9:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Jay Z, Weinstein Co. Team for Kalief Browder Docuseries on Spike
Spike is teaming with Shawn "Jay Z" Carter and the Weinstein Co. for a docuseries examining the criminal justice system.
The Viacom-owned cable network has greenlit Time: The Kalief Browder Story, a six-part docuseries that tells the story of Browder, a young African-American student who spent three years on Rikers Island without ever being convicted. The series will debut in January on Spike and feature first-person accounts, archival footage, re-creations and interviews with a range of those connected to the story, including politicians, friends and family members as well as social reformers. Jenner Furst will direct via his Brooklyn-based company The Cinemart. Exec producers include Jay Z, Harvey Weinstein, David Glassner, Furst, Nick Sandow, Julia Willoughby Nason as well as Michasel Gasparro. Spike exec vp original series Sharon Levy and senior vp originals Chachi Senior will oversee for the cabler.
Browder was a 16-year-old high school student from the Bronx walking home from a party when he was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack. He spent three years in jail awaiting trial; two in solitary confinement. The case never went to trial, and the charges were ultimately dropped. After his release from Rikers Island, he took his own life. Spike notes that his story and the challenges it poses to the understanding of American freedoms are at the heart of the event series.
"Kalief Browder is a modern-day prophet, his story a failure of the judicial process," Jay Z said. "A young man — and I emphasize young man — who lost his life because of a broken system. His tragedy has brought atrocities to light, and now we must confront the issues and events that occurred so other young men can have a chance at justice."
The docuseries comes as true-crime-themed fare continues to remain in high demand among broadcast, streaming, premium and basic cable outlets following the breakout success of series such as HBO's The Jinx, Netflix's Making a Murderer and FX's People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Multiple projects are examining the JonBenet Ramsey case as its 20th anniversary approaches; NBC is looking at the Menendez brothers trial with a Law & Order anthology; Netflix is making additional Making a Murderer episodes; and HBO and History are both exploring the Jonestown cult, among other projects in various stages of development. For its part, the Weinstein Co. is developing Waco, a limited series exploring the Branch Davidians, with Taylor Kitsch, Michael Shannon and Ludacris attached.
"Jay Z, Kevin Kay, Sharon Levy and the entire team at Spike have been incredible partners on this project. What happened to Kalief is heartbreaking but sadly, in reality, not the first of its kind," TWC co-chairman Harvey Weinstein said. "This series will take an important look at why Kalief's life was cut so short, the flaws in our justice system and hopefully will continue some powerful conversations and movements for some much needed reform."