Fans of the WGN America show Manhattan got some disappointing news today. The show has been canceled by the network and will not return for a third season. The program was one of the first original scripted shows on WGN.
WGN America president and GM Matt Cherniss noted in a statement that the decision was a difficult one to make, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He also thanked everyone involved in creating the show for “crafting a masterful series” and commended fans of the show for finding it and sticking with it.
Manhattan was set in 1943 and ’44, and focused on the inhabitants of the town of Los Alamos, New Mexico (a town that’s kept a secret to the rest of the world), who are scientists and government officials directly working on the Manhattan Project. The scientists are often left in the dark about the details of their work, while they are also forced to keep secrets from their families. The series was never intended to be historically accurate, but it does often refer to some actual events and people involved in the real Manhattan Project, such as head scientist Robert Oppenheimer. Season 2 saw a historian of science, who studies nuclear weapon history and the secrecy surrounding it, provide period detail to the writers.
The Manhattan Project was the World War II research and development project that resulted in the first nuclear weapons. The U.S. project had the support of the United Kingdom and Canada. While they started modestly in 1939, the undertaking eventually grew to employ over 130,000 people and cost around $2 billion, which is about $26 billion in today’s dollars. Research and production took place at over 30 sites in the U.S., U.K. and Canada.
Manhattan first aired in July of 2014 to positive reviews from critics. The Rotten Tomatoes score is at 89 percent, but, unfortunately, the ratings never reflected the quality of the show. The first season only averaged a total of 420,000 total viewers, making sure that it barely managed to hit the top 1,000 shows of 2015. Manhattan was only able to wrangle about 114,000 viewers in the key advertising demographic of adults aged 18 to 49.
WGN America is available in roughly 73 million households with pay television in the U.S. In early 2013, with the network restructuring, they began developing syndicated programs made especially for Tribune Broadcasting’s TV properties. Salem, loosely based on the Salem witch trial, was the first show to premier in April, 2014. The network just launched Outsiders, a show about a struggle for power among the people of the Appalachian hills. That show has already become their most watched original series.
Manhattan may not have lasted long, but at least it made an impact on the people who were able to catch the show while it was on.