Starting this summer, Jeff Zucker is giving the 9 p.m. hour on CNN an extreme makeover with reality shows hosted by three familiar faces: Mike Rowe ('formerly of Discovery's "Dirty Jobs'), Lisa Ling (formerly of OWN's "Our America with Lisa Ling") and John Walsh (formerly of Fox's 'America's Most Wanted").
All three shows sound like variants of their original successful series. Rowe will follow around people who have passions for something. Ling's series sounds similar to her OWN show in which she will look at stories about subcultures in American society. Wash will recount stories of international criminal fugitives.
CNN will also debut a series called "The Jesus Code," taking viewers on a forensic and archeological journey through the Bible. Plus, a ten-part series "The Sixties" from producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, debuts in May. The producers who created the recently debuted "Chicagoland" will look for another city to feature.
Zucker has committed to shows that might have shown up on networks such as History and A&E because they engender more consistent viewership than his news programs, which rely heavily on breaking news. He has attempted recently to flip the script and turn a news story into an extended mystery show - as is the case of the Malaysian airliner. That ratings bonanza the first couple of weeks has faded a bit thanks to a lack of fresh information.
Why did Zucker kill off the 9 p.m. interview show that Larry King made iconic for a quarter century and Piers Morgan failed to maintain? "There are just too many outlets with not enough big gets for a pure talk show to thrive any longer," he told the Hollywood Reporter.
He said breaking news will take precedence over these TV shows if need be, as has been the case where CNN currently airs these types of programs on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday nights. "We will always give priority to our original breaking news coverage," he said.
"Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown," which was picked up by Zucker's predecessor and has been CNN's most successful third-party pick up to date, will have four more cycles in 2015 and 2016 and "Morgan Spurlock Inside Man" has been given a third season in 2015.
CNN's still existing (but shrunken) in-hour documentary unit will release a weekly series as well. Recent examples: Sanjay Gupta's "Weed" and Anderson Cooper's "The Survivor Diaries" about a Boston Marathon bombing survivor.
"The seamless integration of original series and live news coverage, which has been on display the last two months, is the foundation of our new prime-time lineup," Zucker said in a press release.
The 10 p.m. hour, which has been a place of experimentation of late, will be a nightly live hour of the day's biggest stories with rotating hosts called "CNN Tonight."
Here are the press release descriptions of each of the four new series:
"Erin Burnett Outfront" remains at 7 p.m., followed by "Anderson Cooper 360" at 8 p.m.
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