Underground: Why Its Presence on Any Screen Is Desperately Needed (12/25/2018)

It’s been well over a year since we last saw our favorite characters running and escaping all odds to get into freedom. But my heart and mind still feel like it was just yesterday that I received the crushing news this gem of a television series was set to be canceled by the same network that had initially supported it. Many feel that it was when one of the television’s most significant company mergers was occurring, and the new incoming execs didn’t want anything to do with creative programming on their network. All of the other shows were also canceled in favor of tired and recycled syndicated programs found on various networks.

Others seemed to think it was the subject matter covered on the show. Many historical performances have not always portrayed the African Diaspora or the African slave experience in a way that Underground effortlessly did. Each week the show would feature and highlight the southern slavery and way of life experience that many viewers were not aware had occurred in history.
And lastly, many networks decided to pass up on the television series gem due to the financial costs behind making a historical drama. However, with the quality of projects loosely produced and promoted in media, having Underground was an investment in historical documentation for our nation, socially and for our future.


I feel that it was a combination of all three responses. Recently, streaming services have been very adamant about establishing original programming, and most of the newest and most exciting serials have been originals created and produced by the streaming services. However, most of the streaming services make their profit from older syndicated programs. The programs are usually a form of nostalgia for audiences who have not had the opportunity to experience them in a while. They are usually an introduction for audiences that were not around to witness them. However, syndicated programming can only support a network or platform for so long.


Many social media analysts and execs argue that the audience’s attention span is almost as fickle as our fashion choices. Many would even say that television audiences wouldn’t support a show that is not laced with salacious drama and scandal that is commonly riddled in “reality” television programming. I witnessed a network showcase a television masterpiece, partook in weekly Twitter conversations with the show’s stars and other fans, received a fan giveaway prize, and waited with bated breath. Only to see a network turn its back on the fans that brought new life to the channel and a new generation of viewers to an often forgotten about the station.


So, in the words of my two-year daughter while reading bedtime stories, “What’s next?” Currently, the answer to the question is nothing. There have been no talks of reviving the series or picking up the series on different platforms. I suggest a movie format that could neatly wrap up Miss Ernestine, Noah, and Rosalee’s stories, among others. Millions of fans that tuned into the show every week would happily support it. Underground is not just a show that featured fictional slaves and their experiences on the road to freedom.


Underground represented a movement showcasing the history of people often relegated to pain, misfortune, and suffering. Underground meant a voice for the countless generations of slaves and indentured slaves in America that did have the opportunities to feel and express their feelings about their situations once they arrived here. Underground ultimately represented a stark comparison of where our nation currently stands for positive, uplifting, but powerful depictions of people of color in the media.


No matter how popular reality television has made ordinary and unknown citizens in our society, it is no comparison to the stories of real heroes and heroines from the past.Their experiences helped to influence our futures, and it is unfortunate that, like their existence, television execs still want to remain oppressive to their stories and mark in history. We’ve seen what happens when people rally behind a cause.

Shows and programming have triumphantly returned despite their initial cancellations. Hopefully, the creators and actors behind the series can one day find the pull to bring this show back on any screen willing to accept their magic. Hopefully, chances are incredibly slim, 2019 will open more doors for black storytelling beyond fantasies and thrillers. Just maybe, Underground can be the flagship that inspires more to bring reality back to television.

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