It seems like just yesterday that Daily Planet debuted. With Jay Ingram at its helm, the show—then called @discovery.ca—launched with a goal to explore the scientific angle to current events. Twenty-one seasons later, Daily Planet continues on that path when the show returns to Discovery on Monday with “Extreme Machines Week.”
“We have people on the team who have been with the show since the very beginning,” says Dan Riskin, who has been co-hosting Daily Planet with Ziya Tong since Season 17. “We’re really proud to be representing them.”
Daily Planet shows no signs of slowing down, ratings-wise. Season 20 was the most-watched yet, the third year in a row a viewership benchmark was beaten. Tong, who has been at the helm since 2008 when she joined Ingram, thinks she knows why.
“We have all of these specialty theme weeks that we didn’t have in the past when I started,” she says. “We go off to the Consumer Electronics Show every year, we’ve got Shark Week now and we have a wonderful interactive audience that’s growing with us. It’s a very different show than it was 20 years ago.” She’s right. With themed weeks devoted to toothsome fish, high-tech toys, tornados, future tech and extreme machines, and reporting done at a fast-paced, almost fever pitch, Daily Planet has evolved alongside the science it reports on.
“It’s like learning with a wow factor,” Tong says. That fast pace extends behind the scenes too. Tong describes how seasons are planned well in advance, with on location filming of future segments happening during the summer. Those doc-style bits are intercut with the stuff the team learns about, writes up and reports on every day of broadcast. Deadlines are so tight, Riskin reveals, some floor segments are still being filmed when that night’s broadcast is underway.
“Extreme Machines Week” launches Season 21 with several interesting segments, including tech correspondent Lucas Cochran mounting a pogo stick on steroids, a gyrocopter pilot who aims for a world record and a unique job in Amsterdam: bicycle fisherman. Riskin jetted to the Netherlands’ capital to catch up with Richard and Tom, two dudes who pilot a crane and barge contraption that travels Amsterdam’s canals pulling discarded bikes out of the water. If the pair don’t keep up their task, the accumulated rusting metal—up to 15,000 bikes a year—will clog up the waterways. The segment also shows the duo pulling the hulk of the car out of the murk, leading one to wonder if other, more ominous, items have been discovered.
“The question everybody asks is, ‘Do you ever find dead bodies?'” Riskin says. “Yes, they do. It often happens in winter when somebody has to take a leak and they fall in. It’s hard to find a way out of those canals when it’s dark and you’re drunk.” Ah, science.
Daily Planet airs Monday to Friday at 7 p.m. ET on Discovery.