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Chernobyl producers bag rights to Cold War thriller ‘Tunnel 29’

The producers of HBO’s globally acclaimed drama series Chernobyl have laid their hat on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Tunnel 29’, and a TV series based on the podcast is likely in the works.

HBO’s Chernobyl took the world by storm in summer 2019, winning ten Emmys, being named the best ‘limited series’ at the Golden Globes, and sitting atop IMDB’s ranking as the best rated TV series of all time. But surprisingly, the creators faded into relative obscurity over 2019’s festive period and into the early months of 2020, as they failed to announce any follow up projects coming in the foreseeable future. That was, until now.

The UK production house that helmed Chernobyl, ‘Sister’ has just acquired the rights to a buzzing BBC Radio 4 podcast Tunnel 29 which is based on a true story despite fierce competition, and we could potentially be seeing the beginnings of their next big TV venture. The 10-episode podcast – narrated by Helena Merriman – chronicles the remarkable story of a group of German students and who tunnelled 29 civilians under the Berlin wall and away from the perils of the communist regime in West Germany during the Cold War.

The lucrative package deal is said to cover rights to the podcast, which has amassed 5 million downloads since November 2019, a follow up book that Merriman is currently working on, and most importantly… drumroll… screen rights, crucially meaning a film or TV project will likely be in the pipeline (no pun intended). Sister has confirmed reports surrounding the deal with the BBC but refused to comment on whether they intend to create a TV show or a film at this stage.

A little digging beyond the surface (still not a pun) shows that Tunnel 29 is a sure bet to become Sister’s next big project on the scale of Chernobyl. Reports suggest Sister had to topple upward of 20 ‘heavyweight’ competitors including See Saw (who had teamed up with The Crown director Benjamin Caron), Endeavor, and Temple Hill to land the contract. Make no mistake, Sister has spared no expense to get this deal over the dotted line, and you’d best believe they’re banking on commercial and critical success once again to make it all worth it.

However they decide to proceed, Tunnel 29 is already an exciting prospect. Between Stephen King’s The Outsider, Chernobyl, Watchmen, True Detective, and Westworld, it’s safe to say when it comes to gritty and unrelenting source material, HBO know exactly what they’re doing. They love to watch us squirm.

While we wait for confirmation on HBO and Sister’s plans for Tunnel 29, the podcast is definitely worth exploring. The real story is empowering and moving, and getting to grips with the real-world stakes will likely make any TV/film adaption all the more rewarding down the line.

We’ve waited long enough Sister. It’s quieter than Chernobyl out here.