HOLLYWOOD — ABC has sealed a deal with U.K.-based producer TWI to air a series of three specials that chronicle Christopher Reeve’s attempts to walk.
Alphabet will air the first hourlong program, which documents Reeve’s 50th birthday, in the fall. The two other installments will air sometime in the next two years as developments in Reeve’s condition warrant.
Reeve’s son Matthew, a film student at Brown U., first pitched his father on the project, which intimately follows the paralyzed actor’s daily trials and tribulations. The actor agreed, and Matthew Reeve began scouting for outside support.
“His presence gave his father the confidence that it will be done in a way that wouldn’t violate an arbitrary line of privacy,” TWI prexy Bill Sinrich said.
Matthew Reeve, producer Stuart Watts and exec producer Alastair Waddington embarked on the project 18 months ago. TWI approached ABC this spring about picking up the trio of programs.
“They sent us over a tape of some of the stuff his son had shot, and we were pretty blown away,” said Andrea Wong, ABC’s senior VP of specials and alternative series. “Everyone thinks they’ve seen a lot of Reeve, but you haven’t seen him in his daily life struggling to reach his goals. You see his physical therapy, you see him struggling to live, and you see how his family deals with it.”
ABC will likely air the first special either around Reeve’s Sept. 25 birthday or during November sweeps. Reeve, who became paralyzed from the neck down after a riding accident seven years ago, has vowed that he would walk again by his 50th birthday.
“He hasn’t achieved that, but has some improvement that will surprise people when they see the documentary,” Sinrich said.
The footage includes the dramatic moment when Reeve is able to move his finger for the first time. Docu will also chronicle Reeve as he testifies in support of stem cell research.
“The goal is the second program will lead up to what we hope will be a major surgery, with the intention of possible results,” Sinrich said. “Then the third program would chronicle his recovery.”
ABC News’ Barbara Walters scored the first TV interview with Reeve in 1996, but Sinrich said that had no bearing on TWI’s current pact with the Alphabet net.
TWI, the programming arm of the U.K.’s Intl. Management Group, produces a wide range of sports programming in addition to features and documentaries. Company won a Peabody Award for its “The Second World War in Color,” which aired in the U.S. on the History Channel. PBS recently picked up the production company’s “Ali: Through the Eyes of the World” and will produce “The Perilous Fight: America’s World War II in Color” in conjunction with KCTS Seattle.