Julia Child melded TV and food 50 or so years ago. Now with scads of celebrity chefs, cooking shows, and networks devoted to it, cuisine is even more popular. National Geographic Channel's six-hour miniseries salutes its history, science and culture. Each episode tackles a central theme: revolutionaries, meat, sugar, seafood, junk food, and grains -- with stories and reflections by a smorgasbord of chefs, authors, scientists, etc. Interviewees include Padma Lakshmi, Nigella Lawson, Simon Majumdar, Rachael Ray, Marcus Samuelsson, Anna Boiardi and Graham Elliot.
Oscar winners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer put their storytelling acumen to work as executive producers of "Breakthrough," a series of hourlong documentaries highlighting the stories, people, and technology behind the world's most cutting-edge scientific innovations. After considering more than 100 scientific topics for the series, the pair -- helped by National Geographic archives and research, along with the scientific resources of partner GE -- selected biotechnology, neuroscience, anti-aging technology, alternative energy, water conservation, and global pandemics. Each episode is directed by a prominent Hollywood star -- Howard himself helms "The Age of Aging," joining actors Angela Bassett ("Water Apocalypse") and Paul Giamatti ("More Than Human"), directors Peter Berg ("Fighting Pandemics") and Brett Ratner ("Decoding the Brain"), and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman ("Energy From the Edge").
Actor Kal Penn is producer/host of a series that attempts to explain how things like money, sex, food, sports and crime influence daily lives. The consequences are shown by analyzing data maps, and episodes investigate different themes through data mapping, creative visualization of information and in-depth personal stories involving fascinating characters. As well, documentary vignettes tell stories that personalize the number crunching, introducing real people who live and work at key intersections of each theme being explored. Penn serves as guide, making the information relatable to viewers.
The 1990s had remarkable highs and lows: Technology paved the way for a digital world, and the ranks of billionaires grew fast. But the Columbine massacre, al-Qaida threat, and Clinton scandals also happened. On the heels of its popular miniseries deconstructing the 1980s, National Geographic Channel delves into 10 years when the Web was wide open but before global terror hit hard. "The '90s: The Last Great Decade?" features 120 original interviews -- from unsung heroes of riveting stories, to notables in many fields -- and memorable clips of a time between the end of the Cold War and the approaching War on Terror.
"Naked Science" strips away the layers of a scientific investigation into one of the big mysteries of our time, revealing through expert analysis realistic scenarios that either confirm or deny long-held assumptions and misconceptions.
The old Dolly Parton hit "9 to 5" isn't a tune worth humming for the blue-collar pioneers featured in "Filthy Riches." The series spotlights ingenious Americans who skirt a conventional workplace in favor of making a living in the deep rivers, soggy mud flats and wild backwoods of the U.S. Ray Turner, for example, has been catching eels in Delaware for 30 years. He uses a self-made smokehouse in the woods to cook the critters and sell them. Billy Taylor and his sons hunt for prized ginseng root in the Appalachians. Taylor, a fully licensed wild ginseng dealer, promotes sustainability by planting its berries. In Maine, Jim Campbell and Andy Johns make the coastal mud flats their office, as they dig for valuable bloodworms to sell to fishermen. And Greg Dahl and Albert DeSilva are burl hunters. A burl is a hard, unwieldy outgrowth on a tree, usually at the trunk. Burls have value because of the spectacular patterns found in them when cut open.
Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman explores the meaning of life, God, and many big questions in between in an effort to understand how religion has evolved and shaped society. A different divine subject is covered in each hourlong episode, titles of which include "Creation," "The Devil Inside," "Afterlife," "Apocalypse," and "Who Is God?" To explore these topics, host and narrator Freeman visits nearly 20 cities in seven countries to see some of the world's greatest religious sites, among them Jerusalem's Wailing Wall, India's Bodhi Tree, Mayan temples in Guatemala, and the pyramids of Egypt, and he immerses himself in religious experiences and rituals. "In some places I found answers, and others led to more questions. The constant through it all is that we're all looking to be part of something bigger than us. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that we certainly are," Freeman says.
Most people who drive by an abandoned building see, well, an abandoned building. Jay Chaikin sees dollar signs. This series follows Chaikin and his partners Dan Graham and Mark Pakenas as they scour through dark, dank and dilapidated structures across the U.S. in hopes of uncovering forgotten pieces of American history. For every item they uncover in such places as the former Pabst Brewing Co. headquarters in Milwaukee, a grist mill in Maryland, and a 170-year-old church in Philadelphia, Chaikin must negotiate its sale from the building's owners, a process that can be the hardest part of his job. But he rarely leaves any site empty-handed. He takes what he buys back to his workshop in Pennsylvania to refurbish before reselling them.