Robert Hartwell (Left), Tina Knowles-Lawson (Center), and Guy Fieri (Right)
Courtesy of AP
HGTV’s Property Brothers, Tina Knowles-Lawson and Guy Fieri are among the producers set to deliver a slate of five original unscripted series for Discovery Plus that will run on the streamer under the banner of Oprah Winfrey’s OWN.
The news that OWN is stepping up its presence on the Discovery Plus streamer comes a day after the parent company disclosed in its second quarter earnings that it has about 18 million total direct-to-consumer subscribers across its international streaming platforms, up from 15 million at the time of its Q1 earnings disclosure in April. The total encompasses Discovery’s worldwide direct-to-consumer subscriber base, which includes Euro Sport and Discovery Plus, though the breakdown between those brands is not clear.
The OWN-branded slate brings to Discovery Plus a high-profile focus on Black personalities and subject matter, ranging from a Broadway star’s renovation of an 1820 colonial mansion in Great Barrington, Mass., to “The Great Soul Food Cookoff” and a burger-truck competition series.
“Breaking Black,” a docuseries production from Knowles-Lawson, blends interviews and historical material for a series that aims to “debunk” stereotypes about Black men and examine the contemporary challenges they face.
HGTV and OWN, corporate cousins under the Discovery banner, are teaming for the first time for a makeover series “Taking Back the House,” chronicling Broadway actor Robert Hartwell (“Hello, Dolly!”) as he undertakes a room-by-room renovation of the 1820 colonial house he purchased on Juneteenth 2020 in Great Barrington, Mass. The series is executive produced by home renovation superstars Drew and Jonathan Scott of “Property Brothers” fame.
In a sign that Discovery is tapping all of its corporate muscle to deliver shows for Discovery Plus, Food Network staple Fieri is executive producing “Burger Truck Brawl,” which sends Los Angeles’ Billionaire Burger Boyz food truck into a new city each week to compete with locally established burger wagons. Another series, “Like Mother, Like Daughter?” sends six pairs of mothers and daughters with “issues” between them off to an island resort for a three-week intensive to improve their relationships.
“OWN has built its loyal audience through programming that connects with viewers very deeply, and it is that intention that drives the programming we are bringing to Discovery Plus,” said Tina Perry, president of OWN. “This slate of new series will incorporate OWN’s unique style in genres that include relationship, docuseries, cooking and the revelatory home renovation series ‘Taking Back The House,’ which we are producing in an exciting first-time partnership with HGTV, and will appeal to Discovery Plus subscribers who are as varied and diverse as the programs themselves.”
“Burger Truck Brawl” will be the first to premiere on Aug. 21. “Taking Back the House” will air in 2022. Premiere dates for the other three series have not been set. The slate boost come as Discovery is looking to stuff its service with fresh content as the platform rolls out in Canada, Italy, Spain, Brazil, the Philippines and other international markets in the coming months.
“Our young and diverse Discovery Plus streaming audience places a premium on content from innovative storytellers across a wide range of voices, and OWN possesses an unparalleled track record in developing successful projects fitting that same criteria,” said Lisa Holme, group senior VP of content and commercial strategy for Discovery. “Discovery Plus provides the perfect platform for the OWN team and our creative partners to go even deeper in genres which all of our Discovery brands are known for, from food and home to lifestyle, docuseries and more.”
Here are descriptions of OWN’s Discovery Plus series:
“Taking Back The House” (working title)
Last year on Juneteenth, a day celebrating the emancipation of African-American slaves in America, Robert Hartwell made headlines when he purchased a historic property in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. This is a house with a complicated history, and Robert’s purchase set the Internet ablaze. When Robert, the founder of The Broadway Collective, Broadway’s #1 training academy, and a working actor who has performed on Broadway in five musicals from “Hello, Dolly!” with Bette Midler to “Motown the Musical,” first saw the 200-year-old colonial house in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, he knew he had found home. It was not easy for the openly gay Black man to complete the cash offer only purchase but Hartwell just knew this was meant to be his house, so he persevered. Now, Hartwell will renovate the home room by room. The renovation of this house will unlock stories of his own history and lead him down a path of discovery about himself, his culture and the Black creatives who will inspire the ensuing designs. “I wish I could’ve told my ancestors when they were breaking their backs in 1820 to build this house that 200 years later a free gay Black man was going to own it and fill it with love and say their name,” Hartwell said when the purchase was complete. This finished home will be a celebration of Black excellence, the people and culture that built him. The series is produced by Scott Brothers Entertainment. Hartwell, Jonathan Scott and Drew Scott are the executive producers.
“The Great Soul Food Cookoff”
Black culture is being recognized as never before in music, film, fashion, TV, sports and more. But in the kitchen – where Black cooks and cooking traditions are a cornerstone of what we call “American food” – that recognition remains long overdue. Now, for the first time on television, a cooking competition finally spotlights these culinary contributions. With challenges designed to highlight the past and present of Black food in America, eight chefs will go head-to-head in this new series, in a celebration of diverse deliciousness. Produced by Good Egg Entertainment, the company behind Food Network’s hit series “Chopped.” Michael W. Twitty, the esteemed culinary historian, educator and James Beard Foundation award-winning author of The Cooking Gene, will serve as culinary historian and consultant for the series.
“Burger Truck Brawl”
The Billionaire Burger Boyz (and the Burger Girl) own and operate one of L.A.’s most successful food trucks. They know better than anyone that it takes mad culinary chops, creativity and a whole lot of hustle to go from the bottom to the top of the biz. They’ve conquered the City of Angels, so now they’re hitting the road to lay down the challenge to other successful food trucks far and wide. In each episode, the Boyz will roll into a city, meet the challenging food truck, craft a new menu for that city, then sell, sell, sell. The winning truck walks away with a cash bet put up by both teams before the competition. Produced by Guy Fieri’s Knuckle Sandwich Productions and Lando Entertainment. Burger Truck Brawl will premiere on d+ on Saturday, August 21.
“Like Mother, Like Daughter?” (working title)
This new series follows six mother-daughter pairs who have serious issues between them, as they move into an isolated resort where they will be forced to work on their relationship. The pairs will embark on a three-week intensive experiment designed to cultivate the skills necessary for healthy and loving relationships with one another, but living in close quarters will put the pairs — and the therapists working with them — to the test. Produced by Bunim/Murray Productions.
“Breaking Black” (working title)
From Tina Knowles-Lawson, Trell Thomas and A. Smith & Co. Productions, “Breaking Black” sets out to challenge and debunk the negative stereotypes that have surrounded Black men for centuries, by reshaping the narrative and highlighting their authentic stories. Through interviews, historical footage, and personal stories from men across the country, “Breaking Black” aims to show the difficulties Black men face today, while highlighting and celebrating the triumphs and successes of everyday living. Produced by A. Smith & Co. Productions and award-winning showrunner P. Frank Williams.
Variety's Cynthia Littleton contributed to this post.