'Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer' on BBC4 — start date, premise, trailer and more

Extra Life stars David Olusoga and Steven Johnson.
Extra Life stars David Olusoga and Steven Johnson. (Image credit: BBC)

Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer is a new factual BBC Four series which examines the science and medical innovations that conquered some of the world’s deadliest diseases and doubled life expectancies for many across the globe. 

As we navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, the series explores the lessons we've learned from previous global pandemics and how they've paved the way to modern medicine.

Featuring historian and broadcaster David Olusoga and best-selling author Steven Johnson, the two join forces to take viewers on a journey across 300 years of medical innovation.

Speaking about the series, Olusoga said: "The revolution in medicine and public health that has taken place over the past three centuries is one of the greatest achievements of all time. The series is a history of unsung heroes and forgotten pioneers whose incredible stories deserve to be better known."

Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer release date

A release date for Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer has not yet been confirmed, but we do know it will air on BBC Four and BBC iPlayer. The series will be made up of four parts, with each episode focusing on a different aspect of global public health.

What is Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer about?

The four part series features leading public health authorities and scientists working on the front line of the current pandemic, and gives viewers insight into the history of revolutionary medical breakthroughs like vaccines, fact-based research, medicines and drugs, and how raising awareness of behaviours such as handwashing, wearing face masks and implementing lockdowns can help to save lives.

Mandy Chang, BBC Commissioning Editor, says: “We are thrilled to be involved in this very timely series with David Olusoga and Steven Johnson, tracking key breakthroughs in science and medicine and the incredible impact this has had on our lives. 

"Taking four critical subjects: vaccination, data, behavioural change and medicine, the stories in each of these episodes demonstrate how the past can help us understand the present, as we face and deal with the coronavirus pandemic and David and Steven’s journeys through these compelling stories will resonate deeply with us all.”

What else should we know?

The series is based on the book of the same name, by Steven Johnson. The synopsis reads: "As a species we have doubled our life expectancy in just one hundred years. All the advances of modern life — the medical breakthroughs, the public health institutions, the rising standards of living have given us each about twenty thousand extra days on average. 

"There are few measures of human progress more astonishing than our increased longevity. This book is Steven Johnson's attempt to understand where that progress came from."

Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer will be released on May 13th 2021 and is currently available to pre-order.

Is there a trailer?

Not yet, but watch this space!