Example: "Catch and Release," a back-to-nature game show that makes "Survivor" seem as tame as a round of "Jeopardy."
On this show, a group of five of what are billed as "the world's most elite, thrill-seeking survivalists" choose one among them, then blindfold and dispatch him to a remote, unexpected location (whether a dense jungle or a frigid glacier) to fend for himself. He has 100 hours to find his way back to civilization or he loses the game â¿¿ big-time.
"This is our idea of fun," insists one of these chaps.
"It's a hero's journey," says Kaplan, "but we also want to show the camaraderie of his friends, who are monitoring him on video. We want to show the fun of the game."A different kind of competition is "Top Hooker," which pits 10 expert fishermen against one another in a series of wild challenges with a $30,000 prize waiting to be snagged. "There's something about the rarefied, careful, air-conditioned lives that we live that leaves us wanting more," says Kaplan. "We feel like we're missing something." Maybe from our air-conditioned living rooms we can fantasize about the wild quest for tiny fish on "Eel of Fortune," which tracks the hectic Maine fishing season for elver eels, an Asian delicacy that sells for $2,600 per pound and can bring in nightly hauls worth up to $40,000. A much different animal-related profession is depicted in "Clipped." Arkansas-based Angela Kumpe is an "extreme groomer" who, when styling her canine clients, doesn't stop with the scissors and shampoo. A dog can end up looking like a bumblebee or a buffalo as Kumpe's imagination runs wild. "I can transform a dog into almost anything," she boasts. Meanwhile, the hit show "My Cat From Hell" will spawn "My Tiny Terror," as Animal Planet's small-dog trainer roams the country to cut unruly little dogs down to size, thus restoring harmony to their owners' homes.