Everything in America can be given a political bent these days. Not even a month after the conclusion of its second season, the Sony Pictures Television series “Underground” found itself canceled by carrier network WGN America. The scripted period show, which dramatizes the activities of the Underground Railroad that helped Africa-American slaves escape from Antebellum Georgia before the Civil War, was a surprise hit that drew audiences to the relatively newcomer network.

With the recent acquirement of WGN America and its parent company, Tribune Media by the known conservative-leaning Sinclair Broadcasting Group, an overhaul of the network’s programming has left “Underground” with no place, something that its executive producer, singer/songwriter John Legend, hopes to resolve by taking the series someplace else.

Uncomfortable undertones

On Tuesday, May 30, WGN America announced the cancellation of “Underground”, a mere twenty days after the second season finale aired on May 10. Tribune Media president and CEO Peter Kern explained that the period drama “no longer fits” with their TV network’s new direction. He added that resources are being reallocated as WGN America evolves and broadens the scope of its home series portfolio, the better to keep the network relevant in a rapidly changing television programming landscape.

John Legend meanwhile, has stated their production team’s intent on finding a new network to host “Underground” after getting the ax at WGN America.

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"Content wins," he wrote on Twitter after hearing of the cancellation. "We're not reliant on a particular network to make great content. We're so proud of our show and the audience that supported!" WGN America premiered “Underground” last year in March 2016. Critics praised its strong and realistic storytelling. While ratings began to dip longer into its run, the series has managed to significantly increase viewer turnout for the network all the way through to 2017.

Conservative caution

Weeks earlier, news came of Sinclair Broadcasting Group acquiring Tribune Media and WGN America for a $3.9 billion deal. Sinclair has been something of a media mouthpiece for Republican politicians and candidates and is known to have had favored access to Donald Trump when he was campaigning for the presidency back in 2016.

John Legend later issued a follow-up tweet, urging his followers to be wary of Sinclair Broadcasting Group flexing its new media muscles in a conservative direction.

The “Underground” executive producer, whose most recent big hit was a duet with Ariana Grande in the title theme of Disney’s live-action adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast”, described Sinclair as buying up small local stations and overhauling them into “mini-‘Fox News’ networks”, a sendup to the most prominent conservative-leaning major news network. With the loss of “Underground”, WGN America has no scripted series or shows left in its lineup.