- Angst Aversion: The horrors of slavery are shown so blatantly that the series can be a hard watch, especially when it takes until Chicken George is an old man for anyone in the Kinte family to get free from slavery. Mind, this isn't the show's fault; it's only being honest. It's just that the series works mostly as an educational tool than any kind of entertainment.
- Critical Research Failure: Captain Davies proclaims himself a devout Christian because he works during the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day of rest, and traditionally Christians are forbidden to work on that day.
- Hypocrite: Captain Davies proves himself to be a hypocrite. For if he was a true Christian, he could not behave in the manner of his actions: working on the Sabbath, kidnapping and selling slaves, rape.
- First Installment Wins: The nearly unanimous opinion of critics and viewers regarding the two miniseries. While the second one is excellent in its own right, it's generally regarded as lesser than the first. The Interquel Roots: The Gift and the parallel Mini Series Queen don't fare as well with critics.
- Hilarious in Hindsight:
- The sequel series being titled "The Next Generations" after the original introduced us to Levar Burton of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- In the Japanese dub, Kunta is voiced by Takahiro Sakurai, who previously voiced a guy who fights for the ones who are slaving his people.
- Four actors who appeared in Roots: The Gift starred in Star Trek series: Levar Burton in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Avery Brooks in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Kate Mulgrew and Tim Russ in Star Trek: Voyager.
- Memetic Mutation: "Your name is TOBY!"
- Moral Event Horizon: Tom Moore crosses this in his second scene when he rapes Kizzy. Strangely, he has a few Pet the Dog moments afterwards.
- The telegraph employee enthusiastically yelling "IT'S WAR!" in an excruciatingly high-pitched voice.
- 33-year-old Leslie Uggams is embarrassingly hard to watch as the teenage Kizzy. Luckily, she improves significantly while playing her real age.
- One-Scene Wonder: Marlon Brando as George Lincoln Rockwell in The Next Generations.
- Retroactive Recognition:
- Tracey Gold played the young Missy Anne Reynolds in Part IV of the original miniseries.
- Todd Bridges played Bud Harvey in Part VIII of the original miniseries.
- Debbi Morgan played Elizabeth "Liz" Harvey in all but the last episode of The Next Generations.
- Brian Stokes Mitchell played John Dolan in Part I of The Next Generations.
- Gerald McRaney played Harry Owens in Part II of The Next Generations.
- Irene Cara played Bertha Palmer Haley in Parts III, IV and V of The Next Generations.
- Philip Michael Thomas played Eddie Franklin in Part III of The Next Generations.
- Kristoff St. John played the young Alex Haley in Part V of The Next Generations.
- Kim Fields played Lydia Haley in Part VI of The Next Generations.
- Ernie Hudson played a Muslim in Part VII of The Next Generations.
- Signature Scene: The whipping scene.
- Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: This was the first time the slave trade was dramaticized onscreen in all its horrors.
- Special Effect Failure: The "old" makeup.
- Tear Jerker: Among the most memorable sad sequences are when Kunta is whipped in front if the other slaves until he accepts his name is now Toby, and when after finding out that Kizzy is literate, and helped forge freedom papers for another slave, Dr. Reynolds sells her to Tom Moore, while Kunta and Bell watch helplessly as their daughter is taken from them.
- Unintentionally Unsympathetic: In more recent years the series has been knocked a bit for expecting us to sympathize with Captain Davies just for feeling kind of bad about propagating the slave trade, but not enough to actually do anything about it.
- Values Dissonance: The horrors of slavery go without saying. But that aside, Chicken George gets his name and makes his way as a gamecock trainer—as in cockfighting. He winds up being so highly valued by his master, Tom Moore, that he is cheated out of his occasional chances at freedom because of it. Cockfighting is viewed as a sleazy, cruel pastime in this era and only takes place at underground illegal dives.
- What an Idiot!: In the penultimate episode, Tom discovers a thief in a food storage shed who messed the place up and runs off when discovered.
You'd expect: Tom to go to Evan and Jimmy Brent and tell them about the thief to minimize the risk of being beaten when the thief runs off.
Instead: Tom nonchalantly tries to clean up the mess whereupon the Brents come across the scene seconds later. They don't believe him when he tells them about the thief and he is promptly used as a punching bag by them.
YMMV / Roots (1977)