History Channel unveils epic slate

Schedule includes 12-part special on U.S.

The History Channel has announced the most ambitious original programming slate in its own history, led by a 12-part epic capturing the U.S. from the pilgrims to President Obama.

“America: The Story of Us,” scheduled to air in the spring of 2010, leads a pack of seven original series for the cabler’s coming season. History exec VP and g.m. Nancy Dubuc commissioned former Discovery president Jane Root to exec produce the doc, which will air two hours per week over six weeks.

“It’s no secret that we’re in historymaking times and that the moment is both appropriate and right for an endeavor of this scope,” Dubuc said. “Jane knows how to do epic.”

“America” will unfold in chronological chapters, each with its own theme. Dubuc intends for the project to emerge “as a separate business entity” for classrooms and in homes on DVD and will market it on a “grand scale.”

Among the other shows greenlit to series by History, the closest companion to “America” is “WWII in HD,” targeted for fall. The 10-episode skein is the culmination of an exhaustive search for color footage of the war from small collections spread all over the map, as well as a similarly intensive effort to upgrade that footage to HD.

“What’s important is not just the uniqueness of the idea and the scale,” Dubuc said, “but it’s also our mission and our vision to preserve history, and this dovetails right into that.”

Less highbrow but just as important for History’s largely male aud are “Pawning History,” which marries an “Antiques Roadshow” premise with a gregarious family of Las Vegas pawn shop operators, and “Madhouse,” a slice of life featuring rival road-racing families in North Carolina. Both are tentatively on the calendar for 2010.

History also plans to unveil “Nostradamus Effect,” which explores connections between modern events and ancient prophecies, in either the last quarter of 2009 or first of 2010, along with unexplained phenomena skein “MysteryQuest.”

These series will join such returnees as “Ancient Discoveries,” “Ax Men,” “How the Earth Was Made,” “Ice Road Truckers,” “Modern Marvels,” “MonsterQuest” and “The Universe.”

Upcoming specials for History include the previously announced “The People Speak” along with “The Naturalized,” a compilation of immigrants-turned-citizens stories produced by Jon Stewart’s Bubulah Prods.

“Our specials speak to that broad-appeal entertainment quality that we look for to bring new audiences under the tent,” Dubuc said. “The specials are our secret weapon.”

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