Couric gets ‘newsy’ on NatGeo se­ries

The Standard Journal - - ENTERTAINMENT - By David Bauder AP Me­dia Writer

NEW YORK — There’s a dan­ger in plan­ning a news-ori­ented tele­vi­sion se­ries a year in ad­vance.

But cir­cum­stances smiled on Katie Couric and her six-part Na­tional Geo­graphic chan­nel se­ries, “Amer­ica In­side Out,” which pre­miered last Wed­nes­day and con­tin­ues tonight at 10 p.m..

Some of the topics she chose to ex­plore, like gen­der in­equal­ity and racial attitudes as re­flected in the debate over Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues, be­came more prom­i­nent af­ter she started work­ing on the se­ries.

Couric and a crew were film­ing the episode about Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments that kicks off the se­ries this week in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, last Au­gust, and at­tended a rally by white su­prem­a­cists that turned vi­o­lent.

“While I had these ideas last spring, so many of them have in­ten­si­fied and even ex­ploded into the pub­lic con­scious­ness in a way that I never an­tic­i­pated,” Couric said.

The se­ries is an out- growth of Couric’s spe­cial on gen­der flu­id­ity that aired on Na­tional Geo­graphic last year.

Both Couric and Na­tional Geo­graphic wanted to ex­plore other is­sues with some depth; the se­ries also looks into what it’s like to be a Mus­lim in Amer­ica; white work­ing-class anx­i­ety; how tech­nol­ogy is af­fect­ing hu­man­ity; and the new rules of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. Couric even copped to some of her own bad be­hav­ior in the tech­nol­ogy episode, re­veal­ing a smart­phone re­liance that is only get­ting worse.

In­ter­views are heav­ily fea­tured, from the likes of Ju­lianne Moore, Vi­ola Davis, Elis­a­beth Moss, Aasif Mandvi, Roseanne Barr, Cor­nel West and oth­ers. The episodes of­fer a nu­anced look at some meaty is­sues that are not of­ten ex­am­ined to this ex­tent on tele­vi­sion.

“The one thing that I’ve al­ways en­joyed do­ing, and I hope have been pretty de­cent at, is to be able to look at sto­ries, these dis­parate sto­ries, and sense a trend or a big-pic­ture change,” Couric said.

The vet­eran tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity said it’s im­por- tant for peo­ple to get out of their own bub­bles and speak to peo­ple who aren’t nec­es­sar­ily like-minded.

“I still have a lot to learn,” she said. “I think we all have a lot to learn. I think we should ad­mit that, and we’d prob­a­bly be a lot bet­ter off.”

To that end, she logged plenty of miles in re­port­ing for the se­ries. She vis­ited com­mu­ni­ties in Penn­syl­va­nia, Ne­braska and Iowa for the episode on white anx­i­ety, tog­gled be­tween Hol­ly­wood and Sil­i­con Val­ley for the story on gen­der in­equal­ity and touched down on col­lege cam­puses to learn a new glos­sary of “PC cul­ture.”

Na­tional Geo­graphic hasn’t broached the idea of mak­ing “Amer­ica In­side Out” a reg­u­lar se­ries for Couric, nor is she cer­tain about whether she would want to do that.

Af­ter her years in the net­work trenches as “To­day” show host and “CBS Evening News” an­chor, she’s built a var­ied port­fo­lio. She does a weekly pod­cast and is work­ing on some scripted projects that she’s re­luc­tant to talk about yet. She can pick and choose, like she did re­cently with a tem­po­rary as­sign­ment host­ing the Win­ter Olympics open­ing cer­e­mony for NBC.

Ja­son DeCrow / Na­tional Geo­graphic via AP

Katie Couric’s (left) new se­ries pre­mieres this month on Na­tional Geo­graphic.

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