The Watchman: Nat Geo Ponders Picasso, NOVA Wonders About the World

The second season of Genius starts on National Geographic April 24. The first of course focused on Albert Einstein, while the new one looks at Pablo Picasso, with Antonio Banderas cast as the master painter.

Executive producer Ken Biller said the brain trust was intent on not showcasing another scientist this time around. “It could be a musical genius, a political genius, a literary genius,” he said. “We reached a consensus after a lot of debate.”

Brian Grazer and Ron Howard are also executive producers. Viewers will see just how “obsessively creative,” in Biller’s words, Picasso was, cranking out some 50,000 works. They’ll see him join the communist party. They’ll see his complicated relationships with women.

Biller called Banderas’ performance “absolutely brilliant.” (Alex Rich plays the young Picasso.) “Antonio brings an incredible authenticity to the role,” said Biller, which was helped by the fact that both Picasso and Banderas were born in Malaga, Spain.

Nat Geo said last week that season three’s Genius will be Frankenstein author Mary Shelley. She meets the criteria of brilliance and international recognition plus a life story capable of carrying a 10-episode series.

Biller called it a “fun parlor game” when people approached him with suggestions for the next Genius. Topping the list were Madame Curie and Leonardo da Vinci. Other suggestions didn’t quite merit consideration. “It’s not a show about remarkable people,” Biller said. “It’s a show about geniuses.

“We think we can do these for many, many years,” he said.

NOVA Wonders, a new series that addresses the unanswered questions about life and the world, premieres on PBS stations April 25. Topics covered include the secret language of animals, what’s hidden in the human body, artificial intelligence and the notion of engineering life in a lab.

“There’s incredible potential for the future of medicine if we can untangle some of these mysteries,” Julia Cort, executive producer, said.

The audience for the series is very definitely science nerds, but it’s bigger than that. “Anybody who’s curious,” is how Cort sees it.

Cort added more questions to the list of those the show addresses, such as: Could there be aliens? What is my dog saying? And why do I get gas when I eat that?

“We tackle some real hard science,” she said, “but we made it our mission to do it in a fun, engaging way, filled with great characters.”

And the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale is on Hulu April 25. What can viewers expect? “We were really, really satisfied and proud of season one,” executive producer Warren Littlefield said. “We’re much more ambitious in season two.”

Michael Malone

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.