History to Remake Iconic ‘Roots’ Miniseries

Nellie Andreeva, Deadline, November 5, 2013

History is taking on one of most celebrated TV programs of all time, blockbuster 1977 miniseries RootsThe cable network is planning a new eight-hour Roots miniseries after acquiring rights to the 12-hour original from Mark Wolper, son of Roots executive producer, the late David L. Wolper, and to the book the mini was based on, Roots: The Saga Of An American Family, from the estate of author Alex Haley. Mark Wolper is on board as executive producer. The network is about to start discussions with writers for the project, which will draw both on the book and the original mini from a contemporary perspective. “We would like to revive that cultural icon for a new audience,” said History EVP and GM Dirk Hoogstra. {snip}

The timing couldn’t be better—the topic of slavery is very much on people’s minds through a string of popular movies including last year’s Django Unchained, this year’s Oscar hopeful 12 Years A Slave, and with Lee Daniels’ The Butler also touching on the subject. Add to that the success of other recent historical films like Lincoln. “History in general is in the zeitgeist, which is great for us being a network whose name is History,” Hoogstra said. {snip}

Roots became a cultural phenomenon when it premiered on ABC in January 1977, airing over eight consecutive nights. An unlikely hit with a largely black cast and a slavery theme, it broke ratings records, with the conclusion drawing 100 million viewers, almost half of the entire country. The mini also is credited with helping improve race relationships and establish David Wolper’s miniseries style of blending fact and fiction in a soap opera package. The mini earned a record 36 Emmy nominations, winning nine including best limited series; supporting actor for Ed Asner; and music, shared by Quincy Jones. Thirty six years on, Roots has shown remarkable longevity, consistently drawing solid ratings for its reruns. Last December, BET’s 35th anniversary airing draw 4.1 million viewers for the opening two parts.

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