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Starz sets 'Pillars' debut, adds 'Torchwood'

June 8, 2010 | 12:54 pm

Ian McShane as Waleran_6x4

Premium cable channel Starz, looking to juice up a Friday night action-drama schedule left bare by the departure of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," will launch the star-packed miniseries "The Pillars of the Earth" on July 23.

Taking up residence in the former "Spartacus" time slot, now occupied by less-buzzworthy half-hours "Party Down" and "Gravity," the $40-million miniseries will kick off with a two-hour premiere. "Pillars," starring Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Donald Sutherland and Alison Pill, is based on the best-selling novel by Ken Follett and produced by action mavens Ridley and Tony Scott.

This is the second programming announcement this week from the channel, which is shepherded by former HBO executive Chris Albrecht, now Starz's president and CEO. Aiming at sci-fi fanboys and genre enthusiasts, Albrecht announced Monday that the channel has acquired the British import/"Doctor Who" spinoff/cult favorite "Torchwood" for air next summer. The extraterrestrial-themed BBC franchise will retain stars John Barrowman and Eve Myles, while adding some new faces.

Albrecht is billing "Pillars," which runs eight hours, as "event television" and "a must-watch" program for the summer. The network lost some of its Friday night momentum after "Spartacus" finished its first-season run. The show, despite star Andy Whitfield's cancer diagnosis, will return with a prequel to Season 1 next year. Whitfield, who is recovering from treatment, is expected to appear in some of the episodes.

"Pillars," set in 12th-century England, has sold more than 14 million copies worldwide. First published in 1989, it was featured as an Oprah's Book Club selection on Oprah Winfrey's talk show in 2007 and sold nearly 1.5 million copies the following day.

The miniseries, from Germany-based Tandem Communications, is billed as a sweeping epic with war, religious strife and political power struggles. Such period pieces have been in vogue lately, with Showtime's "The Tudors" racing toward a series finale and "The Borgias," about another wealthy, wacky, murderous influential family, queued up next. Starz, for its part, also plans a retelling of the classic "Camelot" tale, with Joseph Fiennes as Merlin and former James Bond girl Eva Green as Morgana, early next year.

-- T.L. Stanley

Photo Credit: Starz


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