"We have to surprise the viewer," John Hendricks says of his plans for The Curiosity Project. "When they tune in we're going to have something right up front that challenges them or that they didn't know. So we'll draw them into a topic with something that's unexpected."
Not that the topics won't be able to draw viewers in on their own. In addition to "Why do we dream?" and "What is curiosity?" planned episodes cover everything from "How are memories stored and retrieved?" to "Can we live forever?" to "When did humans develop a sense of humor?" The topics that the episodes will fit into are equally broad: anthropology, robotics, bioethics, nanotechnology, gender and astronomy are among the 30 or so categories the series' producers plan to include.
"The series was envisioned to surround fundamental questions of life, intriguing questions that keep us up at night," says Hendricks.
Discovery Channel is pulling all the stops for production. Hendricks says that The Curiosity Project will be the most expensive endeavor for the network to date. Each episode will cost around $1 million to produce. That's about half of what Discovery Channel spent on its sweeping "Planet Earth" series, but that series ran for 11 episodes. The Curiosity Project will include 60 episodes over five years.
"It will be the biggest programming endeavor we've ever undertaken," says Hendricks. "Certainly it will be the most expensive. No one has ever undertaken something this big in the documentary film space."
Each Sunday during the season, Curiosity Project viewers will explore topics in depth through expert interviews, a combination of high-quality footage and cutting-edge graphics and a rotating set of hosts.
Hendricks sees the application of television to the quest to satiate curiosity as a perfect marriage. "We're genetically wired to love a story; it's how we pass information on from one generation to another. And then the other powerful thing is curiosity. The Curiosity Project is taking advantage of our natural love of curiosity and our natural love of stories."
What makes The Curiosity Project a project rather than simply a series is how pervasive it will be. The project extends far beyond the confines of the television.