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NBC, ABC developing rival 9/11 miniseries

Networks reportedly basing films on commission report
/ Source: Hollywood Reporter

NBC and ABC are developing miniseries revolving around the Sept. 11 attacks, using the “9/11 Commission Report” as the blueprint for dramatic retellings of the events that led to the devastating strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

NBC said Wednesday it has cut a deal with “Speed” screenwriter Graham Yost to develop a limited series exploring the circumstances surrounding the attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives and spurred the United States to mount a global war on terrorism. NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly said the network intended to produce a “seminal” event for network television on par with the 1970s miniseries “Roots” and 1980s nuclear-attack TV movie “The Day After.” The project will take at least a year to develop and might not be ready to air until the 2006-07 season, NBC brass said.

ABC, meanwhile, is understood to have been developing a similar concept for the past several months. ABC declined comment on their project Wednesday, but network sources suggested that the timing of NBC’s announcement was motivated at least in part by NBC’s desire to be the first to unveil plans for a Sept. 11-focused miniseries.

NBC said it was in the process of lining up “a major producer and other top talent” to work with Yost on the project, to be produced by its studio sibling, NBC Universal TV Studio.

“The only way we’d ever attempt a project like this is under the extremely capable auspices of Graham Yost, who can execute a project of this weight with the integrity it demands,” NBC Universal TV co-presidents Angela Bromstad and David Kissinger said in a joint statement.

Yost, who also created and executive produced the NBC police drama “Boomtown” and worked on the elaborate HBO miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon” and “Band of Brothers,” acknowledged that he had taken on a highly ambitious project that would take at least a year to research and develop. Most of the specifics about the project, including the number of hours, narrative approach and how it would be scheduled, have yet to be hammered out.

“I know I’ll be crying every day that I work on this,” Yost said. “It’s an incredibly emotional story and an incredibly compelling story. It’s an incredible honor and a responsibility, and I don’t take it lightly, but it is one that I am eager to take on.”

Yost said he had been thinking about developing a Sept. 11 drama for some time but hesitated because the timing didn’t feel right. But when Reilly recently pitched him the idea of using the “9/11 Commission Report” as a foundation for a drama, Yost “jumped at it,” he said.

The commission’s report lays out a dramatic narrative of how members of al Qaeda-backed terrorist cells plotted for years to hijack multiple airplanes that would be turned into bombs aimed at high-profile and highly symbolic targets, Yost said.