Discovery has set November 2 for Nik Wallenda’s Chicago skyscraper tightrope walk. Using dozens of cameras positioned across the city and on helicopters, Discovery will follow Wallenda’s attempted two-part walk, without net or harness, at night, in one of the windiest sections of Chicago. For the first part of the crossing, Wallenda will walk about two city blocks – uphill rising to a 15-degree angle – from the iconic Marina City’s west tower to the Leo Burnett Building at more than 50 stories above the Chicago River. It will be the highest skyscraper walk in the history of the “Flying Wallenda” family and the first time Nik has attempted a tightrope walk at such a steep angle. The second part of the walk will span from the Marina City’s west tower to the east tower. The live 7 PM ET/4 PM PT telecast will be hosted by NBC News’ Willie Geist and Natalie Morales and the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore.
In today’s announcement, Wallenda noted Chicago is called the Windy City and “there’s nothing like doing this during winter in Chicago.” In June 2013, 13 million viewers watched Wallenda slowly walk a wire across the Colorado River Gorge for Discovery. Geist and Morales were supposed to talk with a miked Wallenda that day as he made his walk, but it didn’t happen so much — Nik was too busy praying out loud, owing to winds that were stronger than anticipated.
Once again in an announcement about a Nik Wallenda walk, Discovery noted his great-grandfather Karl Wallenda died after falling from a tightrope in Puerto Rico in 1978. Nice touch.
Discovery hasn’t had much luck with death-defying TV stunts of late. In April, the network scrapped its much-ballyhooed live Mount Everest jump after a weekend avalanche there killed 13. The network instead announced it would take the footage it had and turn it into a special documenting the disaster. In much the same way the Naudet brothers happened to be at the World Trade Center towers the morning of September 11, 2001, filming a documentary about members of Lower Manhattan’s Engine 7, Ladder 1 firehouse, and wound up instead producing the docu 9/11, so too were camera crews for the Discovery Channel jump at Everest at the time of the single deadliest incident in the history of the world’s tallest peak. NBC News’ Peacock Productions crews, which were to have produced the live jump, were at base camp at the time of the avalanche. Crews had been shooting footage in advance of Discovery’s planned five nights of live programs culminating in what was to have been Joby Ogwyn’s May jump. Ogwyn and his team instead got involved in recovering bodies from the mountain. According to Discovery, the Everest Jump Live project had two expedition teams. One was responsible for the camera and production team, which had hired some of the 13 Sherpas killed in the avalanche. The other team was Ogwyn’s, who had been to Everest many times and selected Sherpa guides with whom he had worked in the past; they too were among the fatalities.