Roots: Night 1
May 30, 2016 6:25 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

In 1750 in the river region of The Gambia in West Africa, Omoro Kinte and his wife, Binta, have their first child, a son named Kunta. (Part 1 of a 4 part series)

‘Roots’ on History Channel: Memorial Day Viewing Includes Contemporary Update of This Alex Haley Classic; Extended Video Sneak Peek! (TV Ruckus)

Why Roots Is the Single Most Important Piece of Scripted Television in Broadcast History (By Matt Zoller Seitz at Vulture - regarding the original 1977 TV mini-series)

The New Roots Is More Scathing and Pulls Fewer Punches (again by Matt Zoller Seitz at Vulture):
This Roots isn’t as altogether strongly acted as the 1977 version — though there are still plenty of standouts, including Rose as the good-hearted and tragically cursed Kizzy, Forest Whitaker as the unexpectedly radicalized house slave Fiddler, Rége-Jean Page as the motormouthed cockfighting master and trickster hero Chicken George, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the resentful white farmer Tom Lea. But the unmistakable spiritual dimension, an aspect lacking in the original, compensates, and it comes mainly from the writing and direction. Subjective storytelling devices and references to family mythology and lore recur in other chapters, starting with the opening sequence of Kunta’s father riding into the village to witness his son’s birth and passing a griot telling stories to an audience, and culminating in a scene where Kizzy “remembers” images of the African grandfather she never met. The iconic image of Baby Kunta being held aloft by his father repeats again in a future episode, linking the experiences of different generations bonded by their indomitable warrior spirit.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
First 30 minutes: underwhelming. Neither the acting nor, oddly, the production values seem improved over the original.
posted by TwoStride at 6:37 PM on May 30, 2016

First 30 minutes: underwhelming. Neither the acting nor, oddly, the production values seem improved over the original.

I could not disagree more.

It's interesting how similar some of the scenes are to scenes from the CBC miniseries "The Book of Negroes".
posted by fuse theorem at 7:17 AM on May 31, 2016

I thought the first 30 minutes did suffer a bit from "when's he going to get taken" anticipation: the knowledge of where this is going next rather undercut the engagement in what's happening now.

But holy shit, the slave ship was horrifying and devastating: men stacked like logs in the hold, Kunta raging in his chains, the men being fed like livestock.

It felt to me like a lot of the story at the plantation this episode was an attempt to answer Kunta's "why don't they run" question: by showing there's an institutional culture of brutality and fear of reprisal, not just of what might happen at this place but also of being sold on to a worse place.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:41 AM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have very vivid memories of the original mini-series and there were certain scenes repeated here. I was about 10 years old when it first aired. And I read the book around that age too.

There also things that were different in this new version, and I'm fine with that. It makes me want to re-watch the original.
posted by larrybob at 12:10 PM on May 31, 2016

So does each of the four directors handle one episode? They are Phillip Noyce, Bruce Beresford, Mario Van Peebles and Thomas Carter.
posted by larrybob at 12:17 PM on May 31, 2016

Answering my own question:
Episode 1: director: Phillip Noyce
Episode 2: director: Mario Van Peebles
Episode 3: director: Thomas Carter
Episode 4: director: Bruce Beresford
posted by larrybob at 12:20 PM on May 31, 2016

I'm liking it so far.... I've been spoiled by the wonder of Hanibal, Penny Dreadful, and all the other stellar tv of late... But I'm liking this. And I like that Levar Burton had a cameo early in episode one.
posted by pearlybob at 6:59 PM on May 31, 2016

I disagree that the acting isn't as strong as the original. Malachi Kirby and Forest Whitaker are fantastic. The whipping scene was brutal and graphic and emotionally devastating because those actors are doing God's work.
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:40 AM on June 1, 2016

Anyone else notice the scene where Fiddler adapts Kunta's mother's lullaby for violin and all the white people are like PLAY FOR ME THE TUNES OF YOUR PEOPLE, like some kind of premonition of Elvis?

not just of what might happen at this place but also of being sold on to a worse place.

Or of fear of reprisal not on you, but on others. If you try to run, this dude you barely know who seems basically OK gets sold downriver. (Also anyone notice the very brief Levar Burton cameo? I kept expecting him to turn up again.)

All in all I thought the portrayal of white Southerners across the board (in this episode and the others) was so spot-on as to be a little unnerving. I used to sort of excuse myself from Southern racism and all the "heritage" shit with "well it's not like my family was ever rich enough to own slaves..." but ummmmm jesus wept
posted by Sara C. at 4:58 PM on June 6, 2016

I completely missed the Levar Burton cameo, although I knew he was in it. Where was he?
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:47 AM on June 10, 2016

I am bummed there wasn't more discussion on this. Just finished the first night and I'm sobbing like a big baby. I am not a squeamish person but there were a lot of moments that I had to cover my eyes. Not even because of the violence, I've seen worse gore. It's how emotionally painful this is. Ugh.

Also, I found the original good but this is much more compelling. I appreciate that we got more of Kunta Kinte's backstory, and it was made clear that he and others were pulled from rich, complex cultures, families, and lives and dreams of their own.
posted by Anonymous at 12:50 AM on July 2, 2016

I watched the series a couple of weeks after the broadcast, but whenever I've tried to come up with something to say it just seems inadequate.
posted by XMLicious at 1:34 AM on July 2, 2016

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