Animal Planet lives wild with its new programming slate

AP News
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Posted: Mar 30, 2015 12:12 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — "Wild thing! You make everything groovy."

That half-century-old rock classic from The Troggs might serve as the theme song of Animal Planet.

In a deft brand-freshening a few years ago, the channel broadened its focus from such critters as lions and tigers and bears to also embrace the human animal. It has since given new attention to humans who immerse themselves, in one way or another, in the untamed domains of their fellow animals.

Hence the channel's slogan: "Live wild."

"Our viewers get that we're about people now," says Marjorie Kaplan, group president of Animal Planet as well as TLC and Velocity. "They know we've been concentrating on the notion that, the more we live apart from the wild world, the more we crave experiences and entertainment that is more raw and more real."

Animal Planet on Tuesday will unveil a slate of programming for the coming year that ranges wildly from conservation stories and natural-history documentaries to pet love and epic ventures reconnecting with nature.

Returning shows include "River Monsters" (the network's best-performing series, starting its seventh season on Sunday), "Bigfoot Found," ''Insane Pools: Off the Deep End" (following pool designer Lucas Congdon and his outrageous swimming holes) and, of course, "Puppy Bowl," which, for its 12th year (that's 84 in dog years), will offer a canine alternative to Super Bowl pigskin.

Among the channel's new shows to be announced:

— "The Sheriff of Cross River." This series documents the efforts of Peter Jenkins, known as Nigeria's leading wildlife warrior, whose mission is to protect the exotic animals of Africa's dangerous Cross River region from poachers and other human threats.

— "Restoration Wild." In this series, "visionary wild man" Jay Chaikin and his crew identify and repurpose vintage structures and relics left abandoned in the landscape, transforming them into magnificent, one-of-a-kind living spaces.

— "America Builds a Shelter." This quarterly special focuses on an animal shelter in need of a makeover as viewers watch its transformation into a resource better able to serve the animals and citizens of its community.

— "Living With Maneaters." This two-hour special explores the delicate balance among man, tigers, leopards and lions all living in close — sometimes much too close — proximity in India.

— "Fish or Die." Hitting all seven continents in a vegetable-oil-powered pickup truck, four die-hard anglers roam — and drop their lines — in the Earth's last unexplored waters to fish where no man has fished before.

— "Alaska Proof." Inspired by a new level of spirits, this series dispatches a determined team from Alaska Distillery to the far reaches of the wilderness to harvest exotic ingredients, however perilously, to create the world's finest vodka.

— "Last North." Polar adventurers Eric Larsen and Ryan Waters set out to traverse the Arctic Ocean from Northern Ellesmere Island to the geographic North Pole with just their hand-drawn sleds and the gear they bring with them, unsupported by resupply missions or even camera crews. Their goal: to break the current speed record of 49 days.

And the first of Animal Planet's new programming offspring arrives Sunday at 10 p.m. EDT. "100 Miles From Nowhere" features three chums who take the road less traveled — in fact, avoiding any roads or paths at all — as they blaze 100-mile treks across the planet's greatest escapes, filming their adventures en route. That's going wild.

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EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore@ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore

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Online:

http://www.animalplanet.com