TCAs: What’s Coming Up in U.S. Factual
By Kristin Brzoznowski
The U.S. factual networks revealed a slew of new highlights during the Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour last week, touting everything from live events to big-name presenters to buzzy wildlife docs.
Discovery Channel, for one, unveiled Serengeti, which comes from American Idol creator Simon Fuller and multi-award-winning wildlife filmmaker John Downer. The landmark series follows the stories of a cast of African wildlife over the course of a year, showcasing the dramatic moments that make each day of survival on the Serengeti a feat.
The channel is also planning the live two-hour multiplatform event Expedition Unknown: Egypt Live (working title). The programming stunt will be hosted by adventurer and explorer Josh Gates, who will be joined by Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass and Mostafa Waziri, the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt. It promises viewers a look inside the inner chambers of an excavation site, where archeologists recently uncovered a network of vertical shafts leading to an underground network of tunnels and tombs with 40 mummies believed to be part of the noble elite. Sure to be a highlight, there is a mysterious limestone sarcophagus that was found buried deep within the complex of chambers, and the identity of the mummy inside has been a mystery for 3,000 years—possibly until now.
National Geographic, meanwhile, revealed itself as the new home of Running Wild with Bear Grylls (which had been airing on NBC). Nat Geo already has a relationship with the well-known adventurer, as he serves as host and narrator of the network’s upcoming natural-history series Hostile Planet.
National Geographic is ramping up its natural-history programming as well. Among the additions to the lineup are America, a six-episode series that paints a portrait of contemporary America, and Planet of the Whales, which will be filmed for more than two and a half years, in 24 locations, to reveal the life of five different whale species.
Also looking to make some noise in the live space, Nat Geo is bringing back Yellowstone Live. The live broadcast that garnered 13 million viewers in its debut last summer will return to the nation’s most cherished national park this June. The four-night live event promises to showcase even more of the wildlife and vistas the greater Yellowstone ecosystem has to offer.
Nat Geo has teamed up with Procter & Gamble on Activate, a new multiplatform storytelling partnership and six-part documentary series. Premiering globally this fall on National Geographic in 172 countries and 43 languages, the Activate series will focus on extreme poverty, inequality and sustainability issues to mobilize global citizens to drive meaningful and lasting change. It will be bolstered by custom content distributed across National Geographic’s social, digital, linear and print channels. The series will feature celebrity activists such as Uzo Aduba, Rachel Brosnahan, Hugh Jackman, Gayle King, Usher and Pharrell Williams.
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