Discovery’s 2011-12 Lineup: Billy Ray Cyrus, Gypsies and a Skunk Whisperer

At its annual upfront, the parent company to Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet announces a wide-ranging slate

Discovery Communications is set to announce an ambitious slate of new and returning programs for its many properties Thursday afternoon at the cable concern's annual upfront in New York City. Among the highlights: Billy Ray Cyrus (left) hosts a new TLC series about military families; magicians Penn & Teller hit Discovery to explain "Secrets of the Universe"; and TLC adds "I Kid with Brad Garrett," a humorous update on the "Kids Say the Darnedest Things" formula hosted by the "Everybody Loves Raymond" alum.

Other surprises revealed: TLC has acquired not one, but two, series about gypsies. Discovery Channel will air a special that has a real potential to win the award for best-titled documentary ever: "Where's My Mammoth?" And two Animal Planet series also carry titles we love, even as we remain completely mystified by the appeal of their probable content: "Ned Bruha: The Skunk Whisperer" and "Hillbilly Handfishin'." (Yes, the "g" is awesomely left off "Hillbilly Handfishin'.")

Also read: Science Orders 'An Innocent Abroad 2: The Bucket List'

Here is Discovery's release announcing the full slates of new shows and specials for Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet.



From the award winning team behind PLANET EARTH comes the ultimate portrait of the earth's polar regions. The Arctic and Antarctic remain the greatest wilderness on Earth. The scale and beauty of the scenery and the sheer power of the elements – the weather, the ocean and the ice – is unmatched anywhere else on our planet. The Poles are also home to many of the most charismatic of animals: much of the most spectacular scenery and animal behavior have never been filmed before. FROZEN PLANET is the ultimate portrait of these great, awe-inspiring wildernesses.

WHERE'S MY MAMMOTH? is the definitive natural history of one of the most iconic animals that ever lived. Thanks to climate change, the Siberian permafrost is melting, revealing vast quantities of woolly mammoth remains. This is a detective story that travels from the permafrost of Siberia to the Asian rainforest, and from the sci-fi world of genetic research into a brave new world of virtual zoos.


Vegas show-stopping iconoclasts and world famous anti-Magicians, Penn & Teller bring their unique vision of the world to Discovery. Aided by a series of spectacular stunts, Penn & Teller reveal the SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE, answering the big, urgent questions of the modern world such as: Can you lift a 5000lb car with human hair? Does cursing help with pain management? And did ancient aboriginal Australians really create a cure for snoring? But there's a twist: Each episode presents up to ten amazing stories, but one of them is a lie. A multiplatform audience will play along to guess the fake – and only at the end of the show will it be unmasked.

Pitting farmer against farmer, fireman against fireman, florist against florist, BEST IN THE BUSINESS is the ultimate battle of job-skill supremacy that celebrates the crème de la crème of the American workforce. Each episode showcases three average American jobs -stonecutters, shelf-stockers, sheep-shearers – and turns the spotlight on the not-so-average people who take their profession to the next level. Meet mechanics who can change a tire in less than 10 seconds, grocery baggers who fill a bag in seven seconds flat and big-rig drivers that can parallel park faster than you can throw your minivan in reverse!

Meet a different breed of brothers: Robbie Keszey is an exotic animal expert and Stephen Keszey is a former city slicker learning the ropes. Together they run Glades Herp Farms, Florida's largest reptile sanctuary and exotic reptile dealership. The brothers make their living breeding and caring for hundreds of slithering, poisonous and sharp-toothed creatures – but their passion is being on call 24 hours a day to respond to animal emergencies across the state. From a 300-pound boa constrictor to rogue bobcats pillaging local farmland, the brothers make it their business to track these animals down, capture them and return them to a safe environment – without losing life or limb in the process. For the Keszeys, it's all in a day's work.

Nik Wallenda comes from seven generations of daredevils and famous circus family "The Flying Wallendas." Nik is a daredevil for the 21st Century and along with his dad, who supervises the rigging and safety, he performs death-defying stunts. We follow his whole family (mom, dad, wife, kids) as they engineer and execute their life's passion.


New Series/Pilots/Specials

COLLIDING LIVES is a story of the fight for survival inside the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. This two-hour special explores the enduring human bonds that were formed between a group of strangers that was caused by the impact of Flight 11 in the North Tower. Combined with in-depth interviews, dramatic recreations, and archival footage, we will relive this tragic event in history and hear the remarkable acts of heroism, compassion and gentleness that followed in its aftermath. (Q2, 2011)

Painful screams and tears of joy are a common occurrence at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Maternity Ward in Nashville, Tennessee. Every day, around the clock, women arrive for the most challenging and overwhelming experience of their lives – childbirth. Whether it's an unmedicated natural delivery or an emergency C-section, each experience is dramatic and unique, and rarely goes according to plan. Told from the mother's point of view, emotions unfold with every heartbeat as this life-changing event is documented. No matter what happens, the excitement and joy of the staff and patients come together in a perfect drama where every moment is indeed a miracle. (Q2, 2011)

BIG FAT GYPSY WEDDING UK (wt) paints a visually arresting portrait of the secretive, extravagant and surprising world of gypsies and travellers in Britain today, by following their extraordinary rite-of-passage events – including weddings, communions and christenings. Each stand-alone episode gives insights into the community's attitudes toward gender roles, education and outsiders. The series also explores the remarkable rituals, traditions and beliefs held by this minority group. (Q2, 2011)

In this new series, TLC captures the never before seen world of American Gypsies and travellers. From extravagant weddings to lavish celebrations, each episode will explore their homes, social circles, and provide exclusive insight into their hidden communities. Ancient traditions meet modern culture, as TLC goes behind-the-scenes of this often misunderstood culture. (Q1, 2012)

TLC takes viewers from teeming cities to tiny towns on a tour of the most kookily decorated, tallest, widest, wackiest, gaudiest, and most surprising trees ever created. The "wow factor" of these will blow minds and make jaws drop. (Q4, 2011)

EXTREME COUPONING introduces viewers to America's most extreme "super couponers," sharing why they are so driven by the deals. From seeing their shocking stockpiles of merchandise they rack up, to demonstrating their dramatic shopping skills, to witnessing how some use their amazing couponing ways to benefit local communities, EXTREME COUPONING shares the world of everyday people in pursuit of extraordinary deals. (Q2, 2011)

HOMECOMING (wt) presents a series of surprise military homecomings. Hosted by Billy Ray Cyrus, viewers will watch as soldiers return home to the delight of their loved ones, paying off each personal story with "the" moment so sweet and raw that it cuts through, connecting us as fathers, mothers, husbands, and wives. (Q3, 2011)

Hosted by Brad Garrett, each 60-minute episode is a combination of field segments and viewer-generated content. Garrett will talk to kids about everything from politics, to religion, to family- life and current events, garnering their candid, funny reactions and answers, with hilarious results. (Q2, 2011)

A third dose of the wildest, craziest and most outrageous Christmas light decorations. This installment heads across the pond to showcase the best Europe has to offer Europe has to offer. (Q4, 2011)

Tattoo artist Ami James leaves the warm sunny shores of Miami for the cold hard concrete and steel of New York City. NY INK follows Ami, as he opens a shop in the city where only the best survive. Risking his reputation and finances on a huge new space in Manhattan's ultra cool Soho district, Ami has recruited an elite staff of artists whose personalities are as big as their tattoo skills. Will they be able to join forces and make an indelible mark on the New York tattoo world, or will the stresses of the city be too much for Ami and his team to handle? (Q2, 2011)

The special follows Niecy Nash as she plans her wedding and celebrates her special day with fiancé Jay Tucker. TLC will join the couple as they search for their venue, discover the perfect dress, and ultimately, get married. The entire wedding experience will air as a two-hour television event days after the ceremony. (Q2, 2011)

Located right outside Chicago, businesswomen Minda and Nikki run the only pawn shop that caters to women. This shop specializes in merchandise that caters to real women, including must-haves like jewelry, vintage Barbie dolls, and one-of-a-kind antiques. Each episode reveals what's involved in the pawning business and features Minda and Nikki's struggles to debunk the stereotype that the pawn business is just a man's world. With their two business partners, Greg and Tom, they pawn, purchase and sell anything in order to help their fledgling company stay afloat. Each item that comes through their doors is an opportunity to win big or lose big. (Q2, 2011)

A Native American mother and daughter leave the Reservation to pursue the daughter's dream of earning a scholarship and becoming a basketball star – the very dream her mother, now her hard-driving coach, was denied because of racism. (Q2, 2011)

SAY YES TO DRESS breakout star, Randy Fenoli, is throwing the ultimate bridal truck show! On every episode of this splashy new series, Randy will roll into a different city in a tractor-trailer packed to the gills with wedding dresses. Eager brides line up around city blocks for their chance to get advice from the most trusted name in wedding dress retail. Inside the ballroom, Randy will have a team of consultants, working various fitting stations, to help each bride find the perfect dress. The hour-long television show will focus on Randy's work with three particularly interesting brides. Doing much more than helping women find the right dress, he'll design their entire look from "head to hem" as he calls it (dress, hair makeup, bouquet). (2012)

Lori, of Bridals by Lori, will tell you that brides have an easier time finding a wedding gown than dressing the bridal party. Imagine a mother & mother-in-law, cute little ring girl, and an entourage of bridesmaids looking for one dress that pleases them all. Filmed at Bridals by Lori, each episode of Bridesmaids features three bridal parties; two of them in the middle of shopping for that one-style-fits-all outfit and a third group who comes in for the final fitting. Watch as the bride tries to get her cousin, her sister-in-law and her roommate to agree on what the bridesmaids will wear. (Q3, 2011)

Each half -hour episode features Kleinfeld Bridal's fashion director and star of TLC's hit series SAY YES TO THE DRESS – Randy Fenoli – as he dishes out his top ten tips on a variety of bridal related categories. Whether it's picking out the perfect dress for your body, choosing a dress to complement your venue or theme, or deciding who and what to bring to your bridal appointment, Randy takes on a number of topics as he shares his bridal expertise with viewers. (Q2, 2011)

A new, mischievous makeover and relationship show with a big twist. In each episode, a couple, who is desperate to transform their house into their dream home–but can't afford to do so, are given the cash they need to create their ideal dwelling. But there's a catch: one-half of the couple must move out, leaving their partner to make every design, décor, and DIY decision by themselves. (Q2, 2011)

A docu-movie following the murder of Capitol Hill intern Chandra Levy, the mysterious case that captivated the nation. Airing on the 10-year anniversary of Chandra Levy's disappearance, WHO KILLED CHANDRA LEVY weaves dramatizations with original on-camera interviews to recount the events surrounding Levy's sudden disappearance. Viewers will hear firsthand accounts from those close to the tragic event, including Levy's Aunt Linda Katz, as well as Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz – the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists at the Washington Post who were instrumental in reopening the case. (Q2, 2011)


NEW SERIES AND SPECIALS (in alphabetical order):

"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.

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.

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.

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.


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.