On the Station Agents earlier this week, we were razzing WGN’s foray into original scripted programming, Salem’s Lot, which premiered on Sunday. We haven’t actually seen it, though the ratings were pretty decent and the reviews haven’t been bad. It’s just that I hadn’t thought about WGN — the old Chicago Superstation — since Harry Caray died and they stopped airing Cubs games every night (back in the 80s and 90s, 80 percent of Americans who lived in a state that didn’t have a baseball team of its own was either a Cubs or a Braves fan, because TBS and WGN showed their games nationally every night. I was a Braves fan, but everyone loved the Cubs’ announcer Harry Caray because he was an awesome drunk announcer, and Will Ferrell’s impression of him is more accurate than you might think).
Anyway, WGN not only put Salem’s Lot on the air, they have another new original program in the pipeline, Manhattan, and based on this teaser, it looks quite compelling. It’s a 13-episode series set during the clandestine mission to build the world’s first atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and it follows the brilliant but flawed scientists behind the bomb and their families. It comes from Sam Shaw (Masters of Sex) and Thomas Schlamme (West Wing, Sports Night) and features a cast of familiar faces whose names most of you probably don’t know, like John Benjamin Hickey from The C-Word (and everything), Rachel Brosnahan from House of Cards and The Blacklist, Harry Lloyd (Viserys Targaryen in Game of Thrones), Daniel Stern (Home Alone, The Wonder Years) and Olivia Williams (Rushmore, An Education).
If the series is half as good as what the teaser suggests, it’s got a decent shot at making WGN relevant again.