*The network that brought you “The Bible” will now attempt to recreate one of the most celebrated television programs of all time.
History Channel has announced it will remake the blockbuster 1977 miniseries “Roots,” reports Deadline.com.
The cable network plans a new eight-hour version 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.
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, reports Deadline.
“We would like to revive that cultural icon for a new audience,” said History EVP and GM Dirk Hoogstra.
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,” according to Deadline. 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.
“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 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.