WGN America has handed pilot orders to two dramas: alien saga Roadside Picnic, based on the Strugatsky Brothers’ novel, and Scalped, based on the DC Comics graphic novel, which will feature a predominantly Native American cast. These are the first pilot orders at WGNA, which until now had employed the straight-to-series model. The two pickups come as the network is nearing a second-season renewal of breakout new drama series Outsiders.
Roadside Picnic, an adaptation of one of the most famous novels of top Soviet/Russian science fiction writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, was written by Transcendence scribe Jack Paglen, with Terminator Genisys and Game of Thrones helmer Alan Taylor attached to direct and Neal Moritz producing. Sony Pictures TV, where the project was originally developed as a spec, is the studio, partnered with Tribune Studios.
Based on the Strugatskys’ novel, Roadside Picnic explores a near-future world where aliens have come and gone, leaving humankind to explore the wondrous and dangerous mysteries left behind. The story also explores the social ramifications of their visit, as seen through the eyes of Red, a veteran “stalker” who has made it his mission to illegally venture into the once inhabited zone and scavenge the abandoned remains of the alien culture. Paglen and Taylor executive produce with Original Film’s Moritz and Vivian Cannon.
Published in Russia in 1972 under original title Пикник на обочине, Roadside Picnic was adapted to the big screen by top Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky in 1979 under the title Stalker.
Scalped was written by Doug Jung (Banshee) based on the graphic novel series written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by R.M. Guéra.
Scalped is a modern-day crime story set in the world of a Native American Indian reservation, and explores power, loyalty, and spirituality in a community led by the ambitious Chief Lincoln Red Crow, as he reckons with Dashiell Bad Horse who has returned home after years away from the reservation. The Native American casting will be a first in recent history for a television series.
Jung executive produces with DC Comics’ chief creative officer/The Flash co-creator Geoff Johns for Warner Horizon and DC Entertainment.
Launched in 2007 as a monthly that ran for 60 issues, Scalped used elements from the true story of Native American activist Leonard Peltier, convicted of murdering two FBI agents during a 1975 conflict on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
In adding pilots to the straight-to-series model, WGN America joins Spike TV, which also recently expanded its development approach.