Biography Channel taps TV vet for 'Nerve'

After a recent career path that’s taken him from Web pitchman to primetime Emmy winner, William Shatner has been signed to host a celebrity-interview show on the Biography Channel.

Shatner, currently seen on ABC’s “Boston Legal,” will interview a range of guests on the half-hour, titled “Shatner’s Raw Nerve.” Both actors and politicians will be featured, and reps for the net said producers will make an effort to book guests separately from their movie and other junkets.

Biography said in a release that the thesp “will explore life’s most intriguing questions and unearth his guests’ strange and unknown stories.” 

Thirteen episodes have been ordered by the net, with the skein to air some time next year.

Move comes as part of a larger shift by the net to contemporize both subject and feel. 

Exec veep-general manager Bob DeBitetto described the new mission of the Biography Channel as “true stories about fascinating people.”

Reps said the new philosophy will still involve telling the nonfiction stories of people, but the net will move beyond the more traditional format of profiles of one individual; in fact, the subjects may not even be famous.

In addition to the Shatner pact, company has made pilot deals for “Small Medium at Large,” a show about a four-foot-tall psychic medium who uses Chinese meditation to commune with the dead, and “I Survived,” about people who have survived near-death experiences.

The expansion is the result of an original programming boom in cable that has allowed and encouraged networks to experiment with a broader range of programming, though it has also sometimes diluted a net’s mission.

Biography has also added the tagline “True Story” and will revamp its on-air look to feel more current.

The tagline is similar to truTV, the rebranding of Court TV to net with a similar focus on scripted and nonscripted takes on real-life events.

Cabler will also refer to itself as “Bio”in much of its correspondence, though it will still officially be called the Biography Channel.

Biography has yet to land truly wide exposure, currently reaching 44 million homes, but says its ratings in adults 18-49 are up 38% so far this year.

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