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The tainted blood scandal of the 1980s that infected thousands of Canadians with HIV and Hepatitis C is getting the miniseries treatment.
SundanceTV on Saturday announced at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour that it is teaming with with Canadian broadcaster CBC for Unspeakable, an eight-part drama from creator and showrunner Robert C. Cooper (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency) based on first-hand experiences and two nonfiction books on the subject — Bad Blood by Vic Parsons and The Gift of Death by Andre Picard.
The drama chronicles the emergence of HIV and Hepatitis C in Canada in the early ‘80s and the tragedy that followed when thousands were unnecessarily infected by tainted blood. The scandal is considered one of the largest medical disasters in Canadian history and triggered a federal inquiry as well as a billion-dollar lawsuit. The miniseries hits especially close to home for Cooper, who himself contracted Hepatitis C from tainted blood.
“I am thrilled and, frankly, somewhat daunted by the opportunity to tell this story that has deeply affected so many people,” said Cooper. “CBC is the perfect place for this project and I am grateful to Sally Catto and everyone at the broadcaster for their support. I am also extremely excited to have SundanceTV and AMC Studios on board and thankful to Jan Diedrichsen of SundanceTV and Rick Olshansky and Stefan Reinhardt of AMC Studios for their enthusiasm for the project.”
Cooper will executive produce with Meridian Artists’ Glenn Cockburn, with Mezo Entertainment to produce. AMC Studios will manage worldwide distribution outside of Canada. This keeps Cooper at AMC Studios, which also co-produces BBC America’s Dirk Gently, on which he is currently serving as showrunner for season two of the Elijah Wood starrer.
Filming is set to begin on Unspeakable in early 2018 in Canada.
“SundanceTV has a reputation for bringing our viewers the best programming from around the world, and the ability to do that with a creative partner like Rob, who has done such remarkable work with our sister network BBC America, is something truly special,” said SundanceTV and Sundance Now general manager Diedrichsen. “This drama, while set in Canada, really is the kind of story that will resonate around the world and, while it took place 30 years ago, is very current in its themes and ability to capture audiences today.”
Added CBS programming general manager Catto: “Unspeakable is a powerful, character-driven drama that will shine a light on a dark chapter in our recent history through Robert’s passionate and deeply personal storytelling. We look forward to partnering with SundanceTV and AMC Studios to bring this remarkable original Canadian story to audiences at home and around the world.”
In addition to original scripted programming produced in-house like Rectify and more recently Hap and Leonard, SundanceTV has found success with similar co-productions as it expands its originals slate. Other co-productions include The Honourable Woman with the BBC and the forthcoming miniseries Liar, made with ITV.
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