Birth Control Pill Drama in the Works at Nat Geo (Exclusive)

The cabler is also developing scripted projects about the Ebola virus and the origins of National Geographic, with Marti Noxon attached to the latter.
Courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company

National Geographic is looking toward its scripted future.

The joint venture between Nat Geo and Fox has put three high-profile scripted dramas in its development pipeline, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The projects examine the creation of the birth control pill, origins of the Ebola virus and the creation of National Geographic and hail from R.J. Cutler, Lynda Obst and Marti Noxon, respectively. The development slate comes just days before the April 25 premiere of Genius, Nat Geo's first scripted series.

The Birth of the Pill, from Sonar Entertainment and Cutler, is based on Jonathan Eig's 2014 book. It follows feminist icon Margaret Sanger and philanthropist Katherine McCormick, who campaigned for women's rights and championed birth control by enlisting the help of 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 recounting of the development of a drug that changed medical and social history forever. 

The Birth of the Pill is produced by Sonar Entertainment (AMC's The Son) and producer-director Cutler (If I Stay), and will be exec produced by Denise DiNovi (Crazy, Stupid, Love) and Alison Greenspan (Unforgettable).

The Hot Zone, from Scott Free, Fox 21 Television Studios and Obst, is based on the best-seller by Richard Preston and recounts the true story of the origins of the Ebola virus from the central African rain forest to its arrival on U.S. soil. The potential series will center on a U.S. Army veterinarian, working with a secret military SWAT team, who puts herself in peril trying to contain the outbreak. The drama is being written by Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson (Genius, Under the Dome) and Jeff Vintar (I, Robot) and executive produced by Fox 21 (Genius, People v. O.J. Simpson) and Scott Free (The Good Fight).

Rounding out the slate is an untitled drama about the formation of National Geographic written by Erik Jendresen (Killing LincolnBand of Brothers) and exec produced by Noxon (Sharp Objects, UnREAL). The drama kicks off in the 1960s when a field producer is put in charge of two production teams as they shoot Nat Geo's first TV documentaries in Siberia and Australia, braving espionage, scandal and hostile environments to tell a story for the new media age. Noxon will produce via her Skydance Television-based Tiny Pyro Productions banner and will exec produce alongside Jendresen. This marks the latest deal for Noxon via Skydance (Grace and Frankie) and joins AMC's Dietland.  

"This scripted development slate further solidifies our commitment to developing diverse projects with themes and issues that resonate and are relevant to our audience. It proves that entertaining and smart are not mutually exclusive,” National Geographic Global Networks CEO Courteney Monroe said. "We are working with the best storytellers in the world to tell these very human stories that we hope will create global conversation and change the way viewers look at the world around them.”

Added Carolyn Bernstein, exec vp and head of scripted: "The cornerstone of our scripted programming strategy is to work with the best creative minds in the industry to deliver the authenticity that is inherent to the National Geographic brand. Whether we’re telling the dramatic history of the creation of the birth control pill, the terrifying true story of the discovery of the Ebola virus a stone's throw from the White House or mining the complicated personal and professional life of a world-renowned genius, we want our fact-based scripted storytelling to reflect the complexity, unpredictability and entertainment value inherent in the best scripted drama."

Additionally, scripted/docuseries Mars has been renewed for a second season with Nashville alum Dee Johnson set to serve as showrunner in her follow-up to the ABC-turned-CMT drama.

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