In this week’s round-up, new non-fiction specials and documentaries are slated to debut across PBS documentary strand ‘Independent Lens,’ digital streaming giants Netflix and Amazon, and History.
Directed by Laurent Bouzereau and adapted from Mark Harris’ best-selling book, Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War, the series uses archival footage and sit-down interviews to recount the stories of five filmmakers – John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra and George Stevens – who interrupted their successful careers to serve their country and risk their lives on the frontlines of Germany. Narrated by Meryl Streep, Five Came Back premieres globally on March 31 and is produced by Amblin Television, Scott Rudin and IACF, in association with Passion Pictures and Rock Paper Scissors Entertainment.
Amazon, meanwhile, will unveil its highly anticipated docudrama American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story on April 7.
Produced by Stephen David Entertainment and Alta Loma Entertainment, the project profiles the life and career of Hugh Hefner, from post-war America to the launch of Playboy magazine in 1953 and the six decades since. The series also combines cinematic recreations and interviews with such figures as Jesse Jackson, Gene Simmons and Bill Maher, and draws from unprecedented access to Hefner’s archive of 17,000 hours of footage, as well as his Guinness World Record-holding collection of over 2,900 scrapbooks.
Elsewhere, A+E Networks-owned channel History will draw inspiration from iconic American designers in its forthcoming automotive series Road Hauks.
The Magilla Entertainment-made unscripted series traces Kenny Hauk and his crew of expert mechanics and fabricators at Hauk Designs as they transform classic designs, from a Colt .45 handgun to a Viking battering ram, into 21st century off-road vehicles. Road Hauks airs April 8 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History.
Finally, Ferne Pearlstei’s exploration into comedy will bow across PBS’s long-running doc strand ‘Independent Lens’ in late April.
The Last Laugh, which premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, offers a visual survey of what is and is not off-limits in comedy, from the Holocaust and 9/11 to AIDS and racism. Featured in the film are interviews with and performances by Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Louis C.K., Joan Rivers, Chris Rock, Abe Foxman, Gilbert Gottfried, Rob Reiner and David Steinberg. The Last Laugh will enjoy its television debut on ‘Independent Lens’ on April 24 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.