One of the landmark events in the history of television is about to return to TV as a remake. Writing on Deadline.com, Nellie Andreeva reports that History — which is coming off a couple of massive ratings successes in "Hatfields & McCoys" and "The Bible" — will remake the 1977 miniseries "Roots."
"The 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," Andreeva writes.
The original production, which starred LeVar Burton as Kunta Kinte, aired on ABC over eight nights in January 1977 and became a cultural phenomenon. The final episode remains the third most-watched TV program of all time, with Nielsen estimating the audience at 100 million viewers. The miniseries also won nine Emmys.
The new project will draw on both the book and the original production, adding a contemporary perspective, Andreeva notes.
Said History EVP and GM Dirk Hoogstra: “We would like to revive that cultural icon for a new audience."
Andreeva adds: "The project originated with a remark by one of Hoogstra’s executives, VP Development and Programming Michael Stiller, who suggested the network should try to remake ‘Roots.’ The idea was put into motion, and meetings were set up with Mark Wolper and the attorney representing the Haley estate. As talks progressed, it emerged that there was a second ‘Roots’ remake project out there from different original auspices that had been eyed by FX. In the end, History stepped up and secured rights, clearing the way for a new ‘Roots’ mini on the cable network."
Noting that similarly themed projects have been doing well lately — "Django Unchained" and "12 Years a Slave" among them — along with historical films such as "Lincoln," Hoogstra said: “History in general is in the zeitgeist, which is great for us being a network whose name is History."