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The Watchman: Hunting Witches in 'Salem,' Stalking Spooks in 'Berlin'

There's something to be said about being the firstborn, in terms of scripted originals, at your network. Season 3 of witch-trial drama Salem starts up on WGN America Nov. 2, and creator/executive producer Brannon Braga promises a “very unpredictable ride.” The devil is on the loose, and humanity hangs in the balance. (Insert your own election joke here.) 

WGN placed a big bet on Salem when it launched two years ago; subsequent original series include Underground and Outsiders. “It’s cool to be a show that helped brand the network,” says Braga. “It’s like being an only child—you get a lot of attention.” 

Though it is set 300-plus years ago, Braga says Salem resonates in part because the arts have mostly left the dark Salem witch chapter of American history untapped. 

There is The Crucible, of course, and we’ll always cherish the COPS in Salem, MA skit on The Ben Stiller Show in the early ‘90s. Stiller, his accent and moustache on loan from an NYPD cop shop, says to witch-y Janeane Garofalo: “Ya got a kid, right? What’s gonna happen if ya get burned at the stake? Who’s gonna take care of your kid?” 

Braga also mentions the “mass hysteria” connecting the 1690s to the present. “It’s something that captures the imagination—witches, witchcraft, witch trials,” he says. “Oppression—female oppression—still resonates.” 

The cast of Epix’s Berlin Station, launching Oct. 16 alongside political comedy Graves, has similar firstborn fever. Star Richard Armitage spoke of a “tasty cocktail” backing Epix: MGM, Paramount and Lionsgate, with Anonymous Content producing the series. “As the first original scripted show, I just felt like everyone would be on the front foot, and they were,” says the dashing Brit. “The ambition was huge; it was an exciting thing to get involved in for that reason.” 

In Epix’s favor, costar Michelle Forbes says it’s almost impossible to tell where the next hit show is coming from. “There’s no room for us to be a snob about anything. I try not to pay attention to what the platform is,” she says. “Look at Netflix—people rolled their eyes initially.” 

After shooting shadowy Berlin Station, both stars unwind by watching comedies. For Armitage, it’s Veep: “I’ve exhausted everything and wish there was more.” 

Forbes adores FX’s Baskets. “Louie Anderson is his mom…the rodeo clown in Bakersfield…” she muses. “It’s unbelievable! It’s genius.” 

Back in colonial Massachusetts, Braga swears by The Bachelor. “It’s a show about love, falling in love,” he says. 

After long days dealing with Puritan zealots burning witches at the stake, there’s nothing wrong with a little love. “The Bachelor is unironic about love,” says Braga. “I just enjoy watching it.”