16 January 2014

Landmark TV series puts people at centre of the climate change story

Introduction: Regular readers of  this blog will know we have argued long and hard that to communicate climate change effectively and to maximise public engagement, people need to be put at the centre of the story, as for example here and here. So unusaly for a climate blog the often focuses on new science, there were smiles all round when this story from Joe Romm was published this week.

Click to watch preview
by Joe Romm, via Climate Progress

This April (2014), Showtime will start airing its ground-breaking climate change TV series on the experiences and personal stories of people whose lives have been touched by climate change. Years Of Living Dangerously is an 8-part series produced by the legendary storytellers and film-makers James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Weintraub -– together with three former 60 Minutes producers who have 18 Emmys between them.

While reviewing the segments for technical accuracy as Chief Science Editor, I’ve been blown away by just how visually and narratively compelling the show is. It is not just going to be a landmark climate change series, it is going to be a landmark television series, like Ken Burns’ The Civil War.

Much as the best, most innovative long-form drama has moved from film to TV, in shows like the Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Homeland, and Breaking Bad, so too with documentaries.

Nothing like this 8-part series has ever been put on TV before, a collaboration between the amazing storytellers mentioned above and top-flight journalists (like Chris Hayes, Lesley Stahl, and Tom Friedman) and some of Hollywood’s biggest stars (like Matt Damon, Ian Somerholder, Don Cheadle, Olivia Munn, and Harrison Ford). They provide gripping reports of people affected by, and seeking solutions to, climate change.

As readers know, climate change is happening right here, right now — in America and around the world. It is the biggest story of our time, and it needs a big platform to tell it.
In a front-page New York Times story Sunday on why so many of the best TV shows seem to get aired on that evening, David Nevins, Showtime’s president of entertainment — the architect of hits like Homeland and Masters of Sex — explains that he puts a show on Sunday night “because I want to signal to the audience: This show matters. This is a big show”:
So, this April, when Showtime introduces its climate change documentary series “Years of Living Dangerously,” whose high-profile producers include James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Weintraub, the network will schedule it for Sunday nights. “It deserves the big platform,” Mr. Nevins said. “You’re not sending quite the same signal if you put it on Friday or Monday or Tuesday.”
Years Of Living Dangerously is going to be a very big show.