Ever since Game of Thrones generated enough gold for HBO to make a Lannister green with envy, other networks have been trying to replicate the formula. I’m having trouble coming up with a single success story (MTV’s Shannara Chronicles ain’t it), but Amazon seems likely to have done it with its The Lord of the Rings prequel. Unfortunately that show doesn’t arrive until sometime next year. Until then, we’ve got The Wheel of Time (Nov. 19).
I’m not trying to piss off any fans of the long-running book series—created by the late Robert Jordan and finally finished (after a couple decades, 11 books, and the author’s death) by one-man fantasy factory Brandon Sanderson—when I say that its appeal is, er, less universal than that of Game of Thrones. HBO wisely eased viewers into the more overtly geeky aspects of that series (itself based on a bunch of very thick novels) by dressing up the first few seasons in faux-historical political intrigue. But The Wheel of Time in firmly in The Lord of the Rings territory when it comes to its made-up world, which is filled with real magic and monsters in ways that can’t be as easily backgrounded.
If it hopes to appeal to anywhere nearly as broad an audience, it’s going to have to be really good, with top-notch acting and production values that will win over people inclined to take one look at a plot description filled with made up words and apostrophes and click on by. And while I’ve only read one of the novels myself, and thus am no expert, my instincts (and the trailer) tell me this show will not become the next water cooler sensation. But maybe it will be good enough to make Amazon continue adapting the many, many books in the saga.