Still eager to break into the lucrative, real-life espionage miniseries game—despite the ratings failure of previous effort The Assets—ABC is producing another miniseries about the history of spying. This time, the network is sweetening the deal by choosing a subject rife with easily marketable stuff like drugs, torture, and mind control: the CIA’s Project MKUltra. Titled MKUltra, the miniseries will explore the agency’s infamous mind control project, which ran for much of the Cold War and was focused on using brainwashing, LSD, and physical and psychological abuse to forcibly take control of the human mind. Of course, MKUltra was only the last in a long string of names that government agents gave their often-bizarre efforts; in a different (and, we’d argue, better) world where they’d been less fickle, we could be talking about a series named ARTICHOKE.
The new miniseries will be written by Karen Stillman, who also worked on The Assets. That show, which focused on the actions of a traitor within the CIA during the 1980s, was quickly shelved by ABC, after its premiere garnered disastrously weak ratings. The network then burned off the remaining episodes over the summer, before disavowing that there had even been such a show, or that ABC would have aired it if there was.
Still, the network seems weirdly confident that it can make the American people want to watch a spy show, even if it means filling the program with enough drugs, sexual abuse, and tragic defenestration to break down viewer resistance and impose its will. If that doesn’t work, the network can always just slap some old Alias reruns into the time slot. Everybody liked Alias.