The excellent horror media news website Bloody Disgusting has been providing some good updates on this show that is set to premiere soon on WGN America. In their latest article they offer a video teaser portraying some dunking chair style torture…in an apparently sparkling swamp (the scene was filmed on location, oddly, in Shreveport, Louisiana). The series is slated for a thirteen episode season to premiere sometime in spring of 2014.
The production design is very glossy: perfect makeup on a gorgeous witch underwater? At least her boots are suitably worn looking. The exterior does not look like Salem, MA to me (because Louisiana), but filming in winter outdoors does lead to some limitations in location scouting, I guess. “Salem” promises “a bold new vision of witches.” From the looks of it, the witches in this “Salem” actually do possess supernatural powers; as opposed to being poor widows or servant girls or rabble rousers accused by jealous and spiteful wives, clergymen and other denizens of the sad, cold, struggling Salem Village, a cruel outpost of the New England Colonial settlements. The accused witches of Salem were mostly devout Puritans, victims of superstitious times, social hysteria and political cunning.
But hey, witches are the hot new thing! Let’s make ‘em sexy and put ‘em in Salem and make sure their eye makeup is waterproof! Sorry, this teaser is just too much. But I do hold out hope that the show might be watchable, as the production team includes producers and directors that have worked on quality fare like Battlestar Galactica, 24, Star Trek, etc.
Of course, I will watch the show. But I am mainly interested in what kind of ground is laid for the forthcoming series on HBO by Jenji Kohan (of WEEDS and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK); her show is said to be an historical drama. Will it include elements of the supernatural? Witch hunters? (There were no witch hunters in Salem; that was mostly a European phenomenon) Torture devices? (Again, not really a Salem thing, though the elderly Giles Corey was pressed to death under a door with heavy stones, while his tormenters tried to extract a confession. He refused to name any names or implicate himself. His last words were “More weight.”)
Also, a new reality show about witches (in Salem!) is in development at NBC Universal.
Is AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN to blame for this latest media craze, just as the film THE CRAFT set off a flurry of witchy media in the late 1990s? Hard to say. And so much is different now, not just in the modern witchcraft community, but in media, and in our culture. What such an obsession had to say about us in the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s is slightly different from what it may be saying about us now. But, oddly, the fascination continues. Every day, lately, it seems that witches continue to acquire more attention, more media engagement, more religious scrutiny, more social intrigue.