The story begins with a young Gambian man who is captured and sold into slavery in Colonial America, and this production features an all-star cast including Forest Whitaker (The Butler, South Paw) as Fiddler, Anna Paquin (True Blood) as Nancy Holt; Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors) as Tom Lea; Anika Noni Rose (Dream Girls, The Good Wife) as Kizzy; Chad L Coleman (The Walking Dead, The Wire) as Mingo; Erica Tazel (Justified) as Matilda; and Derek Luke (Captain America: The First Avenger, Antwone Fisher) as Silla Ba Dibba. Laurence Fishburne (Black-ish, The Matrix) plays Alex Haley.
Newcomers Malachi Kirby and Regé-Jean Page (Survivor, Waterloo) play Kunta Kinte and Chicken George, respectively. Malachi was hand-picked by executive producers Will Packer and LeVar Burton.
South African viewers may recognise some locations in the remake - Mtunzini’s uMlalazi River and Dlinza Forest, near Eshowe in KwaZulu-Natal. Actors Nokuthula Ledwaba, Mbulelo Grootboom and Nandi Nyembe star.
Ledwaba burst onto the scene as wild child Lu in Backstage, before playing Tshidi Khuse in Rhythm City and then starring as Dumile in Umlilo. Grootboom recently starred as Ntlonipho “Killer” Nxasana in the e.tv drama series Z’bondiwe, and played Tony in the 2009 feature film White Wedding. Nyembe is a familiar face having appeared in numerous TV series and movies including Jacob’s Cross, Soul City, Yizo Yizo, Izoso Connexion, Soul Buddyz and 4Play: Sex Tips for Girls.
Roots will air in two-hour episodes over four weeks.
50 Central (BET, 9.30pm): Apparently, Curtis Jackson aka 50 Cent or Fif is something of a prankster, so he hand-picked a bunch of A-listers to be part of his variety comedy showcase, featuring sketches, hidden-camera pranks, and musical performances. “The platform itself is supposed to be the place where aspiring talent - whether it’s an aspiring artist or artist that has a hit record - it belongs on 50 Central,” 50 told XXL. “It’s diverse. It’s a little edgy. Like, when you went to go see a stand-up comedian, the language that he would use to make you feel like you’re actually with the person being in the neighbourhood you come from.”
Superior Donuts (M-Net 101, 4.30pm): The first season of 13 episodes aired in the US in February this year, and its second premiered earlier this week. Emmy winner Judd Hirsch plays Arthur Przybyszewski, the gruff owner of a small doughnut shop in Chicago, and comedian Jermaine Fowler plays his young employee Franco Wicks. The sitcom revolves around their relationship and the shop’s various patrons. Among these is cop Randy, played by Katey Sagal (Sons Of Anarchy).
IN THE WEEK
Count Arthur Strong (ITV Choice, Monday at 8pm, double episodes): Steve Delaney plays the titular character - a faded star from the golden days of variety. He was never as famous as he thinks or still thinks he is, and now his days are all about opportunity, with another great entertainment triumph only a phone call away. Based on the BBC radio series, Count Arthur Strong was voted fourth in the Radio Times best sitcoms of the 21st century. “It was flattering,” says Delaney. “A little more flattering than coming fifth. But not as flattering as coming third. I’m generally a bit wary of things people vote for. Donald Trump being an example of how wrong that can go.”
The Long Road Home (National Geographic, Monday at 9pm): An eight-part global event series based on Martha Raddatz’s New York Times best-selling book, this gripping and intimate look at the toll war takes on soldiers and their families, will debut with a two-hour premiere. It tells the story of “Black Sunday”, when a small platoon of soldiers from the US 1st Cavalry Division was ambushed in Sadr City, Baghdad, in April 2004. Eight soldiers were killed and more than 65 wounded. The series tells the stories not only of these soldiers but also of their compatriots involved in the three rescue missions launched to save them. Across eight hours reflecting the amount of time the soldiers were pinned down, each episode highlights a different character’s journey. The cast includes Michael Kelly (House of Cards, Taboo), Jason Ritter (Parenthood, Girls), Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush, SS-GB, The Art of More), Sarah Wayne Callies (Prison Break, The Walking Dead, Colony), Noel Fisher (Shameless), and Jeremy Sisto (Suburgatory, Law & Order, Six Feet Under).
Life in Pieces (FOX, Wednesday at 6.55pm): One of my favourite comedy shows, Life In Pieces is back for its third season. The ensemble cast portrays various generations and branches of one family, and every episode comprises four short stories which may or may not be linked by a common thread or arc. It’s sharp, clever and hilarious, and the brief format is brilliant. Of the three siblings, middle child Matt (Thomas Sadoski, Newsroom) has finally married his true love, Colleen (Angelique Cabral). Coddled youngest brother Greg (Colin Hanks) and his wife Jen (Zoe Lister-Jones) are struggling to find the balance between work and raising their toddler. The eldest, Heather (Betsy Brandt), and her husband Tim (Dan Bakkedahl), have their hands full with three children. Their parents are Joan (Dianne Wiest) and John (James Brolin).
7 Little Johnstons (TLC Entertainment, Wednesday at 8pm): Known as the “largest little family” in the world, they have achondroplasia dwarfism, a genetic condition that affects their size. Parents Trent and Amber have five children under the age of 16: Jonah and Elizabeth, as well as three adopted children - Anna from Russia, Alex from South Korea, and Emma from China. In this new season, the Johnstons show us every family has hardships, but is easier when they stick together.
Fearless (ITV Choice, Thursday at 8pm): This new six-part contemporary thriller series created by Homeland and 24 writer Patrick Harbinson began last night. It stars Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders, Penny Dreadful) as Emma Banville, a human rights lawyer known for defending lost causes who sets out to prove the innocence of Kevin Russell (Sam Swainsbury), who was convicted for the murder of a schoolgirl 14 years earlier - a crime he maintains he didn’t commit. However, the deeper Emma digs, the more it seems as the police and intelligence services want to prevent her uncovering the truth. Also stars Sir Michael Gambon (Fortitude), Jonathan Forbes (Catastrophe), and Robin Weigert (American Horror Story). Episode one repeats today at 12.15pm, tomorrow at 2.35pm and 10pm, and Sunday at 6.15pm.