Fans create #RenewUnderground and #PickupUnderground in wake of WGN’s shocking cancellation

Aisha Hinds as Harriet Tubma (WGN America)

With a move that was a shock to many fans, WGN America cancelled its flagship scripted program Underground.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the network cancelled the hit program because of a new direction.

In the wake of parent commpany Tribune Media’s $3.9 billion planned acquisition by Sinclair Broadcast Group, the cable network’s future as a destination for high-end scripted originals is over. And that includes the pricey and critically lauded slave drama produced by Sony Pictures Television[.]

‘Despite Underground being a terrific and important series, it no longer fits with our new direction and we have reached the difficult decision not to renew it for a third season. We are tremendously proud of this landmark series that captured the zeitgeist and made an impact on television in a way never before seen on the medium,’ Tribune Media president and CEO Peter Kern said Tuesday in a statement.

He continued: ‘We thank the incomparable creators Misha Green and Joe Pokaski and the great John Legend, along with the talented creative team and cast who brought the unsung American heroes of the Underground Railroad to life. We are grateful to the loyal fans of Underground and our partners at Sony Pictures Television. It is our hope that this remarkable show finds another home and continues its stories of courage, determination and freedom.’

It should be noted that BET and OWN, two networks that seem like they’d be chomping at the bit to get Underground, have passed on the show, citing cost concerns.

EP John Legend said this on Twitter in regards to the show’s cancellation:

“WGN America has been bought and is going in a different direction strategically. We will find a new home for Underground! Content wins. We’re not reliant on a particular network to make great content. We’re so proud of our show and the audience that supported!”

Legend also added a word of caution about the Sinclair Broadcast group, which All Hip Hop describes as a “conservative mediaa company that is purchasing local televisions tations across the country.”

“Be wary of Sinclair though,” wrote Legend. “They’re trying to make local stations mini Fox Newses, but more to the right.”

Co-creator Misha Green has also written on Twitter her commitment to finding a new network for the show.

“We appreciate the outpouring of fan support,” she wrote. “…[W]e’re determined to find a new network for #Underground.”

As Misha alluded in her tweet, the fans have expressed their outrage at Underground’s cancellation, developing the hashtags #RenewUnderground and #PickupUnderground.

https://twitter.com/BrandonMatsalia/status/869698762788052992

Personally, I was expecting something like this to shake out in regards to Underground‘s cancellation. I’d read some stuff earlier this year about WGN’s potential acquisition, and after the network’s other highest rated show Outsiders this year for much of the same reason as Underground, I could see that the writing was on the wall.

However, I say this with heaviness. I have a personal connection to this show, seeing how it was one of the shows I recapped in its first season while I was a member of the now-defunct Entertainment Weekly Community Blog. Through that, I was able to speak to Alano Miller, who plays Cato, as well as make inroads with the PR team for the show. It was a lot of fun to be able to recap a show that spoke to me and my people’s struggles in this country and add my perspective to the conversation. (Being a black southerner, you’d better believe I have a lot of perspective to give.)

While I know it’s not my fault that the show has been cancelled, I wish I could have been able to give it more shine in its second season. Without getting into the nitty gritty, I’ve had quite a rough 10-12 months personally, and to be honest, my mind is just now getting back to some sense of normalcy. A lot of the turmoil prevented me from getting into the series this season, as well as the seasons of other shows I’ve wanted to cover. Also, I’d read that there was a storyline about spousal abuse, and even though Underground is a show that can trigger a multitude of hard-to-deal-with emotions, seeing on-screen abuse is one of the things I try to avoid, despite it being a topic that needs to be discussed on Underground in regards to how, in the historical context of slavery and segregation, several black men unleashed their anger and frustration at being emasculated by white men on their wives. Critics have their personal limits as well, and abuse–physical or emotional/psychological–is one of mine.

But, with that said, it would have been great to give this show the support it needed in its second season. Would they have still cancelled it? Yeah. If they cancelled Outsiders, which was about white folks in the forest, they would have cancelled a show like this without hesitation, which is what they did. I hope that Underground can find a home with a network or streaming service that will do the show and its characters justice. Since BET and OWN both passed on the show due to cost (as to why OWN did that move in particular strikes me as odd, seeing how Oprah has Ava DuVernay onboard Queen Sugar), lets hope a network like AMC, which is used to higher-budget shows like Mad Men, The Walking Dead, and Into the Badlands, or a streaming service like Hulu or Netflix can sweep it up. (I know folks aren’t feeling Netflix right now because The Get Down was cancelled, but a show can get where it can get.) It should be noted that Hulu has been reported by Deadline as being a possible new home for the show.

Or, if those options don’t work, then the last resort could be to go to premium networks like HBO, STARZ or Showtime, both of which have shows with huge budgets. For instance, American Gods is currently doing well with STARZ, and its storyline is both esoteric and slightly non-linear for conventional audiences. I would think Underground could do well there.

In any event, let’s hope we see Underground again, because in these times, it’s necessary to be reminded of how the original sins of this country are still going unrecognized.