The black TV renaissance continues. A&E Networks announced yesterday that it is remaking Roots, the classic 1977 miniseries that traced a black family's history from slavery on to the end of the Civil War. The eight-episode series, which has been in the works since 2013, will air simultaneously on The History Channel, A&E, and Lifetime in 2016.
Roots became a cultural phenomenon when it first aired on ABC, and has since become on the most celebrated programs in history. Starring a mostly black cast, it launched the career of executive producer LeVar Burton, who played abducted slave Kunta Kinte before going on to play Geordie La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The series finale broke Nielsen viewing records for its time, and sequel efforts Roots: The Next Generation and Roots: The Gift were also well-received by viewers.
Shows aimed at black people have been major successes
The remake is being planned at a time and cultural climate when media aimed at black audiences is doing particularly well. Fox's Empire, starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, recently became a ratings juggernaut, the first show to grow its audience every week in 23 years. Shows like Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and Black-ish are all critical and ratings successes, and movies like 12 Years a Slave and Django Unchained prove that people will see efforts that tackle slavery head on. However, with remake fatigue already on the rise, it's still uncertain how well the new Roots will do.