From the producers of the multiple-award-winning miniseries "The Men Who Built America," National Geographic Channel chronicles competitions in innovation that pit history's brightest minds in the race to lay claim to the future. For them, the greatest challenge wasn't beating the odds -- it was beating their adversaries. From Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates to William Hurst vs. Joseph Pulitzer, each hourlong episode focuses on a specific rivalry, delving into fierce power struggles, deceit, fluke timing and raw ambition out of which great ideas turned into reality. The conflicts play out through re-enactments that feature interviews with modern-day visionaries like Bill Nye, Steve Wozniak, Jack Welch, Steve Wynn and Michio Kaku.
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.
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.
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.
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.