Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

`I'll Fly Away' Soars to PBS: More Serial Dramas Coming?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

`I'll Fly Away' Soars to PBS: More Serial Dramas Coming?

Article excerpt

TWO years ago, NBC ventured into the arena of art with a unique serial drama, the critically acclaimed "I'll Fly Away," starring Sam Waterston and Regina Taylor. It was great, but NBC canceled it after two seasons, leaving fans hanging over the fate of the characters. Then the unexpected happened - PBS stepped in and commissioned a brand-new two-hour film of "I'll Fly Away" (Oct. 11, 8-10 p.m. - check local listings), tying up all the loose ends and telling a loyal audience what becomes of Forrest, Lilly, and the others. PBS will then rerun the entire series.

Beautifully written, complex, and deeply involving, the "I'll Fly Away" series boasted terrific acting, strong production values, and a remarkable concept. It told the story of two Southern families, one black and one white, whose lives intertwine during the civil rights movement of the 1950s. Without degenerating into political correctness, it recreated that era, revealing the cruelty and the humanity of one of the most important periods in recent United States history. But though it acquired a loyal following, awards, and critical praise, it did not gather a large audience. It was in danger of cancellation after its first season. Television critics and fans leaped to its defense, securing at least one more season.

"When we read the trade press rumors about `I'll Fly Away' not being renewed after its second season ... we were struck with the possibility of bringing it to PBS," John Grant, vice president of national programming for PBS, told the Monitor. "Our initial thought was maybe we could keep it going.... Even in the genre of quality drama, this one stood head-and-shoulders above most because it is so well written ad produced."

But PBS executives soon discovered that individual episodes of the show were beyond their means - no way could they produce 10 or 12 new episodes a year. So they approached NBC with the proposal to rerun the series, asking Joshua Brand and John Falsey to make the completion film. …

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