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Upfronts: Scripps Networks Serves Up a Kinder Version of Reality

Celebrity passions, not peccadillos, are subjects for new shows on Food Network, HGTV, DIY

At Scripps Networks Interactive, home of cable networks like Food Network and Cooking Channel, the recipe calls for a gentler type of reality programming – and a pinch of Vanilla Ice.

The company, which also owns cablers HGTV, DIY and GAC, said it would continue to rely on unscripted concepts that draw aficionados of food, home and real estate and Americana as it unveiled its slate for the coming year at its Upfront presentation at Alice Tully Hall in New York on Tuesday.

One noticeable trend is reality shows using celebrities’ hobbies as a basis.

ScrippsDIY network is launching four programs that look at the pastimes of celebrities whose popularity may have dimmed but whose affection for their favorite avocation has not. “Vanilla Ice Goes Amish” shows the singer of “Ice Ice Baby” living with and learning from what the cabler bills as “the best craftsman in the business.” Of course, these teachers don’t use power tools. The rapper (pictured above) already appears on DIY series “The Vanilla Ice Project.”

Hall & Oates frontman Darryl Hall will demonstrate his passion for historic home restoration by tackling a 1700’s Connecticut domicile in “The Darryl Hall Project,” set to debut in 2014. Actor Bronson Pinchot, best known for his turns in ABC sitcom “Perfect Strangers” and blockbuster “Beverly Hills Cop,” will star in “Bronson Pinchot Saves America,” in which he salvages and renovates antiques. And in “The Rev. Run Project,” the Run-D.M.C. rapper and his wife bicker and clash over how to renovate their 9,000 sq ft  home.

Scripps’ nets rely primarily on “how to” programming that teaches viewers how to cook or renovate, among other tasks. But there’s long been room for competition programming, programs that take viewers on the road or to strange places, as well as programs that skew a bit more oddball.

Scripps’ Travel Channel will launch four original series. Network stalwart Adam Richman – remember when he used to eat massive plates of pancakes on “Man v. Food”? – takes viewers to wild fan events across the nation in “Adam Richman’s Fandemonium,” which launches July 14.

Other series greenlit for production include “Get Lost,” in which a husband-and-wife duo must extricate themselves from the wilderness; “Best Daym Takeout,” in which YouTube star Daymon Patterson makes like Food Network star Guy Fieri in the name of finding great take-out; and “Backroad Gold,” in which antique car expert Corky Coker seeks out undervalued finds.

HGTV will rely on proven network talent placed in new programs. Real-life cousins Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri of HGTV’s “Cousins on Call” will  show off budget-friendly renovations in the new “Undercover Overhaul,” for example. Licensed contractor Amy Matthews, known for programs on DIY, will lead a crew who must complete a renovation while homeowners are out at dinner in “Renovation Raiders.”

Food Network and Cooking Channel will together launch at least 20 new series. At Food, new programs include “Undercover Critic,” in which restaurant critics use hidden cameras to chronicle flaws in service, then give owners a second chance to make improvements before their assessments are published. If only Yelp users were as accommodating. At “The Shed,” viewers will meet the Orrison family, owner of a successful chain of barbecue restaurants in Mississippi. And “Food Court Wars” will depict two teams of entrepreneurs fighting to get their own food-court franchise.

At Cooking Channel, new entries include “Ching’s Menu Makeover,” in which chef Ching-He Huang travels across the country to help struggling restaurants update and revitalize their menus, and “Donut Showdown,” which hopes to do for the humble donut what Food Network’s  “Cupcake Wars” has done for its more glamorous cousin, the cupcake.

Scripps’ GAC cabler will introduce “The Willis Clan,” featuring Toby and Brenda Willis, who raise 12 children between 2 and 21, many of whom are accomplished dancers, singers or musicians.

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