truTV’s Discovery Complex


truTV detailed their new programming slate today, and it looks awfully familiar. Sure, there are some neat new shows, but a few of the pick-ups seem a bit… done. As in, been done on the Discovery Channel.

Take Black Gold, from Deadliest Catch producer Thom Beers. The show seems interesting, following the Wild West lifestyle of “wildcatters,” oil prospectors in Texas, searching for the carbon based title element.

The show looks little more than a dry-land version of Beers’ signature Discovery Channel show. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Deadliest Catch is far realer than any other “reality” show on TV, and I have no doubt that Black Gold will be as well, but the pick up is peculiar, and the similarities show.

Those similarities are especially clear in light of Man vs. Cartoon, which sounds like an absolute blast… except that Discovery already has two shows almost exactly like it: Wednesday night staple Mythbusters and rookie Smash Lab.

Man vs. Cartoon will feature scientists and engineers testing whether any of those Acme gadgets Wile E. Coyote used could actually work in real life.

In fact, Mythbusters already tackled some cartoon myths themselves in a few episodes, most memorably seeing if sticking your finger in a shotgun ala Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd could really turn the tables on the hunter (no, it won’t).

And then there’s One False Move, which is eerily similar to Discovery’s Dirty Jobs, but with danger in the place of grime (dangerous jobs are the hot new concept in reality TV, looks like theparanormalcraze may be near the end of its run).

And then there’s Crisis Point, which is reminiscent of Human Body, telling tales of life threatening situations from the people who experienced them.

The fact that established Discovery Channel producers such as Thom Beers and Craig Piligian are involved in the shows only adds to the curiosity factor.

When Court TV announced their rebrand last year and became truTV, it looked like a smart move. Move away from the courtroom drama and towards real life, or, as the network calls it for some reason, “actuality.”

Original programming such as The Real Hustle and Ocean Force helped establish the new brand.

Unfortunately, by unveiling a slate of shows that is very, very similar to programs featured on a competing network Discovery (and copied already, to some extent, by History Channel, Ice Road Truckers and Ax Men anybody?), truTV is doing a disservice for the brand it is working hard to create.

There are some killer sounding original shows on the slate, including Sky Racers and Principal’s Office, but when the most highly publicized programs look like rip-offs of already popular shows, viewers may not look more than skin-deep.