Nat Geo Renews 'Mars' for Season 2, Options 'How to Survive a Plague' as Mini

National Geographic_MARS_Still - Publicity - H 2016
Robert Viglasky/National Geographic Channels

National Geographic Channel is heading back to Mars — one small step on a bigger path towards a robust roster of scripted entertainment.

The cable network, meeting with press during Friday's session of the Television Critics Association's winter press tour, also announced the development plans of another docudrama. Nat Geo has optioned the rights to David France’s 2016 book How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS. The factual account of the group of HIV and AIDS patients who pushed for workable treatment at the height of the U.S. epidemic is being eyed as a miniseries.

For now, Mars will be coming back. Its second season joins the upcoming Genius on the network's ever-growing list of scripted entertainment. The global release, which just wrapped its initial run, is said to have reached north of 36 million viewers around the world. Domestically, it's been a Top 10 scripted show on cable since its November premiere.

Mars is emblematic of our new breed of premium programming — programming from superb creative talent, like Imagine Entertainment and RadicalMedia, that is unabashedly smart and highly entertaining,” said National Geographic Global Networks CEO Courteney Monroe. “With Mars, we were able to truly harness the global power of the brand and amplify it across National Geographic’s media platforms, and we are thrilled to be bringing it back for another season.”

Mars, produced by Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Michael Rosenberg, was unique in its blending of scripted drama and documentary science. It's been something of a bridge show between the network's exclusively documentary past and its hybrid future.

If How to Survive a Plague ultimately makes it to air, it will be another chapter in a rather remarkable lifespan for the work. Originally a 2012 documentary film, nominated for an Oscar, France developed it as a miniseries at ABC before ultimately focusing on writing a book about the work instead. (For ABC's part, it ended up going with another gay rights miniseries in Dustin Lance Black's forthcoming When We Rise.)

This new TV potential for How to Survive a Plague, based on the book and not the film, has Scott Rudin attached to executive produce.

“This medical thriller about the community that fought AIDS through its own form of grassroots advocacy and scientific research is the perfect fit for National Geographic,” added Monroe. “With Scott and his team, we are honored to develop David France’s incredible book into a groundbreaking scripted series.”