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A personal perspective on episode 1 of the film roots

Roots: The most important TV show ever?

The white actors featured prominently in promotional spots, and the series was set to run for eight consecutive nights, essentially to get it over with quickly. At least if it bombed, the failure would be over in little more than a week. View image of Credit: ABC When it first went out on 23 January 1977, something entirely different happened: The audience grew as the week progressed. The eight-night run culminated in a finale that drew an audience of 36 million households, or about 100 million people.

It became a worldwide sensation, the first TV miniseries to do so.

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Television audiences for individual series have shrunk dramatically since then, with the fragmentation caused by cable and streaming options. But the fraught racial history of the United States as portrayed in Roots remains as significant, raw, and pertinent to modern times as ever.

Roots and branches Remaking, revisiting, and reviving old series has become all the rage in US television, a trend that seemed to spread from the endless sequels spawned by the movie industry.

Roots review: this remake is brutal and harrowing – but it needs to be

Netflix revisited Full House with Fuller House earlier this year. Fox rebooted The X-Files. And Showtime is returning to Twin Peaks. And remakes give critics, including me, plenty to grumble about: View image of This video is no longer available But Roots may have the best argument for a remake. And 2016 is the perfect time for it: Diversity has begun to matter deeply on television, with black characters in central positions on hits such as Scandal, Blackish, and Empire.

Origins of a hit The series began as Roots: It spent four months on the New York Times bestseller list, moving more than 6 million copies and winning both the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize. Women and Minorities in Television. It quotes broadcast historian Erik Barouw on the rise of television in the 1950s, which included the infamously buffoonish black characters Amos and Andy, which the NAACP demanded be taken off the air. Barouw said of early TV: Television was explicitly and glaringly white.

Everyone was talking about ‘Roots’ in 1977 — including Ronald Reagan

Black actress Diahann Carroll starred in the surprise hit Julia in the 1960s. Market forces were already turning against socially conscious programming.

A personal perspective on episode 1 of the film roots

These circumstances made The Cosby Show, about an affluent black family, all the more revolutionary when it first screened in 1984. But in the audience fragmentation that came with the rise of cable TV, the major networks once again ran for safety, which they saw as overwhelmingly white. Empowered by her success, Rimes subsequently produced two huge hits with black women as the lead characters: Never forget Increased diversity on television comes amid a heightened discussion of race relations in the US.

The Black Lives Matter movement has brought attention to the disproportionate violence against African-Americans by police officers.

I don't think so. And that some of the issues that we still grapple with have their roots in slavery and its attendant legacy of racism. It includes new sequences, like a devastating Civil War battle at Fort Pillowin which the victorious Confederates took white Union soldiers hostage and killed or enslaved hundreds of black soldiers. Human beings have remarkably short memories, and so it is essential that we continually remind ourselves.