National Geographic unveils 2019-20 upfront slate

National Geographic has unveiled its 2019-20 upfront slate including the announcement of several new and returning shows.

The announcement:

Following National Geographic’s first Oscar win for the two-year-old Documentary Films banner Free Solo and its three cinematography awards — the most by any network in a single year — at last year’s Emmys, National Geographic Global Television Networks President Courteney Monroe unveiled today the latest lineup of premium science, adventure and exploration content throughout the 2019-20 Upfront Season.

(Humble Pie Rights Limited/Justin Mandel)

Highlights of the network’s announcements include the return of wildly popular series Brain Games, adding a Hollywood twist to its classic mind-bending format by challenging some of the world’s biggest celebrities to unleash their special brain power through fun and highly entertaining interactive games, illusions and social experiments; new series Race to the Centre of the Earth, from the producers of “Amazing Race,” pitting extreme adventurers on a one-of-a-kind journey to win US$1 million; and two new unscripted series, Trafficked with Mariana Van Zeller and Lost Cities with Albert Lin, showcasing up-and-coming National Geographic talent.

“For the past three years, our focus has been on quality and distinctiveness above all else and on building the most creatively ambitious, most entertaining National Geographic television network in history. This year’s upfront slate continues that ambition with highly entertaining programming from the best creative talent in the business,” said Monroe.

“Big, bold premium programming that lives up to the promise and expectations of the National Geographic brand, including the reboot of our highly rated family-friendly series Brain Games; the next season of our multiple-Emmy-winning anthology series Genius, profiling the life of the ‘Queen of Soul,’ Aretha Franklin; and two inside access series, featuring incredible new talent Mariana van Zeller and Albert Lin.”

National Geographic’s global programming also has the full weight of the National Geographic portfolio behind it, including the unprecedented social media prowess as the most followed brand on Instagram, with over 100 million followers.

Also setting the network apart in the media landscape is the fact that National Geographic has an unrivalled philanthropic giveback, distributing a portion of its proceeds to the nonprofit National Geographic Society — creating a virtuous cycle of storytelling and philanthropy committed to research, science, conservation and exploration.

National Geographic is reaching new heights by going further with groundbreaking, visually spectacular storytelling from the best explorers, photographers and filmmakers in the world.

The 2019-20 upfront slate includes:
(Please note: All are working titles and subject to change.)


Brain Games
Eight-Part Series Premieres December 2019 (Magical Elves, Alfred Street Industries)

This December, a reimagined Brain Games adds a Hollywood twist to the classic mind-bending format. Shot in front of a live studio audience, Brain Games challenges some of the world’s biggest celebrities to realise their special brain power through fun and highly entertaining interactive games, illusions and social experiments that will reveal the “why” behind the “wow.”

The in-studio audience and the viewers at home can play along, comparing their mental abilities against those of the A-listers. Join in on the fun as Brain Games reveals the incredible science of what makes our brains tick! Brain Games is executive produced by Toby Gorman, Casey Kriley, James Rowley and Lauren Williams for Magical Elves, and Dan Cutforth for Alfred Street Industries.

Race to the Centre of the Earth
Eight-Part Series Premieres Mid 2020 (Plum Pictures, Profile Pictures)

Race to the Centre of the Earth is an adrenaline-fuelled global competition that pits four teams against one another in a nonstop sprint across the globe for a USD$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 USD$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
Eight-Part Series Premieres April 2020 (Muck Media)
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 track the chain of custody of trafficked goods; understand how to obtain the contraband; or see the 360-degree view of the trafficking world from the point of view of the smugglers, law enforcement and those caught in the crossfire.

As she meets the willing players and unwitting individuals 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.

Lost Cities with Albert Lin
Six-Part Series Premieres October 2019 (Blakeway Productions and Arrow Media)
Lost Cities features host and National Geographic Explorer Albert Lin on a high-tech adventure that will revolutionise archaeology across the globe. Utilising ground-penetrating radar, LiDAR and 3D scanning, Lin will work with boots-on-the-ground archaeologists to find and re-create unexcavated worlds still hidden beneath the earth. The ambitious approach will use high-tech imagery to uncover and resolve mysteries of the past in the most extraordinary sites of antiquity, including the Knights Templar in Israel, the Lost Kingdom of the Pacific in Micronesia, and the city behind the legend of El Dorado: City of Gold in Colombia. Lost Cities With Albert Lin promises to both redefine history and make history.

Gordon Ramsay: Unchartered
Debut Season Premieres August 2019; Eight Additional Episodes Premiere Mid 2020 (Studio Ramsay)
National Geographic expands its partnership with Gordon Ramsay by greenlighting additional episodes of Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted ahead of the upcoming season one premiere. 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 UK series “Gordon’s Great Escapes.” The debut season of Gordon Ramsay: Unchartered, produced by Studio Ramsay, is set to launch July 2019 and production on the new episodes is set to begin later this year.

Running Wild with Bear Grylls
10-Part Series Premieres Jan 2020 (Electus, a Propagate Company and Bear Grylls Ventures)
National Geographic is now the new home of the wildly popular hit series Running Wild with Bear Grylls, which is currently in production and slated to premiere later this year. The new season, which includes a new celebrity lineup of adventurers, will transport viewers across remote locations in the US and around the world, including the jagged cliffs of Sardinia, a massive glacier in Iceland, the deep jungles and remote islands of Panama, and the deserts and canyons of Arizona. 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.


Genius: Aretha
(Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, Clive Davis, Fox 21 Television Studios, MWM Studios and EUE/Sokolow)
Suzan-Lori Parks, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of “Topdog/Underdog,” will be 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.” The anthology series will explore Franklin’s musical genius, incomparable career, and the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she had around the world. Grammy Award winner Franklin was a gospel prodigy and outspoken civil rights champion and is widely considered to be the greatest singer of her generation, receiving countless honours throughout her career.

Without knowing how to read music, Franklin taught herself to play the piano, began to record songs and sang on gospel tours with her father. She signed her first record deal at age 18 with Columbia Records before moving to Atlantic Records and then Arista, where she was united with founder Davis and began a more than 40-year partnership with him. The legendary singer is one of the world’s best-selling musical artists of all time, with more than 75 million records sold globally during her career. Her voice was identified as a “natural resource” by her home state of Michigan.


China’s Hidden Kingdoms
Five-Part Series Premieres January 2020 (Brian Leith Productions)
China’s Hidden Kingdoms takes audiences into the secret wilds of China to reveal the beauty of its hidden kingdoms. With unique access to locations across the country, viewers go on a journey through these magical realms, exploring five very different worlds —high mountains, tropical jungles, bamboo forests, great plains and temperate forests. “Stars” of these kingdoms include iconic and charismatic animals — the snow leopard, the giant panda, the Tibetan fox, the golden snub-nosed monkey and a stunning kaleidoscope of jungle creatures. All these animals live within their own unique hidden kingdoms of habitats and landscapes, sharing their worlds with other fascinating creatures. Using high-specification drones, camera traps and the latest 4K camera technology to engage with these special animals, the series brings China’s hidden kingdoms to life in the most dramatic ways possible.


Explore: Finding Amelia
One-Hour Documentary Premieres Early 2020 (National Geographic)
This summer, National Geographic Explorer-At-Large Dr. Robert Ballard, best known for his 1985 discovery of the Titanic shipwreck, is planning an expedition to solve the mystery of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. Finding Amelia follows the clues that have led Ballard to a remote island in the Pacific and delves into Earhart herself, especially how she became one of the most intriguing and inspirational figures in history.

Earhart is a true woman of impact whose loss was so profound it has been felt for decades, spawning countless theories about how and where she disappeared. Ballard and his team, equipped with the very latest in technology and scientific expertise, plan to explore the surrounding waters using remotely operated underwater vehicles and autonomous surface vessels. They plan to investigate Earhart’s potential campsite using bone-sniffing dogs, DNA sampling and good old-fashioned archaeological digging. The program will include surprising and rarely told stories about the legendary aviator, offering an unparalleled look into her life and death.

Hell on Earth: Mexico
One-Hour Documentary Special (Goldcrest Films)
From Academy Award nominee and best-selling author, journalist and filmmaker Sebastian Junger and his producing partner Nick Quested comes Hell on Earth: Mexico, following the duPont-winning feature documentary Hell on Earth: The Rise of ISIS and The Fall of Syria. US-Mexican policies of the past two decades have left Mexico reliant on the United States, shattered a stable but undemocratic political order and sent the country spiralling into the 21st century drenched in blood and disorder.

Through immersive access to characters across a swath of Mexican society, the documentary shows how narco-traffickers, corrupt politicians and well-positioned business interests have seized power and wealth and left Mexican citizens desperately fighting or fleeing elsewhere for a better life.


Drain the Oceans
10-Part Series Premieres March 2020 (Mallinson Sadler Productions)
Drain the Oceans returns for a third season. A global hit franchise, the series reveals the full scope of the shipwrecks, treasure, sunken cities, geology and technology at play on the floor of lakes, seas and oceans around the world, solving underwater riddles that have mystified generations. Ghostly shapes beneath the waves are exposed in all their stunning glory, as the water is removed from the picture to tell stories that explain natural wonders and man-made catastrophes.

Combining the latest scientific data from underwater scanning systems with state-of-the-art digital recreations, this series crisscrosses the globe in search of slaves, pirates, American revolutionaries, heroic explorers, ancient cultures and world-changing battles; and it delves deep into the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the icy waters of the Baltic, the terrifying icescapes of the Arctic, the shoreline of one of America’s premier cities, the mysterious Nile delta, and the underwater graveyards of the American Civil War in its quest for answers.

Wicked Tuna
15-Part Series Premieres March 2020 (Pilgrim Media Group)
Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks
13-Part Series Premieres July 2020 (Pilgrim Media Group)
National Geographic’s hit series Wicked Tuna is back with an all-new season of drama on the high seas. Follow a group of salty commercial fishermen from the nation’s oldest seaport, Gloucester, Massachusetts, as they make their living through rod-and-reel fishing in pursuit of the prized bluefin tuna. And later this year, the popular spinoff Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks returns. Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks follows a Southern cast of top captains along with the returning Northern cast, all battling to catch bluefin in the dangerous waters off the coast of North Carolina. In addition to unpredictable, treacherous conditions, the captains must contend with one another as well as experienced locals who will stop at nothing to beat them to the catch.


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