National Geographic Global Television Networks President Courteney Monroe has announced the latest lineup for the network’s 2020-21 upfront season. And with the majority of National Geographic’s shows arriving on Disney+ shortly after they’ve finished their runs on the channel, this will give us a look ahead at what’s coming to Disney+ later this year and into the next.
“People’s understanding of the world around them has been shaken. And they are coming to National Geographic in record numbers, I believe, because particularly in times of uncertainty, people flock to brands that they trust. And National Geographic is one of the most trusted and beloved brands in the world. When it comes to our television programming, we are doubling down on what we do best, which is to deliver premium, creatively ambitious programming that connects audiences to the world around them, satisfies their curiosity and transports them to places they may otherwise never go.”
This year’s upfront slate includes the long-anticipated next installment of the Emmy-winning limited series GENIUS, focused on the life of Aretha Franklin as portrayed by double-Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo; the reimagining of the longest-running documentary series in history, EXPLORER; the premiere of the next great competition series from the creators of “The Amazing Race,” RACE TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH; 9/11, a landmark six-part documentary special to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks from Emmy Award-winning 72 Films and Oscar-winning executive producers Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin; and for Earth Day 2021, the epic natural history series PLANET OF THE WHALES. Lastly, the brand will launch its first annual NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC’S BEST PICTURES OF THE YEAR, a sponsorable multiplatform opportunity only National Geographic can offer.
The 2020-21 Upfront Slate Includes:
Six-Part Series From Award-Winning Executive Producers Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin and 72 Films
Emmy Award-winning 72 Films (“Inside North Korea’s Dynasty”) and Oscar-winning executive producers Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin (“Undefeated” and LA 92) have come together to produce landmark documentary series 9/11 to mark 20 years since the attacks. This series has been in production for over two years, and will offer a comprehensive account of the day using only archival footage — some never seen before — and new, original interviews with eyewitnesses who have now had almost two decades to reflect on the events they lived through. The result is one of the most powerful, immersive and emotionally charged accounts ever produced about that fateful day.
BREAKING BOBBY BONES (working title)
16-Part Series Starring Award-Winning Radio Personality Bobby Bones (BBC Studios)
Bobby Bones is one of the most influential radio personalities in America, a bestselling author and a full-time mentor on “American Idol.” Even with all the success, Bobby relates to and identifies most with working-class Americans, and he’ll do whatever it takes to ensure he never loses touch. In each half-hour episode, Bobby travels to far-flung destinations across the country to find people with unique jobs, skills, hobbies and abilities. Upon arrival, he meets local heroes who challenge him to conquer (or at least attempt) the tricks of their trades, living up to his mantra — Fight. Grind. Repeat. It’s an action-packed celebration of resilient Americans who work hard, play hard and above all take pride in everything they do. National Geographic is working with long-time partner BBC Studios on the all-new Breaking Bobby Bones, along with three series under the Emmy-winning Life Below Zero brand.
EXPLORER (produced in partnership with ABC News and Lincoln Square Productions)
The EXPLORER series has long been a hallmark of Nat Geo storytelling since it first launched in 1985. The newly reimagined version of this flagship series will be a truly multiplatform content initiative, in partnership with National Geographic magazine and ABC News. Each single-topic hourlong episode takes viewers inside unfolding expeditions around the globe and to the front lines of groundbreaking scientific, technological and historical discoveries, with ABC News talent serving as guides. EXPLORER will cover timely topics, a featured magazine story and more, further deepening viewers’ understanding of the world through provocative storytelling.
RACE TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH
Eight-Part Series Premieres Fall 2020 (The New Media Collective, Plum Pictures)
RACE TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH is an adrenaline-fueled global competition that pits four teams against one another in a nonstop sprint across the globe for a $1 million prize. The eight-part series, created by the producers behind the hit show “The Amazing Race,” is an extreme non-elimination competition that follows four groups of adventurers, each starting from different corners of the earth, as they race to a buoy holding a $1 million prize. Each team is challenged with navigating through its route, offering unique terrains, climates and cultures as the team makes its way to a central location. The teams will face untamed jungles, frozen arctic, arid deserts, bustling cities, treacherous mountains and vast oceans to reach the location where all four routes intersect. The first team to arrive at the buoy claims it all.
TRAFFICKED WITH MARIANA VAN ZELLER
Eight-Part Series Premieres January 2021 (Muck Media)
Armed with National Geographic’s trademark inside access, TRAFFICKED explores the complex and often dangerous inner workings of the global underworld — smuggling networks, and black and informal markets. Each investigation embeds with Peabody and duPont Award-winning journalist Mariana van Zeller on a mission to understand a specific black market and the lives of the smugglers and outlaws who run it. Offering a rare peek behind the criminal curtain, she tracks the chain of custody of illicit goods, learns the secrets of the trade and provides a 360-degree view of the trafficking world from the points of view of the traffickers, law enforcement and those caught in the crossfire. As she meets the willing players and unwitting pawns who make, buy, sell and move goods, services and ideas, Mariana attempts — with characteristic boldness and empathy — to unearth the geopolitical circumstances and context that create the world’s multitrillion-dollar shadow economy.
NEW NATURAL HISTORY EARTH DAY 2021 SERIES:
PLANET OF THE WHALES
Four-Part Event Series With National Geographic Magazine Feature Story, April 2021
(from National Geographic Photographer Brian Skerry, and Brian Armstrong and Shannon Malone-DeBenedictis of Red Rock Films)
Epic, revealing and emotional. That’s what you get when you immerse yourself in the world of whales and see life and love from their perspective. Three years of filming in 24 locations allows PLANET OF THE WHALES to take you to the heart of whale culture and to experience the extraordinary communication skills and intricate social structures of five different whale species. With the help of new science and technology, we witness whales making lifelong friendships, teaching clan heritage and traditions to their young, and grieving deeply for the loss of loved ones. The work of acclaimed National Geographic Explorer and Photographer Brian Skerry helps tell the story of species he’s been capturing on film for decades. It’s a personal story that very few are lucky enough to witness. By the end of this journey, we come to understand how whales are far more complex and more like us than we ever imagined. Brian’s latest work will also be featured in National Geographic magazine timed to the special.
NEW SCRIPTED SERIES:
GENIUS: ARETHA (Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, Clive Davis, Fox 21 Television Studios, MWM Studios and EUE/Sokolow)
Eight-Part Limited Series Premieres Fall 2020
Suzan-Lori Parks, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of “Topdog/Underdog,” is executive producer and showrunner for this upcoming season of the first-ever, definitive scripted miniseries on the life of Aretha Franklin, the universally acclaimed “Queen of Soul.” Starring Grammy-, Tony- and Emmy Award-winning and double-Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo as Aretha and Emmy- and Tony Award-winning Courtney B. Vance as C.L. Franklin, the anthology series will explore Aretha’s musical genius, incomparable career, and the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she has had around the world. The legendary singer is one of the world’s bestselling musical artists of all time, with more than 75 million records sold globally during her career.
NEW MULTI-PLATFORM CONTENT SERIES:
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC’S BEST PICTURES OF THE YEAR
Mind-blowing landscapes. Majestic animals. Magnificent cultural moments. Earth is home to a vast array of visual splendor, and no one captures it better than National Geographic, the world’s undisputed leader in visual storytelling. Starting this year, National Geographic will launch the first annual BEST PICTURES OF THE YEAR platform, where we will tell the story of our remarkable year of 2020 through the best photography in the world, curated by National Geographic magazine’s world-renowned photography editors.
National Geographic’s Best Pictures of the Year multi-platform content series will be brought to life via on-air vignettes, digital videos, Instagram/Facebook Live and a podcast series that takes viewers behind the scenes with our photographers; Instagram stories and galleries; and in January an issue of National Geographic magazine dedicated to celebrating the most spectacular photography of 2020. A Best Pictures of the Year hashtag challenge with the No. 1 brand in social media will encourage followers to submit their own best pictures throughout the year for the opportunity to be included in a custom on-air vignette. With brand partners by our side, National Geographic will celebrate the power of visual storytelling, reminding fans across every platform that a picture is worth a thousand words.
NEW FEATURE DOCUMENTARY BROADCAST PREMIERES:
BLOOD ON THE WALL
Broadcast Premiere Fall 2020
In Central America, a caravan of migrants seeking a better life heads north to the United States, as narco-traffickers move drugs and money back and forth across the same border. From Academy Award-nominated director Sebastian Junger and Emmy-winning producer Nick Quested, BLOOD ON THE WALL explores the depths of corruption plaguing Mexico and Central America and the policies of the past that have made it impossible for everyday people to find justice. Exclusive broadcast premiere this fall.
Broadcast Premiere Fall 2020 (following planned summer theatrical release)
On the morning of Nov. 8, 2018, a devastating firestorm engulfed the picturesque city of Paradise, California. By the time the Camp Fire was extinguished, it had killed 85 people, displaced 50,000 residents and destroyed 95% of local structures. It was the deadliest U.S. fire in 100 years — and the worst ever in California’s history. REBUILDING PARADISE, from Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard and Academy Award-winning producer Brian Grazer, is a moving story of resilience in the face of tragedy, as a community ravaged by disaster comes together to recover what was lost and begins to reimagine and embrace the future.
Broadcast Premiere Fall 2020 (following planned summer theatrical release)
SAUDI RUNAWAY follows Muna, a young woman in Saudi Arabia reckoning with strict social norms, an upcoming arranged marriage and a life controlled by her domineering father. When Muna hatches a plan to escape, she uses her cellphone to secretly document her claustrophobic existence and tense flight to freedom at great personal risk. The result is a rare cinematic narrative with a never-before-seen view inside Saudi Arabia’s patriarchal culture and the riveting story of one woman who risks everything to break free.
Broadcast Premiere Winter 2021
On Oct. 5, 1999, legendary climber Alex Lowe was tragically lost in a deadly avalanche on the Himalayan peak, Mount Shishapangma. Miraculously surviving the avalanche was Alex’s best friend and climbing partner, renowned mountaineer Conrad Anker, who went on to marry Alex’s widow and help raise his three sons. Now, Alex’s son, filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer Max Lowe, turns the lens on his own family as the body of his father is uncovered 17 years after his death. From producer Chris Murphy and award-winning producers Simon Chinn and Jonathan Chinn, comes a profoundly intimate look at the Lowe-Anker family, capturing their intense personal journey toward understanding Alex as a man, not a myth, and the emotionally and physically harrowing trek to Shishapangma, where they will finally put him to rest.
RETURNING PREMIUM SERIES:
BRAIN GAMES WITH KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY
Ten-Part Second Season (Magical Elves, Alfred Street Industries)
Keegan-Michael Key is back as host of the all-new season of National Geographic’s highly entertaining series BRAIN GAMES. Taking a Hollywood twist to the classic mind-bending format, the new season will challenge some of the world’s biggest celebrities to interactive games and social experiments to reveal the “why” behind the “wow.” Join in the fun as BRAIN GAMES reveals the incredible science of what makes our brains tick! BRAIN GAMES is executive produced by Casey Kriley, Jo Sharon and James Rowley for Magical Elves; Elle Key and Keegan-Michael Key are executive producers; and Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz are executive producers for Alfred Street Industries.
GORDON RAMSAY: UNCHARTED NEW EPISODES
Ten-Part Third Season (Studio Ramsay)
National Geographic expands its partnership with Gordon Ramsay with a third season pick-up of GORDON RAMSAY: UNCHARTED ahead of the upcoming Season 2 premiere on June 7. The all-new episodes will feature Gordon Ramsay continuing his journey across the globe, embarking on exhilarating missions to unearth world cultures through food and adventure, familiar ground for Ramsay following his hit U.K. series “Gordon’s Great Escapes.”
RUNNING WILD WITH BEAR GRYLLS
Ten-Part Second Season (Electus, a Propagate Company and The Natural Studios)
National Geographic is officially the new home of the wildly popular hit series RUNNING WILD WITH BEAR GRYLLS, now picked up for a second season. The new season, which includes a new celebrity lineup of adventurers, will transport viewers across remote locations in the U.S. and around the world, where celebrities will push beyond their limits to see if they can endure the harsh landscapes in their high-octane, action-based, fear-tackling journeys. The intrepid cast members will face their deepest fears and confront everything from wild animals to rock rappelling as they journey through some of the world’s most unforgiving wildernesses.
BEST OF NGC WEEK
Premieres December 2020
National Geographic ends 2020 with a week of special encore presentations of its wildly popular programming, including GORDON RAMSAY: UNCHARTED, RUNNING WILD WITH BEAR GRYLLS, LIFE BELOW ZERO and more!
NINTH ANNUAL SHARKFEST
National Geographic’s ninth annual SHARKFEST takes you up close and personal with one of nature’s most feared — and often misunderstood — predators. The frenzy of SHARKFEST programming is sure to captivate viewers with truth that is stranger than fiction, from the latest developments in shark research and preservation to new ways to predict shark attacks.
NATIONAL PARKS WEEK
America, get ready for your close-up. National Geographic’s new series will turn its state-of-the-art cameras on the country’s homegrown beauty and showcase the grandeur of America’s national parks. NATIONAL PARKS WEEK will give viewers an up-close and personal feel of the most spectacular vistas and wildlife in the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite and the Everglades, just to mention a few.
RETURNING FAN-FAVORITE FRANCHISES:
WICKED TUNA and WICKED TUNA: OUTER BANKS (Pilgrim Media Group)
National Geographic’s hit series WICKED TUNA is back for its 10th season on the high seas. Follow a group of salty commercial fishermen from the nation’s oldest seaport, Gloucester, Massachusetts, as they earn their living through rod-and-reel fishing in pursuit of the prized bluefin tuna. And later this year, the popular spinoff WICKED TUNA: OUTER BANKS returns. WICKED TUNA: OUTER BANKS follows a Southern fleet of top captains along with the returning Northern boats, all battling to catch bluefin in the dangerous waters off the coast of North Carolina. Battling unpredictable, treacherous conditions, the captains must contend with one another as well as experienced locals who will stop at nothing to beat them to the catch.
LIFE BELOW ZERO, LIFE BELOW ZERO: NEXT GENERATION and LIFE BELOW ZERO: PORT PROTECTION (BBC Studios)
Earlier this year, National Geographic picked up two additional seasons of Life Below Zero and an additional season of Life Below Zero: Port Protection. The common theme in Life Below Zero and Life Below Zero: Port Protection is the cast of people who have left traditional society behind. Instead, they have chosen a different life, with varying degrees of danger and challenges, in the remote regions of Alaska. In addition, the franchise adds new spinoff, Life Below Zero: Next Generation, where an all-new cast will abandon contemporary life and reject it in favor of a life of freedom in the brutal Alaskan wilderness. They will speak to the growing dissatisfaction the current generation has with technology and convenience that are ubiquitous in modern life. Cameras will capture the cast members as they rush to prepare for and survive the frozen months of winter to the spring thaw.
What are you looking forward to seeing from National Geographic in the future?