Rich Man, Poor Man (1976)

Genres - Drama  |   Run Time - 580 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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More ambitious and expensive than ABC's first "novel for television" miniseries QB VII, the eight-episode, 12-hour Rich Man, Poor Man was the one that truly put the genre on the map, its phenomenal success in the ratings making possible the even more spectacular Roots. Adapted from the mammoth novel by Irwin Shaw, the miniseries covers the years from WWII to the 1960s, detailing the vacillating fortunes of the immigrant Jordache brothers. "Rich Man" Rudy Jordache (Peter Strauss) is determined to use his hard-earned education -- and his inherent ruthlessness -- to carve out a business and political empire not unlike that enjoyed by Joseph P. Kennedy and his progeny. "Poor Man" Tom Jordache (Nick Nolte), a quick-fisted hothead, goes an entirely different route, first as a professional boxer, then as a functionary of the evil gangster chieftain Falconetti (William Smith). Naturally, both brothers become entangled in romance along the way, with Julie Prescott (Susan Blakely) ending up as Rudy's benighted spouse. Originally telecast on February 1, 2, 9, 16, 23, and March 1, 8, and 15 in 1976, Rich Man, Poor Man earned 20 Emmy nominations and led to a weekly sequel, Rich Man, Poor Man -- Book 2, in the fall of 1976 (this version necessitated a title change for the original, which was rebroadcast as Rich Man, Poor Man -- Book 1 in the spring of 1977).