R-E-S-P-E-C-T for National Geographic, which set the premiere date for “Genius: Aretha” Tuesday and dropped the trailer for the pandemic-delayed season of the anthology, which stars Cynthia Erivo in the title role.
In the trailer, which you can view above, Erivo’s Aretha Franklin is crowned the “Queen of Soul” and spends much of the two-minute video trying to maintain hold of that title while others set out to bring her down.
Nat Geo revealed Tuesday during its day at the virtual Television Critics Association press tour that “Genius: Aretha,” which has suffered multiple production delays over the last year due to COVID-19, will air as a four-night event series beginning Sunday, March 21, at 9/8c. The eight episodes of the season will air in pairs of two, with all available to stream on Hulu by Thursday, March 25.
“Genius: Aretha” will explore “Aretha Franklin’s musical genius and incomparable career, as well as the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she has had on music and culture around the world,” per Nat Geo. “Franklin was a gospel prodigy, an outspoken civil rights champion and widely considered the greatest singer of the past 50 years, receiving countless honors throughout her career. ‘Genius: Aretha’ will be the first-ever, definitive and only authorized scripted series on the life of the universally acclaimed Queen of Soul.”
The anthology series is executive produced by showrunner Suzan-Lori Parks, Imagine’s Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Anna Culp, Anthony Hemingway, Clive Davis and Atlantic Records chairman and CEO Craig Kallman, Francie Calfo, Ken Biller, Gigi Pritzker and Rachel Shane and Sam Sokolow. “Genius: Aretha” hails from 20th Television and Imagine Entertainment, in partnership with Warner Music Entertainment.
See below for the list of “Genius: Aretha” episode descriptions and air dates.
Sunday, March 21 at 9/8c
Desperate for a hit, Aretha travels to Muscle Shoals in 1967 to record her first album with Atlantic Records. After suffering the loss of her surrogate mother, Little Re braves her first solo in 1953, in her father’s, C.L. Franklin, church.
UNTIL THE REAL THING COMES ALONG
Sunday, March 21 at 10/9c
Struggling to find her sound, Aretha catches the attention of Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records in 1966. Meanwhile, Little Re has her first touring experience on the Gospel Circuit in 1954 with C.L. Franklin and meets her idol, Clara Ward.
DO RIGHT WOMAN
Monday, March 22 at 9/8c
Aretha juggles her music career and her commitment to the civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King Jr., in 1967 and 1968. Meanwhile, Little Re leaves behind her newborn child to return to the Gospel Circuit in 1955, meeting with music legends James Cleveland and Little Sammie Bryant.
Monday, March 22 at 10/9c
Aretha is featured on the cover of Time Magazine in 1968, but she’s devastated when the article focuses on the scandalous details of her personal life. Barbara Franklin and Young C.L. Franklin struggle to establish themselves in Memphis in 1941, before Little Re is born.
YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK
Tuesday, March 23 at 9/8c
Aretha, inspired by Angela Davis and the Soledad Brothers, records her protest album “Young, Gifted and Black” in 1970. Despite Jerry Wexler’s uncertainty, the album is a success. Barbara Franklin makes a decision that has a devastating effect on Little Re in 1951.
Tuesday, March 23 at 10/9c
Aretha records her best-selling live Gospel album “Amazing Grace” in 1972 at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, ignoring her sibling’s pleas to record instead at New Bethel with their father, C.L. Franklin. Little Re discovers that she’s pregnant with her second child, forcing her to leave school. While pregnant, she records her first album at New Bethel in 1956.
CHAIN OF FOOLS
Wednesday, March 24 at 9/8c
As the Queen of Soul enters the age of disco, Aretha will do anything to remain relevant — including stealing an opportunity from her sister Carolyn. She receives a GRAMMY nomination but is ultimately snubbed from winning the award. While at the ceremony, she meets with Arista founder Clive Davis. Meanwhile, Jerry Wexler leaves Atlantic Records, and he and Aretha part ways.
NO ONE SLEEPS
Wednesday, March 24 at 10/9c
Despite significant emotional losses, including a second divorce and the death of her father in 1984, Aretha pushes herself artistically and triumphs. She begins a successful career at Arista, with the help of Clive Davis, and in an unforgettable GRAMMY performance in 1998, she solidifies her eternal reign as the Queen of Soul.