The National Geographic Channel is “the #1 non-celebrity brand on Instagram,” Courtney Monroe, CEO of the company’s Global Networks, told reporters this morning as she unveiled an array of new series ranging from populating Mars to winning the war in Afghanistan to the universal challenges of adopting a puppy. This morning’s upfront preview for press would stress, Monroe said, Nat Geo’s determination to attract more millennials to the brand with science-related programming connecting political, social and environmental subjects “because millennials care about social issues.”
On hand for the Mars-themed breakfast was Ron Howard, who revealed that Everardo Gout (Days Of Grace) has been tapped as director for the scripted portions of documentary-scripted hybrid miniseries on the quest to colonize the red planet. The event series is executive produced by Howard, Brian Grazer and Michael Rosenberg of Imagine Entertainment along with RadicalMedia. But the stars were clips from upcoming shows that Monroe introduced: bone-chilling life in Antarctica from Deep Freeze, which Monroe described as “science with adrenaline junkies”; the shooting by pirates of drowning victims, in Lawless Oceans; and a general’s determination to win the war in Afghanistan (Chain Of Command).
Among the key announcements were the reframing of the documentary series Explorer as a magazine, and Earth Live!, a global event. Howard was joined at the event by Jason Silva, the host of Origins; Richard Bacon, from Explorer; and Karsten von Hoessein of Lawless Oceans, an investigative program about piracy and other illegal activities up to and including murder on the high seas. Also along for the ride was a gaggle of puppies for press petting to promote a reality TV series following families around the country as they deal with bringing a puppy into the household.
“While many networks are seemingly out in the marketplace trying to find and distinguish their brands, our strength is that we already have one,” Monroe said, “a global brand with a legacy in science, exploration, and adventure that is synonymous with quality.” Specifically addressing Origins, a series that will look at life forms around the planet, Monroe said that while other networks’ science-related programming is “dull, we are going to make it cool.” The clips shown gave some credence to her claim.
Tim Pastore, president, original programming and production, added in the announcement that, “We’re keeping our eyes focused on our new north star — premium programming produced by the best talent from around the world, discovering new stories and telling them in brand new and unsuspecting ways.”
The network also unveiled a photo of a very beardy David Letterman on location in India, shooting his episode for the new season of the Emmy-winning climate change documentary series Years Of Living Dangerously.
Nat Geo’s 2016-2017 Upfront Slate:
(All are working titles and subject to change.)
Earth Live! (Bunim Murray Productions and Berman Productions)
Earth Live! will be a fast-paced global journey like no other. Broadcasting live from locations across all seven continents, using cutting edge camera technology, controlled by the biggest stars in nature cinematography, in-studio hosts and experts will direct our attention to the footage/scene/shot with the most wildlife action – all as it happens live. To bring these stunning visuals into homes, producers will employ the latest and greatest in capture technology, including night vision cameras that shoot in full color, high definition views from out space, and National Geographic’s own Crittercam. From feeding time on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to polar bears swimming in Norway and jaguar hunting in Brazil, Earth Live! will take viewers right inside the action on a scale that has never been done before.
MARS (Imagine Entertainment & RadicalMedia)
MARS is an epic six part global event series following the thrilling quest to reach Mars. Combining a unique blend of theatrical-quality scripted drama with documentary sequences, the series will unpack what the greatest minds in space exploration are doing today to make traveling to Mars a reality as well as dramatize the world they are working towards. The two main fictional characters at the heart of this story, one of which makes the journey, are two young Asian-American twins who as young girls dreamt of becoming astronauts. Visionary Mexican filmmaker Everardo Gout (Days of Grace) has been tapped to direct this documentary-scripted hybrid miniseries.
Origins Hosted by Jason Silva (Asylum Entertainment & Melodysheep)
Origins aims to tell the story of the most epic and most compelling mystery of all: how modern day humankind took shape. Bringing to TV for the first time the tone and sensibility of pioneering digital storyteller Melodysheep, this series zeroes in on pivotal moments throughout the history of humanity. Jason Silva (Brain Games) has been tapped as our guide and time traveler as we step back through the twists and turns of human evolution. Moving back in time, each episode starts in the present day and finishes when we arrive at the beginning, the origin of the story. The series will focus on the influence key elements – fire, tools, transportation – have had on history and the world. For Asylum Entertainment, executive producers are Steve Michaels, Jonathan Koch, and Ryann Lauckner. Melodysheep is executive producer. Blacklist writers Evan and Shea Mirzai are executive producers.
Chain of Command (National Geographic Studios)
Chain of Command will offer inside access to the U.S. military’s mission in Afghanistan, as it unfolds over one full year. From the offices of the Commanders at the Pentagon where strategy is conceived, to the soldiers on the front lines, Chain of Command will deliver extraordinary insight into a line of authority and responsibility as never seen before. Viewers will see first-hand how decisions made at the Pentagon are carried out by our service men and women in Afghanistan. Production is set to begin immediately, at a time when the stakes could not be higher with the U.S. war on ISIS heating up.
Lawless Oceans with Karsten von Hoesslin (Wall to Wall Media)
The world’s oceans have become a Wild West, where law enforcement is scarce and bandits operate with impunity. Beyond their territorial waters, governments have little incentive to police the high seas. If you want to get away with murder, this is the place to do it — and it’s not uncommon. Lawless Oceans follows Karsten von Hoesslin on a visceral journey as he spares no expense to solve the mystery of a murder at sea and immerse himself in the perilous world of maritime crime. Along the way he plugs into a network of informants and law enforcement contacts, follows leads from the forensically enhanced video, conducts crucial undercover filming, and investigates every vessel, port or sailor bar possible — all in the face of immense danger.
Deep Freeze (National Geographic Studios)
Between surviving the extremes of the harshest continent on the planet and the focused dedication of the communities who risk their lives to bring back the science, life on an Antarctic base is like a fully operational extraterrestrial facility – a space station on ice. Now, through an exciting new partnership between National Geographic Partners, New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute (NZARI), and Antarctica New Zealand, filmmakers have been granted unprecedented access to follow the leading scientists of Scott Base on their missions, and the men and women behind the scenes who are responsible for keeping everyone alive. Six one-hour episodes focus on pivotal scientific projects that will lead us to answers about climate change, first life on Earth, and volcanic behavior around the world, while base crews work to make Antarctica habitable and operationalize teams braving the extreme elements on the ice.
Explorer with host Richard Bacon (National Geographic Studios)
Explorer will re-launch in the Fall of 2016 as a one-hour, weekly magazine-talk hybrid that investigates, inspires and drives the conversation on current events and topics that matter most to the planet. Anchored in the studio before a live studio audience and guided by host Richard Bacon, the show will blend field packages with commentary from a diverse group of celebrity guests, experts and award-winning correspondents to find a fresh and unexpected take on topics ranging from the ongoing battle with ISIS to climate change and the aftermath of natural disasters. The series will not shy away from humor and will always lead with an entertaining foot forward, all the while showcasing the high caliber of journalism that has made National Geographic the most recognizable brand on the planet for generations.
Years of Living Dangerously (The Years Project)
The Emmy® award-winning documentary series Years of Living Dangerously, a thought-provoking and ambitious cinematic television event, returns for a second season this October on NGC and will delve even deeper into the highly debated issue of climate change. Years of Living Dangerously will once again feature some of Hollywood’s biggest influencers who are passionate about environmental issues, and will reveal emotional and hard-hitting accounts of the effects of climate change from across the planet.Correspondents will include Jack Black, Ty Burrell, James Cameron, Don Cheadle, Thomas Friedman, Joshua Jackson, David Letterman, Aasif Mandvi, Olivia Munn, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ian Somerhalder and Cecily Strong all giving first-person accounts from locations, shockingly close to home, where the effects of climate change are most prevalent. They will cover crucial issues like severe hurricanes, historic droughts and the rapidly increasing extinction rate of our planet’s wildlife. The result will be a gritty and raw look at not only how our species has impacted our planet, but also how we can save it for future generations.
StarTalk (Curved Light Productions & National Geographic Studios)
Emmy®-nominated series StarTalk, hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, returns this fall 2016 for a third season. The new season will coincide with the release of the first-ever StarTalk book, published by National Geographic Books. StarTalk, the hourlong, weekly science-driven talk show series, is derived from Tyson’s popular podcast of the same name, the first and only space-based popular commercial radio show. Each television episode features an intimate interview with Tyson and a guest hewn from pop culture, politics or news, discussing how science and technology have affected their lives and careers. Season three guests will include U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, two-time Olympic gold medalist Hope Solo, actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik and “The Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman, to name a few.
Parched (Alex Gibney and Jigsaw Productions)
Produced as a feature doc and television miniseries, Parched will take a hard-hitting look at a crisis that affects billions worldwide and is increasingly cause for concern among Americans — a future where fresh drinking water is alarmingly scarce. With the recent plummet in California’s water supply, America is being hit with a stark reality: Overpopulation, compounded by global warming and intense industrial draining of the water supply, could leave us all dried up. Parched takes a definitive look at the water wars that are now upon us, investigating the corporate, political and social interests that are responsible for our water-limited future. Parched will delve into issues such as privatization, international conflicts, energy extraction and chemical dumping, examining the science, politics and the human costs behind the water wars.
Untitled Sebastian Junger project (Goldcrest Films)
Sebastian Junger is the internationally renowned journalist best known for the New York Times best-sellers The Perfect Storm and WAR, and the documentary film Restrepo, which was released theatrically and aired on NGC in 2010. In this latest project, yet to be titled and still in production, Junger and his Emmy-winning producing partner, Nick Quested will once again employ their signature verite style to immerse viewers into the complexities of the war in Syria and Iraq, as they gain unprecedented access to clandestine organizations to offer a hard-hitting look at one of the most serious threats faced by the Western world.
LA 92 (Lightbox)
Executive produced by double Oscar winner Simon Chinn and his cousin, Emmy- award-winning Jonathan Chinn, announced, LA 92 will tell the definitive story of the riots from the inside and from the point of view of those involved. Using unseen personal footage and news archives, along with the raw and unflinching testimony of those who lived through it, the event documentary will take viewers back to those weeks in 1992 in the most powerful and immersive way. Academy Award winning team of Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin will direct the LA 92. Lindsay and Martin won the Oscar for the documentary Undefeated, about an underdog Memphis high school football team.
Untitled Jane Goodall project (National Geographic Studios & Public Road Productions)
Brett Morgen, “the leading revolutionary of American documentary film,” according to The Wall Street Journal, will direct, produce and write the untitled feature biopic about the world’s most beloved primatologist — Dr. Jane Goodall. Known for the Emmy-nominated documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck and the Academy Award-nominated movie OnThe Ropes, the visionary director will draw on recently re-discovered, ARCHIVE film from Dr. Goodall’s early research at Gombe National Park in Tanzania during the 1960s. More than 250 hours of 16 mm film have been uncovered by to create a compelling, and intimate story about how revolutionary research turned this maverick into one of the legends of modern science.
Killing Reagan (Scott Free Productions)
Set to premiere this fall before the elections, Killing Reagan, based on Bill O’Reilly’s best-seller, takes a different approach than its predecessors, exploring how the attempted assassination on the recently elected president impacted his presidency. Reaching back to the golden days of Hollywood, where Reagan found both fame and heartbreak, up through his years in the California governor’s mansion and finally to the White House, Killing Reagan goes in-depth on the president’s rise to power that was nearly cut short after a gunman’s bullet came within inches of his heart.