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July 12, 2014

'Brain Games' leads own genre at National Geographic Channel

Show part of new programming genre exploring how world works

NEW YORK (AP) — Given that David Rees has written a book on how to sharpen a pencil, he seems the perfect choice to host a new National Geographic Channel series that elevates mundane activities into the subject of deep investigation.

So, for those inclined, Rees’ “Going Deep” over the next two months will tell more than you ever thought you could know about digging a hole, tying a shoe, making ice cubes, shaking hands or throwing a paper airplane.

The series debuts Monday (10 p.m. EDT) following a new episode of “Brain Games.” It’s part of what has become a new programming genre at National Geographic that explains how the world works. Think of it as Geek TV, although the network works very hard to make shows that will appeal to the channel surfer.

“Brain Games” started it all. Host Jason Silva guides viewers through experiments designed to show how the brain perceives things like motion, space or time. The new season gets more abstract; tests measure compassion, anger, addiction and intuition.

A three-hour “Brain Games” special in 2011 did so well the network quickly ordered a series, which became National Geographic’s most popular program, said Courteney Monroe, the network’s chief executive.

“It remains unique on the television landscape,” she said. “That was what kind of ignited it for us. As we watched the performance continue to grow, we said, ‘What else can we get in this space?’”

Other shows were launched to appeal to the same taste. In “None of the Above,” host Tim Shaw conducts experiments and asks people to predict the outcome. “The Numbers Game” uses statistics, role play and experiments to answer questions like “are you a risk taker?” or “can you be a hero?”

One series soon to come, “Mind Over Masses,” was inspired by YouTube clips. It explores ways to make people change behavior, like painting stairs to look like a piano so people use them more than an elevator. The upcoming “You Can’t Lick Your Elbow” examines the human body. “Mapology,” due next year, uses data analysis to uncover some of the world’s unexpected realities.

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