Nat Geo Orders First Scripted Series, Ron Howard to Direct

Ron Howard GETTY - H 2016
Walter McBride/FilmMagic

National Geographic has jumped into scripted in a major way.

The cable network on Thursday announced that it has ordered its first-ever scripted entry, the global anthology Genius from Fox 21 TV Studios, Imagine TV, OddLot and EUE/Sokolow. Not only is the commitment straight-to-series, but Nat Geo also said it envisioned multiple seasons for the program. Imagine’s Ron Howard is on board to direct the first episode.

Each season of the series is expected to dramatize the stories of the world’s top innovators. The first will focus on Albert Einstein, and will be based on Walter Isaacson’s critically acclaimed book, Einstein: His Life and Universe, adapted by writer Noah Pink. If all goes according to plan, it will reveal how Einstein — both an imaginative, rebellious patent clerk and a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn’t get a teaching job or a doctorate — unlocked the mysteries of the atom and the universe.

A showrunner will be tapped shortly, with production expected to begin this summer in Prague. The series will premiere on Nat Geo next spring, in 171 countries and 45 languages. For Nat Geo and Howard, it marks the third collaboration. He has been involved in Breakthrough and the forthcoming network entry Mars.

Genius is perfectly emblematic of our vision to create premium, distinctive and highly entertaining content that fits the National Geographic brand,” said National Geographic Channels CEO Courteney Monroe, who tapped Shine vet Carolyn Bernstein to run scripted for her late last year. The latter has been a priority as Monroe looks to use the 21st Century Fox investment to transform the channel into more of a prestige destination on the cable dial.

Genius is a franchise with infinite possibilities. We think this installment that tells the fascinating back-story of the man who articulated the theory of relativity is just the beginning of a long and successful partnership between our companies,” noted Fox 21 chief Bert Salke.

Howard added: “I hope that his story, as well as those of other geniuses, will both entertain and inspire the next generation of Einsteins.”