The Watchman: Starz Explores East L.A., Nat Geo Show Goes Viral, NBC Stays Ahead of the Ninjas

Senior content producer Michael Malone’s look at the programming scene
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Season two of Vida begins on Starz May 23, the series looking at identity, culture and sexuality through the lens of a Latinx family. The season sees Lyn and Emma rebuilding their mother’s business.

Starz's 'Vida'

Starz's 'Vida'

Tanya Saracho, executive producer and showrunner, said the Vida crew was energized by season one’s impact. She mentions conversations on social media, people remarking how they enjoy watching characters they’d not seen before. “Those are important conversations,” she said.

Of course, not every viewer was entirely happy. Some complained that Emma ate a taco like a white girl.

But the Vida gang is hitting season two with momentum. “I think of the first season as a three-hour pilot,” Saracho said. “The new season gets fully going, and [the sisters] are committed to the mission.”

Also committed to the mission are those battling lethal viruses in The Hot Zone. It’s a three-night event starting May 27 on Nat Geo, about a deadly virus popping up outside Washington in 1989. Julianna Margulies plays Nancy Jaax, a military person who handles lethal pathogens, and a mother. “She was such an interesting person to develop into the main character,” said Brian Peterson, exec producer.

Like Chernobyl on HBO, the series looks at how poorly prepared everyone was back in the ‘80s to deal with a deadly situation.

The Hot Zone is based on a book by Richard Preston. “You can’t put the book down,” said Kelly Souders, executive producer. “There are all kinds of interesting pieces to the story.”

Producers say every episode has a “moment” — that instant when the viewer says, that can happen to me. “It’s something that haunts you through the night,” Peterson said.

New American Ninja Warrior obstacle the Power Tower will haunt some Ninjas through the night. Season eight starts on NBC May 29. E! talent Zuri Hall joins as sideline reporter, and loads of new obstacles are introduced. “We’re not a very complacent group — we’re always evolving,” executive producer Arthur Smith, CEO of A. Smith & Co. Productions, said. “We have to stay one step ahead of the Ninjas.”

The Power Tower is some 40 feet high. The top two finishers on a given night take it on, and the winner is on to the finals. “It’s intimidating,” said Smith.

There is, of course, a new array of contestants with compelling back stories. “It’s such a joy to do something that’s so positive,” said Smith. “So much of reality television can be negative.”

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