Discovery network explores scripted programs

Washington PostDecember 12, 2012 

Discovery network has joined the march of nonfiction cable networks to the land of scripted programming. But Discovery has not strayed far from home: That first project is a miniseries about prospecting for gold.

“Klondike,” based on Charlotte Gray’s novel “Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich in the Klondike,” follows six strangers and their fight for survival and wealth in a small, remote frontier town in the late 19th century.

“Discovery created and owns the ‘gold’ narrative with several of our hit series,” said Eileen O’Neill, president of the Discovery and TLC networks. The network, which had been dancing around the scripted genre for some time, ultimately decided that this one was the “perfect fit,” she said

By “the ‘gold’ narrative,” O’Neill means, of course, the popular reality series “Gold Rush,” as well as “Bering Sea Gold,“ “Jungle Gold,” etc.

Gold is a Discovery channel thing.

Paul Scheuring (”Prison Break,“ “A Man Apart”) is the primary writer and will serve as the project’s executive producer.

“‘Klondike’ was the last great gold rush; it triggered a flood of prospectors ill-equipped, emotionally or otherwise, for the extreme and grueling conditions of the remote Yukon wilderness,” said Ridley Scott, one of the show’s producers.

“The personal adventures are as epic as the landscape, where ambition, greed, sex and murder, as well as their extraordinary efforts to literally strike it rich, are all chronicled by a young Jack London himself,” Scott said. The “White Fang” and “The Call of the Wild” author is among the characters at the heart of the book on which the miniseries is based.

Last May, when the History channel debuted the first part of its three-part miniseries about the Hatfield-McCoy feud, it nabbed an average of 14 million viewers, making it the most watched single broadcast on ad-supported cable ever, excluding sports. It also bagged 16 Emmy nominations, culminating in five wins, including lead actor (Kevin Costner) and supporting actor (Tom Berenger).

What’s coming on CBS

CBS has commissioned Chuck Lorre to shoot a pilot on yet another sitcom, just in case “How I Met Your Mother” doesn’t continue. It’s about a newly sober single mother – in wine country!

Lorre is the guy behind the current CBS comedies “Two and a Half Men,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Mike & Molly.”

CBS is looking to shore up its comedy stable. Its Monday comedies have taken a ratings hit against NBC’s “The Voice” (moving “Men” out of that night didn’t help, either); its new comedy “Partners” already is canceled; and the future of its only other new comedy for this season, “Friend Me,” looks dubious after the death of a co-creator.

Then there’s “HIMYM,” on which many contracts will run out at the end of this season. CBS suits have made clear their hope to bring back the show in the fall.

Meanwhile, Lorre’s new comedy – about the newly sober mom living in Napa – takes him back to dangerous territory: sitcoms that have female leads. Lorre famously cut his teeth on “Roseanne,” then developed comedies for Brett Butler and Cybill Shepherd, and summed it all up to Entertainment Weekly by saying, “All that toxicity, ugliness and anger was the reason to create a character like ‘Dharma & Greg’s’ Dharma.”

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