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 Posted:   Apr 12, 2024 - 1:29 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

ROOTS was the dramatization of Alex Haley’s chronicle of his family history from his ancestors’ life in tribal Africa in the 18th century to their emancipation in the post-Civil War South. The 8-part, 12-hour series became an overnight phenomenon that attracted, as it progressed, the largest viewing audience ever for a dramatic television program up to that time.

Among its unprecedented 37 Emmy Award nominations (the show won nine) was one for Louis Gossett, Jr. for Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series. In the film, captured Africans are sold at auction as slaves. “John Reynolds” (Lorne Greene), a plantation owner from Spotsylvania County, Virginia, near Fredericksburg, buys “Kunta Kinte” (LeVar Burton) and gives him the Christian name Toby. Reynolds assigns an older slave, “Fiddler” (Louis Gossett, Jr.), to teach Kunta English and train him in the ways of servitude. Although Kunta gradually warms up to Fiddler, he wants to preserve his Mandinka (and Islamic) heritage, and he defiantly refuses to eat pork or accept his Christian name.

Louis Gossett, Jr. in ROOTS

Gossett appeared in three episodes of the series, and won the Emmy for his performance in one of those episodes. Marvin J. Chomsky, John Erman, David Greene, and Gilbert Moses all directed various episodes. Gerald Fried and Quincy Jones scored the film, with the pair winning an Emmy for their score of Part I. Fried also was nominated separately for Part VIII. The score was released on an A&M Records LP, which was re-issued on CD by Varese Sarabande in 2016.

When ABC programmed ROOTS to air on several consecutive nights in primetime (January 23-30, 1977), it was considered a revolutionary approach to programming a miniseries. Most were aired once or twice a week over several weeks. Several years later, the network revealed that it was aired that way to get the show "out of the way" in a hurry. The network felt that nobody would watch the story if it aired over a longer period of time.

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