Scientists Get the Hollywood Treatment in the National Geographic Channel’s New Series Breakthrough

Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s new series debuts this weekend

You know the party has gotten good when people start breaking out the exoskeletons. It happened at the Pacific Design Center last night when the National Geographic Channel, GE, and exec producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer debuted the new series Breakthrough. The new show premieres on the National Geographic Channel this Sunday and gives scientific and technological breakthroughs and the people behind them the Hollywood treatment.

Before the lights went down, Grazer admitted that the idea was hatched on what sounds like an intellectual play date. “I do these curiosity conversations that I’ve done for 30 years every two weeks, meeting an expert in any field other than my own,” he said. “I wanted to meet the most world class, first class CMO. Just to see what that was and, of course, Beth Comstock was that person at GE.”

Howard also spoke before the screening about bringing his and Grazer’s storytelling ability to topics like pandemics, aging, water, cyborg technology, brain science, and energy while making sure the facts and research are top notch (they were aided by docu filmmakers at Asylum Entertainment). Howard directed the episode on aging. “I chose that subject because, well, I relate,” he said. “I also thought it was the one with the highest level of relatability. We’re all touched by it. And a little wink and a nod, I’ll admit, is that thirty years ago I made Cocoon, a fantasy comedy about people looking for the fountain of youth, so I thought there was some link there.” Directors of other episodes were also present, including Angela Bassett (she tackles water) and Akiva Goldsman (energy).

Then the lights went down. There was a compilation of five of the upcoming episodes followed by a full look at Peter Berg’s episode on pandemics (it will also be the Nov. 1 episode) highlighting the 2014 Ebola outbreak and the doctors and scientists who fought it. The series is fascinating. Even more fascinating? For some reason I was sitting behind ’80s action star Dolph Lundgren. Afterwards, all the scientists (yes, they took a bow) hit the taco bar and nitrogen kettle corn station while Trish Aelker walked around in her exoskeleton (soon to be seen on the episode directed by Paul Giamatti). It was an interesting Monday night. Tune in this weekend—it’s good stuff.