We all know the basics: On Feb. 26, 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin went out for a bag of Skittles. He never came home. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, shot him dead. The gunman was acquitted on self-defense grounds. Widespread outrage ensued.
Beyond that simple plot, it is a much more difficult story to comprehend: a narrative threaded together by frantic and contradictory 911 calls, eyewitness accounts and police testimony; a legal definition of murder mutated by Florida’s Stand Your Ground law; and a charged political atmosphere that transformed the confrontation into a proxy war for many of America’s social and racial grievances.
When Spike rebrands to Paramount Network early next year, the net will meticulously deconstruct this troubling saga with Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story, a six-part documentary created in conjunction with Shawn Carter and The Weinstein Company. This event – which will be Paramount Network’s first non-scripted series – is the second between these parties – the partnership launched earlier this year with the blistering Time: The Kalief Browder Story docu-series.
“I am thrilled to once again partner with the incredibly talented team of The Weinstein Company and Shawn Carter to take a comprehensive look beyond the headlines at the circumstances that caused Trayvon’s senseless death and the movement born out of this tragedy,” said Kevin Kay, president of Spike TV (soon to be Paramount Network), TV Land, and CMT.
While there is no shortage of material analyzing the Martin tragedy, the docu-series will draw primarily from two books: Lisa Bloom’s Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It and Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin, by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin.
Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story follows the legacy of documentary social justice that Spike established with its scathing examination of American criminal justice in its six-part Kalief Browder documentary. The network handled that topic adroitly. Variety chief TV critic Maureen Ryan wrote, “…Time is an important contribution to the true-crime documentary genre, one that sheds light on a whole host of issues, among them, the treatment of prisoners under 18, the cumulative effects of the stop-and-frisk policy in New York City, the brutal history of Riker’s [Island prison], the well-documented issues with solitary confinement in many different institutional settings, and the systematic hurdles presented by the bail system all over America.”
As Paramount Network gears up for launch of its premium content slate in 2018, we can expect an exploration every bit as nuanced, fearless and powerful as Spike’s treatment of Browder’s tragic story.