A Big Mountain Productions Format
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In the U.S. version of the show, which will take place in Austin, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; Detroit; and San Francisco, Americans can trace their past based on things like a family story or heirloom.
Philip McGovern, above with wife and partner Jane Kelly, of Irish production company Big Mountain called the show "part detective story, part emotional journey, combining history and science to uncover fascinating stories of diverse Americans."
As Kelly, who is Big Mountain's creative director, put it: " 'Genealogy Roadshow' is an original format where our expert team of genealogists investigate people's stories and present their amazing results in front of a live roadshow audience."
"This is about regular Americans who want to find out their past," McGovern said. "We are tapping in to this trend where people like you and me try to find out their past."
"Genealogy Roadshow" started off as a one-off documentary for BBC in Ireland about Ulster Scots and their connection to U.S. presidents. It did so well that Big Mountain expanded it to a format that Irish pubcaster RTV backed into the series. The show is now in it's second season there. "We've always had an eye to internationalize this connection," McGovern said.
The pair reached PBS in a circuitous route. The company worked with Krasnow Prods. on the U.S. adaptation and met producer Stuart Krasnow via Pat Quinn whose Quinn Media Management works on both sides of the Atlantic with the Resource Center, helping smooth the way to reach U.S. networks and studios.
"I target which companies would work," said Quinn. "It was a meeting of the minds with Stuart Krasnow. We recut the sizzle reel, Philip did a lot of work, to see which would appeal to Americans."
Beth Hoppe, PBS chief programming exec and g.m., general audience programming, says that when she first heard the pitch from Krasnow, "I thought the idea was perfect for PBS, such a great way to explore your roots. We have a history with finding your roots, with shows like 'Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates.' You don't have to be famous to be remarkable. I saw the Irish version, and thought it was terrific."
Quinn said, "Ireland is small but has a long, long rich history. Here in L.A., everyone's been in L.A. one generation. Nashville, Detroit, San Francisco, Austin will have diverse histories."
While no host has yet been selected for the U.S. adaptation, PBS has found sites with rich local history to host each segment. None of the participants was willing to divulge budgets for the show, but Hoppe said, "it's in the mid-range of what PBS normally does."
"We are starting with four and if they are as successful as we hope they'll be, we'll get more," she said.
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The US network has greenlit a 4 x 60-minute run from US indie Krasnow Productions, which is responsible for series including OWN's Searching For.
The US version of Genealogy Roadshow, which combines history and science to find genealogy stories, will travel to locations in Austin, Nashville, Detroit and San Francisco for its launch in September.
The format was originally commissioned by Irish public broadcaster RTE and has been renewed for a second season following its initial rating success.
The deal is one of the most notable deals involving an Irish indie receiving a commission in the US.
Big Mountain, which is run by creative director Jane Kelly and executive producer Philip McGovern, also produces series including The Big House and The Tenements. It is represented in the US by talent agency Quinn Media Management.
Kelly said the indie was "breaking new ground" with the format deal."Our company focus is very clearly set on developing shows that have universal values, have genuine transformational journeys at their core that connect with audiences," she said.
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The series, which has performed well on RTÉ in Ireland, will debut in September in the US with four episodes shot in Austin, Nashville, Detroit and San Francisco.
Part detective story, part emotional journey, Genealogy Roadshow is pitched as a "next-generation genealogy series that combines history and science to uncover stories of diverse Americans. Each individual's past is linked to a larger history, revealing the rich cultural tapestry of America."
The US series will air in a 21.00 slot weekly beginning September 23.
The format has been licensed and the US series produced by LA-based production house Krasnow Productions, which previously made The Weakest Link, Average Joe, Dog Eat Dog and The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency.
Big Mountain Productions is run by husband-and-wife team Jane Kelly and Philip McGovern, former BBC/RTÉ executive producers.
McGovern told C21: "This is great news for Irish creativity. We are developing a head of steam and expect Ireland to become the next Israel when it comes to format development. RTÉ has supported the show well and the relationship with Pat has allowed us to go straight to series in the US. We are already developing further series and hope Craftmaster will be the next one away."
"We're breaking new ground here with an original format we've developed and produced locally but that has got a sales order with a transmission date - not just a pilot - from one of the major networks in the biggest TV market in the world," added Jane Kelly, Big Mountain's creative director.
The format features an expert team of genealogists investigating people's stories and then presenting them to a live roadshow. "That is the twist," said McGovern. "The show gives ordinary Americans the chance to look into the past and search for their own place in history. And that is going to work for PBS."
Quinn Media management specialises in selling international formats into the US. It has previously sold Wild Rover Productions' Take The Money and Run to Jerry Bruckheimer and the BBC's Secret Fortune to Nigel Lythgoe for a CBS pilot.
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The nonfiction series combines history and science to uncover stories of diverse Americans, with each individual's linking to a larger history. The U.S. series will air in a prime-time 9 p.m. slot weekly beginning September 23.
Genealogy Roadshow has been a hit in Ireland, where national broadcaster RTE commissioned the original format from Big Mountain Productions. It premiered on RTE1 in September 2011 with an average series run share of 28 percent. Series two has just completed production and will air in September on RTE1.
"It just hit a nerve," said Big Mountain executive producer Philip McGovern. "Everybody wants answers to questions about their own histories to help make sense of their lives today. We've had a lot of interest in the format internationally and are delighted PBS has picked it up."
"Our company focus is set on developing shows that have universal values, have genuine transformational journeys at their core that connect with audiences," added Jane Kelly, Big Mountain's creative director.
Genealogy Roadshow is represented in the U.S. by Pat Quinn of Quinn Media Management. The format has been licensed and the U.S. series produced by Los Angeles-based Krasnow Productions. Krasnow Productions is represented by APA, which also repped the package. Company president Stuart Krasnow is a 30-year veteran of the biz, whose banner has produced series in almost every genre of unscripted, including The Weakest Link, Average Joe and Dog Eat Dog.
Run by husband-and-wife team Kelly and McGovern, who are former BBC/RTE executive producers, Big Mountain originates and produces shows for national broadcasters in Ireland and the U.K., including The Big House currently airing on Monday nights on TV3 in Ireland.
Los Angeles-based Quinn Media specializes in business development for international media companies and licensing foreign formats to the U.S. market.
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