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.
Manhattan marks the first scripted project for two production entities launched in the spring: Skydance TV, a television division of David Ellison‘s film production and financing company, and Tribune’s in-house studio ran by Cherniss. Manhattan was originally developed at Skydance TV by Marcy Ross who then brought Lionsgate TV on board. “When we read Sam Shaw’s incredible script, we knew instantly that this was the project we wanted to pursue as our flagship television show,” Ross said. Lionsgate TV has a history of helping upstart outlets get on the map with scripted series, including AMC with Mad Men, Showtime with Weeds and Netflix with Orange Is The New Black. “We’re delighted that WGN America has chosen Manhattan as one of its first original dramas,” Lionsgate TV president Kevin Beggs said. Shaw and Schlamme executive produce the series alongside David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Ross. Production is slated to begin in New Mexico this winter.