Had it up to here with the Kardashians, Tori and Dean, Kirstie Alley, Giuliana and BIll and dozens of other celebrities giving you a "fly-on-the-wall" view into their fabulous lives?
There's plenty more where that came from on networks' development slates and new season schedules (sorry, haters), but there's a flip side. At a time when the country's still mired in recession, double-digit unemployment and mortgage crises, a crop of upcoming shows will let viewers take a walk in the not-so-famous footsteps of their friends and neighbors, unsung heroes, hard-working blue-collar types and just plain folks.
The slice-of-life shows, with elements of travelogue and bits of Huell Howser and Studs Terkel, are miles away from Hollywood, figuratively and temperamentally. They may be the next incarnation of gritty work-based shows, like those from "Ice Road Truckers" and "Deadliest Catch"
producer Thom Beers, that celebrate the common (often burly) man. They reflect a stripped-down, back-to-basics attitude that's all the rage right now.
Among the shows highlighting the quirks and interests of everyday people are "Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy," "Twist of Kate," "Sarah Palin's Alaska" and "Strange Days with Bob Saget."
History channel plans to premiere "Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy" later this year, sending the down-home comedian on the road to hang out with people and take a peek into their lifestyles, jobs and hobbies.
Inspiration for the show came from a hit special on the network called "Hillbilly: The Real Story," about the Appalachian region and its often-stereotyped residents.
The 13-episode series will favor off-the-beaten-path figures, like Texans who create secret recipes for legendary barbecue sauce and rural mountain men who still make moonshine.
"We've tried to pick some interesting people and places that the audience might not even know exists," said Craig Piligian, whose Pilgrim Films & Television produces the show. "We looked for some true Americana."
It may not hurt that Larry the Cable Guy has a massive following for his Blue Collar Comedy Tour (with Jeff Foxworthy and Bill Engvall), a best-selling book, multiple comedy CDs that are certified gold and million-selling DVDs. History channel executives told Piligian they wanted a series follow-up to "Hillbilly," and Piligian approached Larry the Cable Guy about hosting it because he felt like the two would be a good match.
"Audiences are looking for something they can relate to," Piligian said, "and this show is based in our culture."
It's just the kind of series that History has been expanding over the last several years to include, President and General Manager Nancy Dubuc said, and give viewers both pure entertaining and "gee-whiz" moments.
This fall TLC will roll out "Twist of Kate," a series that follows "Jon & Kate's" Kate Gosselin as she visits moms around the country and sees the challenges they face. (She'll give them advice, but they can take that with a grain of salt).
Also for TLC, "Sarah Palin's Alaska" promises, despite the conservative political star and former vice presidential nominee at the center, to track down some genuine Alaskans whose names we've never heard before. A&E will put comedian Bob Saget on the road to look at the country's subcultures, from biker clubs to frat boys to Bigfoot hunters, in "Strange Days with Bob Saget." Six episodes will air later this year.
These upcoming series share some traits with MTV's "The Buried Life," where four friends help regular people achieve goals and check items off their bucket lists, and CBS' surprise hit, "Undercover Boss," which gives the little guy a chance to point and laugh at the top dog when he can't do menial labor. Every success is an encouragement, so expect to see more in this new genre-within-a-reality-genre.
-- T.L. Stanley
Photo: Kate Gosselin Credit: TLC
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