Surviving R. Kelly

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Surviving R. Kelly
Written byNigel Bellis
Astral Finnie
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes11 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • Tamra Simmons
  • Dream Hampton
  • Jesse Daniels
  • Joel Karsberg
  • Jessica Everleth
  • Maria Pepin
Producer(s)Laura Hoeppner
Charlotte Glover
Allison Brandin
Clarissa Kern
Lisa Nicole Jackson
Running time360 minutes
Production company(s)Kreativ Inc.
Bunim/Murray Productions
Original networkLifetime
Original releaseJanuary 3, 2019 (2019-01-03) –
External links

Surviving R. Kelly is a Lifetime documentary detailing sexual abuse allegations against American singer Robert "R." Kelly (which he has denied).[1] It aired over three nights, from January 3 to January 5, 2019.[2] Filmmaker and music critic Dream Hampton served as executive producer[3] together with Joel Karsberg, Jesse Daniels and Tamra Simmons. Musicians Chance the Rapper, John Legend and Stephanie "Sparkle" Edwards appeared in the documentary.[4][5][6] Its premiere episode on January 3, 2019, was Lifetime's highest-rated program in more than two years, with 1.9 million total viewers.[7] It received critical acclaim, with a 95% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The documentary also spurred several musicians who previously collaborated with Kelly on projects, including Lady Gaga and Ciara, to condemn Kelly and remove their works with him from streaming services.

Shortly after the docuseries aired, Kelly's record label dissolved its working relationship with him.[8] In February 2019, Kelly was formally charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.[9]

On December 11, 2019, it was announced that there would be a second season titled Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning, which premiered on January 2, 2020.[10]


Season 1 (2019)[edit]

No. in
Title [11]Directed byWritten byOriginal air dateUS viewers
11"The Pied Piper of R&B"Nigel Bellis, Astral FinnieNigel Bellis, Astral FinnieJanuary 3, 2019 (2019-01-03)1.80[12]
22"Hiding in Plain Sight"Nigel Bellis, Astral FinnieNigel Bellis, Astral FinnieJanuary 3, 2019 (2019-01-03)1.97[12]
33"Sex Tape Scandal"Nigel Bellis, Astral FinnieNigel Bellis, Astral FinnieJanuary 4, 2019 (2019-01-04)2.09[13]
44"The People vs. R. Kelly"Nigel Bellis, Astral FinnieNigel Bellis, Astral FinnieJanuary 4, 2019 (2019-01-04)2.16[13]
55"All the Missing Girls"Nigel Bellis, Astral FinnieNigel Bellis, Astral FinnieJanuary 5, 2019 (2019-01-05)2.26[14]
66"Black Girls Matter"Nigel Bellis, Astral FinnieNigel Bellis, Astral FinnieJanuary 5, 2019 (2019-01-05)2.29[14]

Season 2: Part II: The Reckoning (2020)[edit]

No. in
Title [11]Directed byWritten byOriginal air dateUS viewers
71"It Hasn't Stopped"TBATBAJanuary 2, 2020 (2020-01-02)1.21[15]
82"The Settlement Factory"TBATBAJanuary 2, 2020 (2020-01-02)1.14[15]
93"Please Come Forward"TBATBAJanuary 3, 2020 (2020-01-03)0.81[16]
104"After the Rescue"TBATBAJanuary 3, 2020 (2020-01-03)0.85[16]
115"Bring Our Girls Home"TBATBAJanuary 4, 2020 (2020-01-04)0.71[17]


A documentary series focused on R. Kelly's history of alleged sexual abuse was green-lit by Lifetime in May 2018.[18]

"We've been working for over a year to bring forth the stories of these women," executive producer Joel Karsberg told The Hollywood Reporter. "We are proud to team with Lifetime to shed light on these stories as well as an industry that has looked the other way for so many years."[18]

Hampton was invited onto the project by an executive at Bunim/Murray Productions.[19] "[...] That executive, Jesse Daniels, and Tamara Simmons, another co-EP on this project, have been holding these relationships with some of his survivors for months before I came on board," Hampton said in an interview with NPR.[19] "I remember talking to them early on, kind of figuring out if we were going to work together...Having been adjacent in some ways to the music industry, when there was one, I knew that it took dozens, if not hundreds of people, for R. Kelly to operate as long as he has in the way that he has."[19]

Hampton said that Simmons would call prospective interviewees late into the night. "She was handling and had the relationships with, not just the women and girls who survived R. Kelly, but also the families," Hampton said. "We had three families who were trying to get their daughters back. So she in particular, she and Jesse, had been caring for those relationships. And then I came on as showrunner and made it a show."[20]

Many musicians who worked with R. Kelly refused to participate in the series. "When it comes to celebrities, it was incredibly difficult to get people who had collaborated (artistically) with Kelly to come forward," Hampton said. "We asked Lady Gaga. We asked Erykah Badu. We asked Celine Dion. We asked Jay-Z. We asked Dave Chappelle. (They're) people who have been critical of him. That makes John Legend even more of a hero for me."[21]


Critical response[edit]

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 95% approval rating for the first season with an average rating of 8.19/10, based on 21 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "By unearthing previously suppressed histories, Surviving R. Kelly exposes the dangers of enabling predatory behavior and gives necessary voice to its survivors."[22] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 86 out of 100 based on 9 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."[23]


Season 1[edit]

The January 3 premiere episode was Lifetime's highest-rated program in more than two years, with 1.9 million total viewers.[7]

Viewership and ratings per episode of Surviving R. Kelly
No. Title Air date Rating
DVR viewers
Total viewers
1 "The Pied Piper of R&B" January 3, 2019 0.8 1.80[12] 0.9 1.54 1.7 3.35[24]
2 "Hiding in Plain Sight" January 3, 2019 0.9 1.97[12] 0.8 1.46 1.7 3.44[24]
3 "Sex Tape Scandal" January 4, 2019 0.9 2.09[13] 0.9 1.53 1.8 3.64[24]
4 "The People vs. R. Kelly" January 4, 2019 0.9 2.16[13] 1.0 1.68 1.9 3.85[24]
5 "All the Missing Girls" January 5, 2019 0.9 2.26[14] 0.9 1.57 1.8 3.84[24]
6 "Black Girls Matter" January 5, 2019 1.0 2.29[14] 0.9 1.67 1.9 3.98[24]

Season 2[edit]

Viewership and ratings per episode of Surviving R. Kelly
No. Title Air date Rating
DVR viewers
Total viewers
1 "Part II: The Reckoning: It Hasn't Stopped" January 2, 2020 0.4 1.21[15] TBD TBD TBD TBD
2 "Part II: The Reckoning: The Settlement Factory" January 2, 2020 0.4 1.14[15] TBD TBD TBD TBD
3 "Part II: The Reckoning: Please Come Forward" January 3, 2020 0.3 0.81[16] TBD TBD TBD TBD
4 "Part II: The Reckoning: After the Rescue" January 3, 2020 0.4 0.86[16] TBD TBD TBD TBD
5 "Part II: The Reckoning: Bring Our Girls Home" January 4, 2020 0.3 0.71[17] TBD TBD TBD TBD


The National Sexual Assault Hotline in the United States, operated by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), experienced a 27% increase in calls during the airing of the documentary.[25]

Following the documentary, the office of Cook County, Illinois, State's Attorney Kim Foxx said on January 10, 2019, that it had received numerous new calls alleging sexual abuse by R. Kelly and that it was investigating the claims.[26] Lady Gaga also released a statement saying she regretted working with R. Kelly on their 2013 duet "Do What U Want" and said she was working on removing it from online streaming services. "I stand behind these women 1000%, believe them, know they are suffering and in pain, and feel strongly that their voices should be heard and taken seriously", she wrote in a statement. "I think it's clear how explicitly twisted my thinking was at the time...If I could go back and have a talk with my younger self I'd tell her to go through the therapy I have since then.",[27] however the single with Christina Aguilera was kept. Other artists that have previously worked and collaborated with Kelly as well, such as Chance the Rapper, Celine Dion, and Ciara, also took down their songs with him from music streaming services and retailers.[28]

Nielsen SoundScan has reported that after the initial airing of the series, Kelly's music saw a two-fold increase in streaming popularity.[29] But, in contrast, after the series aired, many urban contemporary radio stations – where R. Kelly was a mainstay – in various markets have decided they would no longer play his music. Stations like KKDA-FM and KRNB in Dallas,[30] KJLH in Los Angeles,[31] WBLS in New York City, and WAMJ in Atlanta have made the announcement they will not play R. Kelly anymore, while other radio stations that quietly banned his music did not make a public announcement on their decision.[32]

Kelly's record label, RCA Records, dropped him shortly after the docuseries aired.[8] On February 22, 2019, R. Kelly was formally charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. On March 6, 2019, in a CBS This Morning interview with Gayle King, R. Kelly broke down crying while strongly denying all allegations and charges made against him.[9]


Surviving R. Kelly won a Peabody Award in the Documentary category.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fortin, Jacey (4 January 2019). "'Surviving R. Kelly' Documentary on Lifetime Details Sex Abuse Accusations". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  2. ^ McDermott, Maeve (January 5, 2019). "'Surviving R. Kelly' night three: Everything we learned from the docu-series' finale". USA TODAY. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  3. ^ Martin, Michel (January 5, 2019). "'Surviving R. Kelly' Documentary Details Decades Of Sexual Abuse Accusations". All Things Considered. NPR. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  4. ^ Braudie, Blais-Billie; Bloom, Madison (January 5, 2019). "Chance the Rapper Says R. Kelly Collaboration Was a "Mistake"". Pitchfork. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  5. ^ Hinds, Julie (January 3, 2019). "R. Kelly allegations addressed in Detroit writer's Lifetime docu-series". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  6. ^ "'Surviving R. Kelly' Executive Producer dream hampton: 'I'm At War With R. Kelly'". Shadow and Act. January 3, 2019. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  7. ^ a b Bradley, Laura (4 January 2019). "Surviving R. Kelly Breaks Lifetime Ratings Record". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  8. ^ a b Aswad, Jem (2019-01-18). "R. Kelly Dropped by Sony Music". Variety. Retrieved 2019-01-18.
  9. ^ a b "Singer R Kelly 'charged with sexual offences'". BBC. 2019-02-22. Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  10. ^ "The Explosive Story Continues - "Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning" Debuts as a Three-Night Event Beginning January 2 on Lifetime". The Futon Critic. December 11, 2019.
  11. ^ a b "Shows A-Z - surviving r. kelly on lifetime". The Futon Critic. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  12. ^ a b c d Rejent, Joseph (January 4, 2019). "Thursday cable ratings: NBA and 'Surviving R. Kelly' top the night". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on January 5, 2019. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  13. ^ a b c d Rejent, Joseph (January 7, 2019). "Friday cable ratings: 'Surviving R. Kelly' leads again, 'Gold Rush: White Water' returns strong". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on January 8, 2019. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  14. ^ a b c d Welch, Alex (January 8, 2019). "Saturday cable ratings: NFL Wild Card game leads, 'Live PD' returns steady". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on January 8, 2019. Retrieved January 8, 2019.
  15. ^ a b c d Metcalf, Mitch (January 3, 2020). "Updated: ShowBuzzDaily's Top 150 Thursday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 1.2.2020". Showbuzz Daily. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  16. ^ a b c d Metcalf, Mitch (January 6, 2020). "Updated: ShowBuzzDaily's Top 150 Friday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 1.3.2020". Showbuzz Daily. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  17. ^ a b Metcalf, Mitch (January 7, 2020). "Updated: ShowBuzzDaily's Top 150 Saturday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 1.4.2020". Showbuzz Daily. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  18. ^ a b "R. Kelly Doc Series and TV Movie Greenlighted by Lifetime". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2019-01-09.
  19. ^ a b c "Making 'Surviving R. Kelly': A Conversation With Executive Producer dream hampton". 2019-01-03. Retrieved 2019-01-09.
  20. ^ Setaro, Shawn (2019-01-02). "'Surviving R. Kelly' Executive Producer Dream Hampton on Investigating R. Kelly's Dark World". Complex. Retrieved 2019-01-09.
  21. ^ "R. Kelly allegations addressed in Detroit writer's Lifetime docu-series". Detroit Free Press. 2019-01-03. Retrieved 2019-01-09.
  22. ^ "Surviving R. Kelly: Miniseries (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 11, 2019.
  23. ^ "Surviving R. Kelly Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  24. ^ a b c d e f Welch, Alex (January 16, 2019). "'Dirty John' and 'Surviving R. Kelly' lead the cable Live +7 ratings for Dec. 31, 2018 – Jan. 6, 2019". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on January 17, 2019. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  25. ^ Shugerman, Emily (2019-01-04). "Sex Abuse Hotline Calls Surge During 'Surviving R.Kelly'". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2019-01-07.
  26. ^ McAdams, Alexis (January 10, 2019). "Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx examining new R. Kelly claims in wake of 'Surviving R. Kelly'". Chicago, Illinois: WLS-TV. Archived from the original on January 10, 2019. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  27. ^ Clark, Anne Victoria (2019-01-10). "Lady Gaga Wants to Take Back Her R. Kelly Collaboration". Vulture. New York magazine. Retrieved 2019-01-10.
  28. ^ Montgomery, Sarah (2019-01-15). "Chance the Rapper, Lady Gaga, Ciara, and More Artists Who Have Pulled Their R. Kelly Collabs". Complex. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  29. ^ "R. Kelly's streams increase after docu-series alleges abuse". Daily Herald. January 10, 2019.
  30. ^ "Two Dallas-area radio stations are among the first to ban R. Kelly in the wake of sexual assault allegations". The Dallas Morning News – Guide Live. January 10, 2019.
  31. ^ "NAJEE'S NOTES: Radio Stations Are Asked To Boycott R. Kelly's Music". Los Angeles Wave newspapers. January 10, 2019.
  32. ^ "R&B Radio Divided Over R. Kelly Ban in the Wake of Lifetime Docuseries". Rolling Stone. January 9, 2019.
  33. ^ "Peabody 30 Winners". June 10, 2020.

External links[edit]