The creators of The Amazing Race are thinking bigger for their next competition series.
National Geographic has ordered an eight-episode series called Race to the Center of the Earth from Amazing Race creator Bertram van Munster and executive producer Elise Doganieri. The Disney-owned cable network has also picked up docuseries Trafficked With Mariana van Zeller and Lost Cities With Albert Lin, is reviving unscripted show Brain Games with celebrity participants, and is planning a four-night live series in Alaska, following last year’s Yellowstone Live.
Race to the Center of the Earth will follow four teams who begin from different points of the globe and have to follow a designated 5,000-mile route across varied terrains and harsh climates to a buoy in the middle of the ocean that holds a $1 million prize. There are no eliminations, a la The Amazing Race; the first team to arrive at the buoy wins the prize.
“Our goal is to create a gripping, completely real experience that pushes the edges of adventure and embeds viewers in extreme action, breathtaking drama and stunning locations as we follow four highly skilled teams on the race of a lifetime,” said Geoff Daniels, executive vp unscripted entertainment for National Geographic Networks. “Unlike other competition formats, Race to the Center of the Earth will combine the grittiness of a survival show with the cinematic style of a feature film action-thriller, dropping viewers into the middle of a heart-pounding journey unlike anything ever made for television.”
The series is scheduled to begin filming later this year for a 2020 premiere. Other Nat Geo pickups:
Trafficked With Mariana Van Zeller, in which the Peabody Award-winning journalist explores the complex, often dangerous inner workings of a multi-trillion-dollar shadow economy. Episodes will track the chain of custody of stolen goods and attempt to understand how and why smuggling networks and black markets function. The eight-episode show is scheduled to premiere in April 2020.
Lost Cities With Albert Lin, where the host works with archaeologists using cutting-edge technology to discover and re-create un-excavated worlds hidden beneath the earth. Lin will explore a site in Israel linked to the Knights Templar, the Lost Kingdom of the Pacific in Micronesia, and the real city behind the legend of El Dorado in Colombia, among others, in the six-episode series. It’s set to premiere in October.
Brain Games returns from a three-year absence in December with a group of celebrities who put their mental abilities to the test in a series of interactive games, illusions and social experiments. Celebrities taking part are Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Rebel Wilson, NFL star Drew Brees and Anthony Anderson.
Alaska Live will send 25 cameras and 180 crew members to follow the wildlife in the state and scientists on the hunt for bears, wolves, whales, eagles and other animals. Among the locations planned for the series, which premieres in 2020, are Kenai Fjords National Park, Prince William Sound, Katmai National Park, Bristol Bay and Tongass National Forest
Nat Geo also has the fifth season of Running Wild With Bear Grylls (which formerly aired on NBC) set for fall and has previously announced that the third season of its scripted anthology Genius will focus on music legend Aretha Franklin.