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Nat Geo Renews ‘Genius,’ Picks Up Docuseries From Katie Couric, Jay Z

Upfronts 2017: Network also orders three new scripted development projects

Nat Geo has renewed the scripted anthology “Genius” for a second season, the network announced at its 2017 Upfronts presentation on Wednesday.

The network has also ordered new series from executive producers Jay Z and Katie Couric, as well as three new scripted development projects.

Like the first season of series, which told the story of Albert Einstein, Season 2 of “Genius” will chronicle the life of another renowned mastermind. The subject’s identity will be revealed during the season one finale of ‘Genius’ on June 20.

“We are thrilled to bring back Genius for a second season and establish National Geographic’s presence in scripted television. The Genius franchise has proved to be the epitome of the premium, smart and highly entertaining content that our brand embodies and our audience craves,” said CEO of National Geographic Global Networks Courteney Monroe.

Season 2 will again hail from Fox 21 Television Studios, Imagine Television and executive producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard; OddLot Entertainment’s Gigi Pritzker andRachel Shane; and show runner and executive producer Ken Biller.

The network has also re-teamed with “Gender Revolution” executive producer Katie Couric for a new six-part docuseries, which will follow Couric as she talks with thought leaders who are shaping the most pivotal, contentious and oftentimes confusing topics across the globe today. The untitled series will premiere in 2018.

The other series, “Race,” will hail from Shawn Carter and The Weinstein Company. Inspired by the short film “JAY Z: The War On Drugs Is An Epic Fail,” the series will weave together documentary, animation and archival footage to tell present-day stories of a diverse mix of people from all walks of life in cities across America – from immigrants to first-generation Americans and unsuspecting voices that might otherwise go unheard.

The Weinstein Company’s Harvey Weinstein, David Glasser and Patrick Reardon serve as executive producers alongside Shawn Carter and National Geographic’s Betsy Forhan.

On the scripted side, Nat Geo has put three new projects into development: R.J. Cutler’s “The Birth of the Pill,” the Ebola drama “The Hot Zone,” and an untitled series from “UnReal’s” Marti Noxon.”

Read complete descriptions of the projects below:

THE BIRTH OF THE PILL: HOW FOUR CRUSADERS REINVENTED SEX AND LAUNCHED A REVOLUTION (From Sonar Entertainment, Producer/Director R.J. Cutler and Executive Producers Denise DiNovi and Alison Greenspan)
It has been called the only product in American history so powerful that it needed no name. Today we know it simply as “the pill,” but it was made possible only through the efforts of four larger-than-life figures. Adapted from Jonathan Eig’s 2014 book, “The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution,” the series follows feminist icon Margaret Sanger and philanthropist Katherine McCormick, who campaigned for women’s rights and championed birth control, enlisting the help of visionary scientist Gregory Pincus and Catholic OB/GYN John Rock. Together, the four took on the scientific establishment, the church and cultural norms in their fight to make safe and effective contraception available to millions of women. The Birth of the Pill is a thrilling recounting of the development of a drug that forever changed medical and social history. 

THE HOT ZONE (Lynda Obst Productions, Fox 21 Television Studios, Kelly Souders, Brian Peterson, Jeff Vintar and Scott Free Productions)
Based on the eponymous international bestseller by Richard Preston, The Hot Zone recounts the terrifying true story of the origins of the Ebola virus, a highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest and its first arrival on U.S. soil. In 1989, when this killer suddenly appears in chimpanzees in a scientific lab in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. — a stone’s throw away from the White House — there is no known cure. A heroic U.S. Army veterinarian, working with a secret military SWAT team, puts herself in mortal peril when she tries to head off the outbreak before it spreads to the human population. The Hot Zone is a dramatic, hair-raising account of a rare and lethal virus and its impact on the human race.
UNTITLED NAT GEO PROJECT (Skydance Productions, Erik Jendresen, Tiny Pyro Productions)
How did National Geographic become a network? This scripted series, from Marti Noxon’s Tiny Pyro Productions (“Sharp Objects,” “UnReal”) and writer Erik Jendresen (“Band of Brothers,” Killing Lincoln), travels back to the 1960s when an intrepid field producer is put in charge of two ragtag production teams shooting Nat Geo’s first TV documentaries in Siberia and Australia. Both teams must brave espionage, scandal and hostile environments in an attempt to bring Nat Geo’s arresting global storytelling to the new media age.