Nat Geo announced a couple weeks into the coronavirus production shutdown that the premiere date for its “Genius: Aretha” series would be delayed from its original Memorial Day slot.
Now, the Disney-owned network has revealed the Cynthia Erivo-led series about the Queen of Soul will premiere sometime this fall. The announcement was made as part of Nat Geo’s virtual upfront presentations. “Genius: Aretha” was still in production when concerns about the pandemic caused it to follow almost every production across the country in shutting down.
Nat Geo has also ordered a whole slew of new and returning unscripted shows. Among them is a new series called “Breaking Bobby Bones” (working title) which will see the “American Idol” mentor travel to far-flung destinations across the country to find people with unique jobs, skills, hobbies and abilities, before attempting to perform those same tricks himself.
In the returning shows column are a third season of “Gordon Ramsey: Uncharted,” a second season of “Running Wild With Bear Grylls” and a sophomore outing for “Brain Games With Keegan-Michael Key.”
Take a look at Net Geo and Nat Geo Wild’s list of new and returning series below:
New Unscripted Series
Emmy Award-winning 72 Films (“Inside North Korea’s Dynasty”) and Oscar-winning executive producers Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin (“Undefeated” and “LA 92”) have come together to produce landmark documentary series “9/11” to mark 20 years since the attacks. This series has been in production for over two years, and will offer a comprehensive account of the day using only archival footage — some never seen before — and new, original interviews with eyewitnesses who have now had almost two decades to reflect on the events they lived through. The result is one of the most powerful, immersive and emotionally charged accounts ever produced about that fateful day.
BREAKING BOBBY BONES (working title)
In each half-hour episode of the 16-part series, Bobby travels to far-flung destinations across the country to find people with unique jobs, skills, hobbies and abilities. Upon arrival, he meets local heroes who challenge him to conquer (or at least attempt) the tricks of their trades, living up to his mantra — Fight. Grind. Repeat. It’s an action-packed celebration of resilient Americans who work hard, play hard and above all take pride in everything they do. National Geographic is working with long-time partner BBC Studios on the all-new “Breaking Bobby Bones,” along with three series under the Emmy-winning “Life Below Zero” brand.
The “Explorer” series has long been a hallmark of Nat Geo storytelling since it first launched in 1985. The newly reimagined version of this flagship series will takes viewers inside unfolding expeditions around the globe and to the front lines of groundbreaking scientific, technological and historical discoveries, with ABC News talent serving as guides. “Explorer” will cover timely topics, a featured magazine story and more, further deepening viewers’ understanding of the world through provocative storytelling.
RACE TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH
Premiering fall 2020, this new adrenaline-fueled global competition pits four teams against one another in a nonstop sprint across the globe for a $1 million prize. The eight-part series, created by the producers behind the hit show “The Amazing Race,” is an extreme non-elimination competition that follows four groups of adventurers, each starting from different corners of the earth, as they race to a buoy holding a $1 million prize. Each team is challenged with navigating through its route, offering unique terrains, climates and cultures as the team makes its way to a central location. The teams will face untamed jungles, frozen arctic, arid deserts, bustling cities, treacherous mountains and vast oceans to reach the location where all four routes intersect. The first team to arrive at the buoy claims it all.
TRAFFICKED WITH MARIANA VAN ZELLER
Armed with National Geographic’s trademark inside access, “Trafficked” explores the complex and often dangerous inner workings of the global underworld — smuggling networks, and black and informal markets. Each investigation embeds with Peabody and duPont Award-winning journalist Mariana van Zeller on a mission to understand a specific black market and the lives of the smugglers and outlaws who run it. Offering a rare peek behind the criminal curtain, she tracks the chain of custody of illicit goods, learns the secrets of the trade and provides a 360-degree view of the trafficking world from the points of view of the traffickers, law enforcement and those caught in the crossfire. As she meets the willing players and unwitting pawns who make, buy, sell and move goods, services and ideas, Mariana attempts — with characteristic boldness and empathy — to unearth the geopolitical circumstances and context that create the world’s multitrillion-dollar shadow economy.
New Scripted Series
Suzan-Lori Parks, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of “Topdog/Underdog,” is executive producer and showrunner for this upcoming season of the first-ever, definitive scripted miniseries on the life of Aretha Franklin, the universally acclaimed “Queen of Soul.” Starring Grammy-, Tony- and Emmy Award-winning and double-Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo as Aretha and Emmy- and Tony Award-winning Courtney B. Vance as C.L. Franklin, the anthology series will explore Aretha’s musical genius, incomparable career, and the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she has had around the world. The legendary singer is one of the world’s bestselling musical artists of all time, with more than 75 million records sold globally during her career. Anthony Hemingway is also executive producing and directing the series.
New Natural History Earth Day 2021 Series
PLANET OF THE WHALES
Three years of filming in 24 locations allows “Planet of the Whales” to take you to the heart of whale culture and to experience the extraordinary communication skills and intricate social structures of five different whale species. With the help of new science and technology, we witness whales making lifelong friendships, teaching clan heritage and traditions to their young, and grieving deeply for the loss of loved ones. The work of acclaimed National Geographic Explorer and Photographer Brian Skerry helps tell the story of species he’s been capturing on film for decades. It’s a personal story that very few are lucky enough to witness. By the end of this journey, we come to understand how whales are far more complex and more like us than we ever imagined. Brian’s latest work will also be featured in National Geographic magazine timed to the special.
BRAIN GAMES WITH KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY
Keegan-Michael Key is back as host of the all-new season of National Geographic’s highly entertaining series “Brain Games.” Taking a Hollywood twist to the classic mind-bending format, the new season will challenge some of the world’s biggest celebrities to interactive games and social experiments to reveal the “why” behind the “wow.” “Brain Games” is executive produced by Casey Kriley, Jo Sharon and James Rowley for Magical Elves; Elle Key and Keegan-Michael Key are executive producers; and Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz are executive producers for Alfred Street Industries.
GORDON RAMSAY: UNCHARTED NEW EPISODES
National Geographic expands its partnership with Gordon Ramsay with a third season pick-up of “Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted” ahead of the upcoming Season 2 premiere on June 7. The all-new episodes will feature Gordon Ramsay continuing his journey across the globe, embarking on exhilarating missions to unearth world cultures through food and adventure, familiar ground for Ramsay following his hit U.K. series “Gordon’s Great Escapes.”
RUNNING WILD WITH BEAR GRYLLS
National Geographic is officially the new home of the wildly popular hit series “Running Wild With Bear Grylls,” now picked up for a second season. The new season, which includes a new celebrity lineup of adventurers, will transport viewers across remote locations in the U.S. and around the world, where celebrities will push beyond their limits to see if they can endure the harsh landscapes in their high-octane, action-based, fear-tackling journeys. The intrepid cast members will face their deepest fears and confront everything from wild animals to rock rappelling as they journey through some of the world’s most unforgiving wildernesses.
Nat Geo Wild New Series
The Dog Whisperer is back! The world and its “pet parents” have changed since The Dog Whisperer made its debut 16 years ago. People are working longer hours, techno-ference (constant distractions from texting, social media, 6,000 cable channels and apps galore) is on the rise, and owners’ relationships with their dogs are suffering. Add to that the fact that, right now, dog adoptions have hit record highs — up to 90 percent in some major cities. That’s great news, but there’s a flip side: more pooches; more problems, and all of this is prompting a host of new canine behavioral problems at a time when we need our dogs the most. Pet owners across America need help, and Cesar Millan is ready to show them the way. Cesar’s positivity is a beacon of light in troubled times; his can-do attitude and his heartwarming transformations make us feel like we can overcome all obstacles, starting with our own disgruntled, four-legged pals! Get ready for a new look and a newly energized and exuberant leader of the pack!
SECRETS OF THE ZOO: NORTH CAROLINA
Welcome to North Carolina, home to one of the largest zoos in the world. Spread out over an enormous 2,600 acres, this AZA-accredited zoo has more than 1,000 individual animals, more than 200 species and a diverse range of landscapes, including a swamp, prairie, grasslands, forest and even a desert. Animals live in these lush natural environments and even share habitats as they would in the wild. At a time when the traditional concept of a zoo may seem out of sync with animal welfare, the North Carolina Zoo leads the way and has achieved multiple awards for its global conservation work. Secrets of the Zoo: North Carolina features stories of every kind, including emergency and routine animal procedures, animal husbandry and the rehabilitation and release of native wildlife.
Nat Geo Wild Returning Series
SECRETS OF THE ZOO SEASON FOUR
Secrets of the Zoo is back with a fourth season of unprecedented access to one of the nation’s largest and most popular zoos: The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium! Featuring the dramatic, hilarious and heartwarming stories of what it takes to care for the zoo’s 10,000 animals across almost 12,000 acres of facilities, this series takes viewers behind the scenes to witness America’s favorite zoo at work. This fan favorite shines a light on veterinary care, feeding, live birth and expanding habitats, along with all the wildlife and wild people who work together to make it all happen!
THE INCREDIBLE DR. POL SEASONS 18 AND 19
On this rip-roaring season of The Incredible Dr. Pol, the docs are off to the races, zooming from critical clinic visits to emergency farm calls. Strap in for a wild ride as the crew of Pol Veterinary Services works seven days a week pulling calves, pushing prolapses and triaging the mayhem that comes with central Michigan territory. It’s sure to be a wild ride on this abscess-draining, bull-wrangling, baby-snuggling, momentous season of The Incredible Dr. Pol!
DOG: IMPOSSIBLE SEASON TWO
Famed dog behavior specialist Matt Beisner returns for another season of Dog: Impossible, tackling some of the toughest cases in town. Working with some of the most dangerous and aggressive dogs, Matt and his team keep on fighting for the dogs that everyone else has given up on. He’s out to make a difference in the lives of dogs and their owners because no matter how tough the case may be, he still believes one thing… there are no bad dogs.
HEARTLAND DOCS, DVM SEASON THREE
In Hartington, Nebraska, Drs. Ben and Erin Schroeder put thousands upon thousands of miles on their truck as they crisscross America’s Heartland, employing their expertise to treat all creatures great and small. From furry pets at the clinic to herds of cattle by the hundreds, there are few vets who have the skill and heart to take on the unique challenges that come their way every day. It doesn’t matter if they’re up against intense summer heat, the bitter cold, white-out blizzards or impassable roads, the Schroeders will do whatever is necessary to treat animals in distress, including opening their clinic on the weekends with the help of their sons Chase and Charlie or making farm calls in the middle of the frigid night. The Schroeders’ dedication to their hometown, and the animals that are a part of it, is what makes them invaluable members of the local community.
CRITTER FIXERS SEASON TWO
Lifelong friends Drs. Vernard Hodges and Terrence Ferguson are back for another wildly extraordinary new season of their hit series Critter Fixers. The docs, who own and operate Critter Fixer Veterinary Hospital, located 100 miles south of Atlanta, work around the clock with their loving staff to bring heart, soul and a lot of humor to their treatment and care of more than 20,000 patients a year. Between emergency visits to the office and farm calls throughout rural Georgia, this special team constantly encounters unique cases. For the Critter Fixer team, there is no such thing as “normal.”
DR. OAKLEY, YUKON VET SEASON SEVEN
Making house calls in the far reaches of the Great North is a daunting task in the least, considering the houses may be separated by hundreds of miles. That challenge doesn’t stop Dr. Michelle Oakley from performing her many duties as a veterinarian in one of the most rugged environments on Earth. In addition to running an animal clinic out of her home, she makes house calls, sometimes driving for long stretches through desolate wilderness to check on a patient. This series documents how Dr. Oakley juggles being a full-time vet, wife and mom, and does so with a sense of humor and devotion.