Providing a glimpse into its new programming strategy, WGN America has made its first move in the original scripted space since cancelling its high-end drama series Outsiders and Underground. The network, whose parent Tribune Media is being acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group, has bought the U.S. linear rights to the Canadian drama series Bellevue, starring and executive produced by Anna Paquin.
The eight-episode detective drama, set in a blue-collar Canadian town, aired on Canadian broadcaster CBC this year. It was created by actress-turned-writer Jane Maggs and director Adrienne Mitchell, who executive produce for Muse Entertainment and Back Alley Film Productions. Shawn Doyle (Fargo) and Allen Leech (Downton Abbey) co-star.
Bellevue will premiere on WGNA in early 2018. Its pickup is consistent with the comments Sinclair Broadcast CEO Chris Ripley made when his company’s $3.9 billion deal to buy Tribune Media was announced in May.
WGNA “is already going to be shifting its strategy away from high-cost originals into more cost-effective originals and reruns,” now that Peter Kern is interim CEO of Tribune — replacing Peter Liguori, who left the company in March — Ripley said at the time.
Acquisitions and international co-productions are a low-cost alternative to high-end U.S. drama series, which are expensive. (For instance, Underground cost $5 million per episode to produce.) The U.S rights of a Canadian drama cost a fraction of that.
Here’s the logline: Bellevue is a small town with big secrets. Twenty years ago, the murder of a young woman traumatized the community. Now the killer is back. Or is he? When a high school hockey star wrestling with his gender identity goes missing and all signs point to foul play, Detective Annie Ryder (Canada-born Paquin) must unravel all the pieces to this mystery before her own life falls apart. Along the way, Annie must navigate a complicated relationship with her on-again/off again ex, Eddie (Irish actor Leech) and her boss on the force, Police Chief Peter Welland (Canadian actor Doyle).
WME handled the U.S. sale to WGN and represents Anna Paquin.
Here is a trailer: