Tribune CEO Peter Liguori is the network’s biggest affiliate owner, so the CW owners CBS and Warner Bros have to take him seriously. And something will have to give based on the tough comments he made today at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit — the same day CW execs told advertisers, in their upfront presentation, that the network just attracted its largest audience in three years. Liguori says he’s “not pleased with where the CW is” adding that it “should not program to [young] people who don’t watch television.” CBS’ Les Moonves and Warner Bros’ Kevin Tsujihara know that CW “can’t move forward without us.” What specifically does the Tribune chief want? Liguori says it may be time for him to “get a seat at the table” for programming. “Maybe I can put some of my content on there.” He also raised the possibility of playing a larger role in its management. “All of those things have to be in play.” Part of the problem, as Liguori sees it, is that CW is a sideshow for its owners. “If CW becomes a competitor, isn’t [Moonves] possibly threatened [at CBS]? Yes. We have to break that log jam.”
Related: CW’s New Series Trailers: ‘The Flash’, ‘Jane The Virgin’
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Following a strong launch, WGN America‘s first original scripted drama has been picked up for a second season three episodes into its freshman run. The 13-episode second season of Salem, from creators Brannon Braga and Adam Simon and Fox 21, will begin production later this year for a 2015 debut. Despite WGN only covering 62% of the country with a single feed, Salem‘s April 20 premiere averaged an impressive 3.4 million total viewers and 1.5 million adults 18-49 in Live+7. Through its first two telecasts in Live+3 viewing, Salem has logged nearly 1.7 million total viewers and 806,000 among Adults 18-49, a 776% increase over the network’s Adults 18-49 season-to-date average on Sundays at 10 PM ET. “At WGN America, we are committed to delivering compelling, brand-defining programming rich with fascinating characters, and Salem has done just that,” said WGN America President Matt Cherniss. Starring Janet Montgomery, Shane West, Seth Gabel, Xander Berkeley, Ashley Madekwe, Tamzin Merchant, Elise Eberle and Iddo Goldberg, Salem re-imagines the infamous 17th century witch trials in the Massachusetts town. Braga and Simon executive produce with Jeff Kwatinetz and Josh Barry of Prospect Park and David Von Ancken.
Stephen Lang (Avatar) has been tapped for a recurring role on WGN America‘s drama series Salem. Set in the volatile world of 17th century Massachusetts, it explores what really fueled the town’s infamous witch trials and centers on Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery), the beautiful, ruthless but vulnerable wife of the ancient, ailing but very wealthy George Sibley (Michael Mulheren), one of Salem’s town Selectmen. Innovative Artists-repped Lang will play Increase Mather, an old-line, hard-core Puritan who led the way across the ocean to the Promised Land in the late 1600s. Intellectually, spiritually and politically, he’s the most influential man in the country — and the most feared. Read More »
Gary Dourdan has been cast in a recurring role on BET’s Being Mary Jane and a guest starring gig on Fox’s Glee. On Being Mary Jane, which stars Gabrielle Union as a successful TV news anchor, he’ll play Sheldon Armstrong, a smoothly charming and casually handsome retired civil trial attorney who made a fortune suing corrupt corporations. He’s coming out of retirement to pursue his charitable outreach. He’s famous for never having given an interview in his life — but when Mary Jane (Union) sets out to interview him, he is quite taken with her and just might change his mind. On Glee, Dourdan plays D’Shon, Mercedes’ (Amber Riley) record producer. Dourdan, whose credits include CSI and Mistresses, is repped by Prestige Talent Agency and managed by ATA.
Sammi Hanratty has booked a recurring role on WGN America’s Salem. She’ll play Dottie, a leader among her peers whom Mercy (Elise Eberle) knows a little from school. She’s a confident young girl who brings her classmates over to talk with Mercy. She’s in awe of Mercy’s power and wants her to put it to particular use. Repped by Paradigm and Zero Gravity Management, Hanratty’s credits include Chosen, The Unit and Pushing Daisies.
“Precious Salem — caught up in the stinking witch panic.” Indeed. Here’s the loud and violent two-minute trailer for WGN America‘s first scripted series. The producers took some flak over the fuzzy math in its reinterpretation of the actual events of 1692, but what Salem imagines is simply this: The witches were real. And they were in charge. The series from Fox21 and creators Brannon Braga and Adam Simon premieres at 10 PM Sunday. Have a look — if you dare (evil laughter):
EXCLUSIVE: We’ve already seen the trailer for WGN America‘s first scripted series, now here’s a first look at some of the key art. Set in 17th century Massachusetts, Salem revolves around the infamous witch trials — only this time the witches are real. The drama from Brannon Braga and Adam Simon stars Janet Montgomery, Shane West, Seth Gabel, Ashley Madekwe and Xander Berkeley. It bows April 20.
Related: TCA: WGN’S ‘Salem’ Creators Defend Witch Trials Re-Write
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The gang behind WGN America‘s first original scripted series Salem took some flak from critics during the TCA press tour last week for taking liberties with the Salem Witch Trials — an ugly period of social injustice in this country. In creators Brannon Braga and Adam Simon’s Salem, the witches are real, though not what they seem. Here’s the first official trailer — to be shown on WGN beginning this weekend. The series premieres April 20:
WGN America‘s first original scripted drama, Salem, is set in the world of 17th century Massachusetts. Only, in the TV version of the actual events, the witches are real and it’s “an even bolder new version of witches,” WGN promises. Yes, Tribune-owned WGN is turning one of this country’s most shameful periods of injustice, mass hysteria and persecution into a sexy, dark exploration of Satanism.
“Our take on the trials is that the witches were real, and running the trials,” creator Brannon Braga, who’s EP-ing the series, told TV critics at Winter TV Press Tour 2013. Some of whom did not take it well, and suggested WGN was doing an offensive re-writing of history. The witches, Braga explained, are are in league with their persecutors “and there’s a reason they’re doing it.”
Fellow EP Adam Simon insisted that in the 17th century everyone believed in witches. And the two men insisted the series in no way belittles the “terrible social issues” of that episode in our country’s , “In fact, quite the contrary,” they said. It’s a retelling, an alternate history – but, Not Exploitation. Read More »
Broadcast executives for years have been preaching about switching to a year-round development cycle or adopting the cable model of producing fewer pilots with higher pilot-to-series ratio. They have been ordering occasional off-cycle pilots and have jumped on scripts with pilot orders in November and December but are yet to break the traditional pilot season paradigm. This coming year, they may be forced to. In 2013, we had what was probably the first true continuous pilot season, with existing and new cable and digital players constantly handing out pilot and straight-to-series orders. Add to that the new push into limited/event series arena, and there were at least a dozen projects casting at any time of the year. That has kept casting directors and TV talent agents busy and has further depleted the acting talent pool. Every year, there are a handful of pilots that are left unproduced because of difficulty casting. There is quiet panic in the air these days that this coming pilot season we will see a lot more of that. It is the logical next step after the proliferation of scripted programming across different platforms caused a shortage of writers, especially on the drama side, pushing the number of drama buys this development season way down.
A cancelled series used to mean a cast available for the following broadcast pilot season. When ABC in January 2010 announced that Ugly Betty was going to end that spring, it created a feeding frenzy for the stars of the show that pilot season. Now actors from cancelled shows are snatched long before the following broadcast pilot season rolls along. For instance, the CW said in May that drama Nikita was calling it a day with a final six-episode installment. Its male leads, Shane West and Aaron Stanford are already spoken for with big roles in cable projects — West is the male lead on WGN America’s first scripted series, drama Salem, Stanford is the lead of Syfy’s pilot 12 Monkeys, based on Terry Gilliam’s movie, with his Nikita co-star Noah Bean also cast in the pilot. Read More »
WGN America has released the first teaser for its first original scripted series, drama Salem, which will premiere next year. Set in the volatile world of 17th century Massachusetts, it explores what really fueled the town’s infamous witch trials and centers on Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery), the beautiful, ruthless but vulnerable wife of an ancient, ailing but very wealthy Salem town Selectman. Brannon Braga and Adam Simon created the Fox 21 series, which is exec produced by Prospect Park’s Josh Barry and Jeff Kwatinetz. The cast includes Seth Gabel (who narrates the trailer), Shane West, Ashley Madekwe, Xander Berkeley, Tamzin Merchant and Elise Eberle.
Elise Eberle (Tiger Eyes) has been cast as a regular in WGN America’s drama series Salem. Set in the volatile world of 17th century Massachusetts, it explores what really fueled the town’s infamous witch trials and centers on Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery), the beautiful, ruthless but vulnerable wife of an ancient, ailing but very wealthy Salem town Selectman. Eberle, repped by Abrams Artists and managers Margrit Polak & Micki Caruso, will play Mercy Lewis, Reverend Lewis’ powerful and vulnerable daughter who is believed to be possessed.
Greer Grammer, who has recurred on the first three seasons of MTV’s flagship comedy series Awkward as Lissa, a naïve but sweet member of Sadie’s (Molly Tarlov) posse, has been upped to series regular for Season 4. Greer, repped by APA, Strategic Talent Group and Lev Ginsburg, will next be seen in the dark comedy feature Chastity Bites.
With Nikita coming to an end, series leading man Shane West is set as the male lead of another drama, WGN America’s first scripted series Salem, starring Janet Montgomery. Set in the volatile world of 17th century Massachusetts, it explores what really fueled the town’s infamous witch trials and centers on Mary Sibley (Montgomery), the beautiful, ruthless but vulnerable wife of the ancient, ailing but very wealthy George Sibley, one of the Salem town Selectmen. West, repped by UTA and Luber Roklin plays John Alden, a hardened veteran of 10 years of war and captivity at the hands of the Indians who returns to his native Salem to find it consumed in Witch Hunt frenzy, led by Cotton Mather (Seth Gabel). Also cast in the Fox 21-produced series is Tamzin Merchant (The Tudors) as the beautiful Anne Hale, a talented artist who is attracted to the newly arrived John Alden, unaware of his history with Mary Sibley. She is with ICM Partners, Authentic and Curtis Brown.
Janet Montgomery has been tapped as the lead in Salem, WGN America’s first scripted series, from Brannon Braga, Adam Simon, director Richard Shepard, Fox21 and Prospect Park. Set in the volatile world of 17th century Massachusetts, it explores what really fueled the town’s infamous witch trials. The series centers on Mary Sibley (Montgomery), the beautiful, ruthless and vulnerable at the same time wife of the ancient, ailing but very wealthy George Sibley, one of the Salem town Selectmen. Also joining the series, set to premiere next spring, is Nikita alum Xander Berkeley in the regular role of Magistrate Hale, one of the Salem’s Selectmen, a company man who believes in pomp and circumstance. Brit Montgomery, repped by UTA, Anonymous Content, Morris Yorn and Hamilton Hodell, previously starred/co-starred on CBS’ Made In Jersey, Fox’s Human Target and HBO’s Entourage and most recently toplined ABC’s pilot Gothica last season.
EXCLUSIVE: Fringe alumnus Seth Gabel is set for a lead role in Salem, WGN America’s first scripted series, from Brannon Braga, Adam Simon, director Richard Shepard and Fox21. Set in the volatile world of 17th century Massachusetts, it explores what really fueled the town’s infamous witch trials. Gabel, repped by Management 360, ICM Partners and Felker/Toczeck, will play Cotton Mather, a local aristocrat who makes it his business to oversee the witch hunts in Salem.
Beau Garrett (Tron) is set to co-star in Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce, Bravo’s scripted pilot from Marti Noxon and UCP. Based on the book series by Vicki Iovine, it follows Abby (Lisa Edelsein), the famous author of a best-selling self-help book series who is hiding the fact that she’s separated from her husband as she starts to navigate her life as a single woman in her early 40s in Los Angeles. She finds herself seeking advice from her divorced friends, including Phoebe (Garrett), instead of her married ones. Phoebe is a former model and recent divorcee that is still close to her ex. Garrett is with Paradigm, KLWGN Entertainment and Jason Hendler. Read More »
Richard Shepard has boarded WGN America‘s first scripted series, drama Salem, as director and executive producer. Shepard will serve as director and executive producer on the project, part of his deal with 20th Century Fox TV. Salem, from Brannon Braga, Adam Simon and Fox21, 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. Salem has a 13-episode order and is slated to begin production in the fall in Louisiana for a 2014 premiere. Shepard, repped by WME, Anonymous Content, and Karl Austen, has directed the pilots for Criminal Minds, Ugly Betty (for which he won both an Emmy and a DGA Award), and most recently Golden Boy. His movie Dom Hemingway will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.