By Marisa Guthrie
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Nat Geo Wild has recruited diversified punk rocker Henry Rollins to host one of the four new series in development at the nascent cable network.
Rollins will host “Animal Underworld,” which features people who own exotic animals as well as those who eat them. He visits Arizona’s Road Kill Cafe, where the menu features not-so-exotic fare. And he meets people who consume things you would not find on the menu even at the Road Kill, like frog smoothies and tarantulas — the former because it supposedly increases virility and the latter for medicinal purposes.
If “Animal Underworld” sounds a little edgy for the august National Geographic brand — which has a standards and practices department that vets everything for accuracy — senior vp Geoff Daniels assures it is in keeping with Nat Geo’s mission of exploration and investigation.
“It’s really an investigation into our relationship with animals,” he says. “It’s covering the full range from the off-beat and quirky to the potentially illicit. And our approach to (the latter) is to make sure that we’re obviously not encouraging that behavior.”
Watch Nat Geo Wild’s “Animal Extractors:”
“Our standards and practices group is something that really sets us apart,” he adds. “We’re always gong to come through the filter of the National Geographic mission and make sure that we’re doing that in a highly credible and responsible manner.”
So you will not see a show like “Animal Hoarding” — which explores the psychosis of collecting animals from dogs and cats to rats and chickens — on Nat Geo Wild.
“We don’t want to simply be voyeurs,” says Daniels. “Those shows are much more about a person’s particular illness. At Wild, we’re really trying to celebrate the natural world and put the focus on the animals.”
“Underworld” received a shorter, three-episode order, partly due to the busy author/singer/actor/columnist’s availability. It follows on the heels of Nat Geo Wild’s “Snake Underworld,” a one-hour special that had Rollins introducing viewers to herpetologists, doctors who treat snake bites and Slayer guitarist Kerry King’s collection of pythons.
Nat Geo Wild averages 114,000 viewers overall. Since it launched a little more than a year ago, its household ratings have grown 50 percent compared to Fox Reality, the network it replaced, and its up 14 percent in the 25-54 demographic. Wild’s most-watched series is “Swamp Men.”
Additional new series include “World’s Weirdest,” which scours the earth for odd animals; “Baby Animal Cam,” which chronicles the growth of baby animals with fly-on-the-wall cameras (the series will also include a live streaming web component that lets viewers track the development of some animals); and “Babies Gone Wild,” which features videos of baby animals culled from the Internet.