PBS president and CEO Paula A. Kerger made the announcement at the Television Critics Assn. press tour on Monday.
“We’re looking to do drama that is a little different than what everyone else is doing,” Kerger said, “which is not just to entertain but to educate and inspire.”
At her exec session, Kerger expressed high expectations for the new series, and explained that PBS is looking to expand its slate beyond “Downton Abbey” and Ken Burns documentaries. “We feel there’s a unique role in telling a story that is based off historic fact,” she said. “Frankly, I look at ‘Downton Abbey’ in the same way — it shines a light on history.”
The historical wartime medical drama, based on true stories and research from the past three years, follows two volunteer nurses on opposing sides of the Civil War — Mary Phinney, a New England abolitionist, and Emma Green, a young Confederate belle. The women collide at the Green family’s hotel, which has been turned into a Union Army Hospital in the longest-occupied Confederate city of the war, Alexandria, Virginia. The series explores the families’ conflicted loyalties and the expanded role of women and medicine in the midst of the war.
Ridley serves as executive producer, along with David W. Zucker (“The Good Wife”) and Lisa Q. Wolfinger (“Desperate Crossing”). The series is written by David Zabel (“ER”), and will be filmed in Virginia.
The six-episode series will join PBS’ Sunday night lineup in winter 2016.
PBS also announced two Masterpiece titles at TCA, “Arthur & George” and “Home Fires,” both slated for later this year.
“Arthur & George,” adapted from Julian Barnes’ novel, stars Martin Clunes as author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
“Home Fires,” starring Samantha Bond (“Downton Abbey”) and Francesca Annis (“Reckless”), follows a group of women living in a small rural village during World War II who fall under high pressure as they’re separated from their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers for years at a time.