In December, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey — the new It Couple of TV Miniseries/Event Series — landed CBS‘ first announced project from its new limited series and event programming unit. Like Burnett and Downey’s The Bible, The Dovekeepers is an historical series with religious overtones. The Dovekeepers is a four-hour miniseries based in Alice Hoffman’s historical novel about the Siege of Masada, and it will air on CBS in 2015. The mini will focus on “four extraordinary women whose lives intersect in a fight for survival at the siege of Masada,” according to CBS. Masada is the mountaintop fortress near the Dead Sea where the Romans found the last pocket of resistance after they conquered Jerusalem in 70 CE.
“We felt [the book] was best served if the screenplay came through the heart of a strong woman and Peacock is such a woman,” Downey said in a phone interview. “I met her right before Christmas; she came to our house in Malibu and I sat down with her and she clearly loved the book. Her book had Post-its sticking out from a hundred different pages where she’d lovingly made notes. She said whether she was brought on board or not, she was forever changed from having read the book and I was elated, because I could not put this book down when I first read it. I was like a woman who had fallen in love — I was hungry, turning pages, staying up later than I should have, in the absence of being able to pick it up the next day missing the book. When I was finished I missed the characters, longed for the characters – they got under my skin”.
“To meet a writer of the quality of Ann Peacock, and the experience of Ann Peacock, and discover she shared the same passion — it became a no-brainer she was the one to create this,”Downey said.
The Dovekeepers marks a return to Peacock’s roots in television where she won an Emmy for A Lesson Before Dying starring Don Cheadle for HBO — an adaptation of Ernest Gaines’ best-selling novel. In the past few years, she has been working on the period series Harem for Starz/BBC America, Hunting Eichman for Mandalay and Cinderella for Universal. Peacock is represented by Principato-Young Entertainment, CAA and attorney Don Steele.
CBS has high hopes for The Dovekeepers. Burnett and Downey’s 10-hour miniseries The Bible scored big ratings for History back in March of ’13, becoming the year’s top cable entertainment telecast of the year when it premiered, and helping make History the No. 1-ranked cable network for that month. The Bible opened with 13 million tuned in — about as many people as watched the opening of CBS’ Stephen King project Under The Dome (before factoring in DVR viewing on subsequent days) last summer.
It’s conceivable that, with a broadcast platform, The Dovekeepers (and The Bible sequel that NBC bought in July) could attract an even bigger crowd (ABC’s broadcasts of the 1956 Charlton Heston/Cecil B. DeMille Old Testament extravaganza, The Ten Commandments still manages to pop about 6 million viewers every year). It’s the subject of some discussion in the industry as to whether The Dovekeepers will clock as big an audience as did NBC’s live remake of The Sound Of Music which last December logged nearly 19 million viewers in its premiere.
In its first week of home video release, The Bible was the top-selling miniseries of all time and the No. 1 ranked TV series on DVD and Blu-ray over the past five years. It also spawned a feature film version to be released by Fox in February. In addition to its broadcast on CBS, CBS Studios International will distribute The Dovekeepers internationally.
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