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 recieved the crusshing news the this gem of a television series was set to be cancelled by the very network that had oringally supported it. Many feel that it was during a time when one of televisions biggest 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 that featured actors and creative drama were also cancelled in favor of tired and recycled syndicated programs that can be found on various networks.
Others seemed to think it was a matter of the subject matter that was being covered on the show itself. Many historical shows in the past 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 that were behind making a historical drama. However, with the quality of projects that have been loosely produced and promoted in media, having a project of substance like Underground was an investment in historical documentation for our nation, socially and for our future.
I personally feel that it was combination of all three responses. Recently, streaming services have been very adament about establishing original programming and most of the newest and most interesting serials have been originals created and produced by the streaming services. However, the biggest profit of most of the streaming services are the older syndicated programs of the past few decades. The programs are usually a form of nostalgia for audiences who have not had the opportunity to experience them in a while and 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 attention span of the audience 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 on the other hand witnessed a network showcase a television masterpiece, partook in weekly Twitter conversations with the stars of the show and other fans, received a fan giveaway prize and waited with baited breath 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 forgot about 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 in different platforms. Personally, I suggest a movie format that could neatly wrap up the stories of Miss Ernestine, Noah and Rosalee among others. I along with millions of other 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 of people that desired to see the truth told about a history of people that canceled many often relegated to pain, misfortune, and suffering. Underground represented 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 when it comes to 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 hero’s and heroine’s 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. Though chances are extremely slim, hopefully 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.