TBS Destination: The Documentary Factual Films to Dominate TBS Sunday Nights

Article excerpt

It takes more than Atlanta Braves games and Andy Griffith

reruns to remain the most-watched cable network in a crowded and

competitive cable environment.

Increasingly TBS, which is the most-watched cable network, has

relied on original documentary films, broadcasting seven of the

10 highest-rated cable documentaries during 1995.

The most visible and popular source of those documentaries has

been National Geographic Explorer , cable's highest-rated

magazine series, as well as its most honored (29 Emmys, 11 Cable

ACE awards and two Academy Award nominations).

Now, in an effort to highlight its documentary programming, TBS

is reserving Sunday nights for a four-hour block of original

documentaries, with National Geographic Explorer occupying the

first two hours and a documentary anthology TOPX occupying the

last two.

The new approach, dubbed Destination Sunday by TBS, gets off to

an impressive start at 7 tonight with a 10th anniversary special

titled National Geographic Explorer: Ten Incredible Years ,

followed by a new one-hour documentary film, Biker Women , and

then a repeat of Harley-Davidson: The American Motorcycle , the

highest-rated original program in TBS history.

To put together Ten Incredible Years, executive producer

Michael Rosenfeld and his staff sifted through more than 342

hours of programming. The result is a swiftly paced collection

of highlights that remind us that while nature can be

fascinating and breathtakingly beautiful, it is often not

benign. In the course of a few minutes, we watch as predators

kill a rabbit, three wildebeests, an impala, two penguins, at

least four seal pups and eight other sea creatures.

The most stunning moment occurs during a segment from a

documentary on sharks. As photographer Nick Calyanis, alone in

the water, follows a shark, it is provoked by a fisherman who

doesn't see Calyanis. The angry shark then turns on the

cameraman. While the viewer can't see what is happening to

Calyanis, the way the camera spins out of control and then

drifts down to the ocean floor makes it clear that what's

happening isn't good.

Fortunately, Calyanis, while badly mauled, survived. In fact,

he returned to shark-infested waters to pursue his job.

Rather matter-of-factly, he explains that he enjoys the

challenge of existing in a world filled with predators. "It

would be boring if all there were were trout," he quips.

Not all of the special deals with nature, however. Undersea

explorer/photographer Michael Ballard takes Explorer along on

expeditions to find the Titanic, the Bismarck, the Lusitania and

the numerous ships that went down in the straights off

Guadalcanal called Ironbottom Sound.

There are clips from a special on nurses who served in Vietnam,

on a couple who spent their lives exploring volcanos (eventually

dying, though not on camera, as a result) and on a pair of

daredevils -- one an expert climber, the other an expert

parachutist -- who scale and then leap from a sheer cliff more

than 20,000 feet high.

One of the most moving segments comes from a special on Norman

Vaughan, who, in his late 20s, had been part of an expedition to

Antarctica led by Admiral Byrd. Byrd named an Antarctic mountain

after Vaughan and almost 70 years later, Vaughan, at the age of

88, finally got to go back and climb the mountain that bore his

name. …