• Network: Lifetime
  • Series Premiere Date: Jan 3, 2019
Metascore
86

Universal acclaim - based on 9 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 9
  2. Negative: 0 out of 9

Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Willa Paskin
    Jan 8, 2019
    90
    An extremely effective piece of entertainment journalism--though it may be more accurate to think of it as an extremely effective piece of activist entertainment journalism. The series is comprehensively damning and powerfully disturbing--while also being riveting.
  2. Reviewed by: Lorraine Ali
    Jan 7, 2019
    90
    Smart, moving and deeply researched.
  3. Reviewed by: Hannah Giorgis
    Jan 7, 2019
    90
    It is a staggering, stomach-churning narrative work--especially for those who have experienced similar traumas.
  4. Reviewed by: Robyn Bahr
    Jan 7, 2019
    90
    Raw and arresting docuseries. ... Vital. It's not only a familiar #MeToo narrative about how show business exploits young women; it's also a gutting testament to how society has allowed a monster to thrive simply because his victims are young black women.
  5. Reviewed by: Judy Berman
    Jan 4, 2019
    90
    The makers of Surviving R. Kelly seem keenly aware of the scrutiny these women will face as they fight for justice; each interview is conducted as carefully as a deposition, and every survivor comes across as poised, intelligent and reflective. ... Racial issues permeate every facet of this tragedy, and a team led by executive producer dream hampton (a veteran cultural critic best known for her work on the documentary Notorious B.I.G.: Bigger Than Life and JAY-Z’s bestselling book Decoded) dissects them in all their complexity.
  6. Reviewed by: Caroline Framke
    Jan 3, 2019
    90
    Aside from some dramatic musical stings and fades to black, the docuseries mostly eschews salacious framing in favor of measured, thorough documentation and extensive interviews with people from every stage of Kelly’s life. ... Surviving R. Kelly isn’t an easy watch; I dreaded pressing play. But once I started, it was impossible to look away--which is as it should be. It’s been too easy for too many to avert their eyes when the truth was staring back all along.
  7. Reviewed by: Selena Fragassi
    Jan 3, 2019
    88
    By the end of the series, as the producers follow families desperate to loosen their daughters from Kelly’s grip, it’s impossible to come to terms with the fact that this is not an overly dramatized saga you’d normally find on Lifetime, but the very real story of a person the subjects say is a “predator.”
  8. Reviewed by: Liz Shannon Miller
    Jan 4, 2019
    80
    [Executive producer dream] hampton keeps things simple, to the point of starkness, but that matter-of-fact approach makes “Surviving R. Kelly” all the more heartbreaking. The series relies largely on talking-head interviews, with many participants shot against a plain black background. It’s not the most innovative format, but it ensures we never lose focus on what’s being said. ... It is brutal viewing. But it’s so good to know it exists.
  9. The women’s testimonies are indeed moving and necessary, and we should honor their perspectives. But watching those testimonies, I often felt like I was stepping into a private moment, as the women pore over the details of what they experienced, the majority of whom were very young teenagers at the time of their abuse. Aesthetically, the documentary trades in the coarse rhythms of a tabloid.
User Score
6.4

Generally favorable reviews- based on 7 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 7
  2. Negative: 2 out of 7
  1. Jan 10, 2019
    10
    - great stories from various woman and opinions of what was going on
    - felt honest and real
    - touching sad moments - makes you mad, sad and
    - great stories from various woman and opinions of what was going on
    - felt honest and real
    - touching sad moments
    - makes you mad, sad and ready to take on r. kelly
    Full Review »
  2. Jan 10, 2019
    1
    Just like with Harvey Weinstein, for literally decades the super rich of the industry knew about R, Kelly and failed to do anything about it.Just like with Harvey Weinstein, for literally decades the super rich of the industry knew about R, Kelly and failed to do anything about it. They repeatedly celebrated his music after the myriad reports. Now, after Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump put the fear of God into the democratic party, the neoliberal elite of the entertainment industry have all become some moral priesthood- w half of everything they put out being a PR shield for what they really are- fakes who are still using public/media events to advance their financial agendas as it suits them. Now it happens that R. Kelly fits the hate-men 'metoo' paradaigm- even though Kelly is clearly an outlier whom many normal men and women have been disgusted with for years, in spite of the industry's permission of his behavior. Full Review »
  3. Jan 11, 2019
    4
    First and foremost: this is not a well-done documentary! This six part-series does not offer many revelations. People who observed the issuesFirst and foremost: this is not a well-done documentary! This six part-series does not offer many revelations. People who observed the issues of R Kelly carefully, would already know most of the facts presented here. In essence: the guy has serious issues with his sexuality and personality & he likes to manipulate way too young girls into becoming his sex slaves. Let's not forget that this is the same guy who urinated on a 14 year old girl on video and despite it made a big comeback in the music business, after he paid off his victim to remain silent.

    The series is a compilation of the various allegations levelled against Kelly and features many of the affected women, who are presented to the viewer in an overly dramatic way as "survivors", as if they were just freed from some Nazi death camp. While the whole narrative could be told in two hours, the makers decided to overstretch it into six one-hour parts. Hence, a lot of the footage is used repetitively. Constantly, the narrative is accentuated by overly dramatic background music and close ups of the victims faces, especially when they show emotional reactions. It doesn't help that they wear too much makeup, so that their faces look plasticly, motionless and mask-like. To be fair: many of his victims were under the age of consent and mentally immature, when Kelly manipulated them into becoming his mistresses. Most of them were basically naive, impressionable and overly enthusiastic teenage groupies of Kelly, who ended up being invited to the backstage by their idol, from where it often spiralled down into abusive relationships.

    Maybe such a documentary is needed, in order to get a comprehensive picture of Kelly's transgressions, even though the information has been out in the public. At best, this documentary can spark a discussion about the powers we grant to famous and wealthy persons, whom we choose to put on our pedestrals. Surely, it doesn't help that R Kelly is functionally illiterate, so that he depends on his staff of yes-sayers, if he wants to know how he is publicly perceived. R Kelly is not the only influential person who was able to violate his victims due to his status. R Kelly's malignant traits were fuelled by the masses of people who praised and admired him irrespectively of his behavior and who refused to hold him accountable. America is literally an idol worshipping society and R Kelly has functioned as one of these idols.
    Full Review »