National Geographic Announces Slate of Creatively Ambitious, Distinctive Programming at Summer TCA Presentation

Dr. Robert Ballard and Allison Fundis BEVERLY HILLS – JULY 23: (L-R) National Geographic Explorer-at-Large and Expedition Leader Dr. Robert Ballard and COO of the Ocean Exploration Trust and Expedition Leader Allison Fundis during the BOB BALLARD’S NEXT GREAT DISCOVERY panel at the National Geographic portion of the Summer 2019 TCA Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton on July 23, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Frank Micelotta/National Geographic/PictureGroupCourteney MonroeBEVERLY HILLS – JULY 23: President of National Geographic Global Networks Courteney Monroe onstage during the National Geographic portion of the Summer 2019 TCA Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton on July 23, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Frank Micelotta/National Geographic/PictureGroup

Fresh off of 15 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, National Geographic laid out its slate of upcoming programming at its summer 2019 Television Critics Association (TCA) presentation this week. With the theme of “Expedition Unleashed,” National Geographic’s announcements highlighted the network’s focus on breaking boundaries through impactful, entertaining storytelling that transports viewers to the depths of the Pacific Ocean to the mysterious peaks of Everest.

Our focus remains quality and distinctiveness above all else and on building the most creatively ambitious, most entertaining National Geographic television business in history. Our success over the past few years has been fueled by a pipeline of an entirely new breed of National Geographic programming.

Courteney Monroe, President, National Geographic Global Networks, in her opening remarks

Building on that momentum, Courteney shared the following announcements about what’s coming up on National Geographic.

“Expedition Amelia” to Follow Bob Ballard’s Ocean Search for Amelia Earhart

National Geographic Explorer-at-Large Dr. Robert Ballard, best known for his 1985 discovery of the Titanic shipwreck, is setting out on an expedition to solve the mystery of Amelia Earhart. The scientific expedition is jointly funded by National Geographic Partners and National Geographic Society and it will be featured in a two-hour special, “Expedition Amelia,” premiering October 20 on National Geographic.

New Scripted Limited Series Based on Bestseller “Guests of the Ayatollah”

National Geographic has optioned the rights to award-winning author Mark Bowden’s 2006 nonfiction novel, “Guests of the Ayatollah,” a comprehensive 360-degree account of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. Ken Biller, the Emmy-nominated executive producer and showrunner of “Genius,” will adapt the book as a limited series.

Celebrity Guests Announced for “Brain Games” and “Running Wild with Bear Grylls”

A star-studded lineup of actors, musicians, entrepreneurs and athletes will join host Keegan-Michael Key in the reboot of “Brain Games,” premiering December 1. Each episode will guide celebrities, including Anthony Anderson, Kristen Bell, Jack Black, Mark Cuban, Ted Danson, Tiffany Haddish, Dax Shepard, Megan Trainor and Rebel Wilson, through fun and exciting experiments, illusions and demonstrations that will help them realize their untapped brain power.

Famed adventurer Bear Grylls returns to his wild roots this fall with some of Hollywood’s biggest names in tow. Premiering November 5, this season of “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” includes Brie Larson, Channing Tatum, Cara Delevingne, Joel McHale, Armie Hammer and Alex Honnold, from Nat Geo’s Academy Award-winning documentary, “Free Solo.”

First Look at “The Right Stuff” and “Barkskins”

Production kicked off this month for two scripted drama series, and Courteney gave a sneak peek at both. “The Right Stuff” is an adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s nonfiction book that tells the story of our nation’s drive to be the first in space.

The second show, “Barkskins,” is based on the novel by Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Proulx that follows a disparate group of outcasts in 1600s New France who must navigate brutal hardships and competing interests.

Natural History Specials Spotlight Jane Goodall, China, and Oceans

For 131 years, National Geographic has set the standard in storytelling about the natural world.

“The need to protect our planet has never been more urgent, which is why we are doubling down on our commitment to premium natural history and to showcasing audiences all around the world the wonder of our amazing planet,” said Courteney, who shared the following programs.

National Geographic is joining forces with BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit and National Geographic Explorer-at-Large James Cameron on an ambitious cross-platform series, “Mission OceanX” (working title). Currently in production, the series will focus on the beautiful natural history of the ocean and the scientists who are leading the exploration aboard Alucia2 – the most advanced and powerful exploration, scientific research and media production vessel.

Two-hour documentary special “The Hidden Kingdoms of China” transports viewers to five very different worlds within the world’s most populous country: the high mountains, tropical jungles, bamboo forests, great plains and temperate forests.

“Jane Goodall: The Hope” celebrates the work and legacy of Goodall and how her passion for wildlife has changed the world for the better. It will premiere next summer, timed to the 60th anniversary of the beginning of Goodall’s work in Gombe in July 1960.

BREAKING BOUNDARIES IN STORYTELLINGBEVERLY HILLS – JULY 23: (L-R) National Geographic Photographer Renan Ozturk, National Geographic Explorer & Photographer Ronan Donovan, Photographer & Diver Kimberly Jeffries, National Geographic Explorer Albert Lin, and National Geographic Photographer Ami Vitale during the BREAKING BOUNDARIES IN STORYTELLING panel at the National Geographic portion of the Summer 2019 TCA Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton on July 23, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Frank Micelotta/National Geographic/PictureGroup

Explorers Breaking Boundaries in Storytelling

“Each day that I walk through the doors of Nat Geo I am reminded of, and humbled by, the groundbreaking work done by National Geographic explorers, scientists, and photographers who travel to the ends of the earth to deliver powerful stories that deepen our understanding of our world,” said Courteney as she introduced a panel of National Geographic Explorers who are featured in upcoming shows.

“Everest: The Greatest Mystery” (working title) follows a team of climbers, including journalist Mark Synnott and National Geographic photographer Renan Ozturk, as they try to find the body of Everest pioneer Andrew “Sandy” Irvine and solve the mystery behind his disappearance.

Host and National Geographic Explorer Albert Lin will take viewers on a high-tech, archaeological adventure to unearth some of history’s most mysterious civilizations in “Lost Cities with Albert Lin,” premiering October 20 at 10/9c on National Geographic.

Nat Geo WILD offers an unprecedented look into the lives of wolves through the lens of National Geographic photographer Ronan Donovan in “Kingdom of the White Wolf,” premiering August 25 at 8/7c.

“Women of Impact” features nearly 40 new and archival interviews with female explorers, journalists, activists and policymakers, including Ami Vitale, Sylvia Earle, Martha Raddatz, Melinda Gates and Jane Goodall. The one-hour special is a companion to the book “WOMEN: The National Geographic Image Collection,” which hits shelves in October.

ACTIVATE: THE GLOBAL CITIZEN MOVEMENTBEVERLY HILLS – JULY 23: (L-R) CEO, Global Citizen Hugh Evans, Senior Director, Global Policy Monae Evans, Director of Strategy and New Initiatives Vera Institute of Justice Insha Rahman, and Campaign Leader, JustLeadershipUSA Marvin Mayfield during the ACTIVATE: THE GLOBAL CITIZEN MOVEMENT panel at the National Geographic portion of the Summer 2019 TCA Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton on July 23, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Frank Micelotta/National Geographic/PictureGroup

Premiere Dates Announced for September Shows

“ACTIVATE: The Global Citizen Movement,” a six-part documentary series from National Geographic and Procter & Gamble, coproduced by Global Citizen and RadicalMedia, will premiere September 5 at 9/8c on National Geographic. The documentary series features artists including Hugh Jackman, Common, Usher, Pharrell Williams, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Darren Criss, and is part of a multiplatform storytelling partnership to raise awareness about extreme poverty.

Using advanced mapping and LiDAR technology, the second season of “Drain the Oceans” will feature the most accurate rendering ever made of the Tham Luang cave system in Thailand where 12 boys and their soccer coach were trapped for 17 days last summer. The Thai Cave Rescue episode airs on September 2 at 9/8 on National Geographic.

“Dog: Impossible” follows dog behavior specialist Matt Beisner, who has dedicated his life to working with some of the most dangerous, aggressive and misunderstood dogs in the country. The six-part series premieres on September 8 at 10/9c on Nat Geo WILD.

GORDON RAMSAY: UNCHARTEDBEVERLY HILLS – JULY 23: (L-R) Executive Producer Jon Kroll, Freediver & Spearfisher Kimi Werner, Chef Gordon Ramsay, Chef Monique Fiso, and Cultural Guide & Adventurist Mick O’Shea onstage during the GORDON RAMSAY: UNCHARTED panel at the National Geographic portion of the Summer 2019 TCA Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton on July 23, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Frank Micelotta/National Geographic/PictureGroup

Panels Showcased National Geographic’s Breadth of Programming

From exploring the world through cuisine to exploring the inner workings of your mind, National Geographic’s panels featured the following:

  • Brain Games: Host Keegan-Michael Keys (via satellite)
  • Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted: Gordon Ramsay, Monique Fiso (New Zealand Chef), Kimi Werner (Hawaiian Freediver and Spearfisher), Mick O’Shea (Laos Local Cultural Guide and Adventurist)
  • Activate: The Global Citizen Movement: Hugh Evans (CEO, Global Citizen), Monae Evans (Senior Director, Global Policy and Government Affairs at Global Citizen and Daughter of an Incarcerated Person), Insha Rahman (Director of Strategy and New Initiatives, Vera Institute of Justice), and Marvin Mayfield (Campaign Leader, JustLeadershipUSA)
  • Spirit of Exploration: Kimberly Jeffries ("World’s Biggest Great White?"), Nat Geo Photographers Ronan Donovan, Ami Vitale and Renan Ozturk, and Nat Geo Explorer Albert Lin
  • Dog: Impossible: Matt Beisner and Stef DiOrio, Dog Trainer
  • Expedition Amelia: Allison Fundis (Chief Operating Officer of the Ocean Exploration Trust and Expedition Leader) and Nat Geo Explorer-in-Residence Bob Ballard

If you would like to read more about Nat Geo’s presence at TCA, check out this Media Village article highlighting Nat Geo’s leadership at the conference.