The Watchman: USA Examines Tupac and Biggie, CMT Explores 'Music City'

Deputy editor Michael Malone’s weekly look at the programming scene
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Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G., a scripted series depicting the investigations into the murders of the celebrated rappers, premieres Feb. 27 on USA Network. Executive producer Anthony Hemingway, who worked on FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, said he was all over the project from the moment his agent mentioned it.

“Their music was the soundtrack to my childhood,” Hemingway said.

He was excited by the prospect of showing Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. as more than embattled rap figures. “The opportunity to humanize these men — really, these kids — I was excited by the opportunity to pull the layers back and understand them,” he said.

Marcc Rose plays Tupac and Wavyy Jonez portrays Biggie. Josh Duhamel depicts Los Angeles Police Detective Greg Kading.

Hemingway said Unsolved has a similar structure to The People v. O.J., which picked up a few Emmys in its time. “There are procedural elements, it’s not a documentary,” he said. “It’s definitely similar in terms of structure and intent.”

Asked about a highlight among the 10 episodes, Hemingway mentioned a scene shared by LAPD Detective Russell Poole and Biggie’s mother, Voletta Wallace, near the end of the pilot, in which Wallace pushes to have her son viewed as more than a slain gangster — as a man deserving of true justice. “It rips me apart every time I watch it,” Hemingway said.

And a music-themed series is ready to roll on CMT, as Music City, about Nashville and some singing hopefuls, premieres March 1. The series comes from Adam DiVello, who previously created the MTV reality series Laguna Beach and The Hills.

DiVello said the concept for Music City dates back to when drama Nashville was on ABC, before it ended up on CMT. “I was intrigued by the concept of people living their dreams,” he said.

Music City features five young adults chasing down their musical ambitions in Nashville. Instead of sharing their feelings with the camera, DiVello said the cast members more typically say what they need to say through their music. “They’re all super-interesting,” promised DiVello, “and relatable.”

Plenty of musical history pops up in Music City. As the crew shot the talent playing at Nashville bars such as Crossroads and Skull’s Rainbow Room, they learned about how the likes of Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash and other country behemoths had at times played at the various venues.

While Nashville is defined by country, Music City offers a wider variety of music performed by the cast members.

“We want the show to appeal to the whole country,” DiVello said.

Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G., a scripted series depicting the investigations into the murders of the celebrated rappers, premieres Feb. 27 on USA Network. Executive producer Anthony Hemingway, who worked on FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, said he was all over the project from the moment his agent mentioned it.

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