×
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.”

More TV

  • Michelle Dockery Jaeden Martell

    Michelle Dockery, Jaeden Martell Join Chris Evans in Apple Series 'Defending Jacob'

    “Downton Abbey” alum Michelle Dockery and “IT” star Jaeden Martell have signed on for lead roles in the Apple limited series “Defending Jacob,” Variety has learned. They join previously announced series lead Chris Evans. The series is based on the 2012 best-selling novel of the same name by William Landay. It tells the story of [...]

  • Disney Fox Takeover Placeholder

    Disney, Fox Employees Grapple With Day One Transition on Two Hollywood Lots

    What kind of a boss will Disney be? That’s a question facing employees at 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight, National Geographic Partners, FX Networks, and other assorted parts of Rupert Murdoch’s former media empire. Wednesday was their first full day as staffers of the Walt Disney Co. and the initial moves have done little to [...]

  • 20th Century Fox TV to Adapt

    20th Century Fox TV to Adapt Esi Edugyan Novel 'Washington Black' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Twentieth Television, in conjunction with Sterling K. Brown’s Indian Meadows Productions, Anthony Hemingway Productions and The Gotham Group, has won an intense bidding war for the rights to bring Esi Edugyan’s award-winning novel “Washington Black” to the small screen, Variety has learned exclusively. The novel will be adapted for into a limited series for TV by [...]

  • Facebook's 'Red Table Talk' Garners Daytime

    Facebook's 'Red Table Talk' Garners Daytime Emmy Nomination

    Facebook is now in the awards hunt: Its popular original series “Red Table Talk” hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith was nominated for a 2019 Daytime Emmy. It appears to be the first-ever Daytime Emmy Awards nomination for a Facebook-funded show, although a company rep was unable to confirm that. “Red Table Talk” is nominated in [...]

  • pharrell brain child show

    Pharrell Teams Up With Atomic Entertainment to Push 'Edu-Tainment' for Kids of Color

    Pharrell Williams may best be known as a Grammy-winning musician, but the 45-year-old is singing a different tune these days as the executive producer of “Brainchild,” a new Netflix series that teaches kids about science, technology, and current events. Co-created by Atomic Entertainment, the show is a spinoff of the New York-based production company’s “Brain [...]

  • Issa Rae Michael B. Jordan Actors

    Variety's 'Actors on Actors' Earns Daytime Emmy Nomination

    Variety has earned another Emmy nomination for its “Actors on Actors” series, but the first at the Daytime Emmy Awards. The PBS SoCal series brings together two actors for a candid conversation about their recent roles and thoughts on Hollywood. The nominated season includes interviews with actors promoting their TV projects including: Bill Hader (“Barry”) with [...]

  • 'Call My Agent!' Wins France's Export

    'Call My Agent!' Wins France's Export Prize; Lincoln TV Wins Named Best French Fiction Producer

    “Call My Agent!,” the hit comedy series whose second season recently pulled top ratings on France’s public broadcaster France Televisions and has traveled widely, won the export prize during the French Television Producer Awards gala ceremony organized by Procirep and TV France International. Although “Call My Agent!” was picked up by Netflix for most markets, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content