Good Old USA vs. the 21st Century

They are: Destination America, and Veria Living. They come to the screen with very different stories, and two very different world views. I’m finding myself watching both of these channels with interest.

I suppose I ought to start with Destination America, and, inevitably, a new series called United States of Food. I caught the episode called United States of Steak (don’t worry, more episodes are on the way: bacon, and burgers among them). The beefy Todd Fisher gets his Guy Fiere on, but focuses on the excellent prime rib served at Boston’s Durgin Park, the superior chicken-fried steak found in Texas, and a Brooklyn classic t-bone from Peter Luger.

You may recall the well-intentioned Planet Green from Discovery Networks. That’s gone now. Destination America is its replacement. So what else besides beef? A series called Super Duper Thrill Rides, another called Fast Food Mania, and a modern day gold rush called Ghost Town Gold. There are shows about crop circles and Vegas gambling, Area 51 and Sasquatch, UFOs and national parks. As easy rolling brainless television goes, it’s fun.

(Isn’t it weird that cable channels are replaced as if they were TV shows? I know it makes business sense, but everything seems so darned flimsy.)

The other new network (well, new to me, anyway) is called Veria Living. In sharp contrast with Destination America’s approach, this is a channel devoted to healthy living and wellness. It’s based in New York City, but the money and the distribution power are the result of a growing media industry in India. Zee Networks is one of India’s largest media brands; slowly but surely, Zee has been increasing its presence in the US, and elsewhere in the “Indian diaspora.”

The first show I watched on Veria was Good Food America with Nathan Lyon. Other shows are about fitness, healing, yoga, and other good stuff. I especially enjoyed watching Nathan Leroy (yes, two different Nathans host different series) on Under the Sun, visiting Tuscany for an organic lunch (all local ingredients eaten on the patio of a rustic/elegant home that the local couple had built on their own). I’ve watched him, with some jealousy, enjoying organic strawberries in Finland… and you can, too. Veria’s viewers are enjoying a $200+ million investment in original programming, all of it celebrating a healthy, joy-filled lifestyle.

Does Discovery’s loss of interest in Planet Green and Discovery Health suggest likely failure for Veria Living? Is Veria Living’s internationalist approach likely to succeed and change people’s lives for the better, or will Veria Living learn the lesson that so many cable networks (A&E, History, Bravo, etc.) have learned, that downmarket is the only road to success? And, perhaps most important, after Todd Fisher travels on behalf of steak, burgers and bacon, where will he go next?

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