Mo Rocca Celebrates 200 ‘Innovation Nation’ Episodes
No shortage of innovators as educational show plots out its future
The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation, an educational/informational program hosted by Mo Rocca, hit a significant milestone recently when its 200th episode aired. Produced by Hearst Media Production Group, the show tells the stories of innovators in American history. Season eight looks at the history of baseball, the evolution of taxicabs and the history of toll roads, among other inventions and innovations.
Rocca, also a correspondent on CBS Sunday Morning, said Innovation Nation is “a show about dreamers and people who, back then and now, just kept failing and failing and failing until they succeeded.”
He mentioned the current culture of “#fail” playing out large on social media, and what that means for future innovators. “People are made gun-shy and are intimidated by the specter of humiliation and failure,” he said. “These stories are about people, about a word that should be in the dictionary called stick-to-itiveness, who just kept going and going and going.”
Innovation Nation averages nearly 1.2 million total weekly viewers. Alie Ward and Albert Lawrence are correspondents.
Bryan Curb, executive VP and general manager, education/information (E/I) of HMPG, said Innovation Nation is the type of show that kids and parents — and grandparents, for that matter — watch together. “Co-viewing is the model we want to emulate,” he said.
Located in Dearborn, Michigan, The Henry Ford includes the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and the Benson Ford Research Center. Rocca recalls someone describing the museum as “the one museum kids actually want to stay in.”
For his part, Curb described it as “a playground for smart people.”
The 200th episode, which aired April 30, featured special content across its social channels to celebrate the milestone, offering highlights from its previous 199 episodes.
Asked about episodes that stick out in his mind, Rocca mentioned an early one about Igor Sikorsky, who grew up poor in Russia, was inspired by a Jules Verne story that mentions a single-propeller aircraft, came to America and was a key figure in the first helicopter taking flight. “There’s something dreamlike and inspiring about that story,” Rocca said. “It’s the best kind of story that we tell.”
Curb mentioned another episode that looked at a more recent invention, the doorbell camera Ring. “One of the great things about the show is the ability to sniff out innovations and innovators who are doing things that are going to have legs, and a runway in our lives for years to come, and perhaps decades,” he said.
The show is at its best, Curb added, when Rocca is “integrated and immersed in the actual exhibits at the Henry Ford.”
He referred to the host as a modern-day Charles Kuralt. “His voice and his brand and his intellect and his sense of humor — all of that congealed into this perfect stew that I truly think you see in every single episode of the show,” Curb added.
Rocca said he initially wondered if Innovation Nation would eventually run out of innovators to spotlight. It’s not a concern he has anymore.
“It just feels wonderful, in this very turbulent time for media, to have a show that has such a solid fan base and such a solid premise,” Rocca said. “I feel very stable in this role with this show in a business that’s far from stable.” ▪️
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.