‘Disco: Soundtrack of a Revolution’ Debuts on PBS June 18

The three-part series “Disco: Soundtrack of a Revolution” will debut June 18 on PBS, PBS.org, and the PBS App.

The BBC Studios docuseries captures the story of disco — its rise, its fall, and its legacy — from the basement bars of ’70s New York City to the peak of the global charts, told by the original musicians, promoters, and innovators as well as modern-day musical icons.

Disco embodied the height of 1970s glamour: a dance floor culture born in New York City that went on to take over the world. But its success also obscured its wider significance. Inextricably bound up with the major liberation movements of the 1970s, disco speaks to some of the biggest issues of today: LGBTQ+ identity and female empowerment. 

“Charting disco from its inception and global domination to the violent attempts to end the genre, ‘Disco: Soundtrack of a Revolution’ reclaims its roots,” Sylvia Bugg, chief programming executive and GM of general audience programming at PBS, said in a statement. “Before commercialization, discothèques belonged to the marginalized and the dispossessed, who tapped into the beat-driven music and the disco scene in a battle for community, identity, and inclusivity.”

“There’s no doubt that disco had an enormous impact—not just on the musical landscape at the time of its emergence and far beyond, but as a social and cultural force for change,” Jonathan Rothery, head of popular music TV/commissioning editor, factual, at the BBC, said in a statement. “This documentary series from BBC Studios, which the BBC has supported together with PBS, will highlight many new or untold stories of the genre.”

“Disco: Soundtrack of a Revolution” also underscores disco’s survival. Co-opted by the commercial mainstream, the genre dominated and flooded the market — the airwaves and record shops — leading to a subsequent hate-fueled backlash. As a result, the music and its ethos went back underground, where it evolved into an electronic dance sound that laid the foundations for contemporary dance culture.

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Episodes include:

Episode 1: “Rock the Boat” (June 18)

The opening episode of the series looks at the roots of disco — how it emerged from a basic desire for inclusion, visibility, and freedom among persecuted Black, gay, and minority ethnic communities of New York City. It tells the remarkable story of how a global phenomenon began in the loft apartments and basement bars of New York City, where a new generation of DJs and musicians, such as David Mancuso, Nicky Siano, Francis Grasso, and Earl Young (The Trammps), pioneered a distinct sound and a new way of spinning records. 

Episode 2: “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” (June 25)

Set against the backdrop of Black power and sexual liberation, the second episode takes viewers to the high watermark of disco in the mid ’70s. As disco conquered the mainstream, it turned Black women and gay men into superstars and icons. It was a world where the drag queen Sylvester was king, and Black women found a powerful new voice — one that fused Black Power with a call for sexual freedom. It was the birth of the “disco diva” from Gloria Gaynor and Candi Staton to Donna Summer and Thelma Houston. However, mainstream success by The Bee Gees’ soundtrack album “Saturday Night Fever,” The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy,” and Studio 54 took disco further and further from its roots of inclusivity and freedom, as straight, white men started to embrace and repackage the sound.

Episode 3: “Stayin’ Alive” (July 2)

The final episode documents the wellspring of resentment from white, straight, male-dominated, rock-loving middle Americans, as they targeted disco for its hedonism, femininity, and queerness. A vocal “Disco Sucks” movement began to gain momentum, culminating in the “Disco Demolition Derby” at Comiskey Park Stadium in Chicago, where organizers destroyed thousands of disco records in front of a baying audience of baseball fans. In addition, the hedonism and sexual liberation embodied by disco found itself stopped in its tracks by the AIDS crisis. Pushed out of the mainstream, the pioneers of disco retreated and regrouped. Cult disco DJ Frankie Knuckles left New York for Chicago, where he remixed disco breaks with R&B to produce a new genre of dance music — house. He and other disco pioneers kept disco alive as it evolved into world electronic dance music.

“Disco: Soundtrack of a Revolution” features some of disco’s originators, musicians, promoters, and innovators, as well as modern-day musical icons, such as: Vince Aletti, Steve Ashkinazy, Bill Bernstein, Joyce Bogart Trabulus, Jocelyn Brown, Carmen D’Alessio, David Depino, Lisa Farrington, Nona Hendryx, Thelma Houston, Marshall Jefferson, Francois Kevorkian, Tina Magennis, Ana Matronic, George McCrae, David Morales, Tom Moulton, Colleen Murphy, John Parikhal, Kim Petras, Mark Riley, Allen Roskoff, Alex Rosner, Michelle Saunders, Jake Shears, Nicky Siano, Candi Staton, Jeanie Tracy, Barry Walters, Dexter Wansel, Anita Ward, Jessie Ware, Sharon White, Victor Willis, Earl Young, Jamie Principle, Robert Williams, Ron Trent, DJ Hollywood, Honey Dijon, and MNEK.

Game Maker Atari to Produce Docuseries on Its History

Interactive entertainment and game producer Atari has partnered with Emmy-winning producers Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz of Alfred Street Industries to produce and direct a limited documentary series about the company.

The series is tentatively titled “Game Changers: The Story of Atari.”

“The story of Atari would seem almost unbelievable if the people who lived it weren’t still here to tell the tale,” co-director Cutforth said in a statement. “These maverick innovators survived everything from corporate malfeasance to Mafia death threats to create the household name games and groundbreaking technology that launched and shaped the video game industry.”

“This series is not just the epic 50-year saga of a legendary brand, it also serves as a fascinating and hilarious oral history of the video game industry and the Silicon Valley tech revolution,” co-director Lipsitz said in a statement.

Cutforth and Lipsitz are the producing team behind such series as “Is It Cake?” (Netflix), “Project Runway” (Bravo) and “Project Greenlight” (Max). In addition, they are behind such documentary features as Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (Paramount) and Katy Perry: Part of Me (Paramount), and have premiered documentaries at SXSW, Sundance and Sundance London Film Festivals.

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April 2021 marked the beginning of a new era for Atari, as Wade Rosen was named CEO. Under Rosen’s direction, Atari has returned to its roots in premium game development and publishing, releasing new titles and bringing more content to PC, console, and streaming platforms, according to Atari.

“Atari has a rich, fifty-year history that fans continue to celebrate and explore,” Rosen said in a statement. “We are looking forward to working with Alfred Street Industries to share our story with existing fans and bring new fans into our growing community.”

Disney+ to Stream Original Docuseries ‘Choir’ Jan. 31

Disney+ announced the premiere date and released the official key art for the upcoming original docuseries “Choir.” All six episodes will premiere Jan. 31 on the streaming service.

“Choir” follows the kids of the Detroit Youth Choir as they prepare for the performance of a lifetime. Through their eyes, viewers experience the highs and lows of life growing up in Detroit, navigating the challenges of balancing family, school, and athletics, all while pursuing their dreams of taking their talents to the next level and performing on one of the world’s biggest stages. Following their 2019 appearance on “America’s Got Talent,” it’s a pivotal time for the choir and its director, Anthony White, as he’s faced with the combined challenges of replacing several key members, keeping the choir relevant in Detroit, and finding the next big opportunity that will put them back in the national spotlight.

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Directed by two-time Emmy-winning filmmaker Rudy Valdez, “Choir” is produced by Imagine Documentaries and Blumhouse Television. From Imagine Documentaries, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Justin Wilkes, Sara Bernstein and Ryan Miller serve as executive producers, and from Blumhouse Television, Jason Blum, Chris McCumber, Jeremy Gold, and Gretchen Palek serve as executive producers. Valdez also serves as an executive producer as well as Maniac Productions’ Michael Seitzman.

Docuseries ‘Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God’ Debuts on HBO and Max Nov. 13

The HBO Original three-part documentary series “Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God” will debut on HBO and the streaming service Mac Nov. 13, followed by episodes two and three airing subsequent Mondays.
 
The docuseries chronicles the life and death of Amy Carlson, also known as “Mother God,” a self-proclaimed spiritual savior who promised an escape from the “3D” world via her online manifestos and live-streaming sessions. As her most fervent acolytes came to live with Amy, they cared for “Mother God,” whose health gradually declined. Amy’s followers joined her in believing that her physical demise was the result of her taking on the pain of the world, and that her deterioration would ultimately lead to her evacuation by UFO and salvation for humanity. Told through the eyes of Amy’s devotees, both former and still practicing, and constructed almost entirely from the cult’s archival footage, the series captures the early boom of internet proselytizing and the perils of a conspiracy-driven faith.

“Mother God” was born Amy Carlson in Kansas in 1975. Increasingly disaffected with a financially unsustainable and exhausting life as a young mother of three working as a McDonald’s manager, she turned to the internet, finding hope in the vast echo chamber of New Age spirituality, conspiracy theories, and supernatural ideologies, eventually founding Love Has Won as a destination for the disenchanted. After abruptly leaving her family, Amy proclaimed herself able to take on humanity’s pain, and as “Mother God,” gave daily online spiritual sessions for money while her commune supported itself by selling products, specifically advocating the use of colloidal silver as a healing elixir. Despite professing a faith in universal love, the cult had a darker, conspiracy-laden side as well. Blinded by her beliefs, fueled by alcohol and drugs, and with a distrust of science and medicine, Amy became trapped in a reality of her own making, eventually succumbing to a death that her followers understood as her ascension to the next realm. Even after her death, her followers continued their devotion to her, until her mummified body was discovered by authorities in the communal home weeks after her demise.

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Through first-hand testimony and intimate footage, “Love Has Won: The Cult of Mother God” reveals how the perilous vortex of the internet can become a platform for idolatry while also offering promises of truth, healing, and meaning to the vulnerable.

 

PBS to Bow David Kelly Docuseries ‘Hope in the Water’ in Summer 2024

PBS will release the three-part, character-driven docuseries “Hope in the Water,” from multi-award-winning producer David E. Kelley (“Love & Death,” “Lincoln Lawyer,” “Big Little Lies”) in collaboration with four-time James Beard Award and Emmy Award winner Chef Andrew Zimmern and his production company Intuitive Content (MSNBC’s “What’s Eating America,” “Family Dinner,” “Andrew Zimmern’s Wild Game Kitchen,” “Feral”), in summer 2024 on PBS, PBS.org and the PBS App.

Marking Kelley’s foray into docuseries television, “Hope in the Water” travels the globe to discover the creative solutions and breakthrough blue food technologies that could not only feed the world but help save threatened seas and fresh waterways. The series highlights the stories of innovators, aquafarmers and fishers who are working toward a sustainable future for the planet.

Environmental enthusiasts Shailene Woodley, Martha Stewart, José Andrés and Baratunde Thurston reveal hidden underworlds jeopardized by climate change, irresponsible fishing and exploitation, and habitat destruction. 

“We’re particularly excited about ‘Hope in the Water’s’ potential to reach broad audiences thanks to the powerful voices at the forefront of the series, who demonstrate the possibilities of a more sustainable future,” Bill Gardner, VP of multiplatform programming and head of development at PBS, said in a statement. “With a commitment to extensive public engagement around the series, we aim to not only bring compelling and authentic documentary content to audiences but also to connect and strengthen voices, people and communities with real world ways to make a difference.”

“Through ‘Hope in the Water’ we are on a mission to reimagine a planet where both ecological balance and food abundance are possible. Our series is a fresh take on how we can rewrite menus worldwide that will create meaningful and lasting impact for generations to come,” Kelley said in a statement. “Andrew and I are buoyed by our enthusiastic collaborators — Shailene, Martha, Baratunde and José — and are proud to partner with the Earth-conscious changemakers at PBS.”

Actor and activist Woodley grew up surfing the California coast and has witnessed firsthand how “zombie” purple urchins have taken over and destroyed kelp forests. She goes underwater with urchin divers who collect the barren urchins and then deliver them to a farm where their buttery roe is grown and harvested — turning an ecological imbalance into a sellable commodity and helping to save the kelp at the same time.

“It’s my hope that through this important work, we can collectively practice better alternatives that will nourish communities across the planet and sustain our waters,” Woodley said in a statement.

Stewart has a deep connection to the Gulf of Maine — the fastest warming body of water on the planet. She sails into Penobscot Bay where a young fisherman abandoned his plans of lobstering for a more sustainable alternative: scallop farming. As Stewart cooks the scallops, she notes that Maine’s famous lobsters are now migrating further north in search of colder water. Aquafarms like this are the future.

“The interconnectivity between Earth and all its inhabitants has always inspired my passions,” Stewart said in a statement. “We’ve been given the gift of this incredible planet — the only one we call home — and when we pair it with human ingenuity to think outside the box, we can become more eco-friendly and expect better for our future.” 

A renowned chef and humanitarian, Andrés recounts the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017. He and volunteers with World Central Kitchen prepared more than 4 million meals to feed hungry survivors. Importantly, World Central Kitchen also provided grants to fishers to repair boats, buy new engines, and rebuild their fishery. Marine conservationist Raimundo Espinoza assisted that effort and is now helping these fishers pivot to a new and sustainable species: 60-pound diamondback squid.

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Baratunde Thurston weaves together threads of technology, democracy and climate through his work as an Emmy-nominated host, producer, writer and public speaker. He is a founding partner of the new media startup Puck and creator and host of the “How to Citizen” podcast. He is also the host and executive producer of the PBS television series “America Outdoors.”

“I’ve assessed all the planets and strongly prefer life on Earth. It’s essential that we find ways to take care of this planet which is another way of saying take care of ourselves,” stated Thurston.

Docuseries ‘Geddy Lee Asks: Are Bass Players Human Too?’ to Stream on Paramount+ Starting Dec. 5

Paramount+ will debut the docuseries “Geddy Lee Asks: Are Bass Players Human Too?” exclusively on the service on Dec. 5 in the United States and Canada and the following day in the United Kingdom, Australia, Latin America, Brazil, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

Produced by Banger Films and MTV Entertainment Studios, in the series famed Rush bassist Geddy Lee travels to the homes of some of music’s most renowned bass players and digs into the stories that make these musicians stand out. A follow-up to his recent book, Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book of Bass, the four-part series features episodes with Krist Novoselic (Nirvana), Les Claypool (Primus), Melissa Auf der Maur (Hole, Smashing Pumpkins) and Rob Trujillo (Metallica).

“The idea for this show was born out of interviews I did for my first book The Big, Beautiful Book of Bass,” Lee said in a statement. “I was struck that these accomplished musicians also lived incredibly interesting, multifaceted lives offstage. Who knew bass players were so effin’ human?”

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In his revealing memoir, My Effin’ Life (Harper; Nov. 14, 2023), the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer delves into his personal history and takes fans behind the scenes of 50 years of rock, sweat and tears with his legendary band. Lee will embark on the 19-city “My Effin’ Life In Conversation” tour in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, hitting New York, Montreal, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Glasgow and London, among others. Tickets for all dates are available at rush.com/geddylee.

‘JFK: One Day in America’ Docuseries to Stream on Disney+ and Hulu Nov. 6

All episodes of the three-part series “JFK: One Day in America” premiere on National Geographic on Nov. 5 and will stream on Disney+ and Hulu Nov. 6.
 
The Emmy Award-winning franchise “One Day in America” returns with its second installment with “JFK: One Day in America” to mark the 60th anniversary of former President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. From Emmy Award-winning 72 Films and David Glover along with Academy Award-winning filmmakers Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin, the three-part series produces a comprehensive account of that tragic moment in American history and the ripples that followed. Made in official collaboration with The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, the docuseries weaves archival footage, some colorized for the first time, with key testimony from the last surviving witnesses to create an immersive, minute-by-minute examination of that pivotal day that forever changed history. 

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In the first episode “Assassination,” former President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie traveled to Texas with an eye on the 1964 elections and a team of secret service agents. During a motorcade through downtown Dallas, JFK was brutally shot in broad daylight and, later, tragically pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital with his grieving wife in the next room. America was changed forever.
 
In the second episode “Manhunt,” the race is on to track down JFK’s killer. But before he is arrested, the assassin kills again. Meanwhile, Jackie Kennedy boards Air Force One to return JFK’s body to Washington. Still wearing her bloodstained dress, she witnesses LBJ being sworn in as president. As the net closes in around suspected killer Lee Harvey Oswald, his friends and family face interrogation.
 
In the third episode “Revenge,” President Kennedy’s body arrives back in Washington, and a grieving Jackie Kennedy leads the funeral march to honor him. In Dallas, Lee Harvey Oswald is charged with JFK’s murder. But the world is shocked again when Oswald himself is shot dead while still in police custody by nightclub owner Jack Ruby. With Oswald dead, there is no reckoning and America will never be the same.

Docuseries ‘Navajo Police: Class 57’ Bows on HBO and Max Oct. 17

The three-part documentary series “Navajo Police: Class 57” will debut on HBO (first two episodes) and the streaming service Max (all three episodes) Oct. 17. The third episode will air on HBO Oct. 18.

Set against the sweeping backdrop of the Navajo Nation, the series follows a group of recruits over the course of one year, as they fight their way through the Navajo Police Training Academy and out into the field, where they must contend with rising crime and centuries of neglect to hold their community together. 
 
The Navajo Nation is the largest Indian reservation in the United States, with a landmass the size of West Virginia and a population of more than 190,000 people. Yet, the Navajo Police Department (NPD) has just 180 police officers. With pressure on the department to increase numbers, the NPD has become the only tribal law enforcement agency in the country with its own Police Academy. All of the recruits are Navajo and drawn from the community, but with an attrition rate of more than 50%, the training officers have their work cut out for them.

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The series follows the officers and recruits through the rigorous training, the physical challenges, and the self-doubt, delving into their backstories to reveal an overview of life on the reservation and the motivations that drew them to the force. While the turbulent stories of Class 57 unfold in real time, the series provides an ever-widening portrait of the Navajo Nation at large. The Nation’s deep sense of kinship grounds efforts to address a range of social issues police encounter on the job — such as alcoholism, drugs, violence and domestic abuse — issues that many of the recruits have to deal with in their own extended families, leading to dramatic intersections of the personal and the professional, the past and the present.

 

PBS Docuseries ‘A Town Called Victoria’ Debuts Nov. 13

The three-part docuseries “A Town Called Victoria” will debut on PBS and streaming and transactional services Nov. 13.

In the series from director Li Lu, a Texas town is thrown into the national spotlight when the local mosque erupts in flames. After decades of harmony, the small Muslim community of Victoria watches their cherished place of worship reduced to ash. With the fire ruled an arson and a local man arrested as the suspect, the small South Texas town must confront its own troubled history and its consequences in the present. From the trial of the suspect to the rebuilding of the mosque, the series presents a nuanced portrait of a community confronting hate in its own midst, and grappling with deep-seated racial, religious, political, and economic rifts to find a collective way forward.

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Docuseries Exposing Dark Side of Telemarketing Launches Aug. 13 on Max

The Max streaming service Aug. 13 will launch a three-part docuseries on two renegade telemarketers who exposed a billion-dollar scam.

“Telemarketers” chronicles the 20-year journey of a pair of unlikely office buddies who stumble upon the murky truth behind the work they’ve been doing at a seedy New Jersey call center — persuading people to give money to charities — and vow to expose the crooked American telemarketing industry from within.

When Sam Lipman-Stern began a telemarketing job in New Jersey in the early 2000s as a 14-year-old high school dropout, he believed he was raising money for police and firefighter charities, unaware that most of the money was ending up in the pockets of his crooked employers. With his video camera, Lipman-Stern documents the office as he and a motley mix of ex-cons, drug dealers and veteran telemarketers work the phone lines in a boiler room filled with booze, drugs, and debauchery, bound by humor and camaraderie.

“Telemarketers” is directed by Adam Bhala Lough and Sam Lipman-Stern and executive produced by Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, Dani Bernfeld, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green and Jody Hill. The first episode starts streaming on Max on the same day it airs on HBO, with episodes two and three bowing on the next two Sundays.

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