May 4, 2020 is the thirty-four anniversary of the television airing of the epic miniseries North and South: Book 2.
I’ve been a fan of the North and South saga for more than half my life.
I was 17 years old in 1982 when John Jakes’ novel North and South came out. It was a brilliant piece of fiction that masterfully interwove characters with real life historical events of the time. Jakes decided to tell a story of the antebellum through the eyes of two families: One from the North, the other from the South. George Hazard and Orry Main’s deep and abiding friendship overcame the struggle of the conflict threatening to tear their country apart. Further cementing the bond of the Main and Hazard families was the marriage of Orry’s sister Brett to George’s brother Billy.
Love. Family. Loyalty. This is the true story of the Mains and Hazard as depicted in North and South. On Sunday, November 3, 1985, North and South made the leap from the page to the screen when it premiered as an ABC Novel For Television miniseries. For six nights, the characters from Jakes’ novel came to life.
The following spring on Sunday, May 4, 1986, North and South: Book 2 made its debut. Based on the second novel in the trilogy, “Love and War” the miniseries saw the division of the country because of the Civil War. Orry and George found themselves fighting on opposite side as generals in the Confederate and United States armies. North and South: Book 2 focused on the Civil War era. The final adaption, Heaven and Hell dealt with Reconstruction.
North and South: Book 2 featured an all star cast: James Read, Patrick Swayze, Lesley-Anne Down, Lewis Smith, Parker Stevenson, Genie Francis, Terri Garber, Philip Casnoff, Kirstie Alley, Jean Simmons, Wendy Kilbourne, Mary Crosby, Jonathan Frakes, Kate McNeil, Erica Gimble, Hal Holbrook, Linda Evans, James Stewart, Lee Horsley, Anthony Zerbe and Olivia de Havilland.
The television miniseries reached its heyday in the 1980s. Colleen McCullough (The Thorn Birds), Herman Wouk (The Winds of War, War and Remembrance) and Jeffrey Archer (Kane and Abel) were some of the authors that found their written work get the small screen treatment. And although these were good, in my opinion none surpassed the excellence of North and South.
I give my reasons why I North and South is my favorite miniseries:
Although North and South: Book 2 changed several key points in “Love and War” (the major one being Orry is killed), it served as a great companion to the first miniseries North and South. The recasting of Billy and Isabel from John Stockwell and Wendy Fulton to Parker Stevenson and Mary Crosby didn’t lessen the impact these characters made in the story.
34 years later, fans of North and South and North and South: Book 2 still celebrate the saga of the Mains and Hazard. Some like myself, rewatch the miniseries.
A television project like this rare and deserves all the accolades it’s received over the decades for the impact made to the miniseries genre.
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