National Geographic Channel is venturing into new territory with a docu-comedy series from the co-creators of “Silicon Valley” on its 2015 slate.
The cabler will unveil the project today during its presentation at the Television Critics Assn. winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif.
“History of the World” promises to use sketch comedy, animation, puppetry, documentary and archival footage to explore weighty questions such as how the world came about, the evolution of man and the origins of spirituality, money, leisure time, sports, hygiene and entertainment. It’s slated for a fall premiere.
The series hails from John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, who co-created and exec produce HBO’s “Silicon Valley” with Mike Judge. National Geographic Studios and 3 Arts Entertainment are producing.
Altschuler (pictured right) and Krinsky (pictured left) were previously showrunners of Fox’s long-running toon “King of the Hill” and penned such film comedies as “Blades of Glory.” Michael Rotenberg of 3 Arts also exec produces “History” with NatGeo Studios’ Brooke Runnette, Jeff Hasler and Brian Lovett.
NatGeo hopes “History” will help attract new viewers to the channel without alienating its core audience.
NatGeo underwent an exec shakeup last year when former marketing chief Courteney Monroe was upped to CEO, replacing David Lyle. Tim Pastore joined the channel as prexy of original programming and production in July; he had been exec VP of the National Geographic Studios arm.
“It is definitely outside of the box historically for National Geographic,” Pastore tells Variety. “We believe that it has the potential to move into all sorts of new genres, and I think at the core, we’ve always been stylistically groundbreaking, pushing convention, new models, new formats of how to tell story. Why not get a history lesson from the guys who wrote ‘Blades of Glory?’ “
Also at TCA, Nat Geo will announce the return of the long-running docu series “Explorer” and what it is billing as the first-ever dinosaur autopsy in “Dinoautopsy.” Pastore said the program aims to “resonate with every little kid within us.”
The new regime at NatGeo still plans to bank on successful docu-entertainment series such as “Wicked Tuna,” “Life Below Zero” and “Ultimate Survival Alaska.”
“Those programs are really where we can continue to grow and will serve as our foundation for our future success,” Pastore said.
But it’s no secret that there was a feeling within Nat Geo and 21st Century Fox (which run NatGeo channels as a joint venture) that the flagship channel had veered into some reality shows that were a bad fit with the storied Nat Geo brand.
To reinforce the channel’s commitment to deeply researched docu fare with an emphasis on the natural world, NatGeo decided to relaunch the “Explorer” series after a five-year hiatus and some 30 years after its debut as a series of specials on Nickelodeon. (Before NatGeo had a U.S. cable outlet, “Explorer” aired from 1986-1999 on TBS, then bounced between CNBC and MSNBC before shifting to NatGeo in 2004.)
Pastore said the revived “Explorer” will feature new technology and a fresh stylistic approach.
“The impetus behind coming back with ‘Explorer’ is you look out into the marketplace and you see a lot of brands and they’re staring to get into that territory and we started recognizing that maybe we’re about to get out-explored in a territory pioneered by National Geographic,” Pastore said. “For us, it’s just continuing to stand on the shoulders of those giants who built the brand before us.”