TCA: PBS readies “Genius,” “A Year in Space”

The U.S. pubcaster's programming line-up for the year ahead, revealed as part of its TCA presentation, includes Genius by Stephen Hawking, A Year in Space and the tentatively titled 16 for '16. (Pictured: Stephen Hawking)
January 18, 2016

PBS’ programming line-up for the year ahead, revealed as part of its TCA press tour presentation held today (January 18) in Los Angeles, includes Genius by Stephen Hawking, A Year in Space and the tentatively titled 16 for ’16.

The U.S. pubcaster has teamed with National Geographic Channel International on Genius by Stephen Hawking, a six-part factual and popular science series presented and narrated by renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (pictured).

Genius will be produced by Ben Bowie and Iain Riddick‘s Bigger Bang Communications and will utilize experiments as well as large-scale mental and physical challenges to determine whether three ordinary individuals are capable of thinking like a genius. The process will see participants attempting to solve “some of the great mysteries of the universe.”

Elsewhere, PBS has commissioned international digital magazine OZY Media to produce 16 for ’16 (working title), a multi-part documentary highlighting memorable presidential and vice presidential candidates. The 16 x 30-minute docuseries will be presented in weekly episodes leading up to the U.S. presidential election this November.

The pubcaster is also planning extensive elections coverage through a cross-platform partnership with NPR. Among the factual commissions is a two-hour film from ‘Frontline’ series The Choice investigating what has shaped the two major-party presidential candidates; a digital portal from ‘American Experience’ entitled ‘The Presidents,’ which features a number of assets from PBS films about U.S. leaders; WNET’s one-hour primetime special on raising the minimum wage, Getting Ahead; WGBH’s primetime special America By the Numbers with Maria Hinojosa; and the short film series Postcards from the Great Divide, on the grassroots politics of nine states.

PBS has also commissioned a two-part special adapted from Time Inc.’s original digital video series about American astronaut and engineer Scott Kelly. Produced by Time’s Red Border Films, A Year in Space will chronicle Scott’s 12-month journey – from training and launch to descent and landing – aboard the International Space Station, which is expected to “lay the groundwork for a manned mission to Mars.”

The special will also follow the story of Scott’s identical twin Mark Kelly at home as he prepares for his brother’s galactic adventure. The first installment of the series is to premiere within a day of Scott’s planned return to Earth on March 2 at 8 p.m. EST/PST on PBS. The second installment is slated to air in 2017. Jonathan Halperin, Mark Mannucci and Jonathan Woods serve as producers on the films.

Finally, PBS has announced that the feature documentary Hamilton’s America will broadcast in the fall of 2016 as part of the net’s ‘Great Performances’ series. The RadicalMedia-made film will provide exclusive and intimate access to Lin-Manuel Miranda and his team during the two years leading up to the opening day of Broadway musical Hamilton. The film will interweave interviews with experts and prominent personalities, footage of the theatrical production and cast-led expeditions to Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.