True Stories

True Stories

“Atlanta” returns for its third season on March 24, and I’ve got it marked on my calendar, not just because it’s been nearly four years since the last season, but because it stands out as an original series in the flood of docudramatic reimaginations of real-life events that has overtaken streaming platforms of late.

Last month brought “Inventing Anna,” about the faux heiress Anna Delvey, and “Pam and Tommy,” about the actress Pamela Anderson and the musician Tommy Lee. This month sees shows about Elizabeth Holmes and the failed start-up Theranos, a “Tiger King” redux and Adam McKay’s 1980s-set “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.”

Also in March: Renée Zellweger in “The Thing About Pam,” about a murder in Missouri; “WeCrashed,” about the rise and, well, crash of WeWork; and “The Girl From Plainville,” with Elle Fanning playing the teenager convicted of involuntary manslaughter for encouraging her boyfriend via text message to kill himself. (EW has a guide to premiere dates.)

I wanted to understand why we’re seeing so many of these ripped-from-the-headlines stories right now, so I went to Brooks Barnes, who reports on Hollywood for The Times. “Boomlets in a specific type of content often happen in Hollywood because something flavors the creative water — ‘Ooh, real life is hot, everyone run in that direction,’” he wrote in an email. This boomlet began, he says, in response to the massive success of “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” in 2016.

He said that Hollywood likes stories that have already found audiences in other formats because they create awareness among potential viewers. “Television executives can reboot old shows, draft off of movies (the Marvel series, for instance) or look at real-life events,” he said.

But precisely because these subjects have already been addressed in articles, books, documentaries and podcasts, why not just leave the story to its original forms? Why retell the WeWork saga with Jared Leto playing the founder Adam Neumann when audiences can watch Neumann himself in a documentary about it?

I took this question to the playwright and screenwriter Cusi Cram. Dramatizations permit writers and directors to get creative, Cusi told me. “You can heighten moments, go deeper into the psychology of the character and speculate even. You can create more drama than a documentary can.”

That makes sense. But I still wondered about audiences. Why do we want to watch stories whose endings we already know? Where is our appetite for novelty, for surprise?

“People — despite what they may say — prefer stories that they know,” Brooks said.

He also noted our nearly infinite entertainment choices. “What is going to be worth your while? A show about something you’ve never heard about? Or a hate watch of Elizabeth Holmes?”

If you’d prefer your headlines rendered in documentary form, you have a few choices to stream in March: the scandalous early years of the Chippendales; the fall of a New York City vegan restaurateur; and the secrets of a megachurch that counted Justin Bieber among its members.

Also on the way, in scripted TV: “The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray,” based on the Walter Mosley novel and starring Samuel L. Jackson; a new Amy Schumer show; new episodes of “Riverdale”; “Pachinko,” based on the novel by Min Jin Lee; and the second season of “Bridgerton.” And you already know about “Atlanta.”

🍿 Movies: Watch these 13 before they leave Netflix this month.

🎧 Listening: Our reviewer recommends audiobooks by Chuck Klosterman, Michael Schur and Florence Williams.

🏋️‍♀️ Weight training: You need just three seconds.

What you get for $3 million: a Colonial Revival in Greenwich, Conn.; a loft in Asheville, N.C.; or a Gilded Age showplace in Pittsburgh.

The hunt: She wanted her own driveway. Which home did she choose? Play our game.

Market opportunity: While other industries struggle to attract workers, real estate is setting records.

Super commuters: Hotels are offering promotions for people traveling to their offices from afar on hybrid schedules.

Too many treats: Yes, your pets also put on pandemic pounds.

Gravel gardens: They’re more beautiful than you think.

Bigorexia: TikTok has driven some teenage boys to work out excessively.

Nightlife inflation: The cost of going out is going up in New York City.

Recreating history: One woman hiked the Pyrenees to understand her father’s escape from the Nazi invasion of France.

Manchester City vs. Manchester United, English Premier League soccer: It’s the 187th meeting of these clubs, whose home stadiums are just four miles apart. Manchester City, the reigning league champion, must win this weekend to maintain its slim lead in the standings, the Times soccer correspondent Rory Smith tells us. The problem? “Its opponent is its fierce local rival, Manchester United, in something of an ongoing rut but energized by the prospect of derailing its neighbor’s run at the championship.” 11 a.m. Eastern on Sunday, USA Network.

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