There’s no way this ends well. HBO took a huge gamble recently by ordering a pilot adaptation of author George R.R. Martin’s fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire. The show is tentatively titled Game of Thrones, taking its name from Martin’s first book, but the way things are going I’m unsure this will ever even see the light of day.
The pay cable network no doubt spent a pretty penny on the pilot for Game of Thrones, shooting on location in Europe and springing to craft costumes and sets that are appropriate for the fantasy setting. They enlisted The Station Agent and The Visitor director Thomas McCarthy (who just landed a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination for Pixar’s Up) to take the helm—an odd choice given that McCarthy has no prior experience with fantasy epics—and now it appears that they’re calling for a mulligan.
Reports are swirling that early response to the Game of Thrones pilot is very, very bad, and so HBO is going to try and salvage it by reshooting a great deal of the episode. I can’t say I’m surprised—it’s one thing for a big fantasy epic like The Lord of the Rings to work on the big screen, with a movie-sized budget, but did HBO really expect the genre to translate to television successfully?
There’s also word of recasting a number of the pilot’s main roles, including female lead Catelyn Stark (played by Jennifer Ehle) and another character called Daenerys Targaryen (what is this, Hogwarts?). They’re reshooting a couple of scenes here and there, and then there’s a complete do-over. For Game of Thrones, it appears that this is a case of the latter, with The Sopranos director Tim Van Patten coming on to direct this new version of the pilot.
With HBO investing so much already into the show it’s possible that they go ahead and order this to series (the alternative is airing the pilot as a one-off movie), but either way, I really just don’t see this kind of show taking off with HBO viewers. The network is better known for serious dramas like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, while more period-centric series like Deadwood and Rome only lasting for two seasons each. The one outlier in HBO’s programming seems to be the supernatural drama True Blood, which premiered two summers ago to solid ratings and continues to draw strong buzz. But there’s a big difference between sexy vampires and a sword-and-sandals fantasy with dragons. It’s not nerd-ville, it’s HBO.