WGN, formerly best known as home of Chicago Cubs games, made its first Television Critics Association press tour appearance on Sunday (January 12) morning to lay out the pieces of its shift from regional broadcaster to full-on entertainment cable network.
The shift will begin on April 20, when “Salem” attempts to break into the already jam-packed Sunday drama marketplace with its revisionist take on 17th century Massachusetts. The series, from producers Brannon Braga and Adam Simon, stars Janet Montgomery, Shane West, Seth Gabel and Ashley Madekwe.
WGN also has “Manhattan,” focusing on the Manhattan Project, racing in development toward a July 2014 premiere. “Manhattan” doesn’t have a cast yet, but the pilot was written by Sam Shaw (“Masters of Sex”) and will be directed by Emmy winner Thomas Schlamme.
“We want our series to transport the audience to worlds that they have never experienced and tell big, operatic stories that entice and entertain,” blurbs WGN President and GM Matt 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.”
The other major WGN project on the horizon is the 10-part “Ten Commandments,” which isn’t a Biblical vehicle, but rather a series of hour-long stories, each focusing on one of the 10 Commandments. Yes, it’s the “Decalogue,” only with different directors, not that you’d know that from the WGN release.
Because The Weinstein Company is producing, WGN has already gotten a handful of the studio’s favorite directors to do installments. Gus Van Sant, Lee Daniels, Jim Sheridan and Wes Craven all have close ties to producer Bob Weinstein and will do yet-to-be-determined announcements. Also signing on is Michael Cera.
“We are thrilled and honored to have filmmakers of this caliber as a part of this ambitious project, and thank Bruce Cohen and The Weinstein Company for bringing this diverse group of directors together,” Cherniss states. “The unique structure of the ‘Ten Commandments” project and the stature of directors involved reflects the creative and bold approach to quality programming that we aspire to as we move towards making WGN America a destination network. We look forward to seeing what each of these talented filmmakers has in store for the audience.”