical and emotional. From a hound dog that convinced a woman to kick a 25-year heroin addiction so she could care for him to a family’s struggle to bring home a puppy that gave their late son the last bit of happiness before he died in Iraq, the animals featured in SAVED play a pivotal role in pulling humans through their darkest periods and give them a second chance at life.
When people think of Miami, they think of the ultimate vacation – lying on the beach, sport fishing and enjoying the great outdoors. While Miami offers all of these things, South Florida is a giant swamp filled with snakes. Snakes are everywhere. One hundred percent of yards in Miami have snakes; you just can’t always see them, not to mention, dangerous alligators, vicious Tegu lizards and Africanized bees. When it comes to the planet’s most venomous creatures, there is only one team who has the knowledge and fearlessness to battle them – Venom One. Venom One team is an elite group of specially trained fire fighter/paramedics within Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. It’s the only emergency response team of its kind, and it currently holds the largest anti-venom bank in the world. In this docu-drama series, viewers witness the intensity and urgency of the job as this courageous team takes down killer snakes, rushes against the clock to deliver anti-venoms and ultimately saves lives.
SWEET AVENGER (working title)
Not a single egg or stick of butter ever has been used by Vegan Treats owner, Danielle Konya. Since founding her Bethlehem, PA, vegan bakery, Danielle has been on a mission to craft delicious and compassionate vegan desserts that not only compete but outright crush her non-vegan counterparts. SWEET AVENGER (wt) satisfies the sweet tooth in this series featuring Danielle’s mission to save animals one cupcake at a time. Danielle believes that decadent sweets can be achieved without harming any animals. Assisted by a cadre of trusted co-workers (including her mom and best friend), Danielle’s confident her sweet treats can do all the talking to convince people that a vegan diet is the tastier alternative. While some describe her as tough as nails – a driven warrior for the animal kingdom – Danielle has layers that go deeper than her ‘Death by Chocolate’ cake. She’s an accomplished baker whose recipes have won her awards, and she has attracted a celebrity clientele. Though she can be stubborn as a bull, she’s a steadfast friend and mom to an adopted daughter. While Danielle’s mission is sweet and simple, there are plenty of challenging twists and turns in running a successful vegan bakery. From fulfilling custom orders for more than 100 pastry shops in the region and catering to an endless calendar of special events, Danielle must also work with and inspire a staff who does not all share her vegan view of the world. There are countless hours of tireless work in getting people to choose vegan, but Danielle finds the perfect recipe to achieve her mission.
TANKED (working title)
Following the antics of two brothers-in-law as they run the largest aquarium manufacturing company in the nation, TANKED (wt) dunks viewers into the high-decibel, family-owned business of Acrylic Tank Manufacturing (ATM). Led by business partners, best friends and rivals Wayde King and Brett Raymer and housed in a state-of-the-art, cavernous facility located in the center of Sin City, ATM has created thousands of enormous, conceptual aquariums for high-profile clients. Working with opinionated and outrageous family and staff, the duo takes on jaw-dropping aquarium builds from such intricate and interesting locations as inside restaurants, casinos, bank, hotels, churches, offices, mansions, museums and zoos. Their tanks are for celebrities and ordinary Joes, and their aquariums and their business are filled with the most unusual and larger-than-life creatures in the world.
NEW WEB SERIES
This new six-part reality web series follows a diverse cast of outspoken characters during their day-to-day experiences at a bustling dog park in New York City. Through a combination of unobtrusive documentary shots and candid park-bench confessionals, web surfers are given a true, insider’s perspective of life inside the gates of a Manhattan dog park. With each episode running three-to-five minutes, viewers witness everyday dramas unfold in the lives and relationships of the people who frequent the dog park, along with the unbreakable bond between humans and animals.
RETURNING SERIES (in alphabetical order):
CONFESSIONS: ANIMAL HOARDING
CONFESSIONS: ANIMAL HOARDING, the ground-breaking series that takes an unflinchingly honest look at animal hoarding, the people and pets affected by this psychological condition, returns to Animal Planet with twelve all-new episodes. Animal hoarding is defined as the compulsive need to possess and control animals and often involves the acquisition of a high and unmanageable number of animals. Not yet formally recognized as a distinct psychological disorder, animal hoarding, in most cases, goes unaddressed until it becomes a crime. Each episode of this series delves into the hearts and minds of individuals who hoard a variety of species from cats to dogs to farm animals. The series also provides an opportunity for family members and friends to help their loved ones from spinning further out of control. Having no previous established protocol, the series coordinates task-force style interventions by psychologists, animal-welfare experts, veterinarians, friends and families to help individuals recognize the root of their issues and take healthy steps to address their animal hoarding.
DOGS 101/CATS 101/PETS 101
The most comprehensive and endearing dog and cat encyclopedia on TV is back with plenty of new breeds! DOGS 101 and CATS 101 spotlight the adorable, the feisty and the unexpected and survey a variety of breeds for their behavioral quirks, genetic history, most famous examples and wildest trivia. Using a mix of animal experts, pop-culture footage and stylized photography, DOGS 101 and CATS 101 are unprecedented looks at man’s best friend and their furry feline counterparts. Accompanying the popular DOGS 101 and CATS 101 series, Animal Planet features furry, feathery and scaly friends in PETS 101. Millions of homes welcome a menagerie of these eclectic critters, and PETS 101 shines a light on these creatures lounging around the house, sunbathing in the pool and spinning away their days on exercise wheels.
FATAL ATTRACTIONS tells the intense, heart-wrenching, true stories of people who choose to live with deadly “pets” – wild animals that are capable of catastrophic injury and even death. But these people say they are taking the ultimate risk for love. They see these animals as family members; they live with them, sleep with them…their lives become completely intertwined with theirs. From pet tigers to crocodiles, FATAL ATTRACTIONS is a cautionary tale that warns that the love of your life might also be your ultimate demise.
I SHOULDN’T BE ALIVE
What lengths would you go to in order to survive in the wild where you have to battle the forces of nature and the elements? I SHOULDN’T BE ALIVE presents viewers with this very question, allowing them to re-live the harrowing, true stories of real people who survived fascinatingly dire circumstances and lived to tell about it. Viewers find the experience of I SHOULDN’T BE ALIVE to be an emotional one – the featured tales often deal with unimaginable scenarios, moral dilemmas, split-second decisions and chance occurrences that determine life or death. This highly engaging series constantly leaves viewers in awe and forces them to ponder: Do I have it within me to do the same?
INFESTED! tells the real-life horror stories of ordinary people plagued by frighteningly extraordinary infestations. Dangerous, deadly, weird and bizarre – the series features the nastiest of nature’s squatters. If you think your four walls protect you from the ghastly ‘big bads’ of the rodent and insect world, think again! Meet a family who’s threatened by an infestation of deathly recluse spiders, and check out the Texan home that’s plagued by possums – animals that famously play dead. But what happens when they’re feigning their demise within this family’s walls!? It’s not “easy come and easy go” for these poor people – getting rid of these gruesome invaders can be more nightmarish than learning they’ve been crawling throughout their home in the first place!
IT’S ME OR THE DOG: SEASON 4
IT’S ME OR THE DOG is back, and renowned British dog trainer Victoria Stilwell is heading back to the Big Apple to take on more of New York’s problematic pooches and their out-of-control owners! From uptown housewives to guys down shore, Victoria is called by a diverse mix of the Tri-State area’s most interesting characters, all of whom share a common problem – their lives are being turned upside down by their inability to control their four-legged friends. Victoria must pull out all the stops in order to transform these rambunctious pets and their owners. This season, expect to see Victoria employ some different tactics, and in true New York style, she meets each challenge in a BIG way.
MONSTERS INSIDE ME
For two seasons MONSTERS INSIDE ME proved that the smallest creatures are often the scariest. The popular series returns to lift the cover off all-new and mysterious microscopic organisms circling the globe – some closer than you think. Family and friends are shocked and worried. Doctors are puzzled, racing to unlock the medical obscurities before it’s too late. What do all these cases have in common? The causes of these illnesses are not viruses or bacteria but stealthy, cunning creatures that have taken up residence in their unsuspecting hosts – parasites! Every story is a life-or-death battle between modern medicine and evolution as these patients fight off the MONSTERS INSIDE ME.
MUST LOVE CATS
MUST LOVE CATS, the successful and popular celebration of fascinating felines and the fascinating people who love them, returns with six new episodes and hundreds of cats! The series spans the realm of all things “cat,” offering a potpourri of amazing feline stories, jam-packed with interesting factoids and trivia bits. Hosted by musician and cat lover John Fulton, who combines his love for ditties with kitties, MUST LOVE CATS is on a mission to prove that from north to south and east to west, America is filled with cat lovers.
The PIT BOSS is back with 12 new episodes that delve deeper into the lives of Shorty, his crew and the pit bulls they save. New episodes show Shorty driving his staff hard to keep afloat both Shortywood Inc., a talent management group for little people, and Shorty’s Rescue, his pit bull rescue effort. Though this ex-con is undoubtedly rough around the edges, Shorty’s an ambassador to the pit bull breed. He better hope for “Diplomatic Immunity” as the season brings viewers episodes of daring rescues, laughter, tears and the real-life drama within the workings of Shorty’s team of little people.
PIT BULLS & PAROLEES: SEASON 3
Two hundred pit bulls, 10 dusty acres in the middle of nowhere and convicted felons on parole. What’s the common factor? It’s the crossroad for a chance at redemption, rehabilitation and rebirth for both man and man’s best friend. And, at the center of it all is one fiery, extraordinary woman — Tia Maria Torres — who devotes her days and nights to giving the underdogs of the canine and human worlds a second chance. Returning with new episodes, PIT BULLS & PAROLEES follows Tia, one of the country’s most renowned pit bull trainers and the founder of the Villalobos Rescue Center, the largest pit bull rescue facility in the world, as she brings together felons and ill-reputed dogs to rescue one another from their dim pasts and bring new meaning to their lives. In the third season, Tia faces a new set of challenges and unexpected dramas including watching her daughters, Tania and Mariah, take a more active role in running the center, bearing witness to one of the most important moments of parolee Armando’s life and the touching adoption of a pit bull that has been involved in three failed adoptions. One thing that hasn’t changed is Villalobos’ core mission — to rescue pit bulls from dangerous and abusive situations and find them loving and lasting homes.
Animal Planet’s top-performing series, RIVER MONSTERS, returns for a fourth action-packed season as extreme angler and biologist Jeremy Wade travels worldwide to uncover harrowing freshwater fish tales. RIVER MONSTERS follows Jeremy’s worldwide search for aquatic demons and man-eating fish with the hope of proving these freshwater mysteries as tall tales or frightening facts. With Jeremy taking his life-long passion of extreme fishing and turning it into a full-time career, Jeremy’s quests for the bizarre and unusual have him reeling in fascinating and mysterious creatures hidden within some of the world’s most treacherous waters.
Captain Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society return for a fourth adrenaline-fueled season of WHALE WARS, waging a life-and-death battle and masterful chess match to find and stop Japanese ships from hunting whales in the name of research. After a death-defying campaign resulting in the addition of another ship (the Bob Barker to join the Steve Irwin), the destruction of the group’s multi-million dollar vessel, the Ady Gil, and the detainment of its captain, Pete Bethune, for months in a Tokyo prison, the Sea Shepherds return to the Antarctic. Labeled activists and heroes by some and eco-pirates by others, the crew once again sets sail for its next whale defense campaign called “Operation No Compromise.” With the whaling quota higher than ever, the Sea Shepherds embark on a new mission with surprise tactics and new crew members on a desperate mission to declare victory and end whaling once and for all.