National Geographic Channel and sister network Wild rolled out their upfront slates on Wednesday — and the big story at Nat Geo is a science-centric anthology that’s bringing in a different Hollywood heavyweight to direct each of the first six installments.
Breakthrough, set for a fall launch, comes to the network from Imagine Entertainment’s Ron Howard and Brian Grazer and Asylum Entertainment. Focusing on a different arena of innovation in each of the one-hour installments, Angela Bassett, Peter Berg, Paul Giamatti, Akiva Goldsman,Brett Ratner and Howard himself are all on board to helm.
“Modern science and technology are the keys to addressing the challenges the world is facing today,” said Nat Geo Channels CEO Courteney Monroe, who teamed up with GE to finance the project. “By partnering with GE — as dedicated to science and innovation as we are — and by working with top-tier directors at the helm, Breakthrough will celebrate the curiosity, innovation and exploration of our world, and spotlight the individuals and institutions at the center of these groundbreaking achievements.”
Already in production, Breakthrough will focus on such subjects as brain science, longevity, water, energy, pandemics and slightly ominous-sounding cyborg technology. “GE’s involvement brings a certain poetic justice to this endeavor,” said Grazer. “Thomas Edison, GE’s founder, andAlexander Graham Bell, a founding member of the National Geographic Society, are two of our greatest inventors. Their breakthroughs laid the foundation for tremendous innovation and continue to inspire generations of scientists and engineers. That same spirit will, no doubt, be evident in every episode.”
“While Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison seem odd bedfellows, their infamous enmity actually benefited their inventiveness as each man sought to outdo the other,” echoed Howard, in one of the nerdier statements likely found in a press release this week. “It seems fitting that their legacies will come together to celebrate and foster the creativity of other inventors and innovators who astound us every day with their ideas.”
Also planned for the fall is Nat Geo’s latest push into scripted, Mayflower mini Saints & Strangers(working title).
Though the biggest news came from the flagship network, Wild also had news of two series orders and one key renewal; celebrity dog trainer Cesar Millan signed on for a third season ofCesar 911. The 2016 run will feature Millan assisting Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld with their dominant dachshund. (What’s the deal dachshunds, anyway?)
The two new series, Vet School and Animal Storm Squad, hail from Thinkfactory Media and BCII, respectively. Both shows focus on veterinarians, the latter on disaster rescue in particular.
“In this time of intense disruption and competition, having a strong brand identity and understanding of your audience is more important than ever,” said Monroe. “At Nat Geo Wild, we have both. We are a network for anyone who loves animals as much as we do, and our upfront slate reflects this perfectly.”