PBS fosters New York origin book as drama

US pubcaster PBS is working with Scott Free Productions and Malaysia’s Ideate Media to bring a New York City narrative history novel to television as a drama.

Emmy-winner Ed Redlich (The Practice, Unforgettable) is to writer the TV treatment for The Island at the Center of the World, which was a best-seller for Russell Shorto.

The book looks into New York’s origins as the Dutch-founded New Amsterdam near the tip of Manhattan Island. It has been hailed by the New York Times as a ‘masterly’ and is now considered a prominent source on the East Coast city’s early days.

“This epic book will make equally epic storytelling as a television event,” said PBS’s chief programming executive and general manager of general audience programming Beth Hoppe.

The series marks the latest high-profile project from Ideate, which aims to develop, produce and commercialise sought-after content for global audiences. Its current slate include high-rating Australian preschool show Sydney Sailboat and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, which Ideate is coproducing with AMC Studios for BBC America.

The firm’s US chief, Arvind Ethan David optioned the book from Shorto and brought it to Ridley Scott’s prodco, Scott Free (The Man in the High Castle). David and Zainir Aminullah executive produce for Ideate, with Redlich, Scott and David W. Zucker doing the same for Scott Free.

“I truly can’t think of a better team to bring the story and history in my book to life on television,” said Shorto. “PBS, Scott Free, Ed Redlich, Ideate Media: the combination of talent and experience and vision are something I might have dreamed about, but didn’t expect to come into alignment in the real world.”