Aired: ABC, 1977
Roots, from executive producer David L. Wolper, and produced by Stan Margulies, was more than a miniseries it was a spectacular and unprecedented example of television's power as a storytelling medium, one that could simultaneously direct the national conversation and prod its conscience. Adapting Alex Haley's epic autobiographical look at his ancestry (called Roots: The Saga of An American Family) into script form fell to William Blinn, M. Charles Cohen, James Lee, and Ernest Kinoy. If the historical accuracy of the story was challenged in some circles, the 12-hour miniseries aired in 90-minute installments over eight consecutive nights, to huge ratings had a deeply visceral impact on a nation confronting a part of its history that broadcast television had never shown on such a grand scale. Some 100 million viewers tuned in for the final chapter.
M. Charles Cohen