Good times reign at PBS

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

PBS Announces Civil War Drama Executive Produced by Ridley Scott.

PBS is pushing further into original scripted programming with the addition of an untitled Civil War drama from Ridley Scott, which has been ordered to series with an initial six episodes. “We’re looking to do drama that is a little different than what everyone else is doing,” Kerger said, “which is not just to entertain, but to educate and inspire.” At her exec session, Kerger expressed high expectations for the new series, and explained PBS is looking to expand their slate beyond “Downton Abbey” and Ken Burns series. “We feel there’s a unique role in telling a story that is based off historic fact,” she said. “Frankly, I look at ‘Downton Abbey’ in the same way — it shines a light on history.” The historical wartime medical drama, based on true stories and research from the past three years, follows two volunteer nurses on opposing sides of the Civil War — Mary Phinney, a New England abolitionist, and Emma Green, a young Confederate belle. The women collide at the Green family’s hotel that has been overturned into a Union Army Hospital in the longest-occupied Confederate city of the war, Alexandria, Virginia. Kerger announced today at the PBS portion of the Television Critic’s Association Press Tour that a new Civil War historical drama, shot in Virginia, will join the PBS Sunday night drama lineup. PBS, whose British partnerships have allowed it to present shows like Downton while paying only a fraction of production costs, has the financial resources to mount the ambitious project, PBS chief programming executive Beth Hoppe says. Wolfinger (Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower) and David Zabel (ER), is expected to begin production in Virginia this spring, and marks the network’s first major series set in the U.S. in at least a decade.

Wolfinger, Ridley Scott (Gladiator) and David Zucker (The Good Wife) are executive producers of the series, which could extend beyond six episodes. “We think it’s important to tell American stories with American history at the roots,” Hoppe says. “It’s at a time when so much was going on. Characters, including some composite depictions, will reflect the diversity of the time and place, but no casting has been completed. “We’re being really, really careful” about staying true to historical events, Hoppe says. “Even the composite characters are much more rooted in history” than on many cable dramas. PBS also announced this morning it will create eight to 10 new programming specials across approximately 20 hours a year in co-production with BBC and BBC Worldwide. Among the specials included in the deal will be Earth’s Natural Wonders, Super Nature: Flight Revealed and Waking Giants—all of which will air on BBC One in the U.K. The intersection of North and South within the confines of a small occupied city creates a rich world that is chaotic, conflicted, corrupt, dynamic and even hopeful — a cauldron within which these characters strive, fight, love, laugh, betray, sacrifice and, at times, act like scoundrels.

In the end, Mary and Emma will learn a vital lesson in a country split in two and ravaged by war: Blood is neither blue nor grey — it is all one color. It’s about the social impact of war and the different people dealing with it: Southerners, Northerners, freed slaves, runaway slaves, blacks (who are) free in the North.

It’s’ a great American story and a very relatable way into it.” The project began as a docudrama, as Zabel consulted with documentarian Wolfinger for a look at medical advances during the war, before evolving into a drama series, he says. Memoirs and letters of real-life doctors and nurses form the inspiration for the story and the writers and producers are working with historians and medical experts. Extensive historical materials will complement the production, which will premiere some time after a 25th anniversary rebroadcast of one of PBS’s most-watched programs, Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary, Hoppe says. McClellan, while examining social interactions, including friendship and love; life-and-death issues; and even humorous elements that leaven such a difficult environment. All of these elements come together in Alexandria’s Mansion House Hospital — a dysfunctional and unpredictable world filled with conflict and passion.

Zucker said, “These are rich, personal stories that are based on the real experience of the horror of war combined with the drama, excitement and energy of what it is like to work in a trauma ward, especially given the limited state of medicine at the time. It was an extraordinary time that served in so many ways as transitional from an earlier world — we see massive change enacted in a range of areas, including medicine, social mores, military practices, transportation, media, commerce and government. And yet, as these transformational moments were unfolding, people tried to live their lives and maintain some normalcy while in the midst of a great upheaval.

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