If you've ever accidentally tuned into "World of Discovery," chances are you probably thought you were watching PBS.
But this series of excellent and award-winning documentaries is actually on a broadcast network - ABC. Not only that, but they're produced by the network itself."Very frankly, yes, I'm still a little bit surprised by this myself," said executive producer Dennis Kane. "It's great that they've done it. It provides some alternate programming for family viewers."
"World" got its start when John B. Sias, the president of ABC, called Kane, who was then the chief of National Geographic's television division, a couple of years ago. Sias wanted Kane to head up a new production team at ABC just to make "World of Discovery."
"I enjoyed my time at the Geographic, but I'm glad I came over here," Kane said. "We have a chance to do something really good."
And, perhaps most surprisingly, ABC jumped into the project with both feet. The network commissioned a total of 25 shows over five seasons.
Among the projects "World" has aired are a nature film about cougars, a look at all the microscopic creatures we share our homes with and a ride on a trans-Siberian train. And this Sunday (6 p.m., Ch. 4), it's "Beautiful Killers," a stunning hour about killer whales.
"World" is scheduled on Sundays at 6 p.m., opposite the CBS juggernaut "60 Minutes." The ratings certainly haven't been spectacular, but they haven't been terrible.
"It's a great challenge to put on programming in that time slot on commercial television that people are going to watch," Kane said. "We intend to make them as entertaining as possible and as informative as possible.
"The network has never put any pressure on us for ratings. I'm probably more concerned about the numbers than they are. They just tell us to do a quality program."
Among upcoming projects are an hour on crocodiles and a look at the world's fascination with the automobile.
"We have a lot of freedom here," Kane said. "We can do some offbeat projects, like the one on the car.
"A lot of people say that the networks aren't concerned about family programming. Well, this is proof that they are. At least that ABC is."