Kal Penn wearing a blue shirt and red sweater.

National Geographic Channel and Kal Penn explore the hidden ways technology effects us.

With the explosion of infographics and big data, maps are not just about geography anymore. They can tell us all kinds of things about the human experience. National Geographic Channel’s new series, The Big Picture With Kal Penn, is all about finding the unexpected – and sometimes shocking – realities in both the world at large and our own backyard, revealed by crunching the numbers and finding new ways to visualise data. The series premieres with a double bill on National Geographic Channel, DStv channel 181, on Wednesday, 17 June at 21:00 CAT.

Host and producer Kal Penn will take viewers on a journey to understand how things like money, sex, food, sports and crime influence our daily lives. Exploring and generating infographics from information banks and data analyses, The Big Picture with Kal Penn investigates different themes through the mapping of new data, the creative visualisation of information, and in-depth personal stories with fascinating characters.

Infographics, big data visualisations and maps are not the only tools used to bring the world alive. Documentary vignettes also tell stories that make the connections personal, introducing the real people who live and work at key intersections of each theme being explored. And Penn serves as our guide along the way, making the information relatable to the everyday viewer.


About Kal Penn

Kal Penn is known for his starring roles in House, How I Met Your Mother, and, of course, the Harold and Kumar franchise, among others, but he also holds a degree in sociology, theater, film and television as well as a graduate certificate in international security from Stanford University.

Having most recently hosted the Discovery Channel’s The Big Brain Theory, a competition to find the nation's brightest engineer, Penn currently stars in the CBS drama Battle Creek for Vince Gilligan and David Shore. He recently wrapped up production on a number of independent films, including Sisterhood of Night, Outliving Emily, Dementemania and Stereotypically You.

From 2009 to 2011, Penn took a sabbatical from acting, and served as an associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, where he focused primarily on outreach to young Americans, on issues such as healthcare, LGBT rights in the military, and veterans’ benefits for returned service members.

On the big screen, Penn has starred in various independent films and blockbusters. The New York Times called his lead role in Mira Nair's The Namesake a “crackling, star-making performance.” Penn has also taught courses at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Los Angeles.


Upcoming episodes of The Big Picture With Kal Penn include:


The Big Picture With Kal Penn: Crime, Inc.

Premieres Wednesday, 17 June at 21:00 CAT.

Like it or not, our lives are shaped by the biggest and most powerful business on the planet: crime. This episode delves into how the one small rural town is making big money for drug dealers; how the local economy in another city benefits from the prison system; and how gangs compete to control territory, a fight that is happening more and more through social media.


The Big Picture With Kal Penn: Treasure Hunt

Premieres Wednesday, 17 June at 21:25 CAT.

There are billions of dollars out there – you just have to know where to look. Kal is on a quest to dig up the goods, from the most remote ends of the earth to our own backyards. And he charts a course to where X really does mark the spot for buried treasure. Like one area in the USA where prospectors originally passed over, but more gold has been found here than in California during the Gold Rush. Or the family who discovered a bin of old collectible cards and found out that these rarities are worth millions. Finally, journey to Lodz, Poland, with treasure hunters seeking gold and jewels thought to be lost forever from World War II.


The Big Picture With Kal Penn: Sex Drive

Premieres Wednesday, 24 June at 21:00 CAT.

All sex is not created equal, and some places are blessed with more of it than others. One town holds the dubious distinction of being the Strip Club Capital of America. Know where to find the fastest-growing group of sexually active people? Head to Florida, where senior citizens are turning retirement communities into sexual meccas. And, as more countries experiment with legalised prostitution, visit a drive-in brothel in Zurich, Switzerland.


The Big Picture With Kal Penn: Going Viral

Premieres Wednesday, 24 June at 21:25 CAT.

When an idea goes viral, it spreads like a disease. When a sickness goes viral, all of us are at risk. Whether it starts with animals, humans or bombs, how can we improve our chances of surviving the next global pandemic? At the Centres for Disease Control headquarters in Atlanta, a researcher studies mosquitoes (the world’s most dangerous animals) by letting them suck blood from his arms. Starting in the Hong Kong hotel where SARS turned into an epidemic, trace how the disease spread worldwide. In a top secret US government lab, researchers track biological weapons around the world and map their potential impact.


The Big Picture With Kal Penn: Fantasy Sports

Premieres Wednesday, 1 July at 21:00 CAT.

Data and number crunching have taken over the world of sports. The highest proportion of NFL players come from small towns in the Louisiana bayou, thanks to a unique combination of roads, talent and history. Travel to Argentina to meet the highly organised soccer hooligans of Buenos Aires, who look more like the mafia than a fan club. Picking a name and mascot for your team is a serious business. Is it better to go for a top name or a rare one?


The Big Picture With Kal Penn: Surviving Nature’s Fury

Premieres Wednesday, 1 July at 21:25 CAT.

As we build an overlapping map of natural disaster threats around the world, we make an unsettling discovery: Mother Nature has handed us our eviction notice, and almost no place is truly safe. Drought is a major threat around the world, but in one community, pilots are fighting back by seeding clouds to create weather the local farmers desperately need. In Iceland, we delve into a town on the edge of a volcano where residents dodge molten lava and constantly rebuild as eruptions eat their property. The US has more damaging weather and disaster threats than any other nation, and the epicenter of it all is Missouri, home to the biggest earthquake in American history, along with a laundry list of other potentially deadly natural disasters.