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Why National Geographic Channel's 'Breakthrough' Is The Next Big Thing In Science Documentaries

And it starts tonight with Peter Berg's film about the advancements being done to contain the Ebola outbreak.
by John Paulo Aguilera | Nov 5, 2015
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Further proving that it is not just another "boring" TV option for nerds, National Geographic Channel introduces Breakthrough, its latest science series, which puts the spotlight on the modern world's most advanced scientific innovations.

And this time, Nat Geo takes documentary production up a notch—slanted to its committed shift to premium programming—by collaborating with Hollywood visi0naries in presenting each episode. Each installment renders complex subject matter like brain science and cyborg technology "in a very high profile, very entertaining outlet," according to Fox Broadcasting Company Sr. Vice President and General Manager Jude Turcuato.

Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind), Angela Bassett (What's Love Got To Do With It), and Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man) are just some of the names at the helm of these meticulously produced chapters. Starting today, November 5, at 9 p.m., Breakthrough will delve into a significant innovation every Thursday, with its first episode—Peter Berg's Fighting Pandemics—focusing on how the world is battling the horrific Ebola outbreak.

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Below is the rest of our interview with Jude, where he talks more about what makes this new series a "breakthrough" in Nat Geo programming.

How are showrunners making sure that style doesn't compromise substance in this type of treatment?

The National Geographic Channel and the National Geographic Society has a "black book," a bible of sorts, so when we do a documentary, it is subjected to the kinds of standards that any Nat Geo production had been [produced under]. The fact-checking, the veracity of everything—all of these things will still come into play.

Just because you’re injecting a little bit of drama, doesn't mean you're allowed to kind of twist certain things. Let’s say, a person died in a car crash, we would need at least two sources to justify that claim, to be able to include it. All of those things are in play when these things are made.

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And I think the directors are aware of that; they're producing for Nat Geo, so that has to be considered on how they direct the whole thing. They will not put anything that will compromise the veracity and credibility of Nat Geo.

Why do you think there's a clamor for these kinds of shows?

I think in general, people like to learn. They probably don't like to learn the way they've learned growing up, but they like to learn new things, especially if the topics will matter in their life. For example, these scientific breakthroughs will matter in their lives because it deals with health, technology and making life easier. So I think that’s why.

And with Nat Geo, that's been part of how they produce documentaries. "Why produce this? Is this really going to matter for people?" The subject matter we have is one that people really want to know. When we produce episodes of Air Crash Investigation, people want to know why planes crash. So that you learn and planes won’t crash again in the future!

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I think the people's thirst for learning is very underrated. It’s really the method of teaching that might be overrated. Basically, people really want to know stuff, especially if it relates to them. So that’s why they like watching Nat Geo and other documentary channels, because a lot of the stuff we produce relates to everyday life. It's not your ordinary textbook stuff.

After 'Breakthrough,' what are Nat Geo's future plans?

In general, we're setting our sights on immersing the brand a lot more across all platforms. Not just TV, but also in apps. The way people live. Through travel, through museums—just everyday life, integrating that a lot more, so that people can tie it in. Like when we do a documentary on endangered species, we can coordinate it with a tour to the Galápagos Islands.

The brand itself really resonates with a lot of people. And then we try to make it more relatable to everybody. I think people like it, the fact that they can learn from something as credible as National Geographic. I think Nat Geo just has to make sure that whatever we produce is spot-on, and is not, in a way, detrimental to education.

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The Philippines will be the first country in Asia to witness this global series event unfold. For more information, click here.

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