WGN America has give pilot orders to two drama projects: a DC Entertainment adaptation of the graphic novel series “Scalped” and a futuristic vehicle based on the Russian sci-fi novel “Roadside Picnic.”
“Scalped,” from DC Entertainment and Warner Horizon Television, revolves around a power struggle among Native American leaders of a reservation. It is envisioned as having a largely Native American cast. “Roadside Picnic,” from Sony Pictures TV, is set in the near future after aliens have come and gone from Earth.
The pilot orders are a signal that WGN America is plowing ahead with original series development after parent company Tribune Media formally hung out the “For Sale” sign and took a $381 million write-down on the value of the cabler last week. WGNA is among the assets that could be sold off as Tribune Media seeks to boost its share price and returns for its largest equity owners, Oaktree Capital, Angelo, Gordon & Co. and JP Morgan.
WGNA this quarter has fielded its strongest original series to date in the Appalachian family saga “Outsiders,” which is averaging 2.4 million viewers per episode since its Jan. 26 debut. But the write-down indicates how challenging it is for smaller cablers to gain real traction with original series in the “peak TV” era.
“Scalped” was penned by Doug Jung (“Banshee”) who also exec produces. It’s a crime saga set on a Native American Indian reservation where a battle between leaders erupts after one returns home from long period away. It’s based on the series from DC’s Vertigo imprint written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by R.M. Guéra.
“Roadside Picnic” hails from Neal Moritz’s Original Film banner and is based on the 1972 Russian-language novel of the same name by brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, who battled Soviet-era censorship to get the dystopian work published. The novel has become a cult classic among fantasy fiction buffs since its first English-language translation in 1977.
Screenwriter Jack Paglen (“Transcendence”) is handling the TV adaptation and exec producing with Alan Taylor (“Mad Men”), who is on board to direct. Moritz and Original’s Vivian Cannon are also exec producing. “Roadside Picnic” revolves around a “stalker” dubbed Red who infiltrates the areas abandoned by the alien invaders to better understand the mysterious ramifications of their visit.