PBS has cemented a deal with Lorimar TV to conclude the series “I’ll Fly Away” with a 90-minute movie to air in October, followed by repeat airings of the 39 episodes produced during the series’ two-year run on NBC.
The movie, produced by series creators Joshua Brand and John Falsey, will begin in the present with the character of Lilly (played by Regina Taylor), now in her 60s, relating her experiences during the civil rights movement to her 12 -year-old grandson.
That wrap-up, tentatively titled “Then and Now,” will air Oct. 11, followed by the two-hour pilot Oct. 18 and then the series installments on successive Mondays.
The series garnered 15 Emmy nominations its first season, two Golden Globe awards, and recently swept the made-for-TV American Television Awards, chalking up wins as outstanding drama and for leads Taylor and Sam Waterston.
However, low ratings prevented NBC from renewing the show, despite lobbying efforts by such organizations as the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.
“I’ll Fly Away” averaged a 6.9 rating, 13 share in Nielsen for the 1992-93 season, ranking 116th out of 140 series broadcast by the networks and Fox Broadcasting Co. Still, that average is slightly better than three times the average prime time rating for PBS.
Although there had been talk about trying to keep the show alive in series form on PBS, that was never really an option, based on the relatively small dollars available from public TV.
The project will be packaged and presented for PBS by local flagship KCET, which will also seek underwriting for the project.