History bolsters commitment to doc programming

America’s war on drugs and superhero origin stories are among the topics History will tackle this year in its documentary programming lineup. The A+E Networks-owned brand has greenlit more than 100 ...
March 16, 2017

America’s war on drugs and superhero origin stories are among the topics History will tackle this year in its documentary programming lineup.

The A+E Networks-owned brand has greenlit more than 100 hours of original, premium documentary limited series and specials to air in 2017. The increased investment in documentary programming is a complement to the network’s ongoing non-fiction and scripted series strategy.

“Whether it’s a story from our distant past or a contemporary event that will shape our collective future, History’s robust new slate of documentary events will take viewers straight to the heart of epic events that shaped where we are and what we are today,” said Jana Bennett (pictured), president and GM of History, in a statement. “The network’s increased focus on documentary programming, collaborating with some of the best storytellers in the genre, along with our commitment to sustainable, premium non-fiction and scripted series, will continue to drive the ongoing success of the History brand.”

The initial slate of programming includes event series and specials that emphasize significant moments and people that have impacted the course of the world and modern U.S. history.

Some of the initial documentary projects are listed below, with descriptions provided from History:

“America’s War on Drugs” – 4 x 120 minutes

America’s war on drugs has cost the nation US$1 trillion, thousands of lives, and has not curbed the runaway profits of the international drug business. For the last 50 years, both the vilification and the celebration of recreational drugs has had incredible impact on our collective culture.  This eight-hour mini-series will explore the strange revelations of the profit machine of the drug business, and the impact of the longest “war” in our nation’s history on our lives.

 America’s War on Drugs is produced by Talos Films.  Julian P. Hobbs, Elli Hakami and Anthony Lappé are executive producers for Talos.  Michael Stiller is executive producer for History.

“America: Journey of the Brave” – 2 x 120 minutes

Between 1820, when proper record keeping began, and 2014, over 80 million people migrated to the U.S.  During the Great Potato Famine, 1.5 million Irish departed for the shores of America. The Russian Empire saw 1.5 million Jews immigrate from 1881-1914. Anchored by high-end graphics and based on research that pieces together the patterns of migration over 70,000 years, this two-part special will emphasize the massive movements of people that have occurred since the Industrial Revolution.

America: Journey of the Brave is produced by Nutopia.  Jane Root is executive producer for Nutopia,  Michael Stiller is EP for History.

“The Cars that Made America” (w/t) – 3 x 120 minutes

The epic stories of the iconic names behind the iconic cars that shaped America.  The automobile steered America at every turn throughout modern history, but the world has not heard all the stories of those behind the wheel – men like Henry Ford, Walter Chrysler, the Dodge Brothers, William Durant, Lee Iacocca and John DeLorean. History looks under the hood to reveal the winners who rose to fame and fortune and the losers who crashed and burned on the race to glory.

The Cars That Make America is produced by Magilla Entertainment.  Matthew Ostrom, Laura Palumbo Johnson and Jason Fox are executive producers for Magilla.  Sean Boyle, Stephen Mintz and Russ McCarroll are executive producers for History.

“Superheroes Decoded” (w/t) – 2 x 120 minutes 

This special two-night event is equal parts fan film and informed documentary, mixing clips from present-day blockbuster films with vintage comic book artwork and historical archival to tell the surprising story of the modern era through the lens of our fictional heroes.  The program features heroes and villains from both Marvel and DC side by side, as well as commentary from creators, artists, filmmakers, famous fans, and the stars who bring these characters to life on TV and film.

Superheroes decoded is produced by Warrior Poets.  Morgan Spurlock and Jeremy Chilnick are executive producers and Josh Mensch is co-EP for Warrior Poets.  Kristen Burns and Russ McCarroll are executive producers for History.

“How the 90s Changed the World” (w/t– 2 x 120 minutes

From the fall of the Berlin Wall to the attack on the Twin Towers, a series of investigations explores the critical events that shaped the worldview of those who came of age during that time. Throughout the series, a chorus of extraordinary individuals born between the late 1960s and early 1980s contextualizes the times and provides a diverse, varied, and complete first person perspective on a generation’s journey through its formative years.

How the 90s Changed the World(w/t) is produced RadicalMedia and directed by Paul Bozymowski.  Dave Sirulnick, Jon Kamen and Justin Wilkes are executive producers for RadicalMedia.  Zachary Behr is executive producer for History.

“Age of Terror” (w/t) – 2 x 120 minutes

September 12, 2001 was the dawn of the “Age of Terror”. The U.S. entered into war with an elusive new enemy: terrorism. It is a war that has lasted 16 years, taken tens of thousands of lives, and shifted the global landscape.  Despite the enormous efforts to thwart our enemies, today terror is more prevalent than ever. It casts a dark shadow of fear over everything we do.  It is the backdrop of our lives.  Probing the historical roots of the conflict, Age of Terror reveals how this war evolved, and how the U.S. has fought back. It provides context on today’s brand of terror, on how it has re-shaped our world, and what the future may bring.

Age of Terror (w/t) is produced by Pulse Films.  Fred Grinstein and Gretchen Eisele are executive producers for Pulse Films.  Kristen Burns and Russ McCarroll are EPs for History.

“Frontiersmen” – 4 x 120 minutes (Previously announced)

Frontiersmen will follow the stories of iconic pioneers such as Daniel Boone, Lewis & Clark, Tecumseh, Davy Crocket and Andrew Jackson as they set forth across untamed land.  The series will span a formative period of American history – the first 75 years from the post-revolutionary war colonies through the California Gold Rush. Frontiersmen will show how the frontier helped shape us from colonists into today’s Americans.

Frontiersmen is produced by Appian Way Productions and Stephen David Entertainment. Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson, Michael Hampton and Phillip Watson are executive producers for Appian Way Productions. Stephen David is the executive producer for Stephen David Entertainment.  Kristen Burns and Russ McCarroll are EPs for History.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.