Discovery bets on two dope series

Last updated 09:34 18/02/2013
Weed Country
WEED GROWERS: A scene from Discovery Channel's new series Weed Country

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Cupcake makers, pawnbrokers and storage container raiders have all had their moments in reality television's spotlight.

Now the time may be right for marijuana growers - and the people who chase them.

The Discovery network in the US debuts a six-episode series, Weed Country, and will replace it with Pot Cops in April. Both examine the marijuana trade in northern California. There are no times set yet for its screening in New Zealand.

It fits Discovery's efforts to introduce interesting subcultures to viewers, said Nancy Daniels, the network's executive vice president for production and development on the West Coast.

Discovery tried a series about a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland two years ago, Weed Wars, and is sticking with dope even though the show didn't do very well in the ratings.

"We still think it's an interesting world and maybe we didn't tap into the right part of it," Daniels said.

Based on its first episode, Weed Country is a nuanced effort at giving equal time to both sides of the issue. Producers find colourful growers who use science to make the best product possible. They don't believe what they are doing is wrong. "We're flying the flag of civil disobedience," one grower said.

The growers may be trying to dodge the law, but don't hesitate to open up different facets of their business to television cameras.

At the same time, Weed Country shows the challenges faced by law enforcement. It follows one group's careful training for backwoods missions to find farms guarded by growers who are armed and intent upon protecting their crops.

"It surprised me with how deep and complex it was," Daniels said.

The show does have some distracting reality TV contrivances. Before one commercial break, a grower making a late-night delivery to a customer becomes suspicious of a van that ominously pulls out behind him on a dark road.

After the break, the van drives innocently by. At another point, producers lead you to believe the grower is about to be pulled over by police when, after a commercial, it becomes clear the officer is going after someone else.

The Pot Cops series will be told from the point of view of law enforcement, after producers reached an agreement for access to officers hunting down marijuana farms in California's Humboldt County.

Discovery had planned to air the two programs back-to-back on the same night and promote it as Weed Wednesday on the network.

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But those plans were dropped because unrelated programming expected to be available this spring had fallen through and Discovery needed Pot Cops to fill a hole on its schedule in April.

The change had nothing to do with feeling cold feet about a Weed Wednesday promotion, Daniels said.

- AP

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