Southwest Airlines tries again with a TLC reality series, eight years after A&E’s Airline

TLC announced yesterday that it had ordered a 13-episode series following Southwest Airlines employees and passengers–exactly like an A&E series did back in 2004 and 2005. The show is even produced by the same company.

The new series will be filmed starting this weekend at Baltimore/Washington Airport and Denver International Airport, and include other airports, too. TLC says the production company, ITV Studios, “has unprecedented access,” and that the show “will also join customers as they prepare to travel for milestone moments — sharing the story behind their journeys and the people they cross paths with during the trip.”

Great, but that’s not unprecedented at all: that’s the exact same series that debuted eight years ago, and it even has the exact same production company, as ITV Studios used to call itself Granada Entertainment. That show, Airline, was cancelled after three seasons, but apparently wasn’t watched by enough people for anyone to remember it, or TLC just hopes we don’t for some reason. (The first season of the original is on DVD.)

Since then, Southwest has faced several high-profile controversies, such as when a flight crew kicked Kevin Smith off a plane for being too fat, which is interesting especially because the original series didn’t shy away from dealing with awkward moments like when crew members asked overweight passengers to purchase two seats or attempt to lower the arm rest. Will the new show be as honest and transparent, or more of an attempt at image rehabilitation?

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.