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History Network to Remake "Roots" Miniseries

By Colin Bertram
|  Wednesday, Nov 6, 2013  |  Updated 11:26 AM EDT
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LeVar Burton in the 1977 miniseries "Roots"

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History is hoping to make a little of its namesake by remaking one of the most celebrated TV miniseries of all time, "Roots."

The record-breaking television event of 1977 will be re-imagined into an eight-hour miniseries for History, with the project drawing from the 1976 novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” and the original miniseries, according to Variety.

The cable network acquired rights to the 12-hour original series from Mark Wolper, son of "Roots" executive producer, the late David L. Wolper, with Deadline reporting that History is about to start discussions with writers for the project which will draw on the source material from a contemporary perspective.

Originally debuting on ABC and airing over eight consecutive nights in 1977, “Roots” is a saga of African-American life based on author Haley's family history. It follows Kunta Kinte (played by actor LeVar Burton in the original) who was abducted from his African village, sold into slavery and taken to America. Ben Vereen, Ed Asner, Lorne Green, Cicely Tyson, O.J. Simpson, Lesley Uggams, Lloyd Bridges, Burl Ives and Louis Gossett Jr. also starred.

At the time, the finale attracted 100 million viewers and still ranks as the third highest-rated TV broadcast, per Nielson ratings. "Roots" received 36 Emmy nominations with nine wins.

36 years on, the original still draws solid ratings whenever it is broadcast in reruns. BET’s 35th anniversary airing in 2012 drew a cable record-breaking 4.1 million viewers for the opening two parts.

 “We would like to revive that cultural icon for a new audience,” History EVP and GM Dirk Hoogstra told Deadline.

With the success of such historically based movies as "Lincoln," "Lee Daniel's The Butler," "12 Years a Slave," "Django Unchained" and History's recent ratings smashes "The Bible" and "The Hatfields & McCoys," the news of the remake of "Roots" couldn't be more timely.

“History in general is in the zeitgeist, which is great for us being a network whose name is History,” Hoogstra said.

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