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National Geographic Explorer
Ng explorer.jpg
A 2005 title screenshot.
Also known asExplorer
Created byJoe Seamans
Developed byJoe Seamans
Presented byBingo O'Malley (original)
Lisa Ling (2003–2010)
StarringPhil Keoghan (2018-Current)
Narrated byBingo O'Malley (original)
Lisa Ling (2003–2010)
Phil Keoghan (2018–Current)
Theme music composerElmer Bernstein
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes233
Executive producerJonathan Halperin
Camera setupMultiple
Running time90 minutes
Production companyNational Geographic Society
Original network
Original releaseApril 7, 1985 (1985-04-07) –
Preceded byNational Geographic Specials
Followed byNational Geographic Ultimate Explorer

National Geographic Explorer (or simply Explorer) is an American documentary television series that originally premiered on Nickelodeon on April 7, 1985, after having been produced as a less costly and intensive alternative to PBS's National Geographic Specials by Pittsburgh station WQED. The first episode ("Herculaneum: Voices from the Past") was produced by WQED and featured long-time Explorer cameraman Mark Knobil, who is the few staff members with the franchise during all 24 seasons. The program is the longest-running documentary television series on cable television. Presented every Sunday from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm, the original series was three hours in length, containing five to ten short films. Although the National Geographic Society had been producing specials for television for 20 years prior to Explorer, the premiere of the series required an increase in production from 4 hours of programming a year to 156 hours. Tim Cowling and Tim Kelly were the executive producers for the series during this transition.

In its 36 years on television, Explorer has worked for five television outlets. In February 1986, Explorer moved to TBS, where it had a successful run until September 1999, when it moved to CNBC. In October 2001, the series moved to MSNBC. In June 2003, the series was relaunched on MSNBC as Ultimate Explorer, with Lisa Ling as the host. On July 8, 2004, Explorer joined the National Geographic Channel.

National Geographic Explorer has earned more than 400 awards, including 52 Emmy Awards, 13 Cable ACE awards, the Family Television Award, the Genesis Award, the DuPont-Columbia Silver Baton Award, the Peabody Award, four gold medals at the International Film and Television Festival of New York, as well as being nominated for two Academy Awards.[1][2]

The original Explorer series ended in 2011 and then was started again in 2015 with the help of original programming president Tim Pastore, hosted by British journalist Richard Bacon,[3] with executive producers Lou Wallach, Jeff Hasler and Brian Lovett.[4] The series is broadcast on National Geographic's 171 channels around the world.[4] In 2018, Bacon was replaced by Phil Keoghan who is best known for hosting The Amazing Race.[5]

Plot / Format

Variety magazine described the series: "The new-model 'Explorer' is described as a weekly 'docu-talk' series that will feature magazine-style field reporting, celebrity guests and talk show segments shot in front of a studio audience."[4]


National Geographic Specials were being produced by Pittsburgh station WQED for PBS.[6]


National Geographic Explorer began broadcasting in April 1985 on Nickelodeon. The following year, the show moved to TBS. Each episode was made by an independent production company with a National Geographic staffer serving as an associate producer. Local actor Bingo O'Malley was selected by Herculaneum: Voices from the Past producer Joe Seamans as host. Herculaneum was extended for broadcast on PBS in 1987 under the title, In the Shadow of Vesuvius".[6]

The show bounced between CNBC (which was subject to interruptions in the fall and late spring/early summer due to World Series and NBA Finals postgames from NBC Sports), then MSNBC and finally National Geographic Channel. In April 2010, the show celebrated its 25 year with a special, "Explorer: 25 Years".[6]

Hosts / narrators

Executive producers


Episode list starting with the change in title to simply Explorer

Season 1 (2005)

Season 2 (2006)

Season 3 (2007)

Season 4 (2008)

Season 5 (2009)

Season 6 (2010)

Season 7 (2011)

Season 8 (2015)

Season 9 (2016)

Season 10 (2017)



  1. ^ "NAT GEO: EXPLORER SERIES". Retrieved 2017-07-28.
  2. ^ National Geographic Explorer, retrieved 2017-07-28
  3. ^ Nat Geo's Reborn Explorer Series Gets Premiere Date — Watch Sneak Preview, 27 September 2016, retrieved 2017-07-28
  4. ^ a b c National Geographic Channel Unveils Revamped 'Explorer,' 'Earth Live' Special and Other Shows, 15 March 2016, retrieved 2017-07-28
  5. ^ "Phil Keoghan to Replace Richard Bacon as Nat Geo 'Explorer' Host". SFGate. Retrieved 2018-01-16.
  6. ^ a b c "Tuned In: National Geographic's "Explorer" celebrates 25th anniversary". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2016-03-15.
  7. ^ a b National Geographic Explorer Episode Guide, retrieved 2017-07-28
  8. ^ Rare Interview with the Dalai Lama, 20 March 2017, retrieved 2017-07-28