Animal Planet Gets Ahead of the Pack With Its 2012-13 Upfront Entertainment Slate

— Planet’s Surprisingly Human Lineup Boasts a Slew of New Programming and 13 Returning Series  —

(New York, N.Y.) This Upfront season, Animal Planet advances its richest slate of original programming to date. The Planet’s bringing back 13 returning “Surprisingly Human” hit series and introducing a pack of new titles. Heading into the Upfront with strong momentum, Animal Planet has seen a nearly 25 percent ratings increase with both men and women driving gains.

“This year, we kindled a spark on New Year’s Day with FINDING BIGFOOT, and now we’re on fire,” says Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet. “Our new slate reflects Animal Planet’s emotional range and sense of purpose, delivering TV that impacts how we view and interact with the natural world around us.”

Offering a wide variety of programming, Animal Planet delivers an ambitious Upfront slate of epic dramas, larger-than-life characters, extreme monster mysteries, an irresistible amount of cute and for the first time, a big, loud, competition reality show.

From the producers of DIRTY JOBS, TOP SHOT and other hit shows comes Animal Planet’s new competition reality series, TOP HOOKER (wt). With animals at the center of the action, TOP HOOKER (wt) sets itself apart from the swan songs, final cuts and the out-of-fashion ‘auf wiedersehens’ of its network and cable TV counterparts. Ours has bite! For the first time ever, Animal Planet splits 10 expert fishers into two teams in an insane, full-throttle, eight-week fishing competition, stopping at remote, popular and jarringly different watering holes with 24, off-the-hook challenges for a chance to be crowned TOP HOOKER. Animal Planet throws down the gauntlet with exhilarating dares, enticing fishers to free dive for the perfect pearl and net Asian carp that fly through air. In a nautical game of catch and release, who catches the chance to proceed to the next round and who’s off the hook?

If you’re telling fish stories, at the top of the list is Animal Planet’s best-performing series of all time and its most remarkable angler and freshwater detective. RIVER MONSTERS just returned for a fourth season as the most-watched season debut ever with 1.8 million viewers. In fact, monsters are now so big on Animal Planet, they’re going to need a full week. MONSTER WEEK, in May, is a weeklong celebration and exploration of the most surprising and spectacular creature features, including nightly premieres of RIVER MONSTERS, new episodes of fan favorites FINDING BIGFOOT, CALL OF THE WILDMAN and GATOR BOYS, the introduction of MAN-EATING SUPER CROC (wt) and the much-anticipated CGI spectacular, MERMAIDS: THE BODY FOUND.

Moving from monsters to monster-sized personalities, Animal Planet is all about larger-than-life characters. From Shorty Rossi of PIT BOSS and Tia Torres of PIT BULLS & PAROLEES to the fun-loving stars of TANKED, the network draws in audiences with the appeal of its real-life, big characters. This summer, HILLBILLY HANDFISHIN’ swims its way to its sophomore season, and this time Skipper Bivins and Trent Jackson provide a new twist to the sport of noodling, where one must grab catfish with bare hands and feet. Also making a splash this summer is the new series FISH AMERICA (wt), following avid outdoorsman and professional wrestler Showtime Eric Young on the road as he meets America’s MacGyver-esque anglers who employ the craziest types of fishing, like catching 300-pound sharks with nothing but a pair of women’s pantyhose!

And get ready for plenty of characters and lots of story with the premiere of TREEHOUSE MEN (wt), about a family business that earns its living bringing mankind closer to nature one spectacular tree house at a time. These folks build the most fabulous, innovative tree homes and endure Mother Nature’s shifty antics, dangerous construction equipment and dizzying heights to fulfill the whims and fancies of eccentric clients.

Also new this season and in the spirit of Jeremy Wade’s explorations of the elusive corners of the planet, Animal Planet introduces a new adventurer and a big, glorious, natural history series. THE HUNGER (wt), hosted by survivalist Guy Grieve, reveals the significant and complex relationships between humans and the animals with which we share this planet and on which we depend to survive.

Of course it wouldn’t be Animal Planet without the channel’s hallmark, epic dramas. The muscular conservation phenomenon WHALE WARS returns this April in a new battle, WHALE WARS: VIKING SHORES, followed by its fifth explosive season, premiering this June. On those heels, the network introduces RHINO WARS (wt), an investigation into the exotic animal trade and the nefarious criminals who are bringing an entire species to the brink of extinction for money that rivals the price of gold. The drama continues on the battlefields in GLORY HOUNDS (wt), which features the profound bonds between soldiers and their warrior dogs that display limitless courage and unparalleled loyalty. With military dogs serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, GLORY HOUNDS are integral to our national defense, and the show explores powerful stories of heroism and undying friendship.

If all these series are not awe-inspiring enough, let’s try a different awwww factor. Animal Planet’s takes the power of cute to new heights, too. The network is sl-awwww-tering its adorableness by bringing in 1.2 million viewers each week with TOO CUTE!, a series that puts kitties and puppies on pedestals. And, this year’s Puppy Bowl was the epitome of darling, complete with squeeze-worthy puppies, a tweeting bird, a piggy pep squad and a kitschy kitty halftime. But PUPPY BOWL IX plots the unthinkable – to be even cuter on a whole new level with a 360° experience, including puppy fantasy football leagues, mobile apps and live, tailgate adoption parties across America!

Cute’s sure to send you overboard, along with the following 2012-2013 Upfront programs:

NEW SERIES AND SPECIALS (in alphabetical order):

FISH AMERICA (wt): Avid outdoorsman and professional wrestler Showtime Eric Young hits the road and crisscrossing the country to celebrate and fish hand to hand with America’s most extreme anglers. FISH AMERICA (wt) follows Young as he tracks down some of the most creative, unusual and dangerous fishing rituals around the country. FISH AMERICA takes you on a hunt for massive bass from a speeding kayak in whitewater rapids in Texas and transports viewers to Florida, where anglers capture 300-pound sharks MacGyver style using only a pair of women’s pantyhose. Young is on a mission to learn the methods of America’s fishing masterminds while embracing the madness of these local traditions, which have been practiced for years. And no matter how long it takes and how many bumps and bruises he gets along the way, Young keeps the adventure going until he catches the ultimate fish.

FRONTIER EARTH WITH DAVE SALMONI (wt): Animal Planet continues its long-standing commitment to natural history programming in FRONTIER EARTH WITH DAVE SALMONI (wt). Throughout the past 15 years, Animal Planet has worked with world’s most preeminent producers in this category to bring viewers the latest views of our ever-changing planet. Hosted by Animal Planet’s renowned large predator expert Dave Salmoni, this six-part series follows Salmoni on a guided journey to the frontlines of major ecosystems, unfolding the plights of the world’s most enigmatic animals. Focusing on the most unique aspects of our natural world and bringing to light independent voices from around the globe, FRONTIER EARTH WITH DAVE SALMONI examines the orca, slow loris, tiger, leopard, Komodo dragon and a tribe of ants like never before.

GLORY HOUNDS (wt): On the battlefields, a remarkable group serves the United States with limitless courage and unparalleled loyalty. Devoted to protecting their comrades, military working dogs serve beside their human partners in Iraq and Afghanistan, only asking for affection in return. The show explores the friendships between man and dog, which are magnified and transformed into deep, emotional bonds that can last the rest of their lives. From tracking insurgents to sniffing out explosive devices, military working dogs are an integral component of the armed forces. GLORY HOUNDS (wt) drops audiences into the heat of battle and reveals extraordinary stories of heroism and friendship that have shaped the lives of the men and women who serve our country.

MONSTER WEEK: MONSTER WEEK is a jam-packed, monster-fest week, showcasing the legendary creatures from wildly popular shows like RIVER MONSTERS, FINDING BIGFOOT, and CALL OF THE WILDMAN. Boasting all-new episodes of these fan-favorite titles, MONSTER WEEK digs deeper into our fascination with these creatures, giving behind-the-scene access into the monster hunters and their hunts. MONSTER WEEK delves into two new mysteries: one involves the hunt and capture of a 20-foot MAN-EATING SUPER CROC, and the other focuses on the possible existence of mermaids. MERMAIDS: THE BODY FOUND is the crescendo of the epic week with a two-hour CGI investigation into the probability of mermaids swimming throughout our waters.  It explores a scientific theory that supports the existence of mermaids, and the film imagines how they really appear, how they evolved and the role they play beneath the water’s surface. With action and intrigue, MONSTER WEEK takes viewers on an adventure that promises to astound and delight the imagination.

POLAR BEAR FAMILY AND ME (wt): In POLAR BEAR FAMILY AND ME (wt), legendary wildlife filmmaker Gordon Buchanan travels deep into the Arctic for his greatest challenge yet – infiltrating a family of polar bears and documenting the cubs’ epic struggle for survival. The Arctic’s Svalbard Islands inhabits the highest density of polar bears in the world, and following these dangerous carnivores proves to be the ultimate challenge. Watch as Buchanan attempts to gain the trust of baby polar bear Nikita as it takes its first strides in the frozen splendor of the Arctic. Buchanan documents the baby’s first year of joyous triumphs and threatening obstacles. Experience firsthand the frigid and barren landscape in this stunning, groundbreaking miniseries.

RHINO WARS (wt): In spite of heroic efforts by South African anti-poaching units, rhino poachers still run rampant, and the carnage escalates. In 2011, nearly 400 rhinos were killed. Sickened by the slaughter and frustrated by the inability to stop it, a group of private game reserves plans direct action. In RHINO WARS (wt), they band together to try to take down the ruthless poachers by bringing in former U.S. Special Forces operatives. This specialized teamhunts the poaching gangs and syndicates of the illegal rhino-horn trade who are slaughtering South Africa’s rhinos in record numbers for vast profits.

THE AFTERLIFE: ELEPHANT and THE AFTERLIFE: HIPPO: THE AFTERLIFE: ELEPHANT and THE AFTERLIFE: HIPPO follow the journeys of a fallen elephant and a dying hippopotamus, beginning with their last days and continuing through the new life born out of death. These specialscapture the magnificence of the eternal circle of life, focusing on every predator, scavenger, parasite and bacterium that feasts on carrion for survival. Using state-of-the-art technology and integrating testimonies with real-time expert analyses, THE AFTERLIFE: ELEPHANT and THE AFTERLIFE: HIPPO take you on two mystical voyages into the heart of Africa to look at the food chain under a brand-new light.

THE HUNGER (wt): Since the dawn of time, mankind has gone to great lengths, extremes and unbelievable obstacles in order to feed. Driven by hunger even today, people must follow the food trail and do anything to survive, even if that means crawling along the ocean floor during massive waves to scavenge for seafood; climbing the same trees as predatory tigers to share food; or outrunning exotic antelope in their native African fields. Beyond the primal need to eat, what propels different cultures and people to take such risks? In THE HUNGER (wt), host Guy Grieve is the guide to unlock the mysteries behind the ingenious and resourceful ways in which different cultures find, capture, cultivate and eat food around the world. Taking advantage of nature’s spectacular abundance and harnessing the skills of the best hunters on the planet, Grieve explores the nexus among people, the natural world and the food they eat.

TREEHOUSE MEN (wt): In the forests outside of Seattle reside a specialized group of men earning their living in the treetops; swinging from tether riggings hundreds of feet off the ground; operating highly dangerous construction equipment; and battling every weather element Mother Nature throws their way. But these guys aren’t your everyday ax men; in fact, they’re nothing like them. Their singular objective is to fulfill the wishes and desires of their clients, ranging from billionaire CEOs to 10-year-old kids who just want to daydream amongst the clouds. These men are the TREEHOUSE MEN (wt). Led by pioneering tree-house virtuoso Pete Nelson, the TREEHOUSE MEN are an elite team of talented designers, carpenters and builders bonded together to create the most magnificent, whimsical and jaw-dropping tree houses in forests and backyards all across America and around the world. But building these sanctuaries in the sky comes with a host of challenges including crazy deadlines, treacherous terrain, dizzying heights and demanding clients. Pete and his crew work through every obstacle to reach the ultimate goal – to help their clients reconnect with nature by turning their dreams of sky-high havens into breathtaking realities. TREEHOUSE MEN brings us closer to nature one tree house at a time.

TOP HOOKER (wt): TOP HOOKER (wt) is an in-your-face, full-throttle competition series that splits 10 expert fishers into two teams and pits them head to head in a series of insane, never-before-seen fishing challenges. Traveling across the country to some of the most remote, popular,  yet jarringly different fishing holes, competitors struggle through eight hard weeks on the road and 24 off-the-hook challenges – all culminating in just one chance to be crowned the TOP HOOKER. Animal Planet throws down the gauntlet with exhilarating dares, enticing fishers to free dive for the perfect pearl and net Asian carp that fly through air. In a nautical game of catch and release, who catches the chance to proceed to the next round and who’s off the hook?

WILD ARABIA (wt): Deep in the Gulf region is one of the world’s last great wildernesses – a mysterious and magical landscape hidden to the world for decades. Observe the dramatic and varied geology and extraordinary wildlife in the world premiere of WILD ARABIA (wt). With unparalleled access, Animal Planet takes viewers to the crossroads of three continents to a clandestine kingdom of rich culture and breathtaking beauty. Once the trade hub of the ancient world, Arabia has transitioned into a secluded splendor where the modern world brushes up against a vast and ageless sweeping terrain. Feast your eyes on the scenic and sculptural sand dunes of Saudi Arabia and Oman, which are populated by camel trains and elegant white gazelles. Discover the scores of undersea volcanoes in the deep trenches off the coast of Yemen, and uncover the secrets of the Tigris-Euphrates River Delta.

WILD HAWAII (wt): In the vast Pacific Ocean is one of America’s most splendid and cherished treasures – Hawaii. The isolated islands and its pristine beaches serve as tropical oases for tourists from around the globe, yet few who step foot on the sacred land realize the true beauty and complexity that Hawaii has to offer. In WILD HAWAII, Animal Planet spotlights paradise with a fresh lens and uncovers the natural secrets of the islands, where life thrives in extraordinarily diverse extremes. Travel from the endless, coral gardens of the Pacific, to the snowy and ice-capped peak of Mauna Loa, one of the five volcanoes that helped form Hawaii. In between, watch as green turtles navigate tiger shark-infested waters on their quest to sunbathe on the beaches of Hawaii alongside monk seals. Traverse the rain-drenched forests of the islands, and observe the hunting prowess of inchworm moth caterpillars and the three-horned Jackson’s chameleon, two of Hawaii’s most active predators. And, marvel at the lava cricket, an opportunistic insect that lives and hunts in The Big Island’s lava fields, broiling at 2000-degree F.

RETURNING SERIES AND SPECIALS (in alphabetical order):

BAD DOG: Each episode of BAD DOG! is a hilarious hour of television, documenting just how far pets can push their owners and still get unconditional love. The series highlights dogs that destroy their homes, hissing cats, cursing parrots and the most fascinating four-legged escape artists ever caught on tape. These are some of the worst pets on the planet, but their owners love them even the way they are. Animal Planet spans the globe to crown the worst of the worst on BAD DOG!

CALL OF THE WILDMAN: CALL OF THE WILDMAN returns this summer with 16 new “snapperlicious” episodes, featuring the bare-handed, backwoods animal-trapping skills of “Turtleman” Ernie Brown, Jr. For the past three decades, Turtleman has been diving into Kentucky’s murkiest ponds in search of feisty snapping turtles capable of biting through bone. Accompanied by his canine companion, Lolly, and armed with country wits as sharp as the steel blade he carries, aptly named “Thunder,” Turtleman has the uncanny ability to catch monster- snapping turtles with his bare hands and return them into the wild unscathed. Now busier than ever, Turtleman and his pal Neal James are back on the road, eradicating local homes and businesses of pesky critters including muskrats, skunks, squirrels, beavers, river otters, possums and even wild coyotes. But this year, they aren’t staying within state lines. Turtleman expands his live-action repertoire and travels to Louisiana and other locations, meeting new characters and responding to the toughest and most dangerous nuisance calls of his career. No job is too tough or dangerous for Turtleman, and his years of bonding with wild animals allow him to use his animal instincts to save them.

FINDING BIGFOOT: Animal Planet’s hit series FINDING BIGFOOT returns with all-new episodes, investigating compelling evidence that may prove the existence of the elusive creature. In addition to scouring the United States, the four eccentric but passionate members of the FINDING BIGFOOT team – Bobo, Cliff, Matt and Ranae – embark on their first-ever international expeditions, exploring the origins of sasquatch lore and searching for proof that bigfoots really do exist. By examining photos and videos of the creature, speaking to local witnesses, using new technology and luring the mysterious beast with the team’s signature sasquatch calls, the group uncovers startling evidence of the mysterious and highly intelligent enigma that has eluded capture for centuries and fascinated man for just as long.

GATORS BOYS: Follow the death-defying exploits of Paul Bedard and Jimmy Riffle, two extraordinary alligator trappers who risk injury and death to hand capture nuisance alligators that have invaded the back yards, swimming pools, garages and bedrooms of Florida Everglades residents. The duo gets face to face with ferocious alligators whose jaws have 3,500 pounds of crushing power per square inch. The goal of GATOR BOYS Alligator Rescue is to get alligators out of harm’s way before they are captured and killed by rival trappers, who then kill the gators and sell them for their skins and meat.

HILLBILLY HANDFISHIN’: Skipper and Jackson are back in business with a whole new season of HILLBILLY HANDFISHIN’. They’re on the lookout for thrill-thirsty city slickers, who are ready to stick their hands and feet into murky, underwater caves, hoping to pull out the monster of all catfish. Returning with seven new episodes, HILLBILLY HANDFISHIN’brings first-time noodlers from around the country to rural Oklahoma to catch catfish without rods or bait. This season, Skipper and Jackson up the ante by forming noodling teams with each week’s cast of noodling newbies. Skipper and Jackson serve as team captains and pit their teams against each other in themed competitions. They even travel across state lines to locations such as Texas and Louisiana to find the ultimate fishing holes. And with bragging rights on the line, these catfish cowboys pull out all the stops to noodle the biggest fish of the season.

MY CAT FROM HELL: Cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy returns for a new season of MY CAT FROM HELL to take on the most catastrophic cat cases anyone ever has encountered. For the first time, Galaxy is taking his cat-listening skills on the road to New York City, the city that never sleeps. Armed with more than 15 years of experience, a proven training program and his signature guitar case filled with cat toys, Galaxy is on a mission to help cat owners find the sources of conflict with their furry friends. In each episode, Galaxy swoops in to solve a gamut of feline-related issues and repair the relationships they’re ruining. Whether it’s the cats or the owners behaving badly, leave it to Galaxy to save the day!

RIVER MONSTERS: Biologist, extreme angler and host Jeremy Wade takes viewers on a global detective story as he unravels freshwater fish tales of giant killers, where sometimes fact really is stranger than fiction! The fish come in various sizes, but the stories are always big as Wade hopes to solve mysteries and harrowing tales of bloodthirsty fish. A fearless explorer, Wade wants to hook the finned culprits that are thought to attack humans and reveal how much truth lies in the legends.

PIT BOSS: The PIT BOSS is back for a new season, and viewers can catch up with Shorty Rossi, his pit bulls and his team of little people as excitement continues to unfold in Hollywood at Shorty’s Rescue and Shortywood, Inc., a talent management company for little people. The season kicks off with Shorty’s return to Los Angeles after a national pit bull awareness/book tour. Shorty is ready to get back down to business, but upon his return, he becomes frustrated by the complete disarray at his rescue organization and talent agency. Can Shorty find a way to turn his life’s work around and repair his crew’s damaged relationships?

PIT BULLS & PAROLEES: Returning for a fourth season, PIT BULLS & PAROLEES follows Tia Maria Torres, renowned pit bull trainer and founder of Villalobos Rescue Center, as she unites pit bulls and parolees in a mission to rescue both from their troubled pasts. This season, Torres faces her greatest challenge yet: rebuilding Villalobos after moving the entire operation to New Orleans. With her family, trusted parolees and a crew of new Louisiana parolees by her side, Torres meets unexpected challenges as she pulls out all the stops to run the rescue center in an entirely new environment. But no matter what struggles the team faces, the dedication to providing rescued pit bulls with safe and loving homes remains relentless.

PUPPY BOWL IX: PUPPY BOWL is back for its ninth consecutive year with an all-star, all-adorable cast that’s ready to mix it up on the grand gridiron of Animal Planet Stadium. Premiering on Super Bowl Sunday 2013, PUPPY BOWL IX brings viewers a loveable canine lineup, which is itching to play in a winning combination of terrier tackles, touchdowns, puppy penalties, fumbles and Fido first downs. Featuring fan favorites like the water-bowl cam, kiss cam and the annual Kitty Half-Time Show, PUPPY BOWL IX promises to be the biggest bowl yet with a whole new level of 360° experience, including puppy fantasy football leagues, mobile apps and live, tailgate adoption parties across America!

TANKED: TANKED returns with all-new episodes that dunk viewers into the rowdy, family-owned business of Acrylic Tank Manufacturing (ATM), one of the country’s leading and most successful builders of aquariums. ATM is led by brothers-in-law, business partners, best friends and rivals Wayde King and Brett Raymer and is housed in a state-of-the-art, cavernous facility located in the center of Sin City. ATM literally has created thousands of enormous, jaw-dropping aquarium builds and conceptual tanks for ordinary Joes and high-profile clients alike. This season, the guys must wade into the deep end to come up with creative solutions for some of the most outrageous and challenging builds, including a mobile school bus tank to a functional pinball machine tank and everything in between.

TOO CUTE!: Three adorable litters, three fascinating breeds, and one amazing story of puppies and kittens coming of age. The first few months of an animal’s life is a delightful adventure in a brand-new world where cute and cuddly know no bounds and where fluffy reigns supreme. From a kitten’s first tentative steps to a puppy’s first call to the wild, witness the miracle of our furry friends, which are simply too loveable, too curious and TOO CUTE!

WHALE WARS: Captain Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society return for a fifth adrenaline-fueled season of WHALE WARS, one of Animal Planet’s most-talked-about, best-performing and award-winning series to date. WHALE WARS documents the Sea Shepherds’ ongoing whale defense campaign in the Southern Ocean as they wage a high-risk battle and masterful chess match to find and stop Japanese ships from hunting whales in the name of research.  After last year’s victorious campaign over the Japanese, the Sea Shepherds thought they had ended whaling in the Southern Ocean once and for all. But surprisingly, the Japanese are returning stronger than ever, and this time, they come with a military convoy and zero tolerance for the conservation group. Anticipating the battle of a lifetime, the Sea Shepherds once again are trolling the Antarctic with surprise tactics, intense strategy and unparalleled passion.

About Animal Planet
Animal Planet Media (APM), a multi-media business unit of Discovery Communications, is the world’s only entertainment brand that immerses viewers in the full range of life in the animal kingdom with rich, deep content via multiple platforms and offers animal lovers and pet owners access to a centralized online, television and mobile community for immersive, engaging, high-quality entertainment, information and enrichment. APM consists of the Animal Planet television network, available in more than 96 million homes in the US; online assets, the ultimate online destination for all things animal; the 24/7 broadband channel, Animal Planet Beyond;, the #1 pet-related Web property globally that facilitates pet adoption; and other media platforms including a robust Video-on-Demand (VOD) service; mobile content; and merchandising extensions.