Why This Matters: Chasing the Cure, in which those suffering from misdiagnosed illnesses can seek real-time help, is TNT’s bold twist on the live programming genre.
WarnerMedia has unveiled a bold programming franchise with a big name attached. Ann Curry anchors Chasing the Cure, which will feature 10 live, 90-minute episodes that essentially crowdsource solutions for Americans suffering from undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed, illnesses. The aid comes from a panel of doctors and, at times, viewers themselves.
The show is simulcast on TNT and TBS, and streams on ChasingtheCureLive.com.
Curry, former co-host on NBC’s Today, has done it all in TV news, and most of it twice — interviewing world leaders, reporting on wars and humanitarian crises. Curry said the series is uniquely enterprising as it uses both weekly television and 24/7 digital media to help the stricken unearth solutions.
“I don’t think anyone has ever done what we’re doing with something like this,” she told B&C before the show’s Aug. 8 premiere. “I think we’re breaking ground in the way we’re doing it. We are in a rare moment when people want to know, want to see, that America has a wealth of compassion and kindness.”
Turner and Lionsgate are partners on Chasing the Cure. WarnerMedia executives were searching for a fresh franchise, preferably live, and Lionsgate execs, including Jennifer O’Connell, pitched what became Chasing the Cure. (O’Connell has since joined WarnerMedia as executive VP of HBO Max.)
“Kevin [Reilly, president of TBS and TNT and chief creative officer, WarnerMedia Direct-to-Consumer] and I were looking for an opportunity to create tentpole-like programming that fit perfectly with sports, movies and dramas,” TNT/TBS senior VP of unscripted series and specials Michael Bloom said.
Chasing the Cure has what Bloom called “unlimited engagement opportunities throughout the week,” thanks to ChasingtheCureLive.com. It also has a positive message, and the chance to positively affect the nation’s ill and underserved.
All it needed was the ideal host. Bloom said the WarnerMedia execs kept envisioning an Ann Curry type fronting the show, so they reached out to Curry. “She’s a journalist, a humanitarian, an empathetic storyteller,” Bloom said. “She’s not a host — she’s an anchor.”
After thinking on the offer for a bit, Curry said yes. “We felt like we hit the jackpot,” Bloom said.
Live Is Thriving
Those suffering from mysterious illnesses share their cases on the digital portal. The show features a panel of doctors offering their insights on the maladies from the Crowd Cure Center; during the TCA Summer Press Tour, Curry mentioned a network of 52,000 physicians. Coupled with viewers who may share common ground with the ill, WarnerMedia executives hope it helps solve patients’ ongoing medical mysteries. “It connects people to medical professionals that they might not otherwise be able to connect with,” said Curry.
Curry is an executive producer. Kim Bondy is showrunner and executive producer. The head of Soledad O’Brien’s Starfish Media Group, Bondy has worked at Al Jazeera, at CNN and with Curry at NBC News.
Bondy said the opportunity to tell stunning stories and help people in need drew her to Chasing the Cure. “The show gives voice to the voiceless,” she said. “People are in medical nightmares and no one has heard them.”
She was eager to work with Curry again. “Ann’s ability to connect with people on a real, human level is unparalleled,” said Bondy.
While not every network has NFL action, several are increasing their live programming as an opportunity to deny the DVR and keep viewers from clicking to sedentary stuff on Netflix. Live series this summer include Fox’s First Responders Live, which debuted June 12, and motorcycle stunt special Evel Live 2, which aired on History July 7. Wildlife docuseries Yellowstone Live began on Nat Geo June 23, and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah went live July 30-31, coinciding with the Democratic presidential debates.
TNT viewers get their dose of real-time action with the network’s NBA programming. TNT also features March Madness hoops, UEFA Champions League soccer, the SAG Awards and will debut live All Elite Wrestling in the fall. “It felt like viewers expect live programming on TNT,” said Bloom.
Some TV personalities blanch at the thought of going live, as Chasing the Cure does, with the occasional pre-shot patient package or interstitial. But Curry is comfortable. “The idea of live is second nature for Ann,” Jon Klein, former CNN U.S. president and president of artificial intelligence platform Vilynx, said.
Klein sees Curry as an ideal fit. “Her whole brand is tied up in caring about people,” he said. “There is a humanity to her reporting that stood out among broadcast anchors. Chasing the Cure will let her show her empathetic side.”
What Happens After Today
Curry’s news credentials are unparalleled. She’s reported on conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, nuclear tensions in North Korea and Iran and humanitarian crises such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake and tsunamis in Japan in 2011. Her interviews have included Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, along with other world leaders such as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Syria President Bashar al-Assad.
Curry was on Today for 15 years before signing off in 2012.
She hosted and executive produced documentary series We’ll Meet Again on PBS, about people caught in transformative events, including the Holocaust and the civil-rights movement. The show premiered in January 2018 and went for two seasons. Paula Kerger, PBS president and CEO, pointed to the host’s “exceptional reporting, strong intuition and grace.”
Curry does not watch much TV, saying her husband tends to hog the remote to satisfy his sports jones. She instead watches her iPad, raving about Bodyguard on Netflix and Big Little Lies on HBO. TV news doesn’t factor into her viewing habits.
“The way I think about journalism, I really need to read [it],” she said, namechecking The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. “Once in a while, I’ll see a little bit of an evening broadcast, but I don’t watch regularly.”
She is reluctant to offer advice for the journos covering the presidential election, saying they know how to do their jobs. When pressed, she said, “It’s about asking questions that are well thought out and being smart about follow-ups.”
“Cover less of the game and more of what the candidates stand for,” Curry added.
TNT’s original series include Animal Kingdom, Claws and The Alienist. A few high-profile scripted swings, such as Good Behavior and Will, were short-lived.
Michael Bloom said Chasing the Cure isn’t much of a departure for TNT, but the “next stage” in terms of unscripted nonfiction, with lively stories every bit as compelling as those offered up on the scripted side. He said watching Curry on the set elicits goosebumps. He mentions the thrill of “watching her marinate on a script and make it as eloquent, as meaningful, as impactful as it can be.”
“She means everything she says,” Bloom added.
Michelle Giannotto of New Jersey hopes to get husband Donato onto the show. After a long series of misdiagnoses and 22 hospitalizations, she said he was diagnosed with Auto-Brewery Syndrome, where the victim’s body turns carbs into alcohol and essentially makes them drunk. “The show can bring awareness that this condition exists,” said Giannotto, who said her husband’s medical bills are “through the roof.”
Chasing the Cure could find researchers and doctors who are well-equipped to help those with this rare condition, she said. “We are desperate for a cure because of the impact on the quality of life, job and family this brings.”
Curry hopes the show taps the goodwill inherent in viewers. “We can contribute to someone’s health and happiness even though I’ve never been to your state or I don’t know your family,” she said at TCA. “But I care about you because you’re a human being. That is, I think, what we’re unleashing.”
Curry is involved in just about all aspects of the show, even sharing ideas about set design. She’s excited to think about the impact the show may have on America’s health.
She mentioned one woman on Chasing the Cure’s radar, a single mother who has experienced a wide range of symptoms over the years, and an equally broad farrago of diagnoses. She finally got some answers from the doctor panel, and burst into tears.
There are many, many more out there like her out there, including some who cannot afford a doctor visit.
“We’re giving people not just access to a doctor, but access to a panel of doctors, and they’re digging deep down on their cases,” Curry said. “My job in all of this is patient advocate, and it’s an exciting opportunity.”