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CNN’s Bill Weir can thank Anthony Bourdain for all the frequent-flier miles.
When Weir left ABC News to join CNN in late 2013, the idea was he would join the long list of people with cable news talk shows. He even did pilots for prospective versions.
The process dragged, not helped by a fall that Weir suffered that required some facial surgery. Around that time, the strong ratings Bourdain was getting for his “Parts Unknown” travelogue led CNN to explore more nonfiction series, and CNN chief Jeff Zucker wondered whether it wouldn’t be better to send Weir on the road.
“Those are the happiest words a reporter can hear,” Weir said.
He drew up an idea for a series with his 11-year-old daughter in mind. He wanted to visit corners of the Earth that were likely to change by the time she reached his age (47). The first of eight episodes of “The Wonder List” premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. EST.
In the debut, Weir heads to the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu, which he imagines to be like Hawaii was 100 years ago — paradise before tourists showed up. Weir found some residents content to shut out the modern world, others eager to welcome it.
Subsequent episodes will find Weir in the Galapagos Islands, Ikaria Island off Greece, India in search of a Bengal tiger, the Dead Sea, Venice, the Alps and the Everglades.
While each visit takes research ahead of time, Weir said he went to many of the places not knowing the stories that he would find.
“It’s so rare to take an anchor off the air for six months,” he said, “and then have him go on the road for six months with a world-class cinematographer and bank on the idea that quality over quantity will work out. It’s been the gig of my life.”