Despite the fact that WGN America’s push for original programming is a relatively new thing, the series the network has put out thus far have been throwbacks to the past. To go along with Salem and the currently airing Manhattan, the network is currently considering a series greenlight for Underground, a pre-Civil War drama that centers on slavery and the iconic Underground Railroad. While they mull that over, they've given an official straight-to-series order for the hourlong Appalachian drama Titans. Nothing but the lightest viewing choices for WGN America.
Sony Pictures Television and Tribune Studios’ Underground comes from former Sons of Anarchy writer Misha Green and former Heroes writer/producer Joe Pokaski, with Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) executive producing. The story revolves around those who founded the Underground Railroad and helped an untold number of slaves make it through, while also focusing on the mercenaries who have been sent out to hunt them down. Eesh.
With 12 Years a Slave taking home the Best Picture award at this year’s Oscars, it’s no surprise that slavery would find its place on the small screen. The challenge, of course, is to document these stories without exploiting them or making them dreadfully boring. I think of all the descriptors that “slavery” gets, boring isn’t at the top of the list; but WGN America's current scripted output isn't what anyone would call exhilerating, so I’m just wanting something more up tempo. Underground is currently looking for writers to join Green and Pokaski, so let’s hope a talented assortment are brought in to flesh this touchy subject out.
Meanwhile, the 13-episode first season of Titans is the creation of writer and playwright Peter Mattei, who will executive produce alongside Emmy-winning actor Paul Giamatti and Rescue Me co-creator Peter Tolan. Not the most flashy and modern of projects, Titans will focus on the Farrell family, a group of outsiders who live far away from city life in the hills of Appalachia, and they’ve been there for as long as anyone can remember.
As THR puts it, “they’ll protect their world and defend their way of life by any means necessary.” So I’m guessing that means someone is going to try to uproot them or take over the land. Considering there is no timeframe for the series yet, we can’t tell if someone would want to build a mall parking lot over their home or maybe just use it for well-water. In any case, TV’s current glut of mountain men is stuck in reality TV, so it’ll be good to add some narrative to this lifestyle.
It isn’t clear when Titans is aiming to begin production or when WGN America is looking to bring it to audiences. In the meantime, the network is prepping its first original miniseries, Ten Commandments, which is set to air in 2015.