An Idiot Abroad
They're no dummies at the Science Channel. The cable network's smart move to acquire and run Ricky Gervais' U.K. series An Idiot Abroad has resulted in the channel's highest ratings ever.
To celebrate, the channel plans to run a marathon of all eight An Idiot Abroad episodes — plus a 30-minute preview special — from 2:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. on April Fool's Day (Friday, April 1).
Science Channel will also debut its first-ever Twitter event during the marathon: Starting at 8 p.m. that night, the channel will run Tweets from viewers (via the hashtag #AnIdiotAbroad) at the bottom of the screen.
An Idiot Abroad, which originally aired in the U.K. on Sky1, features Gervais and Stephen Merchant as they send their quirky pal Karl Pilkington on a trip around the world. The dim Pilkington is asked to visit locales such as China, India and Jordan, where he completes strange challenges. (Gervais, Merchant and Pilkington also star in HBO's animated series The Ricky Gervais Show.)
The show increased Science Channel's performance in the time period by 191 percent among adults 18-49. An Idiot Abroad also beat out Science Channel's Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman to become its top-rated series.
"This was a game-changer for us," says Science Channel executive vice president and general manager Debbie Myers. "It was out first test into the humor market. It's been a natural fit for our audience, and overindexed among the 'sarcastics' demographic."
Wait, there's a "sarcastics" demo? Indeed, according to Myers, the channel tracks a segment of its audience that considers itself ultra savvy. "This is a group of people who look at the world through a different lens," Myers says. "They don't like to be sold to, and there's a B.S. detector to them, and they don't want to be fed pabulum. They come to us a lot because they know with Science Channel that we're not going to mess with the facts. And they have a sense of humor. Ricky feeds into that whole sarcastics audience."
Myers says Science Channel is still in talks to acquire the second season of An Idiot Abroad (reportedly titled An Idiot Abroad 2: The Bucket List), which has already been greenlighted in the U.K.
The executive said Science is also looking at acquiring or creating other humor-based shows to complement its programming. (There's also an opportunity to repurpose old Science shows, perhaps with comedians.)
"We're open to any great idea that comes in the door, and we're looking at having conversations with stars," she said. "What we need to do is to stay true to our core science mission."
Indeed, Myers admits that purists were concerned when Science first decided to dabble in the comedy space with An Idiot Abroad. But she believes the channel is still maintaining its mission inside the Discovery Communications umbrella of networks.
"Our mantra here is to keep the core Science viewer but grow the edges and push out (to new audiences)," she adds. Other Science programs include How It's Made and Mutant Planet.
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