Discovery and Castlewood go on Best. Trip. Ever.

Discovery Channel Canada has stepped out of its comfort zone and into the fast and risky world of extreme sports for Best. Trip. Ever., a road trip reality TV series from Castlewood Productions top-lined by Olympic skeleton champion Jon Montgomery and three buddies.
Best Trip Ever

Discovery Channel Canada has stepped out of its comfort zone and into the fast and risky world of extreme sports for Best. Trip. Ever., a road trip reality TV series from Castlewood Productions top-lined by Olympic skeleton champion Jon Montgomery and three buddies.

“They [Discovery] are not a sports channel. They’re a science channel,” Castlewood president and executive producer Andrew Burnstein said of the specialty channel with four programming pillars: science, technology, adventure and nature.

Sports isn’t among those pillars, or even the science of sports, which has never really struck a chord with Discovery viewers.

And the channel’s egghead audience can hardly be expected to take to a beer-swilling Olympian in Jon Montgomery, who made world headlines at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games when he followed up his gold medal sled sliding win by auctioning off a pitcher of beer as he led a pied piper parade of revelers and journalists through Whistler’s town plaza.

Except for one thing: the Russell, Manitoba native oozes charisma and on-screen star quality.

Burnstein recalls watching Montgomery’s impromptu beer-chugging on an Olympic telecast and concluding this personification of Molson’s Joe Canada needed his own TV show.

“That was the moment. He’s auctioning beer. And it was completely natural and it was his personality,” he said of the super-athlete whose day job is auctioning second hand cars.

So how to pitch Discovery, with whom Burnstein already has a relationship and a series, Cash Cab, now shooting its fourth season.

The indie producer managed to get Montgomery on the phone a week after the Olympics and pitched him on an adventure sports travelogue where he and a couple buddies engage in daredevil challenges like slack-lining and heli-biking and tree climbing in a rain forest.

“We do that anyways,” Burnstein recalls hearing at the other end of the phone, as Montgomery’s closest friends, fiancée and teammate Darla Deschamps, best friend and coach Kelly Forbes, and skeleton teammate Sarah Reid – already do adrenaline-driven extreme sports in their down time when not rocketing headfirst down an icy mountain track at 140 kilometers an hour on a tiny sled with no brakes.

Burnstein did a conference call with Montgomery and his three friends and noticed at once their exceptional chemistry.

“I thought, great, there’s no need to cast,” he recalls.

Lucky for Castlewood, Discovery agreed not to cast Best Trip Ever, and to surround Montgomery with the team that got him onto the Olympic podium, and let them challenge each other in high-octane sports they’d only heard about.

The debut episode on November 27 features the quartet traveling between Tofino and Whistler in British Columbia and tackling extreme sports like night surfing, kite-boarding, tree-climbing and Vancouver’s tortuous Grouse Grind.

There’s a nice product tie-in as the fearless foursome drive to Whistler in a 2010 Toyota 4Runner.

And besides HD cameras capturing the action, the reality series uses a host of body-mounted, helmet-mounted, board-mounted, bike-mounted, and even high-wire-mounted cameras to get viewers close the action.

Castlewood’s Burnstein is keeping his fingers crossed that Discovery viewers will take to his reality TV series that is as brash and risky as the extreme sports it has its main characters perform.

“It’s a gamble. It’s not Wayne Gretzky on the screen,” he insists.

But it’s also a homegrown reality series with a twist as it makes up rules and pushes the limits for both its on-screen characters and for Discovery.