"Breakthrough" on National Geographic Channel explores cutting edge advancements in science. (Asylum Entertainment)

‘Breakthrough’ on Nat Geo: Watch it early here

The battle against pandemic viruses became Page One news in 2014 when a deadly outbreak of Ebola spread panic throughout the world.

“If just a speck of the Ebola virus were to get into your bloodstream, it could make billions of copies of itself and rip you apart from the inside—a hideous and painful way to die,” says Peter Berg in “Fighting Pandemics,” the premiere of National Geographic Channel’s and GE’s doc series “Breakthrough” airing at 8 p.m. CT Nov. 1 on Nat Geo.

Although “Fighting Pandemics” doesn’t have its TV premiere until Sunday night, TV Show Patrol readers can watch it above, right now.

In the six fascinating, one-hour documentaries that make up the first season of “Breakthrough,” actor-director Berg and other Hollywood A-listers—actors Angela Bassett and Paul Giamatti, directors Ron Howard and Brett Ratner and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman—explore scientific discoveries in brain science, longevity, water, energy and cyborg technology. (See more on those episodes below.)

Berg, who directed “Lone Survivor” and brought “Friday Night Lights” to TV, shows more than a grim future in “Fighting Pandemics.” Researchers, virologists, doctors and other scientists are beginning to make strides in the war against these ruthless viruses.

“The battle against Ebola is yielding rapid breakthroughs for how we combat many deadly viruses,” Berg says during his episode.

Below is a look at the topics upon which this season of “Breakthrough” will focus, as written by Nat Geo.

Before you check that list out, I have an opportunity for you. Nat Geo is giving away one-year subscriptions to National Geographic Magazine to the first 10 TV Show Patrol readers who write, “I want ‘Breakthrough’ and National Geographic” in the comments section below.

I’ll contact winners at the email addresses they use to post their comments and provide that email to National Geographic so the magazine can contact winners to complete the subscription sign-up process. Don’t forget, you have to provide a legit email address in the comment.


For the last 7 years, Dr. Maria Croyle’s lab at the University of Texas in Austin has been working on a nasal vaccine against Ebola that has shown a 100 perent success rate in primates.
(National Geographic Channels/Drew Anthony Smith)

Fighting Pandemics

Directed and narrated by Peter Berg

Premieres 8 p.m. CT Nov. 1 (watch early above)

Berg will take viewers into the dramatic, inspiring and sometimes heartbreaking world of pioneers scrambling to stop an outbreak and save the world from future plagues. The recent Ebola outbreak forced medical science to evolve as quickly as the virus it is fighting, provoking breakthroughs that may give birth to a world virtually free of pathogens. From antibiotics and vaccines to computer programs that predict how viruses will spread, new lifesaving tools will be used to fight a wide range of viruses in the near future, including HIV, influenza, dengue fever, malaria and a host of other killer diseases. Follow Dr. Maria Croyle, who has developed a revolutionary way to introduce a vaccine into a common cold virus; Erica Ollman Saphire, who organized a world-wide consortium to find an antibody treatment for viral hemorrhagic fevers, including Ebola; and Dr. Ian Crozier, a World Health Organization (WHO) virologist who fought Ebola in Sierra Leone until he contracted the disease himself and spent 40 agonizing days locked in an isolation ward at Emory University Hospital. Crozier recovered—only to find the virus was still multiplying in his eye.

More Than Human

Directed and narrated by Paul Giamatti

Premieres 8 p.m CT Nov. 8

Chances are you either are, or you know, a cyborg: a person who is aided or enhanced by embedded technology, such an artificial limbs or pacemakers. But advances in science are taking us beyond replacement parts and into a new realm that is changing the nature of the human body and the human mind. The fusion of biology and technology is making us better, stronger, faster and smarter. How we think, how we feel, how we experience the world: Everything is changing. Now we are learning how to manipulate our genetic code and seize the keys to creation. But as the natural and man-made worlds merge, will we become more than human? And do we risk losing our humanity? Watch Trish Aelker at Lockheed Martin Exoskeleton Technologies build exoskeletons that give mere mortals super strength, and Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, a brain-machine interfaces expert whose work with the Walk Again Project is giving hope to people with traumatic spine injuries. 

Decoding the Brain

Directed by Brett Ratner; narrated by Adrien Brody

Premieres 8 p.m. CT Nov. 15

After millennia of speculation about what goes on inside the human brain, we now have the tools to explore its hidden reaches. These tools are leading to research that may help those suffering from afflictions such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. They are also shedding light on the mystery of consciousness and what makes us who we are. Meet leading researchers and scientists, such as Dr. John Schenck, who helped pioneer MRI technologies and was the first person to have his brain imaged by the machine in the early 1980s; Dr. Mohamad Koubeissi, a neurologist who developed a groundbreaking way to treat epilepsy; and Dr. Steve Ramirez, who is investigating how to implant or erase memories and hopes his work could help people suffering from PTSD.

The Age of Aging

Directed and narrated by Ron Howard

Premieres 8 p.m. CT Nov. 29

In recent years, close study of the aging process has opened up new ways that could help us all live healthier for longer. Can we move beyond treating individual diseases and instead treat the aging process itself? Would a longer life necessarily be a better life? A loose-knit group of researchers believe the real breakthrough is extending our health span—the period of life spent free of disease. Hear from Laura Deming, who dropped out of M.I.T. at the age of 14 and committed herself to finding and funding projects that can expand the human health span, and Dr. Brian Kennedy, whose work in the basic biology of aging has been crucial to the development of countless other researchers’ work.

Energy From the Edge

Directed by Akiva Goldsman; narrated by Jason Bateman

Premieres 8 p.m. CT Dec. 6

We are surrounded by clean, raw energy waiting to be tapped—energy that could eventually replace fossil fuels. Finding new ways to harness the energy around us takes a rare breed of scientist/engineers: men and women with a combination of technical skill, imagination and unwavering focus. This hour will follow innovative alternative energy projects and the colorful people behind them, like engineer Louis Michaud, who is building a tornado machine—and harnessing the energy it produces; and the team at the National Ignition Facility, who are trying to save the world by harnessing the power of controlled fusion.

Water Apocalypse

Directed and narrated by Angela Bassett

Premieres 8 p.m. CT Dec. 13

California is on the brink of an apocalypse. The state faces a future of drought that will cost billions in lost farm revenue and thousands of jobs. The challenges facing the state are not unique: All over the world, governments are struggling with bigger populations and a diminishing supply of freshwater. Bassett will focus on inspiring stories of people working to change the world, such as Sandra Postel, who is trying to bring water back to the Colorado River Delta, which became a dried-up husk after the Colorado River was diverted to feed the western United States; Aaron Mandell, whose solar-powered desalinization project offers a way to conserve and reuse this precious resource; and Italian architect Arturo Vittori, whose quest to build a water-collecting tower in a remote village in Ethiopia dramatizes all the triumphs and challenges of innovation.