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Discovery Life’s ‘New Girls on the Block’ Adds to TV’s Focus on Transgender

Discovery Communication’s rebranded Discovery Life channel is looking to the “new frontier” of transgender stories in its effort to bring viewers to the channel, which debuts Jan. 15.

Discovery Life is affording one of its biggest promotional pushes to the six-part docu-series “New Girls on the Block,” which follows a group of transgender women in Kansas City, Mo. Series, set to bow April 2, got a showcase at the Television Critics Assn. press tour on Thursday.

“It’s a new frontier,” “New Girls” exec producer Jay James told Variety of the transgender community on TV, recently highlighted by Amazon’s “Transparent,” which is nominated at this weekend’s Golden Globes, and the popularity of actress Laverne Cox from “Orange Is the New Black.”

“It’s a group of really interesting and compelling characters who haven’t had the chance to tell their stories, and audiences are always on the lookout for what’s next and who are those people that are living in somewhat unobserved worlds,” James said of “New Girls.”

James added, “To be perfectly honest, there’s a natural curiously to see what transgender people are all about.”

James, along with cast members on the panel, says that great storytelling is the series’ top priority, but any social benefit of making viewers more understanding of what it means to be transgender would be a be a “very welcome plus.”

“We’ve got amazing characters, we’ve got really compelling stories, and we’ve got a really interesting world that hasn’t been told on television,” he said. “We’ve never really seen a group of transgender friends just sitting around in a coffee shop.”

Some of those friends happen to be couples. Transgender Robyn Clarke and her boyfriend Andrew Boyce shared their struggles with the TCA audience.

“It’s awkward as hell. To have to go through that time and time again, it takes a toll,” Clarke, who has not been accepted by Boyce’s family, expressed. “At the same time, you just want to be accepted.”

James said that the show covers much more than the struggle of transitioning, referring to a few funny moments, such as tackling online dating. “What will be surprising is how ordinary some of the scenarios are that become extraordinary because transgender people are involved,” he said.

“New Girls on the Block” is produced by Conveyor Media in association with Reality Road. Discovery Life is the makeover of the channel now airing as Discovery Fit & Health.

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