During the second full day of the Winter 2013 Television Critics Association Press Tour, Discovery Networks, Starz, Sundance Channel, BBC America, and Viacom Media Networks gave panel presentations to showcase their upcoming projects. Premiere dates and pick-ups were announced, clips of new footage was shown, and writers, actors, executive producers, and others involved in the shows answered questions for reporters covering the event.
Velocity’s "Kings of Crash" follows the demolition derby circuit in Utah. Described as brutal, simple, raw, unrehearsed, spontaneous, and highly emotional, the drivers keep coming back because they’re addicted to the adrenaline rush. Gumby, one of the drivers, explained that “safety is the number one priority of the promoters and the drivers,” and fellow driver Katy Sweat pointed out that the vehicles are heavily modified, with special gas tanks installed behind the driver’s seat. Still, not everyone who competes tries to be the last car standing. Driver Ryan Sweat points out that “some drivers go for the purse, some go for the crowd,” and fellow driver T. J. McPhee expands that there is a “Mad Dog” award for the hardest driver of the night. It is an expensive and time-consuming hobby, but they hope to bring more competitors to the activity through this series, which premieres at Sunday, February 10 on Velocity. More on the reality series "Kings of Crash."
OWN's "Blackboard Wars" examines the dramatic transformation of John McDonogh High School in New Orleans, which had a 54% dropout rate before the changes were put in place. “Education maverick” Steve Barr and “no-nonsense principal” Marvin Thompson have increased the attendance rate to around 80%, and they hope that in a few years, the graduation rate will skyrocket to 90%. The students at this school "feel disenfranchised," according to Thompson, who believes that treating each child differently creates a greater chance of success. The population also includes 19-, 20-, and 21-year-old sophomores, so the teachers have their work cut out for them. Look for this six-part mission to go live in March on OWN. More on the docu-series "Blackboard Wars."
Starz's new drama, "Da Vinci's Demons," is a mix of history and fantasy, according to creator, writer, and executive producer David S. Goyer. The 1400s Italy setting may be practically ancient to some, but Goyer didn't want to do "ye olde historical drama" and considers it to have "kinda a graphic novel feel." He went on to note that “this is the secret history of the man who invented the future,” and the show will feature some physically demanding sequences, including horseback riding, tumbling, and swordsmanship. Actor Tom Riley, who plays Leonardo Da Vinci, worked hard to portray the iconic Renaissance Man, including surviving on a diet of brown rice and quinoa for seven months and practicing with nunchucks to improve his ambidexterity. Look for the debut of the eight-episode first season on Friday, April 12. More on the drama "Da Vinci's Demons."
Sundance Channel has two new series this spring, one of which is "Rectify," which depicts the first week after former Death Row inmate Daniel Holden is released after nineteen years behind bars. As he is re-acclimating to small-town Georgia life and familiarizing himself with his family, others are trying to re-open the case and return him to prison. Aden Young, who plays Daniel, said that he was able to portray the character because "so much of the role was embedded in the script itself... you began to see the character come alive on the page." Abigail Spencer, who plays Daniel's younger sister, Amantha, continued to indicate how much emotion is in the series by hinting that viewers can see her character break down and question her sense of self within those six days. Watch for this six-episode drama to join Sundance's schedule on April 22. More on "Rectify."