Underground Is Fighting for Its TV Life With a Network That Wants to Become the New Fox News

WGN America
WGN America

Even if it can boast of being a critical darling that’s generated historic ratings for the network, Underground‘s fate at WGN America appears to be all but sealed.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the slave-centered drama, which wrapped its second season Wednesday, will have to find a new home amid a new strategy employed by its new owners, the Sinclair Group, which recently secured WGN America’s owner, Tribune Media. Previously, WGN America had been trying to fancy itself as a new destination for high-quality dramas like Underground and Outsiders. Yet, in April, WGN America axed Outsiders, its top-rated drama, which subsequently sparked talk that Underground would likely go home to TV glory, too.

“It’s a complete pause at WGN America,” an apparent “agency insider” explained to the publication. “It’s unclear if they’ll still have scripted there. I had something being shopped there, and talks suddenly just stalled. They’re figuring out what they’re going to do and if they even continue on with scripted.”


That means WGN America will likely now become home to reruns of procedural dramas already airing on seven damn networks and cheap imports. Hello, Canada. What up, Britain? Hey, hey, Czechoslovakia. Let WGN America air your shit stateside for that low-low.

All hope isn’t lost for Underground fans, though. Its producer, Sony Pictures Television, has been trying to find a new home for the show, which reportedly carries a $5-million-per-episode cost. The show already has an exclusive deal to air episodes on Hulu, so here’s hoping that Hulu will add the show to its roster of original programming. After all, Hulu could use more color in its programming slate.

For those who didn’t take heed to my previous call to watch the show, stop depriving yourselves of greatness and dive in. The second season of Underground is superior to what was already an outstanding inaugural run. And while every cast member on the show is impressive in his or her respective role, Underground has given me a strong and ever-increasing affinity for the talents of Amirah Vann, who plays Miss Ernestine on the series.

While I’ll join fellow viewers in prayers, happy thoughts and wishes upon a star that Underground gets a third season on a deserving network or medium like Hulu, there is another aspect to WGN America’s new owners that ought to alarm anyone who worries about the role that big, conservative-leaning conglomerates have in our collective viewing habits.


Indeed, that same report about Underground ends with the following:

Sinclair will use its newfound heft—the addition of Tribune’s 42 stations gives it channels in more than 70 percent of U.S. households—to launch a competitor to Fox News.


Does the world need a Fox News competitor? Have sensible people not suffered enough? Such questions only make me hear the voices of Celie and Nettie crying out in agony, but they feel differently over at the Sinclair Group.

Last week the New York Times reported on the company’s plans in the article “Fox’s Unfamiliar but Powerful Television Rival: Sinclair.”


Michael J. de la Merced and Nicholas Fandos report on what you can look forward to:

While much of the station’s local news broadcasts are filled with local news, Sinclair also provides commentary and syndicated reports from its Washington bureau that have generally taken stances critical of Democrats and laudatory of Republicans.

Mark Hyman, a onetime Sinclair executive, has a twice-weekly segment on dozens of the group’s stations, promising to take viewers “behind the headlines.” What they find there are reliably conservative arguments on hotly contested political issues like voter-identification laws, the Export-Import Bank and overhauling the Internal Revenue Service.

In the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Sinclair instructed anchors to read statements supporting Mr. [George W.] Bush and his administration’s efforts to fight terrorism, the Baltimore Sun and others reported at the time.



Before the 2004 presidential election, Sinclair drew sharp criticism, including from Sen. John McCain, Republican of Arizona, for its refusal to broadcast an episode of Nightline devoted to reciting the names of every member of the military killed in action in Iraq.



Then, just days before the election, Sinclair aired parts of a documentary critical of the anti-Vietnam War activities of John Kerry, the Democratic nominee. The company had originally planned to air the documentary in full, the Times reported, but pressure from advertisers and shareholders led it to run only excerpts during a program on the election.



More recently, Jared Kushner, Mr. [Donald] Trump’s son-in-law and now a senior adviser in the White House, said at a meeting with business executives that the Trump campaign had reached an agreement with Sinclair to give more access to Mr. Trump and the campaign under the condition that the interviews be broadcast without commentary on the company’s affiliates, according to two people who had attended the meeting but were not authorized to discuss it. Taped in Sinclair’s Washington bureau, the interviews with Mr. Trump were broadcast across several swing states.


Unsurprisingly, without the Sweet Potato Saddam administration, the Sinclair Group would not have been able to take over Tribune Media and thus broaden its reach, since it now controls far more local affiliates. In sum, not only may we lose Underground as a result of this takeover, but we may also find ourselves with yet another major media conglomerate helping to spread the repressive, reductive ideology associated with the modern conservative movement and the conservative-media complex that has helped make it so successful.

It all seems horrifying, but nonetheless, sounds about white, doesn’t it?

Michael Arceneaux is the author of "I Can't Date Jesus," which will be released July 24, 2018 by Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, but go ahead and pre-order it now.

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I don’t watch this show (slave-story detox) but I understand its importance. What’s the point of BET if it cant secure dramas like this? Or OWN? Centric? TvOne?