The Watchman: Big Cats on Nat Geo Wild, Big Muscles From Brussels on Amazon, Big ‘Christmas’ Plans on Fox - Broadcasting & Cable

The Watchman: Big Cats on Nat Geo Wild, Big Muscles From Brussels on Amazon, Big ‘Christmas’ Plans on Fox

Deputy editor Michael Malone’s weekly look at the programming scene
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It is big cat week on Nat Geo Wild, and we’re psyched to see Man Among Cheetahs Dec. 11. Wildlife filmmaker Bob Poole follows a cheetah mother who is determined to keep her cubs alive. Geoff Daniels, Nat Geo Wild executive VP and general manager, singled Poole out for his daredevil effort. “He’s able to embed with the cheetahs,” he said, “to give us an intimate look at some intense action.”

Speaking of intense action, Jean-Claude Van Johnson, which sees Jean-Claude Van Damme play a martial arts master operating as a black ops contractor under an alias, starts on Amazon Dec. 15. Creator Dave Callaham, whose film credits include The Expendables with Sylvester Stallone, Mickey Rourke and some other tough guys, was approached by Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions about doing an action drama for Van Damme.

“There was nothing new there, nothing interesting,” Callaham said. “I didn’t want to write an action show.”

He had another idea: “A bizarre meta-comedy.”

Raised on kung fu movies, Callaham said Van Damme “was incredibly influential to me growing up.” Same goes for executive producer Peter Atencio. “I was obsessed with Timecop as a kid,” Atencio said.

The two admitted to nerves when first meeting “JC.” Callaham mentioned locking himself in a bathroom at Scott Free until his panic attack subsided.

Van Damme put them at ease. “The most humble, sweet guy you could ask for,” Atencio said.

The Muscles from Brussels was on board.

Callaham described the whole venture as “an insane gamble,” a long shot made longer by the fact that neither he nor Van Damme had done much television. Having the pilot screen on Amazon Video was nerve wracking, but just seeing it up there meant they had already, in a sense, scored. “I felt like, making the thing at all was a huge win,” Callaham said. “It all seemed like a hilarious lark to me.”

And speaking of hilarious larks, we can’t wait to see what Fox does with A Christmas Story Live! Dec. 17. Maya Rudolph plays Ralphie’s mother, Matthew Broderick is the narrator, and young Andy Walken plays Ralphie.

Marc Platt and Adam Siegel, veterans of Fox’s Grease Live, executive produce. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul handle the music, and will compose new songs. They’ll spin tunes out of the film’s most memorable lines, including, “You’ll shoot your eye out” and “a major award.”

Making a song out of Red Ryder carbine action BB gun? I triple dog dare you!

It is big cat week on Nat Geo Wild, and we’re psyched to see Man Among Cheetahs Dec. 11. Wildlife filmmaker Bob Poole follows a cheetah mother who is determined to keep her cubs alive. Geoff Daniels, Nat Geo Wild executive VP and general manager, singled Poole out for his daredevil effort. “He’s able to embed with the cheetahs,” he said, “to give us an intimate look at some intense action.”

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