PBS Orders Civil War Drama, Pushes Further Into Scripted Originals

The six-episode series hails from Saw Bone Films and Scott Free.
Erika Larsen
PBS' Paula Kerger

A popular destination for U.K. imports, PBS announced Monday that it's taking on a drama of its own. The public broadcaster has ordered a six-episode series order for a still-untitled drama about the Civil War.

The project, created by Lisa. Q. Wolfringer and David Zabel, hails from Saw Bone Films and Scott Free. Funding for the project will come from the Anne Ray Charitable Trust and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. (Additional support will be provided by the Virginia Film Board.)

Shooting in Virginia, it marks the network's first American drama in a decade — and its first original commission in just as long. "Viewers know that Sunday nights are destination for original drama on PBS," said PBS audience programming chief programming exec and general manager Beth Hoppe. "I'm delighted to have this new series join an impressive history of past American dramas on PBS.

PBS president and CEO Paula A. Kerger made the announcement during the broadcaster's showing at the Television Critics Association press tour. Kerger has long teased an American drama series, since Downton Abbey reinvigorated PBS' scripted lineup — and its ratings — five years ago.

Dubbed "Mansion House" and "Civil War E.R." during development, the series is set in a hospital and follows real-life nurses Mary Phinney and Emma Green. One an abolitionist and one a Confederate belle, they find themselves the same occupied Confederate town, working at the same hospital.