In one scene, Harrison Ford travels to Indonesia on a mission to uncover the truth behind the palm oil industry. Cut to Don Cheadle meeting with residents of a small Texas town, some of whom blame their drought-ridden lands on God. Skip ahead to Arnold Schwarzenegger wading into the heart of a Montana forest fire while decked out in a hard hat and yellow firefighter suit.
These could be plausible storylines from a Hollywood blockbuster, but they’re actually from a new Showtime documentary series, Years of Living Dangerously, featuring Hollywood A-listers with award-winning journalists. James Cameron and Jerry Weintraub also signed on as as executive producers to help bring the dramatic story of climate change to the small screen.
Three years in the making, the nine-part cinematic piece made its debut on Sunday. President Obama’s nonprofit Organizing for Action gave shout-outs to the series, promoting it in multiple tweets:
It’s set in the model of 60 Minutes, where two of its co-creators met as producers, but with celebrities driving the investigations. The correspondent roster also includes Jessica Alba, Matt Damon, Olivia Munn, America Ferrera, Mark Bittman, Lesley Stahl, Thomas Friedman, Michael C. Hall, M. Sanjayan, Ian Somerhalder and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.
“We were very selective about the celebrities and journalists we approached for this project. We didn’t want famous people doing cameos – we wanted people who had an authentic commitment to the environment who could bring their own insights to help us tell the story," said Executive Producer Daniel Abbasi.
In the field, each correspondent tackles a different aspect of climate change around the globe and its intensifying impact on both political affairs and everyday life. These dispatches are not aimed just at the climate change believers -- they're just as much for the deniers, too.
"On screen, we feature citizens honestly expressing their questions and trying to figure it all out, often in the midst of dramatic personal strife," Abbasi added. "While I’m convinced by the research and evidence that climate change is real [and] human caused, and that we need urgent action, we don’t just want to attract viewers who agree with this."
One of the doc's co-creators stressed their goal of igniting conversation and turning it into action.
"The goal of YEARS is to galvanize a national conversation on the realities of climate change and inspire people to share their own stories and empower them to get involved in solutions," said David Gelber. "We’re also implementing an engagement campaign that will extend this effort beyond the broadcast to encourage our global leaders in politics, business and religion, as well as concerned citizens, to state where they stand on key climate issues and take action."