Three new shows launching this week

Rick's Reviews

New PBS documentary looks at the life of William Randolph Hearst. (Photo courtesy of PBS)

There are three very different programs launching this over the next few days.

“American Experience: Citizen Hearts,” 9 p.m. Sept. 27 and 28, PBS

If your entertainment interests lean toward the historical, Valley PBS will air “American Experience: Citizen Hearts” at 9 p.m. Sept. 27 and 28. The production offers a look at one of the most powerful men of the 20th century in William Randolph Hearst. By the 1930s, he controlled the largest media empire in the country with 28 newspapers, a movie studio, a syndicated wire service, radio stations and 13 magazines.

Hearst was unparalleled in his power almost a century ago but Steven Ives – who co-wrote and co-directed the documentary – is certain Hearst would have felt right at home if he were alive today.

“I think some of the more polarizing, more vicious, more oppositional aspects of our media culture today would be very familiar to him and he’d probably approve of them,” Ives says. “I think he really did believe that his platform gave him the right to have a profound influence on what people thought and saw and heard and believed

“He would have loved social media. That would have been fabulous for him, because it was that unfettered fire hose, that kind of unbridled free market of ideas, kind of direct connection to the people that I think Hearst thrived on and loved.”

Even in an era before social media – or even television – Hearst used his empire to achieve political power unprecedented in the industry. The life he lived in his California castle of San Simeon caught the attention of a young filmmaker in Orson Welles who used Hearst as his model for “Citizen Kane.”

“Citizen Hearst” is based on David Nasaw’s book, The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst.

“Nuclear Family,” 10 p.m. Sept. 26, HBO

Filmmaker Ry Russo-Young turns the camera on her own past for this three-part documentary that explores the meaning of family. In the late 70s and early 80s, when the concept of a gay family was inconceivable to most, Russo-Young and her sister Cade were born to two lesbian mothers through sperm donors.

Her idyllic childhood was threatened by an unexpected lawsuit which sent shockwaves through her family’s lives and continues to reverberate today.

Russo-Young originally considered telling her story through a narrative film but eventually opted to make it a documentary.

“Eventually, when I realized that I needed to tell it as a documentary, part of that was because I felt that a documentary could get me closer to the truth of understanding my own feelings,” Russo-Young says.

This is not the first time her family’s story has been documented. Meema Spadola made a documentary for PBS in 1999 that featured five families including Russo-Young’s.

The series will debut on HBO and be available on the streaming service of HBO Max.

“BMF,” 9 p.m. Sept. 26, Starz

“BMF” is the story of the Flenory brothers who lived in the inner city of Detroit in the 1980s. The series – executive produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson – was inspired by a real American crime family.

Executive producer Randy Huggins used conversation with the Flenorys to develop this series.

“When I went to talk to them, I found out a lot about these guys. I mean these guys came from a two-parent household. It was a Christian household,” Huggins says. “So there was a lot of spirituality. They were raised in the church.

“So I think being able to bring a spirituality aspect to this was something that really interested me.”

He collected so much information, the test was how to use as much as possible. All of what he was able to use is based on true events. Huggins did take a few liberties with the flow but he wanted to make sure the series would be entertaining to the audience.

The show deals with the Black Mafia Family but Huggins sees it more as a family story.

“It’s a series about love. Love for one another, love for the community. And, it’s about these guys that didn’t really have an opportunity because of the situation that was facing them within the city of Detroit in the’80s,” Huggins says. “This was their only way out. So they made decisions.

“I’m not judging those decisions, but they made decisions that they thought were the best for them at that time.”

The line between fact and fiction gets a little blurred because Demetrius “Little Meech” Flenory Jr. has been cast to play his father in the series. He found the opportunity to portray his dad to be an amazing experience.

“Just getting to talk to him and hear all his childhood stories and actually live in his shoes and actually get to do some of the stuff he got to do, it just feels amazing,” Flenory says. “And with a great writer like Randy and a great producer like 50 and everybody just made everything come together so gratefully and my family is grateful for it.

“I know my dad will love it.”

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