Teaching old networks new tricks: Why scripted programming is everywhere

"Salem" premieres Sunday, April 20, at 10 p.m. on WGN America. Credit:
WGN America started out its scripted programming with “Salem,” but will soon move on to the Manhattan Project with “Manhattan.”
Credit: WGN America

WGN America is not a network that people are used to finding hourlong dramas on. But it’s experiencing a lot of success with its first scripted drama, “Salem” (already renewed for another season), a series that explores historic Salem during its witch hunt era, but with a few actual witches thrown in the mix. Between that and “Sleepy Hollow,” revisionist history is having a real moment. WGN America isn’t the only network to start taking steps into scripted programming, though. AMC, as “Salem” star Shane West pointed out when we spoke to him about his decision to try out a new network, was once known only for broadcasting movies, but has become synonymous with prestige programming. History, once the home of documentaries, has achieved tremendous success with its popular “Vikings” program, a slightly soapy look at the lives and loves of the Vikings, starring former model Travis Fimmel.

Even longtime reality home Bravo and celeb news source E! are venturing into original programming. Bravo is set to air “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce,” starring Lisa Edelstein and Janeane Garofalo, while E! is moving forward with plans for “Royals,” their first scripted show, which will star Elizabeth Hurley.

It’s not too surprising, says Terence Gray, founder of the New York Television Festival. The festival, which began in 2005, connects writers and producers to networks.

“I think in general drama and comedy is going through a golden age and I think some of the things that may have caused that are the viewing habits of the audience and how they can get access to those shows,” he says. Options like Amazon Prime and Netflix give viewers the opportunity to catch up between seasons on shows, meaning ongoing seasons of shows can accrue new viewers as time goes on. “The digital platforms that have allowed people to really access these great series and become loyal fans is a very positive thing.”

It’s a strong vote of confidence for the intrepid network keen to test the waters on new kinds of programming. And with the soaring success of “Mad Men” on AMC and movies ever more dependent on big budget blockbusters, it’s increasingly easy to attract big name talent to newer networks as television becomes known as the place where the exciting work is being made. Even tech giant Amazon has gotten in on the game, and Xbox and other nontraditional sources of programming seem likely to follow suit.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.

Local

VIDEO: Cop reassigned as NYPD investigates alleged head…

An officer alleged to have stomped on a Brooklyn man's head last week had his gun taken away and placed on modified duty.

National

New York Times calls for legalization of pot

The New York Times editorial board on Saturday endorsed a repeal of the federal ban on marijuana, becoming the largest paper in the nation to back the idea.

National

Two injured after cable snaps on Ohio amusement…

(Reuters) - A cable on a large swing ride at an Ohio amusement park snapped and struck two riders as the swing was in motion,…

Music

Newport Folk Festival: Photo gallery of 35 moments…

As has been the tradition since Bob Dylan plugged in a bajillion years ago, the Newport Folk Festival embraces more musical genres than its name implies.

Music

MKTO: Behind the bromance

MKTO's Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller talk about the American Dream tour, Demi Lovato and getting turned down by girls.

Arts

James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne head to…

Two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones returns to the New York stage next month as an eccentric grandfather in a revival of the 1930s comedy…

Movies

Box office: Scarlett Johansson wins battle of brains…

Scarlett Johansson's "Lucy" handily dispatched with Dwayne Johnson's "Hercules" over the weekend.

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Auto racing

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Wellbeing

This Week In Health: Friends share similar DNA,…

Friends share similar DNA, study finds Location: U.S. Study subjects: Nearly 2,000 people Results: When it comes to our social networks, it seems that birds of…

Education

Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…

Education

Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…

Career

Feeling stuck? Get out of the entry-level job…

Television and movies may be littered with 20-something characters who seem directionless when it comes to their careers, but author Mary Traina says she finds…