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History Channel Orders London Plague and Donner Party Limited Series in Return to Miniseries Focus

Neither ends well, historically speaking

Just what we need, another reminder about the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, History Channel ordered two new scripted miniseries as part of its move back to limited series, and one of them focuses on the Bubonic Plague breakout in 1665 London. The other is about the Donner Party, which didn’t go much better.

“The Plague Year” hails from A+E Studios and is being written by Coleman Herbert and executive produced by Michael Hirst, who has a “Vikings” connection with History. “The Donner Party” is written by Ric Burns, who will executive produce alongside Nancy Buirski.

Both projects are part of History Channel’s shift back to miniseries and away from ongoing dramas. It follows a George Washington miniseries and another about Alcatraz.

“History’s scripted programming in development embraces our roots with premium historical miniseries that resonate with our audience and complement our event megadoc content centered on big moments throughout our history.  We look forward to partnering again with the brilliant Michael Hirst and teaming with Ric Burns and our very own A+E Studios to deliver content that will entertain, enlighten, and engage our viewers’ curiosity about the past,” Eli Lehrer, executive vice president and general manager at History, said in a statement. “We’ve been evolving our scripted business model for the brand, with a shift in focus to our legacy in big event limited-series, including both fully commissioned and co-produced projects.”

“The Plague Year” is a portrait of 1665 London, during one of the all-time worst outbreaks of the Bubonic Plague, according to History Channel. It’s the story of a society in turmoil, struggling to adapt to a new set of rules, finding its footing during a time of fear, paranoia and suspicion.

Sound familiar?

“The Donner Party” showcases one of America’s most iconic and tragic pioneer stories. Setting out for California in the spring of 1846, James Reed, his family and a hopeful wagon train of migrants were drawn by the promise of a better life out West, according to History’s logline. Little did they know that their ill-fated expedition, doomed to be trapped in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for the winter, would face unimaginable hardships that brought out the best, and worst, in humanity.

Yes, that includes cannibalism.

“The Donner Party” is produced by Cineflix Media in association with Steeplechase Films and Augusta Films.