Animal Planet plans entry into sitcom, computer animation territory

Animal Planet has announced a host of innovative programming initiatives for the 2002-2003 upfront season. The network's diverse schedule will feature more than 80 per cent original programming, with special emphasis placed on its dramatic programming. Animal Planet will also expand its original movie franchise with six original movies anticipated this year. 

The network's first sitcom is anticipated this fall with the premiere of Baaad Dog!. It is a sardonic dog's-eye-view of a Los Angeles family struggling with the everyday challenges of living together under one roof. The channel also enters the field of computer animation for the first time with The Future is Wild. The series explores the evolution of animals far into the future based upon the predictions of international scientists.

Sonya Fitzpatrick is The Pet Psychic. The series chronicles Sonya's amazing interaction with an array of animals and humans who want to know what each other is thinking.

Animal Planet claims that its original movie The Retrievers shown last July was the network's highest-rated telecast ever (7/31/01). Despite events that slowed the growth of many American cable networks in the past months (9/11, Olympics, etc.), Animal Planet showed gains during these tough times. 4Q01 primetime HH ratings grew 5% more than the previous year, and 1Q02 ratings are currently 10% higher than the same period last year to 0.58%. 

Animal Planet is projected to reach the 80 million household mark in America by the end of the year, faster than any American network in history, a company release states. This is a far cry from the situation in India where the channel is still trying to gain a foothold among audiences. 

Other programmes that will air later in the year include Alphonse Roy's Great cats of India Safari Special. This Safari Special introduces viewers to Alphonse Roy, India's leading wildlife cameraman. He attempts to capture definitive documentary portraits of all of India's four great cats - lion, tiger, leopard and the ever-elusive snow leopard. Viewers follow Alphonse throughout the whole filmmaking process, from the often-arduous journeys to remote locations, to setting up specialised field equipment and, of course, the actual filming. Along the way, viewers meet the many friends and colleagues with whom Alphonse works: from local feudal overlords and leading scientific experts to conservation officers.

Black Mamba / Safari Special features the Black Mamba which is believed to be the most aggressive and fastest snake on earth. It's neurotoxic venom can kill in a few minutes. This special follows Donald Strydom, a Black Mamba specialist in South Africa, during the wet season in Africa when snakes are active and they come into human territory. Donald relocates the deadly snakes, while collecting their venom for research. 

One of the films that will air on the channel is Grizzly Falls. Bryan Brown stars as an internationally renowned hunter and adventurer who takes his young son on a quest to make the boy into a man and exorcise the demons of his own past. 

A sport for dogs Superstar Challenge sees American canine athletes descending upon Universal Studios. The competition involves the events Agility, Aqualaunch and Dirt Dog.

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