“I Can’t Afford Underground” OWN Network Confirms It Will Not Be Saving WGN Series

June 11, 2017  |  

own network passes on underground


Many fans were still keeping hope alive for WGN’s Underground series, when creator John Legend announced that the show would find a new home despite being cancelled after two seasons. BET, Hulu and OWN were a few of the networks that were mentioned in talks of a second home for the series. Unfortunately, Oprah Winfrey says OWN is going to have to pass on the show which centered around the Underground Railroad in Antebellum Georgia. But why was it a “No,” from the network behind successful series like Queen Sugar and Greenleaf? Winfrey herself expressed that it just costs too much. Refinery 29 reports Winfrey addressed several journalists earlier this week to explain her reasoning:

“I can’t afford Underground.”

“It costs twice as much to make as Queen Sugar. As a matter of fact, my dear friend John Legend called me personally and asked me about it, but we’d already been talking about how we could make it work […] it’s like $5 million an episode, so we can’t afford it. It’s not cheap, I think because it’s a period piece.”

Winfrey also expressed that she had to take into consideration that OWN is still a relatively young network, and that despite trending on Twitter on multiple occasions, the show’s ratings just didn’t justify its expense:

“We really tried to make it work.”

“I wanted to make it work because I think it’s a good show. I wanted to be able to save that show, but it did not make good business sense for me.”

Any other takers? Deadline reports that a last-ditch effort may be made at BET which is considered a sensible home for the show due to its standing within the black community and commitment to shedding light on African-American culture and notable figures within black history. Underground may seek a deal similar to shows like Nashville which found a home on CMT and a streaming window on Hulu after being cancelled by the ABC network.

Underground was dropped by WGN recently when the network was bought by Sinclair Broadcast Group, who seek to go in a different direction. We’re rooting for the series, but if cancellations of shows like this and Netflix’s The Get Down are any indication, it’s that breaking down history carries a hefty price tag.

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