Docs docu docks at ABC

Chase to narrate series about real Johns Hopkins happenings

PASADENA — ABC News will take reality TV to the next level on Aug. 30 when it introduces “Hopkins 24/7,” a six-part documentary series that relies on small, handheld digital cameras to take viewers inside Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore.

Series, which uses minimal narration and no on-camera correspondent, will air at 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Sept. 27 in lieu of reruns of “20/20 Downtown.” However, to take advantage of the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” lead-in, the second episode of “Hopkins” will air on Thursday, Aug. 31, following the hit gamer.

Each one-hour broadcast of “Hopkins” will focus on a series of interwoven stories narrated by ABC News’ Sylvia Chase.

ABC News was given unprecedented access to Johns Hopkins, which allowed a crew of video-journalists to capture the everyday events of patients and staff for three months.

“This is the true reality TV,” said Phyllis McGrady, exec in charge of special programming for ABC News. “We didn’t build a home or create a situation. This is the real ‘real world.’ ”

Unconventional summers

This won’t be the first time ABC News has used the summer months to debut unconventional programming. Last summer, it premiered two series: “Vanished,” which focused on missing people, and “Brave New World,” an avant-garde take on the newsmag format.

“Summer is when we get to experiment a little bit,” McGrady said. ABC News prez David Westin “wants us to try different forms. It’s difficult to get any kind of hours during the main season, but in the summer it’s a tad more flexible.” McGrady added that if “Hopkins” performs well, it could be brought back as a limited series, perhaps set at a different hospital.

Either way, “Hopkins” will get a second life in January when cable net Discovery Health airs 10 original hours of ABC News’ reality experiment.

Meanwhile, the “Vanished” franchise will continue as stand-alone shows and as special editions of “20/20.” ABC “has asked us to have shows ready that they can fill in when they need to,” McGrady said. On Wednesday, for example, a special edition of “Vanished” will air under the “20/20” umbrella. ABC may also rebroadcast episodes from last summer.

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