The Moaning of Life is part of a new slate of programs for the 2013-2014 TV season that Science Channel is set to announce on Thursday. That lineup will include the network's first-ever original scripted drama, 73 Seconds: The Challenger Investigation, starring William Hurt, Brian Dennehy and Bruce Greenwood.
73 Seconds stars Hurt as physicist Richard Feynman, who managed to finally discover what caused the first space shuttle tragedy in 1986. The drama, a co-production with the BBC, premieres on Nov. 11.
"When I took over Science Channel, I wanted to do really smart programming but bring in all the staples of entertainment," says the channel's general manager and executive vice president, Debbie Myers. "It had to be about a real event, and science has to be at the heart of it. This is someone who used science to solve that puzzle. It's an emotional roller coaster ride of a story." In success, Myers says she'd like to air one or two scripted events per year on Science Channel.
The network has also ordered the companion non-fiction special The Challenger Documentary, which is set to debut on Nov. 16. Hurt narrates the event, which details the real-life journey of Feynman.
As for The Moaning of Life, the series is the first for Pilkington without the help of Gervais and Stephen Merchant. The show, which premieres Jan. 18, 2014, follows Pilkington as he adjusts to middle age and travels across the globe to see how other cultures tackle coming-of-age issues.
"It took a while to see what he wanted to do after the success of An Idiot Abroad," Myers says. "He's turning 40, and wants to travel the world and get advice from people facing life's biggest challenges. I like that it gives him a chance to reflect on himself and explore personal issues. It's the anti-travel travel show. You get to see things through very child-like eyes, and there's something refreshing about that."
The Science Channel also plans to turn the upcoming arrival of the "super comet" ISON — which some astronomers say will be brighter than the moon as it passes around the sun — into a series of specials this fall. Says Myers: "You're going to have comet fever. We'll follow it over the course of several weeks and do a couple of live specials. We want to get people excited about looking up. We're working hard to be that home for people who love space."
And actor James Woods is behind This Changes Everything, which debuts Nov. 12. The series looks at discoveries and ideas that could have major implications for the future, such as nano technology and synthetic biology. "We're mixing science fiction with science fact," Myers says. Science Channel will use 73 Seconds to help launch This Changes Everything. "We're coming out all guns swinging for November," Myers says.
Other new series include Surviving Zombies (premiering in February), which chronicles people prepping for the looming zombie apocalypse. Tactical Jokers, from the creators of SyFy's Scare Tactics, looks at how classic pranks are executed.
Science also has new episodes of series How Do They Do It, How It's Made, Oddities, Survivorman and Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman on tap. The extraterrestrial event Are We Alone? returns in March 2014. Plus, Science Channel's replay of Fringe season five premieres in November.