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Why FX Was Right Partner for NY Times Series ‘The Weekly’

The Weekly, a docuseries about how the New York Times gets its big, world-impacting stories together, begins on FX June 2. A day after premiere, an episode streams on Hulu.

The first episode, “The Education of T.M. Landry,” is about a tiny school in rural Louisiana that has sent many students, lots of them working-class black children, to elite colleges. The Times report shows that the founder, Michael Landry, falsified information on student transcripts, and alleges that some students have been abused.

The story ran in the paper late in 2018. Here’s a trailer for the first episode.

Sam Dolnick, assistant managing editor at the NY Times and an executive producer on the show, said the Times’ aim is to show the laborious effort that goes into an impactful Times story, and give viewers a deeper and richer understanding of what the story details. That the series lands when the president so often dismisses the news business makes The Weekly that much more timely.

“Hopefully viewers realize how hard New York Times reporters work to nail down their stories,” said Dolnick. “I hope they realize how smart New York Times reporters are.”

FX and Hulu are on board for 30 episodes, which run 30 minutes a pop. Dolnick would like to see the series live on for several seasons. He said FX was a somewhat surprising partner amidst all of the Times’ pitch meetings in Hollywood, given that the network doesn’t do news and is known for its scripted programming. He said FX chief John Landgraf described reading the Times as an intellectual experience, and sought to make watching the series an emotional one.

“They’re really smart about what works on a TV screen,” he said. “Their notes were always insightful.”

Besides Dolnick, the executive producers of The Weekly are Mat Skene, Jason Stallman, Stephanie Preiss, Ken Druckerman and Banks Tarver.

Dolnick said the producers shot for “a new visual language” for the series, not the typical TV news formula. “We want it to feel cinematic,” said Dolnick. “We want it to feel lush, we want it to feel intimate.”

Other episodes are “The Myth of the Medallion,” about the collapse of the taxi medallion industry in New York City (cabbies need a pricey permit to operate), and what it has meant for drivers; and “Baby Constantin,” about the separation of children from their families at the border, including a baby who spent most of his first ten months apart from his parents.

Emerging as more than just bylines, reporters get their chance to star on screen. Viewers “see the lengths they go to to find stories,” said Dolnick, “and the lengths they go to to get stories right.”