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“From a nonscripted place, so many amazing stories happen in New York, and we can’t help but bring the city alive because it’s a character in itself — I don’t think many other cities have that,” says Elaine Frontain Bryant, executive vp and head of programming at A&E Network. The network recently announced that the latest project in its long-running Biography series will focus on Wu-Tang Clan founding member Ol’ Dirty Bastard; the first feature-length documentary about the Brooklyn-born rapper is slated to air in 2023. It’s the kind of nonscripted programming that Frontain Bryant says is sparked in New York’s creative community.
“There’s a sensibility about being in New York right now that doesn’t have the glossy TV feel,” she adds. “There’s an integrity and rigor that, although we’re not journalists, [allows us] to tell a story in a way that is entertainment-forward but has a purpose.” These recent documentary projects also reflect that spirit, telling extensive and illuminating stories about — or by — New Yorkers.
THE ANDY WARHOL DIARIES (NETFLIX)
This six-part series, which launched March 9, examines the personal life of the pop-art icon and charts his rise from a young working illustrator in New York to the celebrity artist whose work had an indelible impact on American pop culture. In Warhol’s own words (and his voice, re-created using AI technology with the permission of the Warhol estate), the series follows him as he navigates between New York’s high society and the gritty and glitzy world of The Factory. More important, the series sheds light on how his romantic relationships, as well as his creative collaborations with fellow New York artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, influenced the way in which he expressed his own queer identity in his work.
From the team that produced the Emmy-nominated Framing Britney Spears, Elon Musk’s Crash Course will launch the second season of FX/Hulu’s doc series The New York Times Presents on May 20. Featuring Times technology correspondent Cade Metz and auto industry reporter Neal Boudette, the doc will probe Tesla’s controversial Autopilot system and the accidents in which the feature was allegedly faulty. Using interviews with former Tesla employees, Crash Course also looks at the Tesla CEO’s powerful influence in sidelining government regulation and investigations into Autopilot — which may provoke the enigmatic entrepreneur into an off-camera response, likely on Musk’s soon-to-be-acquired Twitter.
THE CAPTAIN (ESPN)
Three-time Emmy winner and Bronx native Randy Wilkins directs this six-episode series (executive produced by his mentor Spike Lee), which premieres on ESPN and ESPN+ on July 18 to coincide with Derek Jeter’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The docuseries tracks Jeter’s storied two-decade career with the New York Yankees, during which the team won five World Series championships — beginning with his rookie year in 1996, the team’s first World Series win in 18 years. The series is a celebration of a sports figure whose contributions turned a struggling franchise into a baseball dynasty, all while the team’s home city went through its own period of dramatic change.
This story first appeared in the May 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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