Monday, January 13, 2014

WGN America Relaunches as Destination for Original Content: SALEM, MANHATTAN and TEN COMMANDMENTS

With a clearly focused strategic mission, a new logo and an expanded primetime lineup of powerful and provocative programming, WGN America (WGNA) is relaunching to become a top-tier general entertainment cable network, driven by high-quality, distinctive original content. The announcement was made today by Matt Cherniss, President and General Manager, WGN America and Tribune Studios, during WGN America's first-ever presentation to the Television Critics Association (TCA).

In support of the launch, WGNA has made bold moves, ordering straight to series the production of two standout, scripted dramas: SALEM, to premiere Sunday, April 20, 2014, and MANHATTAN, to start production in New Mexico in March for a July 2014 premiere.

WGN America has also ordered the 10-part scripted event series TEN COMMANDMENTS from The Weinstein Company (TWC). Over 10 nights, 10 different visionary filmmakers will take on a single Commandment with their modern interpretation of that Commandment. Five of the 10 filmmakers on board to direct episodes are Gus Van Sant, Lee Daniels, Jim Sheridan, Wes Craven and Michael Cera. Academy Award winning producer Bruce Cohenand Bob Weinstein will produce the series.

"We're transitioning from a network with regional roots to one with a true national identity, driven by provocative, brand-defining programming of the highest quality," said Cherniss. "With this relaunch and our expanded portfolio of original content, we expect to significantly strengthen our position as a destination for viewers."

SALEM, which reexamines the infamous witch trials in 17th century Massachusetts, is now in production on a massive Louisiana set that recreates the historic village with astonishing detail, complete with critical period and architectural elements, including candlelit interiors, rustic shops and a town center that bears witness to the horrors and excitement of the time.

The storyline explores how suspicion and fear gripped Salem and its residents, and reveals the truth that in Salem, the witches were real, but not who they seemed to be.

Set in Los Alamos, N.M., at the Manhattan Project during the race to build the world's first atomic bomb, "Manhattan" explores the cost of secrets and the corrosive effect they have on individuals, families and their relationships.

"We want our series to transport the audience to worlds that they have never experienced and tell big, operatic stories that entice and entertain," added Cherniss. "We've harnessed some incredible talent to depict these worlds in a way that highlights the universalities in human nature that bind us all."


SALEM is created, executive produced and written by award-winning writer/producer Brannon Braga and Adam Simon.

The series stars Janet Montgomery as the ruthless but vulnerable Mary Sibley, Salem's most powerful enchantress; Shane West as handsome, hardened war veteran John Alden - and Mary's onetime love interest; Seth Gabel as local aristocrat Cotton Mather, who fans the flames of Salem's witch hunt; Ashley Madekwe (REVENGE) as Mary's enigmatic, carnal accomplice; Xander Berkeley as chief politician Magistrate Hale; Tamzin Merchant as the forthright Anne Hale, an artist with a perilous attraction to Alden; and Elise Eberle as the mysteriously afflicted Mercy Lewis.

SALEM hails from Fox 21, the prolific cable production division of Twentieth Century Fox Television.


The original scripted drama MANHATTAN is written and created by Sam Shaw (MASTERS OF SEX) who serves as executive producer, alongside executive producers David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross. Emmy Award-winning director Thomas Schlamme (THE WEST WING) directs and also serves as executive producer under his Shoe Money Productions banner.

MANHATTAN is produced by Tribune Studios, in partnership with Skydance Television and Lionsgate Television. Tribune Studios, the newly formed development arm of Tribune Corporation, is quickly becoming a notable creative force in television, with a roster of new projects in development for WGN America and Tribune's local stations.

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