EXCLUSIVE: Famous prohibition agent Eliot Ness wasn’t even 30 years old when hit the pinnacle in his career by taking down Al Capone with his law enforcement team dubbed The Untouchables. The following two decades of his life are the subject of Ness, a drama series in development at WGN America from The Blacklist duo of Sony Pictures TV and Davis Entertainment. The project is based on Douglas Perry’s biography Eliot Ness: The Rise And Fall Of An American Hero, which is being published next week. The adaptation will be written by renowned crime novelist Dennis Lehane (Shutter Island; Mystic River; Gone, Baby, Gone), with Sony TV-based Michael Dinner (Justified) set to direct. The two are executive producing with Davis Entertainment’s John Davis and John Fox.
Ness’ 1929-31 heroics going after crime boss Capone in Chicago were chronicled in the 1959 ABC drama series The Untouchables starring Robert Stack as Ness and Brian De Palma’s Oscar-winning movie of the same name toplined by Kevin Costner. Ness will follow is the real (and untold) story of Ness post-Untouchables when he became the top cop in Cleveland, the most dangerous city in America during the 1930s. He spent the next decade fighting the mob, his own corrupt police department, and a serial killer on the streets. All while battling his alcoholism, serial philandering and the constant need for acclaim. (Ness was broke and an alcoholic when he died from a massive heart attack at 55 in 1957). Coincidentally, Sony TV is developing another project about Ness’ years in Cleveland on the longform side. Nemesis, an eight-hour miniseries for NBC, zeroes in on Ness’ hunt for the so-called Torso Killer, billed as America’s first serial killer. The mini is based on different source material, the book Nemesis: The Final Case Of Eliot Ness by William Bernhardt, with Craig Zadan and Neil Meron executive producing. Read More »
Katja Herbers (De storm) has been cast in WGN America‘s 13-episode scripted series Manhattan, from writer Sam Shaw and director Thomas Schlamme, Skydance TV, Tribune Studios and Lionsgate TV. Set during the clandestine mission to build the world’s first atomic bomb in Los Alamos, NM, Manhattan follows the brilliant but flawed scientists and their families. Herbers, repped by All Star Agency and Lasher Group, will play Helen Price, a member of Frank Winter’s team and one of the few female physicists assigned to the Manhattan Project.She joins previously cast John Benjamin Hickey, Daniel Stern, Rachel Brosnahan, Ashley Zukerman, and Harry Lloyd. Herbers is. Read More »
Another CBS procedural drama is headed to off-network syndication. Following the recent deals for CBS’ Person Of Interest, distributed by Warner Bros., and Elementary, distributed by CBS Domestic Television, the network’s Blue Bloods, also from CBS TV Distribution, … Read More »
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 »
As we scooped in November, WGN America this morning officially announced that it has teamed with the Weinstein Company for a Ten Commandments 10-part event series from Oscar-winning producers Bruce Cohen (Silver Linings Playbook, American Beauty) and … 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, … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: In a competitive situation, WGN America has landed American Dream, a suspense drama project executive produced by House creator David Shore and produced by Sony TV. Written/co-executive produced by feature scribe Wayne Beach (Murder At 1600), the project, now in development, chronicles the cat-and-mouse game that erupts when a Manhattan homicide cop suspects one of America’s top CEOs of being a killer. The relationship becomes mutually dependent: this CEO who needs psychopathic games to refuel himself personally and professionally, and a cop who exploits the game to make inroads into a world he’s always wanted to inhabit – that of the rich and famous. “The cop shares our culture’s obsession with celebrity, killers and the rich,” Beach said. “It isn’t just about how you catch a killer who makes $83 million a year and plays golf with the president, but what happens when your prey is everything you always wanted to be: rich, untouchable and famous.” Shore said his involvement in the project stems from the draw of “being pulled into a very seductive and thoroughly imagined world with an extremely compelling relationship at its core, very much resonating our fascination with the 1%.” Sony TV-based Shore executive produces with Rick Berg. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The new WGN America is barely 8 months old, but it already has ordered two original scripted series — Salem and Manhattan — and has made a major off-network acquisition with Person Of Interest. Now the scripted newcomer is adding an ambitious event series to its programming roster. I’ve learned that WGN has teamed with the Weinstein Company for a Ten Commandments 10-part event series, which is being executive produced by Oscar-winning producer Bruce Cohen (Silver Linings Playbook, American Beauty). I hear the plan is for each episode to be helmed by a different A-list director, focusing on one commandment and its evolving significance. I hear the project is eying a March start. This would be one of Hollywood’s highest-profile takes on one of the most studied and sacred texts in Christianity and Judaism since the 1956 movie directed by Cecil B. DeMille starring Charlton Heston as Moses. With its structure, the event series is reminiscent of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s acclaimed 1989 Polish 10-part series Decalogue, where each part also focused on one commandment. The Ten Commandments, or the Decalogue, feature a set of biblical principles delivered by God to Moses that include prohibitions against idolatry, blasphemy, murder, theft, dishonesty, and adultery. On the comedy side, the commandments were famously tackled by Mel Brooks in History of The World, as well as by the 2007 movie The Ten. Read More »
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 … Read More »
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 … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: WGN America is quickly ramping up its original portfolio. The cable network has greenlighted its second scripted series, 13-episode drama Manhattan, for a summer 2014 premiere. The show, from writer Sam Shaw and director Thomas Schlamme, is being produced by Skydance Television, Tribune Studios and Lionsgate Television. Its pickup comes two months after WGN ordered its first original drama series, Salem, and four months after the network signaled its plans to become a player in the space with the hire of Matt Cherniss as president. Created by Shaw (Masters of Sex) and to be directed by The West Wing alum Schlamme, Manhattan is set against the backdrop of the clandestine mission to build the world’s first atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico and follows the brilliant but flawed scientists and their families as they attempt to co-exist in a world where secrets and lies infiltrate every aspect of their lives. “Sam and Tommy’s passion for the world of Los Alamos, the Manhattan Project, and the characters who populate it came through from the moment we all sat down to discuss the project,” said Cherniss. Read More »
WGN America is signaling an expansion into unscripted programming with the hire of Tom Huffman as SVP Unscripted Programming. Based in Los Angeles, he will oversee unscripted series development for both WGN America and Tribune Studios, reporting to Matt Cherniss, President/GM of WGN America and Tribune Studios. “As Tribune continues its expansion into original programming, Tom brings a fantastic set of experience and point-of-view as both a producer and an executive, all of which will be essential as we create more unscripted programming for Tribune’s local stations and WGN America,” said Cherniss. In the network’s first major programming move, it greenlighted drama Salem straight-to-series. 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 … Read More »
Despite improving its ratings in the second half of its recent midseason run and getting good marks creatively, crime drama Body Of Proof couldn’t avoid the retool curse, getting a pass from ABC on Friday after three seasons, the latest series to get cancelled after being reworked. But the show is not as cold as the corpses on Megan Hunt’s (Dana Delany) table yet. I’ve learned that producer ABC Studios is actively shopping the drama series. In addition to the usual suspects for such a character-driven procedural with a strong lead — TNT and USA Network — I hear also in the mix is Tribune’s WGN America, which is in building mode, looking to join the ranks of cable networks offering original programming. With its average of 11 million viewers and 2.0/6 in 18-49 this season, Body Of Proof would bring a sizable audience to a cable network. (It ranked as the third-most-watched ABC drama this season, behind only Dancing With The Stars-buoyed Castle and flagship Grey’s Anatomy). The prospect of WGN America is particularly intriguing as the network only signaled its intention to get in the original scripted game in March, and acquiring an existing show is the fastest way of doing that. On the superstation, Body Of Proof would fit with the current off-network drama offerings, all crime procedurals, particularly the only contemporary hourlong series Bones.
Related: Matt Cherniss To Run WGN, Newly Formed Tribune Studios Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: A week after former top Fox Broadcasting Co. development executive Matt Cherniss was named President/General Manager of Tribune’s superstation WGN America and the newly formed Tribune Studios, another former Fox development executive is headed to Tribune. Jon Wax has been named SVP Scripted Programming at WGN America and Tribune Studios. He will start in May when his current contract at 20th Century Fox TV is up. Wax will shepherd scripted series development for both entities and reunite with Cherniss and Tribune CEO Peter Liguori, with whom he worked at Fox. Wax spent a decade at Fox, rising to VP Development, where he helped develop Prison Break, Bones, The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Lie To Me. (Liguori was Fox entertainment chairman; Cherniss was EVP Programming.) For the past four years, Wax was VP Drama Development at 20th TV, where he is currently overseeing the studio’s pilots Anatomy Of Violence for CBS, and Gang Related and The List for Fox. He has been the point person for two of 20th highest-profile pods, Howard Gordon’s Teakwood Lane and Peter Chernin’s Chernin Entertainment, and was instrumental in the development of 20th TV/Chernin’s Fox drama series Terra Nova. Read More »
UPDATED: Former Fox Broadcasting Co. and FX executive Matt Cherniss is returning to the TV business and reuniting with his former boss Peter Liguori. Cherniss is joining Tribune Co. as President/General Manager of WGN America and the newly formed Tribune Studios. At superstation WGN, Cherniss replaces Julio Marenghi, who has been named President of Broadcast Media Sales.
Tribune Studios marks Tribune’s official re-entry in the TV production business. The company was a leading producer and distributor of first-run syndication programming in the 1980s and ’90s through its division Tribune Entertainment until it was shut down in 2007. In the past couple of years, Tribune had signaled its interest in re-entering the space. It produces and distributes daytime syndicated program The Bill Cunningham Show and has interest in CBS’ Arsenio Hall late-night talk show and The Test, which will launch on Tribune’s 23 local TV stations in the fall. With Tribune Studios, the company plans to build on and expand what it is doing on Arsenio Hall and The Test by producing and co-producing programming that targets the needs of its stations and the superstation, Tribune CEO Liguori said, noting that “No longer can a media company look at their stations and network as a vehicle to deliver ratings and ad revenue, it’s a much bigger play.” Read More »