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Where did ‘Salem’ go wrong?

WGN America’s television series “Salem” held the potential to be a great supernatural drama. The phrase “fact is stranger than fiction” suited the promising new television series. It was based on one of the most fascinating events in early American history, “The Salem Witch Trials of 1692’’ in Salem, Massachusetts. Auspiciously, historians had already recorded the incredible storyline and characters. The plot, characters and setting were all perfectly in place, mixed with a considerable dose of mass hysteria. How could the television series “Salem” go wrong? But it did. Now the question is, “Where did it go wrong?”

Janet Montgomery
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

First of all, the première was hard to believe, even in the world of science fiction and fantasy television. Maybe it was bad acting or poor historical research? No matter, “Salem” was difficult to watch.

Secondly, Puritans were the epitome of religious probity. They didn’t dress like misplaced 21st century hipsters. They kept their bodies modestly covered. Old 17th-century English was the language of the day.

Next, promiscuity was not an acceptable societal norm. Sex can carry a television series only so far. The novel, “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, which was first published in 1850 is more rousing than “Salem”.

Lastly, Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery) as a primary antagonist was lacking substance. The scenes involving witchcraft seemed awkward. The supporting cast wasn’t much better. It’s counterproductive to call out the rest of the cast by character names. The producers and writers needed to humanize the historical characters. Viewers relate to characters with timeless universal problems.

If a television series doesn’t capture the attention of a viewer within one episode, it has lost a crucial chance to expand its audience. Life is short and time is a valuable commodity. There are too many exciting science fiction and fantasy television series to waste time on a poorly written one. The producers and writers of “Salem” could have done better. Speculative fiction fans deserve better.

About the Author:
C. C. J. Vann is a writer, columnist and speculative fiction enthusiast. Her blog is “C. C. J. Vann”, ( You may contact her at info[at]ccjvann[dot]com.

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