×

‘Finding Your Roots’ To Return To PBS After Ben Affleck Controversy

Finding Your Roots,” the PBS celebrity-genealogy series that came under scrutiny earlier this year after revelations of producers scrubbing an episode of a reference to slave-holding ancestors in actor Ben Affleck’s family, has found a new perch on PBS winter and spring schedule.

PBS intends to launch a third season of the series starting January 5. Among the celebrities scheduled to explore their family trees are actress Julianne Moore, TV producer Shonda Rhimes actor Neil Patrick Harris and actress Julianna Margulies. “I’m confident there won’t be any problem,” said Beth Hoppe, PBS’ chief programming executive and general manger of general audience programming, in an interview.

In June, however, the future of the series, produced by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., was in doubt. PBS found itself in the awkward position of having to defend the integrity of the series, and said at the time that a third season of the program would be delayed “until we are satisfied that the editorial standards of the series have been successfully raised to a level in which we can have confidence.” The network has yet to make a determination about a fourth season of the program, according to a PBS spokeswoman.

Hoppe described a new governing system for the show in which PBS and Gates had “opened up the process to make it much more of a dialogue” as producers worked to research celebrity backgrounds, she said. New levels of fact-checking had been added, she said, along with an independent genealogist. “We wanted to make sure we don’t have a situation like that again, and have done it with [Gates’] full cooperation,” said Hoppe.

Affleck’s request — and its influence on the production of the series — came to light in April, as media outlets reported on private email exchanges between Gates and Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton in which Gates sought Lynton’s counsel over requests by Affleck to remove a segment from the episode that mentioned that slave owners were part of his family history. Executives at PBS and WNET, the station that produced the series’ first two seasons, were not made aware of Gates’ decision to make the change.

The episode in which Affleck’s ancestry is examined was withdrawn from all forms of distribution, PBS said in June, including digital streaming and home video.

In June, Gates apologized for not informing public-broadcasting executives of his decision and indicated he was open to increase the transparency around the program’s inner workings.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Ballers HBO

    'Ballers' to End After Season 5 on HBO

    “Ballers” is coming to an end after five seasons on HBO. Star and executive producer Dwayne Johnson confirmed the news via an emotional Instagram video. “My heart is full of gratitude to all of you for rocking with us every season. You made us HBO’s highest rated comedy for years and most importantly, you helped [...]

  • Sublime Primetime

    How Emmy-Nominated Writers’ Rooms Keep Politics in Mind

    In a world filled with elections, social movements and national tragedies, how open should the doors of a writers’ room actually be? For some of this year’s Emmy-nominated shows, those doors are wide open. Before the 71st annual Primetime Emmy Awards air on Sept. 22, the Writers Guild of America West and Writers Guild Foundation, [...]

  • Disney Villains Series 'Book of Enchantment'

    'Book of Enchantment' Series Based on Iconic Disney Villains Shelved at Disney Plus

    Disney Plus has decided to not move forward with “Book of Enchantment,” a series based on some of Disney’s most iconic villains, Variety has learned from sources. The news comes the day before Disney is set to unveil its streaming service at the biannual D23 convention in Anaheim. The prospective project was based on the [...]

  • ITV STUDIOS PRESENTS VERAFILM 2Pictured: BRENDA

    Brenda Blethyn to Star in New ITV Sitcom 'Kate and Kolo'

    Oscar-nominated Brenda Blethyn is set to star in the new sitcom “Kate and Kolo” for ITV, the U.K. broadcaster announced at the Edinburgh TV Festival. Blethyn takes on the title role of Kate in the comedy alongside theater and film actor Jimmy Akingbola as Kolo. Blethyn is a popular star with ITV audiences after having [...]

  • Sean Spicer Emmys

    Sean Spicer's Casting Explained? Red States Love 'Dancing With the Stars'

    ABC faced backlash this week after casting former White House press secretary Sean Spicer on “Dancing with the Stars.” But that outrage might actually spice up the dancing competition’s dwindling ratings — particularly in Trump Country. “Dancing with the Stars” has faced a relatively alarming decline in ratings over the past two cycles, falling 32% [...]

  • Peppa Pig

    Hasbro Acquires Entertainment One in $4 Billion All-Cash Deal

    Toymaker Hasbro is acquiring studio Entertainment One in an all-cash transaction valued at $4 billion, bringing My Little Pony and Nerf under the same umbrella as “Peppa Pig” and “PJ Masks” and furthering Hasbro’s growth goals in the infant and preschool categories. Hasbro aims to expand its operations in film and TV. Entertainment One’s production [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content