A pilot for a half-hour comedy based on a non-fiction podcast from The New York Times, Nice White Parents, has been purchased by HBO, as reported by Variety. The project springs from the combined minds of Emmy nominee Issa Rae (Insecure, The Lovebirds) and Academy Award winner Adam McKay (Succession, The Big Short), according to The Hollywood Reporter. The original podcast premiered in the last half of July 2020 and ended in August. HBO’s commitment allegedly concluded a bidding war for the property; other parties that were reportedly involved were Netflix and the Obamas’ Higher Ground Productions, via The Hollywood Reporter.
Nice White Parents investigates the tumultuous relationship between New York City’s public school system and local white families. It begins in the early 1960’s with a grassroots anti-segregation letter-writing campaign concerning Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill School for International Studies and culminates in the 2019 re-zoning of the school’s District 15 that allegedly encourages scholastic racial integration.
The podcast is hosted by NPR journalist Chana Joffe-Walt, who had previously contributed to a trio of Peabody Award-winning This American Life episodes in 2015, grouped together under the title The Case for School Desegregation Today. In an interview with Guernica Magazine, Joffe-Walt explains why she feels driven to report on racial equity efforts in the world of education: “I’m less fixated on integration as something that is about different bodies in a building. I feel… more fixated on power and… the hoarding of the resources of a public system by privileged and/or white families. That is something that needs to be directly addressed.” Joffe-Walt has been named as one of the executive producers on Rae and McKay’s pilot, along with her fellow Serial staff members Sarah Koenig (The Case Against Adnan Syed), Julie Snyder (Showtime’s This American Life) and Alissa Shipp (Contemporary Color), Variety reports.
Rae is no stranger to the audio entertainment world herself. She is the creator of the narrative podcast Fruit, which follows an unnamed Black professional football player’s journey of sexual discovery in his alpha male-dominated environment. The show ran for two seasons on the subscription-based audio platform Stitcher Premium. Like Rae’s Nice White Parents pilot, Fruit is inspired by real events. “It’s based on what I believe to be true events that are unspoken. It’s inspired by things that I’ve read about or heard about and chosen to make a narrative story about. In the same way that Fargo is based on true events, this is based on true events,” she told The Guardian.
All five episodes of Nice White Parents are available to stream online. You can listen to the award-winning radio journalism trilogy The Case for School Desegregation Today on the official This American Life website. Season one of Fruit is freely available online. Season two, however, is currently only accessible via Stitcher Premium, priced at $4.99 a month.