Discovery Health medical series taping new shows at U of C hospitals for 2004

Discovery Health’s reality series “Chicago’s Lifeline” shoots through next year.

Discovery Health Network’s award-winning reality series, “Chicago’s Lifeline,” is augmenting its small all-Chicago crew as it continues taping for its second season.

Burbank-based Morningstar Entertainment started production on the season in August and will continue through the new year, supervising producer Jon Lapidese said.

“We’re adding one position, and our very good field producer there, Jennifer Bernardi, is giving birth in about a week,” Lapidese said. “Chicago’s Lifeline” employs a regular crew of seven freelancers, supplemented by day players.

“Lifeline” is taping eight episodes for its second season, set to air in 2004. The series follows patients undergoing major surgery at The University of Chicago Hospitals.

“We interweave a number of these life and death stories as the series progresses,” Lapidese said. “It’s great to work with such a first rate hospital with physicians who are at the cutting edge of medicine. We’re working very closely with hospital liaisons John Easton and Karyn Odway, who connect us with the doctors and the interesting stories that are coming in.”

“Chicago’s Lifeline” has won two Freddy Awards for outstanding medical reality series from the American Medical Association. The first season taped in 2000-2001 and has been in regular rotation on Discovery Health since then, with some episodes running as many as 30 times, like the special episode “200 Pound Tumor.”

“We may create thematic shows this season, for example one on heart transplants and another on babies and children,” Lapidese said. “We have to follow quite a few patients because there’s a big attrition rate, which may be happy for the patients but not dramatic enough for us, so we have to shoot twice as many stories as we need.”

Morningstar produces documentary and reality programs for ESPN, TLC, the Travel Channel, the History Channel and other cable outlets. They’re also the creator of the exercise series “Buns of Steel,” which “may be the most successful non-fiction series in home video history.”

Senior producer is Barbara McCabe. Executive producers are Gary Tarpinian and Paninee Theeranuntawat for Morningstar and John Grassie for Discovery Health. “John was instrumental in getting the series up and running again,” Lapidese said.

Chicago crew includes cameraman Damon Hennessey, sound mixer Terry Schilling, coordinator Jacque Day, assistant coordinator Vail Romeyn, and PA Andrew Newport. Episodes are scripted and posted in Burbank.

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