A new docuseries that follows the real-life pilots-in-training that inspired the original Top Gun story is now in the works for National Geographic.

After Top Gun: Maverick opened to widespread acclaim in 2022 and went on to be nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, the franchise has turned its focus to the real-life U.S. Navy Naval Aviators in training. In collaboration with Rex, National Geographic states the docuseries will follow U.S. Navy pilots training to fly "the world's most advanced jets--the F-35C Lightning II." The working title of the series is Top Gun: The Next Generation. The docuseries is created by showrunner Karen Edwards, directed by Lana Salah, executive produced by Zinc Television managing director Tanya Shaw, and produced for National Geographic by Rex, a Zinc Media label.

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While Top Gun: Maverick used real planes flown by U.S. Navy pilots for their Earth-defying stunts, Top Gun: The Next Generation will feature even more intense flight sequences that capture what the U.S. Navy training looks like. Compared to the training the cast of Top Gun: Maverick had to do in preparation to perform the practical stunts, the training of a U.S. Navy pilot looks at how these dangerous airplanes work without sterilization of stunt choreography. The results will look less pristine than the celebrated cinematography of Top Gun: Maverick, but will nonetheless be as intense and immersive given the observational documentary approach.

“The intimate access we have gained to the characters and the emotional character-led story arcs that run through the series will paint a vivid, compelling narrative around the young men and women embarking on this highly stressful process,” Shaw said in a statement to National Geographic. “That narrative will elevate the series beyond the noise and spectacle of fighter jets to tell the tense, nuanced and poignant human stories behind the public-facing bravado. This is a unique project and we are thrilled to be bringing it to viewers.”

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How Does the Docuseries Tie into the Top Gun Franchise?

Unfortunately, Top Gun: The Next Generation is only borrowing its name from the popular film series. While the documentary follows the source of Top Gun's inspiration, the series will not be a behind-the-scenes look at how Tom Cruise and his other cast members prepared to fly for Top Gun: Maverick. Instead, Top Gun: The Next Generation will document the life of pilots who fly similarly challenging jets in a real-life United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor (TOPGUN) program in the military.

“With so many millions of fans of the film around the world, I was immediately drawn to this series – these elite jet pilots are not only extremely accomplished and impressive, but all have very different stories to tell,” National Geographic executive vice president of Global Factual and Unscripted Content Tom McDonald said in a statement. “With Nat Geo’s exclusive unprecedented inside access, this series promises to be an exhilarating, visually jaw-dropping, and fascinating journey into the intensely competitive world of elite flying.”

Top Gun: The Next Generation is greenlit to series, with a premiere date to be announced later.

Source: National Geographic