WGN Marks Easter with Devil Worshiping, Sex-Filled ‘Salem’

Premiere advertises witchcraft for religious holiday.

It might be best to keep the TV off this Easter.

WGN America’s new witch drama “Salem” premieres Easter and travels into 17th century Massachusetts. The show delves into what sparked the town’s notorious witch trials while deciphering who the real witches are – sex, nudity and devil worshipping included. “What if the witches were not the common folk,” John Alden (Shane West) asks in the trailer. “What if the witches were those we’ve entrusted to lead?” Besides West, the show rated for Mature Audiences stars Janet Montogmery and Seth Gabel.

The first original content for WGN, “Salem” aims to “make a splash with something bold and original” according to co-creater Brannon Bragga. He told The Hollywood Reporter (THR) “it’s a graphic show” that shows nudity (“part of the show for sure”), a woman’s nipple on her thigh, a frog shoved down a throat and plenty of urine. Bragga explained, “I think you can never go too far.”

THR detailed how a possessed teenager bites off her own finger and the town leader who manages Salem's witch hunts has sex in a brothel.

But “Salem’s” sex-filled content doesn’t end there. Variety’s Brian Lowry revealed – almost too much – how the show “does push boundaries by experimenting with just how much nudity can be displayed without actually showing genitalia.” He added, “kudos to whoever had the job of gluing on those strands of hair.”

According to Bustle’s Alicia Lutes, the drama includes devil worship alongside “blood-and-mud orgies filled with animal sacrifices and a possessed pawn (or two) crawling around town.” Lutes didn’t seem fazed though: “Salem is one seriously fucked up horror show, and if you’re a fan of the fear, you’re likely going to love it.”

Others in the media also fell under “Salem’s” spell, including The New York Times’ Neil Genzlinger who praised the “well executed” show: “if you strip away the various questions and back stories involving the station’s strategy and just look at Salem as a television show, you’ve got to admit that it’s perversely entertaining.” Los Angeles Times also offered a hat tip with an article entitled, “With 'Salem,' WGN America hopes to put a spell on TV viewers.

The Oregonian’s Kristi Turnquist ignored the hype. “Its entire premise is offensively stupid,” she began. “So witches were behind a systematic attack on witches? Women were pulling the strings on a crazed campaign that targeted women?” She concluded, “That's not alternate history, it's just lazy, high-concept nonsense.”

Sadly, doesn’t sound too different from the rest of TV’s best – just look at “American Horror Story.”  

— Katie Yoder is Staff Writer, Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow in Culture and Media at the Media Research Center. Follow Katie Yoder on Twitter.