Lord Fellowes, Dorset-based creator of the hit ITV drama Downton Abbey, is to create an American version for the United States-based network NBC.
It will be based in New York in the 1880s, and according to NBC will focus on the rising and falling fortunes of the: “princes of the American Rennaissance”. Its working title is The Gilded Age.
Lord Fellowes, Oscar-winning scriptwriter of the film Gosford Park, offered Downton Abbey to NBC three years ago but was told that American audiences would not sit through an Edwardian-era period drama. It has since won six Emmys and achieved record ratings when screened by the US Public Broadcasting Service.
NBC hopes to screen the first of the series next autumn and said it will be a “sweeping epic”. Lord Fellowes, who lives at West Stafford, near Dorchester, will be executive producer. He said: “This was a vivid time, with dizzying, brilliant ascents and calamitous falls, of record-breaking ostentation and savage rivalry; a time when money was king.”
Jennifer Salke, president of NBC Entertainment, said the network was thrilled to have the “immensely talented” Lord Fellows on board. “Having him on our team represents a major coup,” she said.
The period was a time of vast economic growth in the US, but also of great social inquality.
The series is likely to reference the lives of families like the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers who amassed vast wealth through railroads and shipping.
Lord Fellowes will also take Downton Abbey into a fourth series next year. And ITV will launch another big-budget drama, Mr Selfridge, about the American founder of the London department store.