To help ease the chaos of launching the new Discovery Kids Saturday morning block on NBC this October, Dea Connick Perez has moved over from her VP of programming post at Cartoon Network to take over as DK’s new VP of programming and operations. With the block’s debut series pretty much locked in at this point, Connick Perez is focusing on slotting the shows into a lineup that will maximize ratings, as well as handling pitches for future additions to the sked.
Set to air from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the east coast and from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. out west, the three-hour Discovery Kids on NBC block will start off with six 13 x half-hour live-action series. Three are kidified versions of adult properties in Discovery’s bag of tricks: Walking with Dinosaurs, Croc Files (based on The Crocodile Hunter) and Junkyard Dogs (a Junkyard Wars spin-off).
Walking with Dinosaurs and its sequel Walking with Prehistoric Beasts are being reversioned for tweens with new narration, graphics and facts. But Discovery Kids senior VP and GM Marjorie Kaplan says that because research suggests that the original dinosaur specials netted a fair number of kid eyeballs when they aired in April and December 2001 (capturing 2.89% and 2.31% ratings with the 12 to 17 crowd respectively), the kid-version tweaks will not be overly extensive. Croc Files will also be treated to a very light revamp since Croc Hunter Steve Irwin’s extreme encounters have always entertained the whole family.
Tween-tweaked Junkyard Dogs (working title) will pit two teams of four kids under the age of 14 against one another in a race to turn trash into functional machines like catapults, rockets and go-carts. The contraptions are put to the test at the end of each ep, and the winning squad gets ‘top dog’ status and advances to the final competition at the end of the season.
On the original front, Endurance is a new series from L.A.-based Slam Dunk Productions (which produced Moolah Beach for Fox Family Channel last year). The show tests kids’ knowledge, athleticism and team skills in various competitions.
Toronto, Canada’s Fireworks Entertainment, working in association with producer and director Henry Winkler, has cooked up an X-Files-esque series called Black Hole High, in which five teens get to the bottom of the scientific mysteries that occur regularly at their high school. Examples of the spooky phenomena include a locked seventh-floor bathroom where the tap water runs up to the ceiling, and the mysterious disappearance of the kids’ science teacher.
Discovery Kids is also currently shooting an untitled fiction series with Tommy Lynch in which a young girl comes of age in Africa.
Once she has finished tinkering with the NBC block lineup, Connick Perez will be turning her attention to preschool and the relaunch of Discovery Kids’ Ready, Set, Learn! block in January 2003. Connick Perez had started dabbling in the demo at Cartoon, with the recent pick-up of ShoPro’s Hamtaro Tales. She’ll start off hunting for co-production opportunities, acquisitions and projects for commissions in Canada, the U.K. and Australia.