The alphabet network (ABC) is finally returning to their miniseries programming roots with an 8-hour adaptation of Gregory McGuire’s bestselling book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.

While any reference to Wicked these days will result in many instantly referencing the Tony Award winning musical adaptation by Stephen Schwartz (Enchanted) and Winnie Holzman (My So Called Life), this miniseries will most certainly not be an interpretation of that record breaking stage show – which is only loosely based on McGuire’s novel.

Instead, ABC is looking to produce a more faithful representation of McGuire’s telling of the life of Elphaba Thropp, Oz’s iconic Wicked Witch of the West. With no musical numbers and a much darker tone, McGuire’s novel delves into such sensitive themes as political corruption, religion, racism and segregation.

With so many potentially controversial subjects contained within the source material, it’ll be interesting to see exactly what elements make it into the final production. Although, considering Salma Hayek’s Ventanarosa Productions (Frida) will be developing the miniseries with ABC Studios, I have a feeling that most, if not all, will remain – especially with the Emmy Awarding winning Erik Jendresen (Band of Brothers) penning the script.

For almost 40 years, ABC has had been creating some of television’s greatest and most iconic miniseries (Roots, North and South, The Thorn Birds). Sadly, when Stephen McPherson took over as the president of ABC in 2004, he declined to produce any new miniseries – which, interestingly enough, included this miniseries based on Wicked. Fortunately, when ABC Family executive Paul Lee was promoted into McPherson’s position (following McPherson’s resignation) last July, Lee began reversing many of McPherson’s poor decisions.

Considering ABC’s viewer demographics and the proven popularity of Wicked, on both stage and in literature, there’s no doubt that when this miniseries premieres, it will be a hit for the network – even if it’s a terrible interpretation of the novel. The question now isn’t whether it will succeed, but to what extent. For that answer, we’ll have to wait until more information is released about the project… and confirmation that Salma Hayek’s involvement in the Wicked miniseries will strictly be behind the scenes.

Of course, for all you Ozians patiently waiting to see Wicked: A New Musical make its leap from stage to big screen, you’ll be happy to hear that Universal Pictures is currently developing a feature film adaptation of the musical masterpiece.

If all goes as planned, expect to see the 8-hour Wicked miniseries premiering on ABC in Fall 2011/Spring 2012.

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