FX Unveils Robust First Docuseries Slate

Allen Hughes Christine Vachon Split - Getty - H 2019
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Six months after CEO John Landgraf revealed plans for FX to make a greater push into the unscripted space, the basic cable network is delivering on that promise.

On Tuesday, ahead of Landgraf's time at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour, FX revealed its first-ever documentary slate, consisting of five shows and a feature doc, all of which are set to join The Weekly at the cabler.

Picked up to series are: a project exploring Tupac Shakur and his mother and activist Afeni Shakur from The Defiant Ones director Allen Hughes; a Blumhouse TV-produced six-party entry based on Errol Morris' novel A Wilderness of Error; LGBTQ civil rights foray Pride, from Christine Vachon; Hip Hop Untold, an exploration of power brokers in the music industry; and The Most Dangerous Animal of All, about a man who comes to learn his father is a serial killer. Also joining the slate is the feature doc Women in Comedy, which explores the changing landscape of, well, women in comedy.

“FX has long sought to give artists a platform to showcase their individual, uncompromising vision and its new docuseries and features are an opportunity to extend that ambition in our collaboration with non-fiction talent,” said FX original programming president Nick Grad. “It’s been tremendously rewarding to partner with The New York Times and Hulu on The Weekly, which has excelled creatively and is hitting series-high ratings. Under the guidance of FX’s Jonathan Frank and J.J. Klein, we are now honored to partner with these new teams to create docuseries and features that will join FX’s legacy of fearless and groundbreaking programming.”

The slate arrives after FX is making the most of a cash infusion from new corporate parent Disney to expand its roster of originals. In a February interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Landgraf said he hoped to double the number of scripted originals (from 14 in 2018 to possibly 28 within three to five years) while also building an unscripted slate that included eight to 12 shows. That will also help FX continue to be competitive at the Emmys as its flagship scripted series continue to run on an untraditional schedule. (FX's Emmy winner Atlanta, renewed earlier Tuesday, won't begin production until spring 2020, at which point it will have been off the air for two years.)

Here's a closer look at FX's first docu slate. Premiere dates will be announced later.

From Emmy-nominated director Allen Hughes (The Defiant Ones) comes a five-part cinematic television event exploring two voices, activist Afeni Shakur and hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur, that could not be silenced. Told through the eyes of the people who knew them best, Outlaw is an intimate wide-angle portrait of the most inspiring and dangerous mother-son duo in American history, whose unified message of freedom, equality, persecution and justice are more relevant today than ever.  

From Emmy Award-winning producer Marc Smerling (The Jinx) and Blumhouse Television (The JinxSharp Objects) comes a six-part documentary series, A Wilderness of Error, based on Errol Morris’ novel of the same name. When handsome Army Surgeon Jeffrey MacDonald is sent to prison for killing his family, a storm of swirling narratives challenges our very ability to find the truth, all the while overshadowing a chilling possibility: MacDonald may be an innocent man. Marc Smerling directs and executive produces the series alongside Blumhouse Television and Wilshire Studios. Smerling will executive produce along with Jason Blum, Marci Wiseman, Jeremy Gold, Mary Lisio, Dawn Olmstead, Jessica Grimshaw, Rachel Horovitz and Michael Jackson. Brian Murphy is co-executive producer.  

Pride is a six-part documentary series hailing from Christine Vachon’s Killer Films and Refinery29, chronicling the fight for LGBTQ civil rights in America as seen through the lens of our national history and the biggest pop culture and political events. Each part directed by a different renowned LGBTQ helmer, Pride is about all of us, and the awesome, heartbreaking and heroic story surrounding the LGBTQ fight for freedom over the last 60 years in America. Pride is executive produced by Vachon and Sydney Foos of Killer Films and Refinery29's Amy Emmerich, Stone Roberts and Alex Stapleton.

From executive producer Malcolm Spellman and Oscar- and Emmy-winning Lightbox, comes Hip Hop Untold, a six-part examination of a dying breed of power brokers who operate from the shadows of hip-hop. It's a deep dive into the paradox of America’s criminalization of the genre and fascination with the street culture that exists within it. Instead of telling the story of hip-hop from the top down, we tell the story from the streets up. Hip Hop Untold is executive produced by Jonathan Chinn and Simon Chinn (Lightbox), Eugene “Big U” Henley, Jimmy Chriss, Malcolm Spellman, Douglas Banker and Rashidi Natara Harper.

Based on the New York Times best-selling book of the same name, The Most Dangerous Animal of All is a four-part documentary series that explores one man's search for the father who abandoned him, only to uncover the worst: He believes his father is one of the most infamous serial killers in American history. From producer Ross Dinerstein (The Innocent Man) and Academy Award-nominated director Kief Davidson (The Ivory Game), The Most Dangerous Animal of All is an honest depiction of true life and true crime unexpectedly merging to upend one man’s understanding of his own identity. The series is executive produced by Dinerstein and Davidson.

For decades, female stand-up comedians have struggled against biases both conscious and unconscious, but now an interesting narrative is emerging as women are more daringly using the medium to express their points of view on their experiences and the culture at large. Women in Comedy, a feature-length documentary by director Andrea Nevins (Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie), will examine the changing landscape for women in stand-up through intimate interviews and the examination of their groundbreaking art in the post-#MeToo era. Women in Comedy is executive produced by Ross Dinerstein (The Innocent Man), Jim Serpico and Nevins, with Jessica Kirson serving as producer.