Upfronts: Nat Geo Will Revive ‘Explorer,’ Test Comedy

Explorers for the adventure-and-science organization National Geographic have long traveled to new places. Now the cable network that is aligned with the 127-year old society wants to do more of the same.

The National Geographic Channel, owned in tandem with 21st Century Fox, said it would test a comedic series in 2016 while rebooting its signature “Explorer” program by returning it to the schedule for the first time in five years, all as part of the network’s efforts in the upfront, the annual process through which U.S. TV outlets try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory.

Speaking at a lunch held Wednesday, Nat Geo CEO Courteney Monroe said the network wanted to place more emphasis on its affiliation with the nonprofit educational institution while trying bolder programming concepts that may push the boundaries of the organization’s signature yellow rectangle.

One of the more eyebrow-raising concepts introduced was a comedic miniseries, “History of the World…For Now.” Billed as an “event series” slated for 2016, the show will use comedy, animation and documentary storytelling to discuss the formation of the world and society. The series will debut globally, and the network will provide casting updates in the next few months. Producers include people involved in programs like HBO’s “Silicon Valley” and Fox’s “King of the Hill.”

Yet Nat Geo will also play up tradition. In the fall, one of its best-known series, “Explorer,” will return as a monthly program that also calls attention to stories being published in National Geographic magazine. Each episode will tackle a story ripped from the periodical’s pages, including the search for Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ; the evolution of the eye; the threat posed by oil companies on the Congo’s Virunga National Park; and the naturalist legacy of Teddy Roosevelt.

Nat Geo has started pre-production on a scripted miniseries, “Saints & Strangers,” which will tell the story of the founding of America. The four-hour event is produced by Sony Pictures Television with Little Engine Productions and will chronicle the trials of the 101 men and women who arrived in the country that would be come to known as the United States using the ship known as the Mayflower. The program is slated to appear in the fall.

In another move, the network will, in conjunction with General Electric, present “Breakthrough,” a series of hourlong episodes examining innovation and the scientists who produced them. The show is exec produced by Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Steve Michaels, Jonathan Koch and Mark Dowley and produced by Imagine Entertainment and Asylum Entertainment. Each episode is directed by a well-known actor or director, including Paul Giamatti, Ron Howard, Bret Ratner, Peter Berg, Akiva Goldsman and Angela Bassett.


More TV

  • Maya Hawke'Once Upon a Time in

    Maya Hawke Reflects on Robin's 'Stranger Things' Coming Out Story

    Robin Buckley shocked viewers everywhere when she came out as a lesbian to Steve Harrington on the floor of a bathroom stall, but actress Maya Hawke says the twist wasn’t always set in stone. Hawke tells Variety that it wasn’t until episode four or five that she and the Duffer Brothers came to a final decision [...]

  • Love Island - Pictured: Kyra Green,

    TV Ratings: Is 'Love Island' Deserted?

    Two weeks have passed on “Love Island” and plenty of singles have coupled and uncoupled in their bid for love and a fat $100,000 pay check. However, there’s one couple that doesn’t seem to be hitting it off: CBS and “Love Island.” Ratings for the show have been far from paradisiacal, and with the network [...]

  • Jenny Wall Eryk Casemiro Nickelodeon

    Jenny Wall Named Nickelodeon CMO, Eryk Casemiro Named Senior VP of Nickelodeon Preschool

    Nickelodeon has hired two new executives, tapping Jenny Wall to become chief marketing officer and Eryk Casemiro to become senior vice president of Nickelodeon Preschool. Most recently CMO at Spotify-owned Gimlet Media, Wall will be responsible for all on- and off-air consumer marketing, brand creative and content launches across all of Nickelodeon’s platforms, including Nicktoons, [...]

  • Liz Garbus on Why We May

    Liz Garbus on Why The World May Never Know 'Who Killed Garrett Phillips'

    By the time Liz Garbus’s two-part documentary “Who Killed Garrett Phillips?” debuts on HBO, there could be a new public lead in the case of the murdered titular 12-year-old. As least, that’s what many may hope after the new St. Lawrence County district attorney admitted a new tip earlier this spring. Garbus says she would [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content