CBS Orders Mark Burnett Mini 'The Dovekeepers' for 2015

The Dovekeepers Cover mark burnett Inset - P 2013
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The Dovekeepers Cover mark burnett Inset - P 2013

CBS is expanding its relationship with Mark Burnett.

The network is teaming with the Survivor mastermind for a four-hour miniseries based on Alice Hoffman's historical novel The Dovekeepers. The mini, set for 2015, hails from exec producers Roma Downey and Burnett, the married creative team behind History's Emmy darling The Bible and Fox's upcoming feature follow-up, Son of God.

The Dovekeepers, first published in 2011 by Simon & Schuster imprint Scribner, is a New York Times best-seller and was hailed by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison as a "major contribution to 21st century literature." The story centers on four women whose lives intersect in a fight for survival at the siege of Masada. Set in ancient Israel, The Dovekeepers is based on the true events at Masada in 70 C.E. After being forced out of their home in Jerusalem by the Romans, 900 Jews were ensconced in a fortress at Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. Besieged at Masada, the Jews held out for months against the vast Roman armies. The mini will recount the unfolding events from the perspective of four women who arrive at Masada independently and with unique backstories, but who share a common bond for survival.

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Dovekeepers marks the first project to come from CBS Entertainment and CBS Television Studios' recently announced limited series and event programming unit under the newly hired Stacy Mandelberg. It will be distributed worldwide by CBS Studios International. The mini is a co-production between CBS Television Studios and LightWorkers Media. Downey and Burnett will exec produce. Mandelberg, vp limited series and event programming, will oversee production. LightWorkers Media is repped by WME. Hoffman will serve as a consultant on the mini.

"The Dovekeepers is a compelling, beautifully written novel that combines history and fiction into a timeless story of survival and heroism," CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler said. "We're thrilled to be working with Roma Downey and Mark Burnett to bring Alice Hoffman's epic saga to life. Mark and Roma possess an amazing passion for telling biblical stories and for producing entertaining television on an event scale."

Added Downey: "We are excited to get to turn this best-selling novel by Alice Hoffman into an epic miniseries that will be a major television event on CBS. This novel is a testament to the human spirit and how love can rise from the ashes of war. It is, quite simply, an amazing story of heroism and hope, and a story that must be seen not just with the eyes but felt with the heart."

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Said Hoffman: "I am thrilled that my novel The Dovekeepers, produced by Roma Downey, who I so admire for her vision and strong commitment to the stories of women of the ancient world, will be at CBS with Nina Tassler, who is dedicated to storytelling at the highest level."

For Burnett, Dovekeepers marks the prolific producer's latest miniseries. The reality guru is also teaming with NBC for limited entry Plymouth, which follows the challenges and drama of the Pilgrims' journey across the Atlantic and the difficulties of settling in a new country. Burnett and Anne Thomopoulos of Mark Burnett Productions will executive produce alongside Gina Matthews and Grant Scharbo of Little Engine. Oscar and Emmy winner Walon Green (NYPD Blue, The Hellstrom Chronicle) will pen the project. The Voice EP also has Bible follow-up A.D.: Beyond the Bible in the works at NBC -- the network's first longform programming initiative under former ABC exec Quinn Taylor. Beyond the Bible hails from Burnett and Downey, and begins in the days after Jesus' betrayal and death.

Religion-based programming, both on the scripted and unscripted side, is attracting viewers -- especially on cable. The success of The Bible has proven that there is a demand for such faith-based series. "We knew the subject area [was of interest to] our viewers and beyond," History executive vp development and programming Dirk Hoogstra told THR earlier this year.

The miniseries push comes as both broadcast and cable networks are looking to lure A-list actors, prestige and eyeballs in an era dominated by DVRs.

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