FX’s ‘Dear Mama’ Scores Most-Watched Unscripted Premiere in Network’s History

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The docuseries about Afeni and Tupac Shakur comes from director Allen Hughes

Tupac Shakur in Dear Mama (Credit: FX)
DEAR MAMA “Changes” Episode 2 (Airs Friday, April 21). Pictured: Tupac Shakur. CR: FX

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Afeni and Tupac Shakur are making history once again. FX has reported that its five-part docuseries about the mother and son, “Dear Mama,” scored the most-watched premiere episode for an unscripted series in FX’s history. The series premiered on the network before becoming available to stream on Hulu. Those combined numbers account for the record-breaking performance.

“It’s only fitting that Allen Hughes definitive piece on Tupac and Afeni Shakur delivered a record performance for us and it speaks to Tupac’s enduring legacy,” Nick Grad, president of FX Entertainment, said in a statement.  “Allen’s examination of Tupac viewed through the prism of his mother Afeni is a fascinating take that really gets beneath the education and experience that shaped his life and inspired him to become one of the greatest artists ever.”

The first two episodes of the docuseries premiered on FX last Friday, April 21. Since its embargo has lifted, the show has been praised by critics. It currently has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. After its premiere week, “Dear Mama” will follow a more traditional weekly release schedule with new episodes premiering on FX Fridays before becoming available to stream on Hulu the following day. Episode 3, “So Many Tears,” will premiere on FX Friday (April 28) at 10/9c p.m.

“Dear Mama” comes from director Allen Hughes, who — apart from his partnership with brother Albert Hughes — is known for the Grammy-winning “The Defiant Ones,” HBO’s docuseries on the friendship between Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. The series seeks to take a more personal approach as it tells the story of this rap legend and the revolutionary mother who raised him. Before his untimely death, Tupac Shakur became known as one of the greatest rappers of all time. He also later became a celebrity face of modern Black activism. Though Tupac is the one who became a household name, Afeni Shakur was a well-known feminist leader during the 1970s. “Their story chronicles the possibilities and contradictions of the United States from a time of revolutionary fervor to hip-hop culture’s most ostentatious decade,” a press release about the series says.

Though FX has been around since 1994, the network’s renewed interest in the docuseries space has been a relatively recent phenomenon. It started in 2019 with FX’s partnerships with the New York Times, which led to the now-canceled “The Weekly” and the ongoing “The New York Time Presents.” That latter series gave viewers the widely praised documentary “Framing Britney Spears.” Since then, the network has explored several dimensions of the space from the true crime series like “A Wilderness of Error” and “Children of the Underground” to Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s sports docuseries “Welcome to Wrexham.”

There’s also no indication that FX plans on scaling back from the unscripted space anytime soon. Next month will mark the premiere of “The Secrets of Hillsong,” an explosive investigation docuseries into the titular church.