Upfront ’18: Nat Geo readies “Hostile Planet,” “Yellowstone Live”

A six-part series from executive producer and Academy Award-winning cinematographer and director Guillermo Navarro, Brain Games Live and environmental and free solo climbing documentaries are among National Geographic’s 2018-19 Further ...
April 19, 2018

A six-part series from executive producer and Academy Award-winning cinematographer and director Guillermo Navarro, Brain Games Live and environmental and free solo climbing documentaries are among National Geographic’s 2018-19 Further Front announcements.

The forthcoming slate – revealed at a presentation in New York City on Wednesday (April 19) – is heavy on natural history, science and feature documentary fare, reinforcing the U.S cable net’s premium programming strategy that focuses semi-exclusively on higher quality, bigger budgets and creatively ambitious programming with scale, scope and entertainment value.

“National Geographic has become the destination for the best-in-class creatives, who want to partner with us on big, bold premium and entertaining content,” said National Geographic Global Networks CEO Courteney Monroe in a statement. “Our upfront slate is evidence that our transformation is truly taking hold and reaffirms our commitment to amplify important topics that matter, to create dialogue and to use the power of storytelling to change the world.”

Leading the slate is Plimsoll Productions’ Hostile Planet (pictured), a docuseries that provides an intimate look at how animals have adapted to survive in some of the world’s most extreme environments, from the barren and desolate to wildfires, blizzards, droughts and downpours. The six-part series comes from executive producer and Academy Award-winning cinematographer and director Guillermo Navarro, Emmy-nominated producer Martha Holmes, and Emmy award-winning Tom Hugh-Jones.

New factual series include the previously announced In Their Own Words; and Chain of Command: The Secret Service, from National Geographic Studios, which offers exclusive access into the world of the U.S. Secret Service as camera teams are embedded with the elite agency over the course of a year in different field offices across the country. The franchise’s second season will premiere in early 2019.

Documentaries slated for network premieres include Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster’s Sundance- and SXSW-winning feature documentary Science Fair (Fusion and Muck Media), which follows nine students from around the world as they prepare for the 2017 International Science and Engineering Fair; Neil Gelinas’ Tribeca-premiering Into the Okavango (National Geographic Society), which chronicles a team of modern-day explorers on a four-month, 1,500-mile expedition across three countries to save the river system that feeds the Okavango Delta; and the previously announced Free Solo (w/t) from directing team E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, which documents the first-ever free solo climb of Yosemite National Park’s vertical rock formation El Capitan.

Live events coming to the network include the National Geographic Studios’ two-hour event Brain Games Live, offering real-time interactive games to reveal the inner workings of the brain; and Yellowstone Live from Plimsoll Productions, Berman Productions and Bunim-Murray Productions. The program will serve as a four-day live event and showcases Yellowstone National Park’s wildlife in real time.

Anchoring Nat Geo’s specials slate are the Thoroughly Modern Media-produced Mission to the Sun, exploring the science behind the sun and NASA’s mission to reach the star; and 1895 Films’ Apollo 50th Anniversary, which weaves together long-forgotten NASA recordings and media reports about the Apollo 11 mission.

Nat Geo is also returning the Neil deGrasse Tyson-hosted Cosmos: Possible Worlds (Cosmos Studios and Fuzzy Door Productions) in Spring 2019; Imagine Entertainment and RadicalMedia’s scripted-documentary hybrid Mars for a sophomore season; Emmy-nominated The Story of God with Morgan Freeman (Revelations Entertainment) has been renewed for a third season for broadcast in 2019; and long-running, critically acclaimed series Explorer (National Geographic Studios) returns as a weekly series featuring field pieces and in-depth interviews.

Also renewed are BBC Worldwide’s Live Below Zero; Curved Light Productions and National Geographic Studios’ StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson; and Pilgrim Media Group’s Wicked Tuna and popular spin-off Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks. Daniele Alcinii


In Nat Geo WILD’s upfront, specials include Pupparazzi, a two-hour portrait of renowned pet photographer couple, Kayle Greer and her fiancé Sam. From High Noon Entertainment, viewers will see what work is like for the most sought after “dogtographers,” who prefer to shoot dogs being themselves, rather than pristine versions in immaculately white studios.

Produced by Natural History Film Unit Botswana and Icon Films, The Flood is a two-hour event depicting life for animals fighting to survive in the unpredictable Okavango Delta. Airing in November, the film is produced and directed by Brad Bestelink. Also premiering in November is Zeb Hogan’s Monster Fish: Philippines, a one-hour special event produced by IFA Media, following the titular fish biologist and National Geographic Fellow as he searches for the whale shark in the Sea of Cortez.

Premiering in the fall, Tree Lions sees cat biologist and cameraman Alex Braczkowski observing the behavior of cats climbing trees in Uganda. The special boasts the first shots of lions and their cubs 60 feet up among the trees.

New series featured in the line-up include Prairie Dog Home Companion, produced by Radley Studios, about the prairie dog colony of Jemez Springs, near the New Mexico/Colorado border. Debuting in January 2019, biologist John Hoogland will bring us into their world, which includes adultery, murder and cannibalism.

One Planet Productions follows baby lions, jackals, cheetahs, hyenas and meerkats in Babies Diary, premiering in January; while the six-episode Savage Kingdom III: After the Fall premieres in the spring. It promises to follow a new clan of characters in Africa’s Okavango Delta.

Nat Geo WILD series returning this fall include the sixth season of Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER, produced by Spectrum Productions; season five of Earth Touch’s Snake City; and season six of Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet, produced by Lucky Dog Films.

The network’s number one series, The Incredible Dr. Pol, will return for a 14th season in the winter of 2019, and will see more surprising and complicated cases at the Pol Veterinary Services.

Returning events include the ninth annual ‘Big Cat Week’ in November, the fifth annual ‘Barkfest’ in spring 2019, and the seventh annual ‘Sharkfest’ in summer 2019.

The announcement also included two digital series launching in the fall, season two of Untamed and the new series New Bertie Gregory Series (w/t). Kelly Anderson

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