Elizabeth Vargas has signed an overall deal with A+E Networks following her exit from “20/20,” the company announced on Wednesday.
Under the deal, Vargas will produce series and specials for the newly announced “A&E Investigates” banner, a collection of nonfiction, journalistic content airing in primetime. It will serve as her follow-up to a 14-year run as co-host of ABC’s “20/20.”
The first planned series under the A&E Investigates label, “Cults and Extreme Belief,” launches on May 28 and will see Vargas examine the self-help organization NXIVM, which has been accused of being a sex cult. The project doubles down on the success of A&E’s “Scientology and the Aftermath,” which recently earned host and executive producer Leah Remini her own overall deal with A+E.
“This is the exact challenge I was looking for in the next chapter of my career,” Vargas said in a statement. “I’m grateful to Paul and Elaine for presenting me this amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“Elizabeth is a brave storyteller and one of the most trusted journalists who is an expert at bringing audiences closer to the heart of stories that have never been told in order to reveal genuine moments of truth,” said A&E’s head of programming Elaine Frontain Bryant. “Her honest and authentic brand is the perfect fit for our audience that always seeks the truth and we are fortunate that she chose A+E Networks as her new home.”
Read descriptions of all the initial A&E Investigates projects below:
“Cults and Extreme Belief” – nine-episode series – Two Night Premiere – Monday, May 28 and Tuesday, May 29 at 10pm ET/PT
Elizabeth Vargas, alongside former members of controversial organizations, goes on a search to uncover how these sects use their influence to prey upon people’s desperation to create powerful and often destructive belief systems. Each episode will take an immersive look at one currently active group through the eyes of past devotees and get perspective from believers and leaders that are still inside.
In the premiere episode, Vargas examines NXIVM, an organization that sells “self-help” seminars that they claim give people the tools they need to get their lives together and allow them to make a difference in the world. However, the group led by Keith Raniere, referred to by followers as Vanguard, stands accused of drawing supporters down a path of destruction that includes near-starvation diets, sexual assault, forced branding, pseudo-slavery, and blackmail. Luring in many high profile Hollywood actresses to evangelize for his cause over its 20 year in operation, Raniere was recently arrested in Mexico and charged with sex trafficking among other crimes. Former members of NXIVM share harrowing experiences of manipulation and sexual violation, including Sarah Edmundson who sits down with Vargas to share new details of her ordeal inside the organization which first broke in the New York Times late last year.
The series is produced for A&E by The Intellectual Property Corporation. Eli Holzman & Aaron Saidman executive produce for IPC along with executive producer/showrunner Alex Weresow and executive producer Rachelle Mendez. Elaine Frontain Bryant, Amy Savitsky and Evan Lerner serve as executive producers for A&E Network.
“The Plot Against America” – two-hour special – premieres Monday, June 4 at 8pm ET/PT
Beginning in 2001, a shift in counter-intelligence spending meant that the United States took its eye off the spy game while Russia continued to dedicate vast resources to developing their army of spies. This two-hour documentary investigates beyond the headlines and goes into the heart of our country to ask the question, is America safe? Retired FBI Special Agent Dennis Franks tracks down enemy “sleepers” who have been strategically placed throughout America, and builds a case to expose them.
The series is produced for A&E by Hot Snakes Media with Eric Evangelista, Shannon Evangelista, David Doss and Dennis Franks serving as executive producers. Elaine Frontain Bryant, Amy Savitsky, Sean Gottlieb and David Doss serve as executive producers for A&E Network.
“The Untitled Word of Faith Fellowship Project (w.t.)” – six-episode series – premieres summer 2018
This docuseries follows the decades-long controversy surrounding the Word of Faith Fellowship Church in Spindle, North Carolina. This secretive church, led by 77-year-old Jane Whaley, continues to hold extreme power over its congregation and is riddled with allegations of mental and physical abuse and fraud. Elizabeth Vargas takes a look at the harrowing details of the past, as well as the present actions of the Church and examines the plight of former members who are fighting to get their families out.
The series is produced for A&E by Collins Avenue. Jeff Collins, Lindsay Schwartz, Michael Hammond and Francis Gasparini serve as executive producers for Collins Avenue. Elaine Frontain Bryant, Amy Savitsky, Marcie Hume and David Doss serve as executive producers for A&E Network.
“Child Brides (w.t.)” – two-hour special – premieres fall 2018
In America, a shocking number of young girls are forced into marriages against their will, a practice that is entirely legal with parental consent. Many believe this only happens in developing countries, but in the past 15 years, over 200,000 underage children have been forced into marriage in the US. This in-depth two-hour special reveals the heart-wrenching stories of child marriage victims, who against all odds, escaped the most dire of circumstances. These brave survivors tackle this taboo issue in their personal lives and help to shine a light on the national epidemic with the hope that no child will ever have to be a victim again.
The special is produced for A&E Network by Sirens Media. Executive producers for Sirens Media are Jessica Sebastian-Dayeh and Jordana Hochman. Elaine Frontain Bryant, Amy Savitsky and Molly Ebinger serve as executive producers for A&E Network.