When The Shannara Chronicles first debuted on MTV in 2016, it was the network’s highest-rated scripted series of the year. MTV has since gotten out of the scripted game, so its parent company Viacom moved the series to Spike TV, which will soon become the Paramount Network. That was clearly a mistake. The ratings dropped off dramatically, to the point that the second season never saw episodes hit more than 310,000 viewers. There are other scripted series with even lower viewership (much lower, even) that have continued on, but there’s also a consideration of cost when it comes to producing a fantasy epic that shoots on location in New Zealand.
As such, The Shannara Chronicles has been cancelled on Spike, and it seems extremely unlikely that it would end up on any other Viacom network — not that it should. According to Deadline, the show’s studio, Sonar, was already shopping the series around before the cancellation was officially revealed. In addition to the TV series, it’s also looking to package feature, interactive (VR and AR) and merchandising rights as well. The series also currently streams on Netflix in the US and internationally, which could put them in contention for the rights, while Amazon (who has been looking for a fantasy epic and who obviously sells the book series) could also be interested.
The Shannara Chronicle books go on forever, since author Terry Brooks has been cranking them out on the regular for the last 20 years. What that means is that if a new buyer wanted to shift the series to another part of the story (before or after Wil, for instance), it could do so with relative ease.
Having said that, there’s a lot to love about what the TV series has done so far. It’s succeeded in a huge amount of world-building and establishment of lore, and it’s the closest thing we have to a RPG fantasy series television show thanks to the use of magic. Also, if you think Game of Thrones is edgy for killing off a main character in its first season, Shannara wants you to hold its beer — a main character turns into a tree in Season 1. And in Season 2, the killing spree of main characters is a little astonishing.
There are a lot of things about the later episodes of Season 2, though, that were pretty wobbly and felt very rushed, and though I haven’t read the book series, it’s my understanding that the show is basically an alt history version of the story the books tell. But what also shouldn’t be overlooked is the producing power behind the scenes who are interested in continuing the story, including showrunners Al Gough & Miles Millar (Smallville, Into the Badlands), and EPs Dan Farah (Ready Player One), Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Jungle Book), and Jonathan Liebesman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).
The bottom line is that Shannara a very valuable IP with a lot of potential to create a new epic. The series (unlike Game of Thrones) is also notable for being extremely racially and sexually diverse, and it — more than any other TV series I’ve seen — really embraces hard fantasy (that is to say, we’re fully in on mages and warlocks and trolls and demons and super nerdy stuff).
It would be asking a lot to not only bring fans over to a third platform for the series, but to drum up enough interest in an ongoing story to attract new fans that might bring the viewership numbers back to Season 1 levels. But whether the show continues as it is or gets a reboot of some kind, I would love to see the world of Shannara continue to be explored on TV.
Let us know your thoughts on Shannara — have you read the books? Do you want a Season 3, or a reboot? What other Shannara stories would like to be explored, and what is your ideal network?