December 05, 2008

ABC Schedules a ‘Homeland Security’ Series

“Homeland Security USA,” a reality show produced with the full cooperation of several agencies of the Department of Homeland Security, will have its premiere on Jan. 6 on ABC.

In an announcement Thursday, ABC said the production “has been given unprecedented access to the agencies,” including Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard.

The show will spotlight the work of border patrol officials who work on land, sea and air to keep the United States secure. ABC has ordered 13 episodes of the series; they will be shown on Tuesdays at 8 p.m., opposite “American Idol” on Fox. While reality shows about harrowing jobs have prospered on cable — think of “Deadliest Catch” and “Ice Road Truckers” — they have yet to find an audience on broadcast TV.

When news of the series emerged in May, the show was named “Border Security USA.” Although the name has evolved, the show will still focus on the border patrol mission. Here’s the description of the first episode from ABC:

The premiere episode, “This is Your Car on Drugs,” takes viewers inside some of the busiest international entry points to the U.S. At Los Angeles International Airport, a voluptuous 20-year-old woman arrives from Switzerland with no working papers but a suitcase full of titillating surprises! In the Pacific Northwest, at the Blaine, Washington border crossing, smugglers attempt to foil DHS canines by packing narcotics in baby diapers. Along the border between the U.S. and Mexico in the scorching heat of the desert outside of Tucson, Border Patrol agents race the clock to find six undocumented immigrants lost in the barren wilderness. In one of the most dramatic stories at the San Ysidro, California border crossing, a fake license plate tips a border officer off to a life-threatening situation. Meanwhile, there are some unusual illegal items intercepted at the International Mail Center in Carson, California, including a “delicacy” officers are shocked to discover is actually barbecued bats.

In May, The Hollywood Reporter said the show was “billed as the first multi-episode television series to be shot in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security.” The project elicited complaints from some Internet users, who labeled it “propaganda.”

The executive producer, Arnold Shapiro, acknowledged at the time that the show was meant to portray Homeland Security in a good light.

“I love investigative journalism, but that’s not what we’re doing,” he told The Reporter in May. “This show is heartening. It makes you feel good about these people who are doing their best to protect us.”

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