National Geographic Channel has officially jumped into the scripted game.
The cabler has given a straight-to-series order to “Genius,” an anthology series that will tell the fascinating stories of the world’s most brilliant innovators. The first installment of “Genius” will focus on Albert Einstein.
Ron Howard is attached to direct the first episode, and Brian Grazer will serve as an exec producer. Fox 21 Television Studios is producing with Howard and Grazer’s Imagine Television, OddLot Entertainment and EUE/Sokolow.
The premiere season centering around Einstein is based on Walter Isaacson’s book about the famed scientist, “Einstein: His Life and Universe.” Noah Pink will pen the television adaptation.
“’Genius’ is perfectly emblematic of our vision to create premium, distinctive and highly entertaining content that fits the National Geographic brand,” said National Geographic Channels CEO Courteney Monroe, who has recently expressed her desire to break NatGeo into the scripted space.
Pink will serve as an exec producer with Howard, Grazer, Francie Calfo, Gigi Pritzker, Rachel Shane, Sam Sokolow and Jeff Cooney. Melissa Rucker and Anna Culp are co-exec producers. A showrunner is expected to be announced soon.
“We couldn’t be happier to be working with Imagine and OddLot to bring our spirit of creative adventure and passion for great storytelling to NatGeo as they embark on their first scripted series. And to have Ron direct the first episode is incredibly exciting,” commented Fox 21 Television Studios president Bert Salke. “’Genius’ is a franchise with infinite possibilities. We think this installment that tells the fascinating backstory of the man who articulated the theory of relativity is just the beginning of a long and successful partnership between our companies.”
Howard commented, “Having already worked with National Geographic on ‘Breakthrough’ and currently in production on ‘Mars’— our exciting unscripted and scripted hybrid series that tells of our journey to colonize Mars — I look forward to their support as we tell this ambitious but intimate and revealing human story behind Einstein’s scientific brilliance. I hope that his story, as well as those of other geniuses, will both entertain and inspire the next generation of Einsteins.”
“We have been patient in our search for the perfect partners to help bring Walter Isaacson’s incredible book on Einstein to life in a unique, thought-provoking and entertaining way,” OddLot’s Pritzker said. “After cultivating the project for many years, we are ecstatic that ‘Genius’ will be OddLot’s first foray into television and that this remarkable story will be realized with Ron Howard at the helm and with the support of our great partners at NatGeo, FOX 21 TVS, Imagine and EUE/Sokolow.”
While “Genius” is the first scripted series to be greenlit at NatGeo, the cable net is developing a slew of scripted projects from high-profile talent including Scott Rudin. In December, Monroe brought on exec Carolyn Bernstein to head scripted programming.
Production is slated to begin this summer in Prague with “Genius” eyeing a spring 2017 premiere. The series will debut in 171 countries and in 45 languages.