PBS has ordered an as-yet-untitled civil war drama series. The first six episodes will debut in winter of 2016.
Here’s the press release:
PBS ANNOUNCES NEW AMERICAN DRAMA SERIES SET IN VIRGINIA DURING THE CIVIL WAR, THE NEW DRAMA (TITLE TBD) WILL OFFER UNIQUE BLEND OF HOSPITAL DRAMA AND FAMILY SAGA
– Award-Winning Creative Team Includes Ridley Scott, David Zabel, Lisa Quijano Wolfinger and David W. Zucker –
PASADENA, CA; January 19, 2015 – PBS President and CEO Paula A. 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. The first season of six episodes is slated for a winter 2016 premiere.
Based on true stories, the new drama follows two volunteer nurses on opposite sides of the Civil War. Mary Phinney, a staunch New England abolitionist, and Emma Green, a willful young Confederate belle, collide at Mansion House, the Green family’s luxury hotel that has been taken over and transformed into a Union Army Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia, the longest-occupied Confederate city of the war. As the boundaries of medicine are being explored and expanded, the role of women is also broadening. Here, in the collision of a wartime medical drama and a family saga of conflicted loyalties and moral dilemmas, the series plays out a story of the highest stakes.
Executive produced by Ridley Scott (Gladiator and Thelma & Louise), David W. Zucker (“The Good Wife”) and Lisa Q. Wolfinger (“Desperate Crossing, The untold story of the Mayflower”) and written by David Zabel (“ER”), the new drama is set against the backdrop of doctors and female nurses valiantly struggling to save lives while facing their own trials and tribulations. 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.
The series is created by Lisa Q. Wolfinger and David Zabel and based on research conducted over the last three years. The story is inspired by the memoirs and letters of actual doctors and female nurse volunteers at Mansion House Hospital. In addition, the writers and producers have worked with a prominent group of historians and medical experts, including James M. McPherson (Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era), Thavolia Glymph (Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household) and Jane Schultz (Women at the Front: Hospital Workers in Civil War America). See the full list linked below.
Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming, PBS, said, “Viewers know that Sunday nights are a destination for original drama on PBS. It has been more than a decade since our Sunday night drama lineup has included truly American stories. With this new series, we will look into one of the most complicated, tumultuous and dramatic moments in our country’s history, the Civil War. I’m delighted to have this new series join an impressive history of past American dramas on PBS.”Lisa Q. Wolfinger said, “We think of the Civil War as a brutal, devastating chapter in American history, but it was also a moment of remarkable transition that presented opportunities unthinkable just a few years before. Doctors, faced with mass casualties on an unprecedented scale, pushed the boundaries of medical science, women left the confines of the home and volunteered as nurses, and thousands of escaped slaves got their first taste of freedom. All of these elements come together in Alexandria’s Mansion House Hospital — a dysfunctional and unpredictable world filled with conflict and passion. Our characters (many based on real people) are colorful, complicated and completely relatable. This series is not about battles and glory, it’s about the drama and unexpected humor of everyday life behind the front lines. It’s a new twist on an iconic story, one that resonates with larger themes we still struggle with today.”David W. 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. But equally, the series will explore what life was like in this occupied city, for the female nurses — of the North and South — the transient soldiers and the former slaves who were either heading north to freedom, into battle or trying to figure out, like others, what the war would ultimately mean for them.”
David Zabel said, “Speaking as a writer, it would be difficult to find an event in American history more dramatic and riveting than the Civil War. 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. The locus of Alexandria at this time as a crossroads of North and South, war and peace, old and new, offers a wealth of characters and situations that is a gift for a storyteller and a perfect setting for a great American story.”
PBS has a long history of presenting American dramatic series, dating back to AMERICAN PLAYHOUSE (1982-1998). American dramas were revived in the late 1980s with, among others, presentations on GREAT PERFORMANCES (primarily 1989-1999), and continued throughout the 1990s with a number of individual productions. More recently, American dramas included MASTERPIECE: AMERICAN COLLECTION (2000-2003), AMERICAN FAMILY (2002-2004) and the Tony Hillerman Adaptations (2002-2004) on MASTERPIECE MYSTERY!
The series is not only set in Virginia, it will also be filmed there. Production is scheduled to begin in the spring in and around Richmond, where so much of this history took place.
PBS’ New American Drama (title TBD) is a production of Sawbone Films and Scott Free Productions. Executive producers: Ridley Scott, David W. Zucker and co-creator Lisa Q. Wolfinger; co-creator and writer: David Zabel.
Funding is provided by the Anne Ray Charitable Trust and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, whose chief program officer, Doron Weber, was an early supporter, and PBS. Additional support is provided by a grant from the Virginia Film Board.
Electric Entertainment is the international sales agent with all foreign rights for PBS’ new American drama series (title TBD).
For USA sponsorship opportunities for PBS’ new drama, contact Electus.NEW AMERICAN DRAMA Creative Team Biographies (5.0 MB)
About Sawbone Films
A subsidiary of Lone Wolf Media, Sawbone Films specializes in scripted drama. President and owner, Lisa Q. Wolfinger created the new PBS American drama concept in collaboration with David Zabel, (showrunner and lead writer on NBC’s hit series “ER.”) The series was inspired by the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and their shared passion for history.About Scott Free
Scott Free was formed in 1995 and is the film and television production company of acclaimed film director, Ridley Scott. Scott Free Productions have earned over 70 Emmy nominations with 20 wins, plus 20 Golden Globe nominations for their highly acclaimed television projects which include: a pilot adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s classic, “The Man In The High Castle” for Amazon, the digital series “Halo: Nightfall” for Microsoft, limited series “Klondike” for Discovery, “The Pillars of the Earth” for Starz, “World Without End” for Reelz, “Into The Storm” for HBO, “The Andromeda Strain” and “Coma” for A&E, and “The Company” at TNT. Currently in production is the the sixth season of the Peabody award winning “The Good Wife” for CBS, while “Killing Jesus,” the third in the acclaimed ‘Killing’ telefilms for National Geographic, is in post.Projects currently on the development slate include “Strange Angel” for AMC, “Brain Dead” for CBS, and “3001: The Final Odyssey for Syfy. “ Notable non-fiction programs include “Killing Kennedy,” “Killing Lincoln,” “Crimes of the Century” and the Emmy-winning documentary special “Gettysburg” for History Channel. With offices in Los Angeles and London, Scott Free works closely with RSA Films, one of the world largest and most successful commercial production houses in the world.About Electric Entertainment
Founded by Dean Devlin, Electric Entertainment produces and finances film and television projects, with several currently in development and various stages of production. Devlin’s sales outfit recently sold international rights to Electric-produced “The Librarians,” which premiered on TNT domestically this December. Upcoming Warner Bros. film Geostorm, Devlin’s feature directorial debut, is being produced by Devlin with Skydance Pictures’ David Ellison and Dana Goldberg and his Electric Entertainment team of Marc Roskin and Rachel Olschan. Additionally, Electric Entertainment will co-finance and has taken all worldwide rights to Go With Me, starring Anthony Hopkins.About PBS
PBS, with its over 350 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content. Each month, PBS reaches nearly 109 million people through television and over 28 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. PBS’ premier children’s TV programming and its website, pbskids.org, are parents’ and teachers’ most trusted partners in inspiring and nurturing curiosity and love of learning in children. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org websites on the Internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at pbs.org/pressroom or by following PBS PressRoom on Twitter.
What do you think? Do you think you’ll be tuning in when this show premieres next year?