×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Simon Fuller on ‘Serengeti,’ His ‘Genre-Busting’ Move into Wildlife TV

Simon Fuller is best known as a pop Svengali and as the creator of global TV hit “Idol.” But he’s striking a different note with “Serengeti,” his move into wildlife TV. “I didn’t set out to change the wildlife genre, but big ideas connecting to an audience and telling stories in different ways can become genre-busting, and that excites me,” Fuller told Variety.

His XIX Entertainment shingle is making the series for the BBC, and it will meld drama storytelling techniques with classic natural-history TV. John Downer, who pushed the wildlife filmmaking envelope with “Spy in the Wild,” in which animatronic spy creatures with hidden cameras were used to get an inside view into animal behavior, is also producing through his John Downer Productions banner.

Shooting in the titular African region, the six-part series weaves together multiple animals’ storylines to bring their real-life stories to screen. The idea for the series came through Fuller’s work with animal charities and a fact-finding trip he took to the Serengeti, during which, he said, he realized a lot of wildlife issues were born of a lack of human empathy with animals.

Fuller spied an opportunity to connect viewers with wildlife in a new way. “I have noticed a growing audience for factual television,” he said. “People are having a greater interest in our planet and a growing passion for animals. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to create a new type of television show – an opportunity for the viewer to relate to a subject I know they will love in a new, connective and empathetic way.”

Production involved multiple cameras and drones. The series was filmed in UHD, and there will also be 360-degree footage. Animal stories featured include those of warthogs, lions, mongeese, and cheetahs.

The BBC air-date for “Serengeti” has not yet been set. BBC Worldwide, meanwhile, is pre-selling the series, and Fuller and Downer were at the its recent Showcase sales event in Liverpool speaking to international buyers. “It allowed me the opportunity to experiment and take all of the techniques I’ve been working on and taking them much further than ever,” Downer said in a Showcase presentation.

He added: “There is a way of telling stories and it’s narrative-driven and with the voice of David Attenborough, which is wonderful. But it’s not the only way to tell natural history stories, and we wanted to look at another way.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Tony Hall, Director General of the

    BBC Could Move More Operations Outside London, Its Boss Suggests

    Amid longstanding complaints from many viewers that the BBC is too London-centric, the boss of the world’s most famous pubcaster hinted Thursday that it could move more of its operations and programming outside the British capital. Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general, said the organization had already made “enormous strides” in geographical diversity. “A decade [...]

  • Brad Simpson Nina Jacobson

    Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson Renew FX Overall Deal

    Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson are keeping their Color Force production banner at FX Productions, with the producers signing a new four-year overall deal with the company. “Our creative collaboration with Nina and Brad has been rewarding, not just in the rich and growing catalogue of event and signature series they’ve helped produce for FX, [...]

  • NBCUNIVERSAL LOGOS -- Pictured: "E!" Logo

    NBCUniversal Cable Hit With Significant Layoffs Amid Restructuring

    Amid a restructuring, another round of layoffs are set to impact NBCUniversal’s E!, Bravo, Oxygen, USA and Syfy networks Thursday, a source familiar with the situation tells Variety, not long after the E! network laid off around 20-25 staff in August. This round of layoffs is likely to impact fewer than 45 employees, more than [...]

  • Peaky Blinders Season 5

    Time-Jumping Season 5 of 'Peaky Blinders' Aims for a More Cinematic Look

    Cinematographer Si Bell was thrilled to learn he and director Anthony Byrne had been tapped to shoot the fifth season of BBC’s “Peaky Blinders,” but surprised to find out how free a hand executive producers Caryn Mandabach and Jamie Glazebrook were giving them to determine the scheme of their six-episode run. “I expected to meet the [...]

  • Daniel Levy Schitts Creek

    'Schitt's Creek' Co-Creator Dan Levy Signs ABC Studios Overall Deal

    “Schitt’s Creek” breakout Dan Levy has signed a multi-year overall deal at ABC Studios. Under the deal, Levy will develop and produce scripted projects for the studio. “Dan Levy has proven himself as one of the most creative people in the TV business,” said Jonnie Davis, president of ABC Studios. “His writing, acting and producing [...]

  • Barry Bill Hader

    Emmys 2019: Clear Favorites and Top Challengers for This Year's Winners (Column)

    If this felt like the longest, most expensive Emmy campaign in history, you might be right. For one thing, the 2019 Primetime Emmys will be held Sept. 22, which is the latest the ceremony has taken place since 2013. That also happened to be the last year of TV’s quaint, pre-streaming era, before outlets like [...]

  • AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- "Live Results

    TV Ratings: 'America's Got Talent' Finale Draws 10 Million Viewers

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read on if you have not seen the season 14 finale of “America’s Got Talent.” The finale of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” which saw blind, autistic singer Kodi Lee crowned the winner, drew almost exactly 10 million viewers for the Peacock on Wednesday night. Bolstered by a robust, velvety Cher performance, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content