Big news: According to Deadline, The History Channel is planning a remake of the classic miniseries Roots, which first captivated the nation in 1977 when it aired on ABC for eight consecutive nights. From the announcement:
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. 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.
The original series ran on ABC-TV between January 23 and January 30, 1977, and had a massive effect on popular culture. It broke ratings records when it aired, pulling in 100 million viewers at one point during the conclusion—in other words, nearly half the country. As a result, it garnered 37 Emmy nominations and nine wins, and pretty much launched the career of LeVar Burton, who portrayed Kunta Kinte.
Deadline also points out the timing of this announcement is key, because America's terrible history with slavery "is very much on people’s minds" because of 2012's Django Unchained, and this year's Oscar-favorite, 12 Years a Slave—Lee Daniels' The Butler also touched upon it. Whether they're capitalizing on a Hollywood trend or just joining the conversation, it seems like opportune timing.
“History in general is in the zeitgeist, which is great for us being a network whose name is History,” Hoogstra said. The cable network has played a major role in bringing history to the forefront of pop culture over the past couple of years with its blockbuster miniseries Hatfields & McCoys and The Bible as well as series The Vikings.
There's no word when the new miniseries will premiere on History, or whether or not they'll be airing it the same way the original series was—that is, consecutively, a few nights in a row. We'll have more information on this project as it becomes available.