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WonderCon 2014: ‘Salem’ Panel

salem whysoblu thumbSo I am attending WonderCon in Anaheim this weekend and while the big guns are being saved for Saturday, I did manage to do a few things on Friday, which may be of interest.  Aside from walking the exhibit floors and interviewing the folks from Son of Batman, which I wont be able to see until Sunday, I did manage to check out the panel for Salem, the upcoming supernatural period drama, which airs its first episode on WGN Sunday, April 20th.

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So I knew nothing about this show going in.  As a fan of the Fox series Sleepy Hollow and being one who is currently watching Turn on AMC, it stands to reason that this looked like something of a mix between the two, something I took away purely from the advertisements I have seen on various billboards and bus stops.  I actually wasn’t all that far off.  From what I saw, which was a 25-minute preview of the first episode, followed by a panel, the series is relying on some historical aspects to provide the basic makeup of this fictionalized series.

Creators Adam Simon and Brannon Brannon Braga have built a show set in Salem, Massachusetts, based around the real Salem witch trials in the 17th century.  The show stars Janet Montgomery and Shane West, among others and is the first original series for WGN America.  Unfortunately, based on what I saw, while a noble attempt and an interesting setting to base a series around, I cannot say I was all that intrigued to continue.

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As far as the footage for the series goes, WGN certainly wants to push whatever boundaries it may have, as we see some violent lashings, branding, possession-based sequences, some general creepiness, and a dose of nudity for good measure.  In all of this, we have two main characters to follow.  One is Janet Montgomery as Mary Sibley, Salem’s most powerful witch.  The other is Shane West’s character, John Alden, a war hero, who was once Mary’s lover.  Based on what I saw, it almost seems like West could be revealed as a time traveler at some point, based on his accent feeling more modernized than everyone else’s.  With that said, he also serves as the audience’s perspective into this series, which makes enough sense, as his skeptical attitude invites us into a world where witches really do exist.  One could question how that concept takes away from the injustice seen in innocents being accused of witchcraft in reality, which has fueled other media, but that’s another story.

Really, the footage wants to show that WGN can do this kind of thing too, which is fine.  It has a level of cheesiness, which can be expected, as the serious subject matter is matched with humorous lines every now and then.  There is also the matter of seeing some footage not appropriate for the younger members sitting in the audience.  Suffice it to say, watching a frog suck on a woman’s third nipple, which was located in a place I did not expect, certainly caught me by surprise, as it should anyone who just read that sentence.  That said, if there was a reason for me to want to pursue this series, the crazy kind of stuff like that would certainly be why.

Obviously there is plenty of ways this show can evolve for the better (or worse) and I am intrigued by the general idea, so maybe I will give it a look, just so I can at least see the full pilot, as well as have a better idea of what to expect in future episodes.  Simon and Braga, along with West, were all on hand and certainly seemed to be pretty psyched about taking a break from filming in Shreveport, Louisiana, to be received by a fairly large crowd interested in this new series.  That said, what I saw did leave me with a lot of laughter to go with said intrigue, so we will see soon enough how it turns out.

Salem Premieres on Sunday, April 20th

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From a previous official press release:

LOS ANGELES, CA (NOV. 8, 2013) – WGN America enters the world of the most notorious witch trials in history with its first original scripted series “Salem,” as production begins today in Shreveport, La on the provocative Fox 21 drama. On an expansive set reflecting volatile 17th century Massachusetts, “Salem” explores what really fueled the town’s infamous witch trials and dares to uncover the dark, supernatural truth behind them. Created, executive-produced and written by award-winning writer/producer Brannon Braga (“24,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager and Enterprise”) and Adam Simon (“The Haunting in Connecticut”), “Salem” launches WGN America’s strategy to become a dedicated purveyor of innovative scripted fare.

“Salem” stars Janet Montgomery (“Human Target,” “Made in Jersey”) as the ruthless but vulnerable Mary Sibley, Salem’s most powerful enchantress – and Alden’s onetime love interest; Shane West (“Nikita,” “ER”) as handsome, hardened war veteran John Alden; Seth Gabel (“Fringe”) as local aristocrat Cotton Mather who fans the flames of Salem’s witch hunt; Ashley Madekwe (“Revenge”) as Mary’s mysterious, carnal accomplice; Xander Berkeley (“Nikita,” “The Mentalist”) as chief politician Magistrate Hale; Tamzin Merchant (“Jane Eyre”) as the forthright Anne Hale, an artist with a perilous attraction to Alden; and Elise Eberle (“The Astronaut Farmer”) as the mysteriously afflicted Mercy Lewis.

In “Salem,” witches are real, but they are not who or what they seem. The show, which centers on an epic romance wrapped around this explosive revelation, delivers a bold new vision of Salem – and an even bolder new vision of witches.

Alongside Braga and Simon, Prospect Park’s Josh Barry and Jeff Kwatinetz executive produce, with co-executive producers Liz Sarnoff, Tricia Small, Jon Feldman and Vahan Moosekian. Richard Shepherd directs. WGN America has ordered 13 episodes of the drama, which hails from Fox 21 (“Homeland,” “Sons of Anarchy”), the trailblazing cable production arm of Twentieth Century Fox Television. “Salem” is slated to premiere in Spring 2014 on WGN America.

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS4.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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