HBO, Issa Rae to Develop Documentary Series on History of Black Television

HBO will develop a documentary series on the history of Black television produced by actress Issa Rae, the network said Wednesday.

The two-part documentary, Seen & Heard, explores the history of Black Television as seen through the eyes of trailblazers who wrote, produced, created and starred in groundbreaking series of the past and present, said network officials. Rae (Insecure) will serve as executive producer on the series along with Phil Bertelsen (Who Killed Malcolm X?), who also serves as director on the documentary series. 

"Black people have such a rich, but often unacknowledged history in Hollywood," Rae said in a statement. "We have defined American culture and influenced generations time and time again across the globe. I'm honored to pair with Ark Media to center and celebrate the achievements of those who paved a way for so many of us to tell our stories on television."

In addition, HBO has secured Mark and Jay Duplass to produce The Lady and The Dale documentary series exploring a 1970s auto scam centered around mysterious entrepreneur Elizabeth Carmichael, the network said. 

In other documentary news, the network announced dates for its upcoming documentary slate including The Vow (Aug. 23) and Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn (Aug. 12). HBO also announced a slate of weekly, crime-focused documentary films to debut this Fall including Crazy, Not Insane, Baby God, The Mystery of DB Cooper, Alabama Snake, and The Art of Political Murder.

Other documentaries include The Soul of America, which explores that challenges of America’s past including the women’s suffrage movement, the incarceration of Japanese Americans, McCarthyism and the struggle to pass Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s; Transhood, which chronicles the lives of four young people and their families as they navigate growing up transgender in America’s heartland; and Siempre, Luis, which portrays the life of New York politician Luis A. Miranda Jr. 

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.