By Mike Reynolds — Special to TVWeek
Travel Channel has greenlighted seven new series and ordered one pilot as the service looks to bolster its reach.
Speaking in New York on Wednesday afternoon, April 23, 2015, at Alice Tully Hall, Travel Channel president Shannon O’Neill said the network has 20 new shows this year, with episodes trekking to every state, every continent and almost 100 nations.
The new programming bounty flows from a two-dozen show development slate that was introduced during last year’s upfront.
Network stalwart Samantha Brown will work with Chris Grundy as they approach people on the street with an intriguing offer: Would you like to embark on an extreme 50-hour getaway worth $50,000? The catch: you have to drop everything – immediately. Big Table Media is producing eight half-hour episodes of 50/50.
In “Follow Your Past,” journalist/author Alison Stewart will take individuals on globe-trotting visits, where they will learn about their family’s contribution to world history. A baker’s dozen of half-hours is on tap from Lion TV USA.
Frequent traveler Curt Menefee (“Fox NFL Sunday”) will explore greetings and farewells at two of America’s largest airports, Dallas-Forth Worth and Chicago’s O’Hare. “Hello Goodbye” captures tales of love, sorrow, betrayal and friendship from travelers as they arrive and depart. In an interview, O’Neill described a scenario in which a father and son from Texans await a reunion with a Swedish exchange student, whom they haven’t seen since he returned to his homeland almost a quarter-century ago.
Travel’s most ambitious project is “Boy to Man,” featuring adventurer and filmmaker Tim Noonan on a solo journey of self-discovery as he immerses himself into remote cultures and aspires to master such rites of passage as climbing coconut trees in Guineau Bissau and trains a golden eagle with Kazakh men in Mongolia.
O’Neill said three hour episodes were in the can when Travel decided to send the adventurer back out for nine more installments from Seven Productions.
“This is cinematic quality work. Tim is courageous and fearless,” said O’Neill. “He’s also charismatic and the Australian accent doesn’t hurt.” The show is scheduled to launch in first quarter of 2016.
The network has ordered two half-hour pilot episodes from Karga Seven Pictures of “Relocated,” which follows the life-changing decisions of professionals taking their families thousand of miles away as they start a new job.
Noting that many feel that Jack Maxwell has the “best job in the world,” O’Neill said the second season of “Booze Traveler” will deploy the same format during its initial run. “The show just got better from pilot to finale,” he said. Travel increased the sophomore-season order to 16 from 13, with new installments set to premiere in the fourth quarter.
The second run of “Expedition Unknown” will find Josh Gates digging into the mystery of the early life of Christopher Columbus, Genghis Khan’s lost tomb in Mongolia and Blackabeard’s treasure in the Caribbean. Travel’s highest-rated series bow since 2008, “Expedition Unknown” will navigate 16 one-hour journeys with Gates during its second campaign.
The network has also jumped into the acquisition game. O’Neil said the network’s consumer research indicated that there were a pair of shows it should add to its portfolio: “An Idiot Abroad,” which previously aired for two seasons on Science, and “Wild Things” with Dominic Monaghan that ran on BBC America. Travel has also ordered a third season comprising eight hour-long episodes from Cream Productions/Wild Fire with the “Lost” and “Hobbit” star.
Not mentioned during the upfront presentation – the deal was announced on April 21 – is Travel’s teaming with The New York Times to bring the newspaper’s popular “36 Hours” to television.
Co-hosts Kristn Kish (Boston restaurateur and season 10 Top Chef winner) and Kyle Martino (a U.S men’s national soccer team member and current studio analyst for NBC Sports Premiere League coverage) will guide viewers to experience the top destinations in locales over a day-and-a-half visit. Six episodes have been ordered and they will be flanked by editorial and video content on NYTimes.com and Travel digital holdings.
The author of this piece, Mike Reynolds, is a veteran media and sports reporter and was most recently the news editor at Multichannel News. You can reach him at email@example.com or 914-320-6532. We appreciate Mike making this piece available to TVWeek.