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WGN America Orders 'Manhattan' Drama Straight to Series

The series hails from writer and creator Sam Shaw with Thomas Schlamme on board to direct and exec produce.

Thomas Schlamme TCAs P 2011
Thomas Schlamme

WGN America is continuing its push into the scripted arena, ordering a second drama straight to series.

Manhattan hails from Skydance Television, Tribune Studios and Lionsgate Television and has landed a 13-episode order from the Tribune-owned network.

The drama follows the mission to build the world's first atomic bomb in Los Alamos, N.M., and centers on the brilliant but flawed scientists and their families as they attempt to co-exist in a world where secrets and lies infiltrate every aspect of their lives.

Sam Shaw (Masters of Sex) created the series and will write and executive produce alongside David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross. Emmy-winning director Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing) will direct and exec produce via his Shoe Money Productions banner. Production on Manhattan will begin in the winter in New Mexico for a 2014 premiere.

STORY: Brannon Braga's Salem Witch Trials Drama Ordered to Series at WGN America

Manhattan will be the first entry into producing for newly formed divisions at Tribune Studios and Skydance Television and comes after WGN America installed Matt Cherniss as its president.

"Sam and Tommy's passion for the world of Los Alamos, the Manhattan Project, and the characters who populate it came through from the moment we all sat down to discuss the project, and we couldn't be more excited to support them as they bring their vision to life," said Cherniss, who also serves as president and GM at Tribune Studios. “We feel Manhattan has all of the elements to make for a provocative and memorable series and are excited to have the support of Skydance and Lionsgate as WGN America continues its rapid expansion toward year-round original programming on the network."

The drama comes three months after WGN America picked up its first scripted drama, handing out a straight-to-series 13-episode order to Brannon Braga's Salem, which follows the Salem witch trials.

"When we read Sam Shaw's incredible script, we knew instantly that this was the project we wanted to pursue as our flagship television show," Skydance Television president Ross said. "Knowing that the brilliant Tommy Schlamme was attached as the director made the project even more undeniable. We found the perfect partners in Lionsgate and my former colleagues that are now at Tribune, Peter Liguori, Matt Cherniss and Jon Wax. We are thrilled and honored to be a part of the WGN America network launch."

Added Lionsgate president Kevin Beggs: "The events surrounding the Manhattan Project ushered in a new chapter in world history that still has resonance today, and Sam's brilliant script has laid the foundation for a truly great series. We couldn't have better partners on this project than Skydance and Tribune Studios, and we look forward to a terrific collaboration."

At WGN America, Manhattan and Salem will join syndicated repeats of NBC's Parks and Recreation. Salem will premiere in the second quarter of 2014.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit