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The Television Critics Association Press Tour is going to be crawling with TVWeek staffers. Check this space for observations from the presentations, hallway chatter and the dope on who was misbehaving at the parties. TVWeek’s Jon Lafayette, Josef Adalian, Andrew Krukowski, Sergio Ibarra and Vlada Gelman all will post as they scour the scene for news.


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National Geo Continues Its Explorations

July 9, 2008 10:31 PM

From the Earth to the Moon: Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, left, Egyptologist Dr. Bob Brier, director Charles Dean Beeker and journalist Kelly Hearn are on a Nat Geo panel at the press tour.

National Geographic Channel introduced a batch of programs Wednesday at the Television Critics Association press tour that are set to make their debuts this fall, including a returning series, a new series and a whole week of original shows.

"Dogtown" will return with a two-hour special premiere episode chronicling the rehabilitation of Michael Vick's dog-fighting pitbulls. The new "World's Toughest Fixes" will look at large, one-of-a-kind mechanical dilemmas and how they are fixed. The network also will debut "Exploration Week," with seven premieres following groundbreaking explorations around the world and in space.

No Bad Dogs, Just Bad Owners

"Dogtown," a reality series that follows dog training and rehabilitation stories at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, returns Sept. 5 for a new season with a special two-hour episode following the stories of four pitbulls rescued from Michael Vick's pitbull fighting ring. Many believed the dogs were so vicious that the only option was to put them down.

However, "Dogtown" intervened, hoping to show skeptics "there are no bad dogs, only bad owners," as assistant dog care manager and trainer John Garcia said.

The debut episode will focus on the stories of four of the rescued pitbulls—Cherry, Meryl, Denzel and Georgia, who was in attendance at Nat Geo's presentation. When Georgia was found she was toothless and extremely aggressive toward other dogs. However, through her rehab at the "Dogtown" facility, she, along with the other 21 dogs taken to the facility, has improved her behavior and will one day be adoptable to a loving home.

Mr. Garcia said "Dogtown" became involved in part to help dispel the stereotypes about the pitbull breed. Through this high-profile case, "Dogtown" also hopes to raise awareness of illegal dog-fighting rings along with developing new training techniques.

The series will continue the season with different cases ranging from a dog abandoned in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and dogs rescued from cruel puppy mills.

Nat Geo's Craigslist Find

The producers of the new series "World's Toughest Fixes" found their host, Sean Riley, an engineering expert and master rigger, after placing an ad on Craigslist.

The series will follow Mr. Riley as he is brought on board several mechanical crews experiencing one-of-a-kind problems to unique machinery. His projects include working on a 38-ton ship engine, a nuclear turbine and a Boeing 767 engine by slicing it in half.

Such unique situations require a unique host. Producers of the series placed casting announcements everywhere. One of Mr. Riley's friends saw that announcement on Craigslist and suggested he give it a shot.

Mr. Riley actually studied theater arts while at UC Santa Cruz. However, he decided to pursue his interest in hanging things and simple physics and, after learning a lot of math and trades, he found his calling.

Producer Robert Kerr told press tour attendees that the show "wanted someone who had experience in all sorts of things. What [Mr. Riley] does is not something that anyone can do."

It's a high-risk environment for Mr. Riley on his projects. Instruction manuals for many of these machines are written as crews go along. Luckily, Mr. Riley says he "feels comfortable" in those kinds of situations.

"World's Toughest Fixes" begins its 10-episode run Sept. 28 at 9 p.m. on Nat Geo.

A Week of Intense 'Expeditions'

National Geographic will hold its first "Expedition Week" in November with a new program debuting every night taking viewers under sea, deep into the Amazon jungle and over the moon.

The expeditions begin Nov. 16 with "Unlocking the Great Pyramid," which explores a new theory for the building of the Great Pyramid at Giza. Nov. 17 sees the debut of "Live From the Moon," featuring new high-def footage shot directly over the moon. "Shipwreck! Captain Kidd" and "The Real George Washington" debut Nov. 18 and 19, respectively. "Explorer: Lost City of the Amazon" airs Nov. 20. "Egypt Unwrapped" looks at two mummy mysteries, Alexander the Great's lost tomb and the mystery behind the screaming man, on Nov. 21. The week wraps up with "Dino Autopsy" on Nov. 22 and "Herod's Lost Tomb" on Nov. 23.

"Lost City's" Kelly Hearn, an explorer and journalist, hope that programming such as this invites readers to "redefine what exploration means" as it relates to the human condition. "Pyramid's" Dr. Bob Brier, an Egyptologist, echoes that sentiment, believing that expeditions in the future will find solutions to greater problems through exploration.

—Sergio Ibarra

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