NatGeo Previews New Shows at TCA Press Tour in Los Angeles

Travis "The Ringleader" Taylor, Charles "Daddy" Taylor, and Michael "The Kid" Taylor
Travis “The Ringleader” Taylor, Charles “Daddy” Taylor, and Michael “The Kid” Taylor

Post by Lindsay Taub of the Pacific Punch

Several members of the National Geographic Channel family were in Los Angeles this week previewing shows and making the media rounds during The Television Critics Association Press Tour.

NGC's Chad Sandhas and affiliate marketing partner Casy Schick
NGC’s Chad Sandhas and affiliate marketing partner Casy Schick

The TCA, which represents more than 200 journalists writing about television for print and online outlets in the United States and Canada, holds a press tour twice-yearly, giving entertainment journalists an unparalleled opportunity to gain access to the people who make television. Much of the reporting that takes place during these weeks creates story material for the year ahead as well as valuable face-to-face contacts with network executives, producers and actors.

On Wednesday night, NGC and NatGeo WILD hosted a poolside cocktail party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for their guests and attendees to mix and mingle. Two new shows in particular were at the forefront of discussions, not least of which because the stars of the shows are tremendous real-life characters, from a family of genius rednecks from Alabama to a debonair Australian who resolves animal-human conflicts around the globe. Leave it to NatGeo WILD to have the new face of their channel be a wildly attractive gent who rescues nature’s wildest predators.

The New Face of Nat Geo WILD

The wild man, Matt Wright, is a rugged helicopter pilot turned animal relocation expert on a mission to reset the balance between dangerous animals and people by relocating wildlife. His work experience makes him uniquely qualified and reads unlike most: outback musterer (horse wrangler), oil rig worker, soldier in the Australian Army, crocodile egg collector, and professional chopper pilot and instructor. He specializes in tracking down a diverse range of dangerous animals, including crocodiles, wild buffalo and even polar bears.

Matt explained to me that this line of work was and would be his journey regardless of television but that it is of course a thrill to be able to educate the masses about why it matters that such conflicts are resolved in a safe and humane way. Many years ago, Matt came to the attention of the local parks and wildlife staff for having “a few snakes and scorpions” in his room while working at Kings Canyon Resort, in the Northern Territory’s Watarrka National Park. He was then assigned to help catch and trap the park’s predatory wildlife.

After a three-year stint with the Army Reserves, Matt realized that a career of adrenaline-pumping reptile-catching wasn’t a long-term path, so he got a helicopter’s license and began down a path of wildlife relocation – tracking, capturing and transporting a range of wild animals. As a chopper pilot, Matt is able to access areas that would otherwise be impossible to reach.  As a conservationist, he brings to the task unique practical skills, a perspective based on hands-on experience and a genuine compassion.

Matt Wright and Lindsay Taub
Matt Wright and Lindsay Taub

Matt Wright could be the next big thing from Down Under; just don’t suggest to him that he’s the next Steve Irwin. While comparisons are inevitable, “I’m not trying to take his place,” Matt said. “He made his mark and, hopefully, I want to do the same. But I want to be me.” Above all, he said he wants to be a genuine, authentic voice on conservation issues. He wants a say on the environmental balancing act between man and beast and particularly on the wrongs of croc culling.

The new series – “Outback Wrangler” — premieres October 2011 on Nat Geo WILD, following Matt and his trusty canine companion, Nash, as he sweeps over vast territories by helicopter, motorcycle, horse or jeep, often risking life and limb to ensure a win-win situation for both the animals as well as the humans that need his help.

The journeys take viewers from remote locations in the Australian outback to the wilderness of Asia as Matt contends with anything and everything from threatened elephants to the largest crocs on the planet and the most poisonous snakes known to man, all in the name of making the human-animal coexistence a peaceful one.


From Australia to Alabama and the Border

When I first met Michael Taylor (a.k.a. “The Kid”) on Wednesday night, I asked him where he was from because his accent was so thick and unrecognizable to me. Imagine my embarrassment when he said – Alabama. What? He then told me he built his first motorized shopping cart when he was 16. Again, what?

Cast of "Rocket City Rednecks"
Cast of “Rocket City Rednecks”

This young kid is one of the five “backwoods” geniuses who will star in NatGeo’s new series, “Rocket City Rednecks.” They’re down-home southern rednecks from the rocket city: Huntsville, Ala., home to NASA’s Marshall Flight Center and the birthplace of the U.S. space program. Sure, they love to shoot stuff and drink beer, and one of them (Rog Jones) lives in a trailer, but with a family tree full of NASA rocket scientists (not to mention their own PhDs and advanced degrees), they aim a little higher — like using homemade moonshine to fuel a rocket!

“The Ringleader” is Dr. Travis Taylor, who has worked with the Department of Defense and NASA for the past 25 years, but his oddest job was working in a chicken house. He has above Top Secret clearance with the U.S. government, holds five degrees — in optical science and engineering, physics, aerospace engineering, astronomy and electrical engineering — and is currently completing a second Ph.D. in aerospace engineering.  He built his first rocket at age 6, and has been a space geek ever since.

Side note (nerd alert): we discovered at the cocktail party that it is entirely possible that when I attended Space Camp in Huntsville a million and a half years ago, Travis Taylor may have been one of my instructors. Unlikely, but nonetheless, possible.

Dr. Travis is currently working on several advanced propulsion concepts, very large space telescopes, space-based beamed energy systems, high-energy lasers and next-generation space launch concepts. Taylor has written more than 25 technical papers, 14 science fiction novels and two textbooks and has appeared in multiple television documentaries, including NGC’s recently highly rated special When Aliens Attack.”

With their thick accents and distinctive vocabulary, the tight-knit group brings their own unique style of southern charm to science and technology. With “Daddy” Charles adding comic relief along with the ladies of the extended Taylor family, they were not only genuinely nice people but also the life of the cocktail party Wednesday night, bringing laughter and levity to Beverly Hills.

Also in attendance was Sylvia Longmire, former USAF officer/Special Agent/senior border security analyst specializing in Mexico’s Drug War, who was promoting the fall season of NGC’s “Border Wars.” The third season premieres in September.

Only at a NatGeo event can you rub elbows with a real-life version of a character Angelina Jolie would love to play in a movie, rocket scientists with 160 IQs who call your shoes “roach killers,” and wildlife experts who give you advice about your neighborhood coyote problem. They share at least one thing in common – they live dangerously, intelligently, and altruistically all at the same time. Consider the DVR set for the fall lineup. I can’t wait to see my new friends in action!

Lindsay Taub with NGC's Chad Sadhas and Lindsay Drewel

NatGeo Cocktail Reception at Beverly Hilton
NatGeo Cocktail Reception at Beverly Hilton
Nick Fordham, Julie Jones, and Matt Wright
Nick Fordham, Julie Jones, and Matt Wright

***Lindsay Taub is an LA-based writer/media strategist with a passion for travel, photography, nature, adventure, and wine. She resides in LA with her pups and heads up the soon-to-be-launched Pacific Punch. Follow her on twitter @lindsaytaub58 and email***

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