Nellie Andreeva

Tribune’s WGN America is officially an original scripted programming player. Two months after Matt Cherniss was named president and general manager of WGN and indicated he would be looking for a scripted series to define WGN, the superstation has greenlighted its first original scripted series, drama Salem. The project, from Star Trek and 24 alum Brannon Braga, Adam Simon (The Haunting In Connecticut) and Fox21, has received a straight-to-series 13-episode order and is slated to begin production in the fall for a 2014 premiere.

Salem, originally developed for FX, is set in the volatile world of 17th century Massachusetts and explores what really fueled the town’s infamous witch trials and dares to uncover the dark, supernatural truth hiding behind the veil of this infamous period in American history. The show, which centers on an epic romance, is said to deliver a new vision of witches who are real though they are not who or what they seem. Braga and Simon created the series and will serve as executive producers alongside Prospect Park’s Josh Barry and Jeff Kwatinetz. “Brannon and Adam have an amazing vision for the world and characters that comprise Salem, Massachusetts during the witch trials and we believe that a great adventure full of supernatural, romance, and action awaits the viewer,” Cherniss said.

Salem (then Malice) was originally sold to FX last summer. Then came the setting for American Horror Story: Coven, with the third installment of the hit FX series revolving around witches. I hear, with FX’s blessing, Fox21 president Bert Salke took the project to WGN, which embraced it. Salem reunites 20th TV chairmen Dana Walden and Gary Newman with Cherniss and Tribune CEO Peter Liguori, who worked together when Liguori and Cherniss were at Fox. “As WGN America launches its strategy of programming distinctive original content, Salem is the perfect vehicle, and Gary, Dana, Bert and everyone at 20th with whom we have worked in the past is the perfect studio for us to begin this journey,” Liguori said. Added Newman and Walden, “Our studio has had a long and successful relationship with Peter and Matt, so we are thrilled to be back in business with them on this fantastic new project.” Salem is expected to kick off an aggressive  expansion of WGN’s programming slate.

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