When CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker arrived at the network in early 2013, CNN was starting to break out of its standard of live news, and begin to dabble in original series. “The Wonder List with Bill Weir,” debuting Sunday night at 10pmET/9pmCT, will be one of 12 since Zucker’s arrival. But it’s the first to be produced in-house, hosted by a newsman who was originally hired to anchor a primetime show.
“When you see it, I think it will be both visually arresting and editorially arresting,” Zucker told a group of reporters at a launch event earlier this month.
The idea began to take shape last Winter. Weir joined CNN in late 2013, and began filling in on news shows, while developing his own. But he longed to get back on the road. During the end of his tenure at ABC News, Weir was as comfortable in front of the camera, as he was behind it. He concluded he’d rather be “walking off a plane,” than “walking off a set,” he says.
He pitched the idea about the places and creatures around the world that might not be around when his 10-year-old daughter grows up.
Weir reached out to filmmaker Philip Bloom. His pitch was simple, telling Bloom over gin and tonics, “I want to go find amazing places that are just on the brink. I want to savor what we have while we have it and shoot it in the most luscious cinematic style possible.”
The duo ended up traveling the world together: to the Galapagos Islands, the Taj Mahal, the Dead Sea, the Everglades and Venice, among other locations. The series was filmed on five different continents, from spotting an indigenous — and naked — tribe, to the island in Greece where people live to be 100 years old, or more, with great frequency.
“I wanted Bill to come to CNN because he’s as good of a storyteller as there is in this business,” Zucker says. “In Phillip, you’ve got one of best chroniclers of video journalism and video storytelling.”
“A lot of our critics and competitors would say ‘CNN was getting out of the news business’ and silly nonsense like that. I think over the last 18 months we have clearly proven that, if anything, we have doubled down on the news business,” Zucker said. “But at the same time we’ve opened up an entirely different front of original series that are educational, informational, aspirational and really a tremendous part of our programming lineup now.”
Check out some images from “The Wonder List” below: