When television events are talked about today, they’re naturally compared to the television events from years past. While there’s been a resurgence of so-called "event TV" over the past few years, nothing has ever quite managed to grip the interest and eyeballs of the nation quite like Roots. It’s been nearly 40 years since the miniseries first created the concept of "must see TV" and it is still the standard by which many events are held to this day.
History hopes to recapture some of that glory with their upcoming remake of Alex Haley’s classic exploration of slavery in America. Roots, starring Malachi Kirby (Jekyll and Hyde) as Kunta Kinte, Laurence Fishburne (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice) as Alex Haley, Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Dracula) as Tom Lea, and Anna Paquin (True Blood) as Nancy Holt, looks to present the story in a new way for new audiences when it makes its premiere this year. Now, the long-gestating project has finally delivered its first trailer as well as an official premiere date this Memorial Day.
The first trailer offers viewers an idea of what’s to come. The four-part series updates Haley’s work with a modern style and sensibility, which, from all appearances, seems to separate it from its predecessor.
For those who don't already know, Roots follows the lineage of African tribesman Kunta Kinte, captured by a rival tribe and sold into slavery by their colonialist conspirators. The original miniseries, which aired on ABC in 1977, as well as the novel that inspired it, kick started an interest in genealogical research amongst the African-American population, and became one of the most successful series to air on TV. Even today, the finale sits as the third highest Nielsen rated episode of all time, and the second highest-rated finale of all time. That series also went on to win 9 Emmy awards out of 37 nominations and remains a touchstone to this day.
There’s no telling if this remake will be able to achieve the same success as its predecessor, but Haley’s story remains as relevant today as it ever was, and this looks to be a faithful adaptation of the novel. Still, Roots has its work cut out for it, as the original featured more than a few star-making performances, including Levar Burton (Reading Rainbow) as Kunta Kinte.
While History has slowly morphed into a bastion for low brow reality TV over the last decade, their miniseries and events have been successful in their own rights. From the popular Vikings to Texas Rising, the network has proven capable of producing high-quality scripted programming that remains faithful to historical storytelling. Though they lack the reach of ABC, Roots does stand to be another stellar production that might just be the TV event of 2016.
As far as first looks go, Roots appears to have all the right pieces in place. The cast includes award winners of all kinds and boasts a line-up of directors that includes Phillip Noyce (The Giver) and Mario van Peebles (Empire). It remains to be seen how well Roots portrays its gut wrenching look at the legacy of slavery, but the sheer weight of talent involved bodes well.
With three months until the premiere of Roots, there’s sure to be more information on the series coming down the pipeline. Screen Rant will keep you updated as information becomes available.
Roots premieres Memorial Day, May 30, on History.