FX Docuseries Ventures Into Wilderness
Docuseries A Wilderness of Error begins on FX Sept. 25. It looks at a U.S. Army surgeon who is sent to prison for killing his pregnant wife and two daughters at Fort Bragg in 1970. The surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, said a band of drug-crazed hippies led by a girl in a floppy hat killed his family.
Marc Smerling, who previously worked on HBO true-crime smash The Jinx, directs and executive produces the series, based on a book by Errol Morris.
“What I'm always amazed about is how when you slow this story down and you look at it over a series, you start to see things that are in plain sight,” Smerling said.
Morris has long been obsessed with the MacDonald case. “It has so many, many, many, many layers,” he said. “And among those many layers, how, in our judicial processes, we arrive at conclusions and how those conclusions may, in fact, be hopelessly biased.”
Morris credits Smerling with “taking the story several steps further” than his book had.
The book shares its name with the docuseries. The Wilderness of Error title comes from a Poe short story called “William Wilson.”
“It’s a phrase that has always fascinated me,” Morris said.
Disney Movie Features Teen Girl Superhero
Also on Sept. 25, live-action movie Secret Society of Second-Born Royals airs on Disney Plus. It’s about Sam, a teen “royal rebel” lined up for the throne in the kingdom of Illyria. Not all that interested in the royal life, she discovers she has super-human abilities and is invited to join a secret society.
“Sam does not feel like she fits in at all in a royal family,” said Anna Mastro, director. “She’s a little more punk rock — she’s in a band, she doesn’t like to follow rules, she doesn’t like to dress up and be told where to go and what to do.”
Sam’s special abilities include heightened vision, hearing and smell. “Those allow her to do incredible things,” said Mastro, “and get her in trouble.”
Peyton Elizabeth Lee plays Sam. Niles Fitch plays Prince Tuma and Isabella Blake Thomas plays January.
Secret Society production concluded in mid-March, just as the pandemic lockdown set in. “We really got lucky,” Mastro said.
Mastro called X Men: First Class a major influence on her film. “I’m a big Marvel junkie,” she said.
What makes Secret Society of Second-Born Royals right for 2020? Mastro said loads of children remain stuck at home, feeling different and often feeling down. “In the movie, the things that make you unique are the things that make you special,” she said. “Appreciate those things and they will help you find your place and where you fit in.”
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.
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