Wednesday 12 March 2014

HBO confirms seven-season plan for GAME OF THRONES

HBO has confirmed that it is planning to end Game of Thrones with its seventh season, due to air in 2017. The show's fourth season starts airing in a few weeks, meaning that the show has three seasons to run afterwards.

This announcement marks a change in the plans of showrunners and executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who had previously said they favoured 80 episodes (or eight seasons) to wrap everything up in. The new statements from Benioff, Weiss and HBO seems to be pretty definitive, however.

From David Benioff:
“It feels like this is the midpoint for us. If we’re going to go seven seasons, which is the plan, season 4 is right down the middle, the pivot point. I would say it’s the goal we’ve had from the beginning. It was our unstated goal, because to start on a show and say your goal is seven seasons is the height of lunacy. Once we got to the point where we felt like we’re going to be able to tell this tale to its conclusion, that became [an even clearer] goal. Seven gods, seven kingdoms, seven seasons. It feels right to us.”
From HBO Programming President Michael Lombardo:
“I’m expecting to be sitting down with Dan and David to talk season 5 and we’ll talk about how things are looking. We’re all very mindful that they’re having conversations all the time with [author George R.R. Martin]. I think they do feel bullish enough that there’s enough story to deliver through season 7. I hate to sound greedy, but our longest shows have gone 7 or 8 seasons, so seven is a nice long run for us.”
Some have interpreted that to mean that eight seasons is still on the table. However, Lombardo's restatement of seven being the plan seems to make that unlikely. Instead, he is referring to the fact that HBO has gone eight seasons or more, but only on (relatively) cheap comedies like Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm. In fact, before True Blood no major, big-budget drama show had ever made it to seven seasons before on HBO, with six being the upper limit. The Sopranos was fudged with its final season having twice as many episodes as normal but then split in half to effectively get to seven seasons, but production-wise it was six seasons.

It is possible that something similar could happen here, especially if GoT was moved to a timeslot later in the year (Boardwalk Empire's September slot will be available soon). If GoT's final season was moved to September and aired in two parts, maybe six months apart, that would give the production team the time to film more episodes than normal for the final season. Whether HBO is inclined to do that or willing to spend the money is a different question, of course.

At the moment, however, it appears that Game of Thrones will end in June 2017 after seven seasons and 70 episodes, which puts book author George R.R. Martin and fans of the books in an awkward situation.

As of now, five of seven planned novels in the Song of Ice and Fire series (which Game of Thrones is adapting) have been published. The sixth book, The Winds of Winter, is underway with George's publishers hoping to bring it out before the end of 2015. However, that still leaves the final book, A Dream of Spring, some way off. Bringing it out in less than two years given the time spent on the previous books (at least four and a half years for Winds, over five and a half for A Dance with Dragons and just over five years for A Feast for Crows) would seem unlikely. In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, George suggested that he might still be able to do it - although it would be a "tight," - but this was in the same article where Benioff and Weiss indicated that eight seasons was still doable. Dropping it to seven would appear to make it almost impossible for Martin to stay ahead of the series without a dramatic (and unprecedented in this series) increase in writing speed.

The TV show will remain - at least broadly speaking - faithful to the books even if those books aren't out yet. Martin, Benioff and Weiss sat down at Martin's house in Santa Fe, New Mexico early last year along with script editor/writer Bryan Cogman to drum out story outlines and character arcs so the scriptwriters would be able to plan out the rest of the series.
"Last year we went out to Santa Fe for a week to sit down with him [Martin] and just talk through where things are going, because we don’t know if we are going to catch up and where exactly that would be. If you know the ending, then you can lay the groundwork for it. And so we want to know how everything ends. We want to be able to set things up. So we just sat down with him and literally went through every character."
If anything, though, that makes things more difficult for the book fans uninterested in the TV series. If the TV show had a completely different ending, that would be one thing, but if the TV show is going to reveal who gets the Iron Throne, who Jon Snow's parents are and explain the motivations of the Others/White Walkers, and that's the same information as will eventually come out in the books, then it will constitute the biggest and most expensive spoilering of the end of a book in history. Because of GoT's media presence, it may be untenable for people to avoid spoilers for years on end.

As of right now, it appears that Game of Thrones ends in just over three years' time, regardless of if the books come out. What, if anything, GRRM can do about it remains to be seen.


Paul Weimer said...

This suggests that GoT the show is going to continue to diverge from the novels, and even more rapidly. unless Martin's writing pace increases dramatically.

--Maybe not even then.

I think the GoT show might well soon stand to the books as the new Hobbit movies do to the book.

Daniel Taylor said...

This is terrible. How on earth do they plan on fitting all the events of Winds and a Dream of Spring (Martin's wife Parris has said an 8th book will be needed in addition to these as well) into what, 2 seasons?

The show runners are a disgrace. They've obviously got tired of it now they've done the red wedding which was the only reason they made the show.

They're not proper fans and I hope they get fired and replaced by Bryan Cogman.

Roland said...

I think basically us book fans are screwed.
Sure, the tv series won't follow the books exactly (it is already diverging more and more from them), but the big issues of how the war against the others will end and who survives and what Danys role in the final war will be and so on will probably remain the same.
Talk about anti-climactic for all the book fans who waited so long (decades in some cases) to experience the ending of the series.
It will be next to impossible to maintain a media blackout for years about the ending for those who choose not to watch the final season of the tv series.
Very sad indeed and very disappointing and ultimately GRRMs fault.

Dave Ellis said...

I dont understand how they can fit it all in, I know some of AFFC may appear in season 4, we still have a significant chunk of SoS to work through, so 1 book per season isnt going to work. Clearly AFFC/ADWD is going to be significantly cut down, sone might say thats a good thing as things do drag and the exciting stuffs to come but that means we'll catch up with the books potentially next series. A difficult situation all told...

Calibandar said...

I'm pleased to hear they are sticking to 7 seasons. It seems more than enough, even though it is a great series, but they are right about not wanting to strangle the golden goose. What I am looking forward to the most is the show showing us things before the books come out. Because we may be *years* away from even the 6th book, let alone a 7th book that I don't think will ever come out. Better the tv series than nothing at all.

Mike Bonsiero said...

It's theoretically possible that he could finish Winds of Winter in the next couple of months and then get a Dream of Spring done and on the shelves in 3 years, but that'd basically require WoW to be much closer to finished than anyone suspects AND a doubling of his established writing pace. So it could happen but it doesn't seem like GRRM is inclined to make the adjustments it would require to make it possible.

I'm not criticizing, he's not beholden to any timeline but his own or what he's contractually agreed to with his publishers, but reality is reality and Martin just isn't the type of person who will sit down and focus on one project until it's entirely finished.

Anonymous said...

Human storytelling often involves the retelling of stories that the listeners have heard before and the outcomes are known. As long as the last book does not put a different character on the Iron Throne, give John Snow different parents or change the nature and motives of the White Walkers, I think there will be relatively little problem for the reading-only fans. That us, I don't think they're reading only to be surprised by the outcomes. I think they're reading for the aesthetics of the telling. Of course, I could be wrong. ~ Margo Hurwicz

Adam Whitehead said...

"The show runners are a disgrace"

To be fair, Weiss and Benioff have said pretty much since Day One that they wanted 80 episodes/8 seasons to do it all (at the start of Season 2 they were even saying 90 episodes/9 seasons, but HBO seem to have disabused them of that possibility quickly) and were saying that recently, so I think this was the Word of HBO Management From On High.

Jens said...

As great as it is that ASoIaF gets an adaptation the point in time they started with the TV series has been very bad which was obvious from the beginning.
The situation the fans are facing now was to be expected and shouldn't really surprise anyone.

The most likely scenarios are unsatisfactory:
- fans of the novel are getting the ending spoiled
- the show deviating considerably from the novels (also due to the necessary cuts), possibly in a retroactive manner if Martin in his final novel deviates from the ending the show will have established by then
- Martin rushing things to churn out the novel in time, compromising the novel's (series') quality -> I seriously hope this will not happen

The more optimistic scenarios all seem to be off the table:
- the TV series delaying seasons to enable Martin to catch - this has always been very unlikely as Wert has pointed out several times
- the TV series running more seasons both giving the possibility of a more faithful adaptation and buying Martin some valuable time
- Martin being much further ahead than expected and miraculously establishing a swift writing pace without compromising quality (not likely)

I don't understand why they had to adopt a series that's in the middle of being written by a slow writer. There's so much good material out there in the form of FINISHED series that the present scenario could have easily avoided.
I just hope that Martin doesn't let himself influence too much by the TV series, either in plotting after the series, or rushing the books and thereby ruining a quality series that took two decades (or more) to write.

HouseLark said...

"Very sad indeed and very disappointing and ultimately GRRMs fault."

Yup, never forget that in all the recriminations thrown around HBO and D&D. Martin knew what he was doing when he sold the rights to ASOIAF; he wasn't some poor naif exploited by big city folk. George worked in TV, he knew the score from the start and chose the dollar anyway. For that alone criticism directed at D&D is misplaced.

TGR said...

I agree with Calibandar. I'd rather know the ending from the show than not get one at all, or get one 15 years from now.

And now I hear talk of an 8th book... Ugh

Adam Whitehead said...

Having started reading the books in 1999, there is a certain element of relief in knowing I'll be seeing the end of the story in just three years. At the same time, I'd much prefer to read it in the books. So, conflicted. But ultimately, the story will be over.

Longasc said...

The story of ASOIAF got dragged out starting with Feast for Crows but I think Martin got new vigor with "Dance" and the TV adaption.

I am surprised they need 7 seasons, I would have deemed 6 possible. But unlike the show creators and Martin I don't know how this will end.

Anonymous said...

Well, there are limits to the complexity that you can have on a TV show. They will have to focus on the core viewpoints and storylines, and drop or merge many secundary ones. The most important is that the authors know how many seasons they have left. They will take those decisions on what to keep/leave/change as they have already done.

I don't think it will be that awkward for the book readers (at least those who enjoy the show too). We will get the conclusions of the core storylines in the TV series. And then we will get a lot more in the books, all these little details and characters and scenes that are so enjoyable on rereads...

Anonymous said...

As many have said before, I love the first three books, feel so-so about the fourth, and found the fifth to be nearly unreadable. The show leaves a lot to be desired, but it's relatively well done and enjoyable. I really do not think GRRM is going to finish this series. I am glad the show is going to bring some kind of closure to the saga that more or less follows his storyline. I actually feel like they might do a better job of it than GRRM with his books after being so disappointed by the 4th and 5th ones.


Anonymous said...

To be honest Martin could increase the speed of his writing simply by avoiding doing all these side projects he's spent so much time focusing on.

Anonymous said...

Adam, maybe a dumb question - you mention HBO not being interested in 80 or 90 episodes...why is that? I thought it was a huge hit, tons of buzz for the network, etc. why wouldn't HBO let them do it for 20 seasons if they wanted? It's very highly rated no?

Space Cadet Juan said...

I love both the books and the TV series, but if it comes to pass that the show needs to wrap up before the books are done, I will stop watching the show. I prefer to finish the series in prose, whenever GRRM manages to finish up. After that, I can always polish off the rest of the HBO series on blu-ray or whatever.

Funksoul123 said...

They bought the rights, they can do whatever ending they want.
Waiting for George to finish the books??!! Are you kidding? I just hope he LIVES long enough to finish them.

Mazzack said...

My concern is that GRRM will start writing his books to follow the show rather than the show writing to follow the books.

The show has many strengths, but the writing is variable, sometimes great, sometimes merely serviceable, and sometimes hackneyed. I believe the greatest strength the show has is that it (mostly) follows the books.

Thus, I fear that once the show gets past the written material, its plotting and writing will suffer. But what I fear most is GRRM yoking his story to a less accomplished story out of loyalty to the show.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that HBO really wants to trump the books with their one ending. We all want the books as soon as possible, but we also want the quality of those books to be as high as possible. So to give George more time and ease the pressure (which I am sure one of us can truly appreciate), I would personally ask that HBO take the opportunity to spend more time, and more money on the 6th and 7th seasons maybe adding extra episodes, or splitting the seasons (as was done with the final season of The Sopranos). Taking more time would surely give us an even better series, allow plot lines and character arcs room to breathe and develop (the 3rd season, whilst excellent sometimes felt rushed to me). The popularity of both the franchise as a whole surely warrants breaking the rules, or at least bending them as much as possible to allow George to properly finish the story. Breaking the rules is something HBO is known for anyway.
Further (indulge my ramblings). Taking longer to film the last couple of seasons would allow actress Emilia Clarke the time she will surely need to fulfil her other duties as the new Sarah Connor. They could even extend the franchise further by offering some kind of mini series as a filler whilst the main series takes a break, for example filming the Tales of Dunk and Egg or The Princess and the Queen. 'Tales of Game of Thrones' perhaps?
Bottom line: It's HIS story after all. No one I think has the right to pen the words 'The End' except George R.R. Martin.

Adam Whitehead said...

"you mention HBO not being interested in 80 or 90 episodes...why is that? I thought it was a huge hit, tons of buzz for the network, etc. why wouldn't HBO let them do it for 20 seasons if they wanted? It's very highly rated no?"

It's not sustainable. Under American film and TV contract law, actors can be tied into a show for no more than six years, usually with a one-year renewal option. That's why American shows tend to last for six to seven seasons. To get to seven seasons, of course, the show must be very popular but that itself has a drawback in that the actors (and their agents) can then demand higher salaries for being on a successful show. So for an eighth season all of the actors who debuted in Season 1 would get substantial wage increases. In Season 9, all of the actors who debuted in Season 2 would get the same, plus the actors from Season 1 would get a further wage increase (as after the first seven seasons, the general practice is to renegotiate contracts on a year-by-year basis).

For example, the actors on the sitcom FRIENDS negotiated higher wages for their seventh season onwards with a price hike each year. That meant that by Season 10, each of the six main cast was on $1 million per episode. That pushed the budget of FRIENDS per-episode in its final season up to something like $6.5-7 million each, or roughly what GAME OF THRONES costs now! The same thing on GoT - and certainly actors like Dinklage, Headey, Harington and Clarke could get wage hikes not far off that - would rapidly make the show more expensive than series like ROME. Given that GoT's budget is already increasing year by year anyway, that would rapidly push the cost of the show into the unaffordable zone, regardless of how popular it is.

Roland said...

That's exactly what I meant with my comment that this is GRRMs fault entirely.
He knows how the TV business works and by selling the rights to HBO what would happen.
It seems he completely misjudged how long it would take him to finish the books and that he would be able to stay ahead of the TV series, which is frankly ridiculous considering his past writing pace. His self-awareness seems to be lacking to say the least.
Also, more irritating in my opinion is his stupid book touring / signing / travelling all over the world. I think he wasted an entire year doing that and then some by writing short stories for the WORLD book. Not to mention all the shitty anthologies and side projects he insists on doing that no one cares about.
If he had actually worked on the book, he might have had a chance of staying ahead of the TV series, now it's just a bad joke, that unfortunately is on his oldest and most faithful fans.

Mark said...

I have to say that I'm pretty unhappy with this. Having started the story with the books I want to finish it with the books, but there is no way that I could go unspoiled for a couple of years (especially as everyone in my office watches the show).

If the tv show is going to finish first I'd prefer if the show and the books diverged with the show writers coming to their own conclusions (I know this probably won't happen as GRRM has given them details about how it all ends).

What would be the chances of HBO taking a two year break between two of the seasons? I know this can sometimes happen with UK TV shows, but I wonder would an American station ever agree to it. It could give GRRM the time he needs to finish.

Ghost said...

I don't understand why people are blaming the show runners for this. It's hardly their fault Martin is late in finishing the books. However I won't blame Martin either as he should take his time to finish the books as he want.
This is just one of those things that happen when you cross media. There's no one to blame really because everyone has their own views and interests to protect.

Alex said...

It's telling that the book fans didn't spoil the Red Wedding for the TV fans but as soon as the Red Wedding aired in America, everyone there spoilered it to death for the rest of the world.

It's a shame we'll know how the series finishes from the heavily cut down TV show rather than the books but hardly surprising.

If it carries on as such as success, maybe some of the American Networks can find some completed fantasy series to adapt. Thomas Covenant is equally unpleasant :)

Anonymous said...

Good analysis and a realistic appraisal of where we are and are likely to go.

7 seasons would be a good outcome. I'm not as negative as most that the remaining published books wouldn't translate well to screen, in fact I think the political intrigue will be more obvious than it was in the books. And therefore more popular.

Personally I don't mind being spolied with the tv series the books will only conclude in 2020 or so and anything could happen to grrm by then. Looks like this time next year we'll be seeing TWOW material on screen this time next year...

Invictus said...

I'm a book reader, and to be honest I don't really feel the potential outrage that some of my fellow readers seem to threaten if the show catches up to the books. Yes, the show can never be as good as the books, and yes, I'm aware that there are many people who've been reading since before the show who may feel 'betrayed' if the show finishes before the books (Full disclosure: I only read the books around a year ago and started watching when Season 3 started) but my two cents is that I will be statisfied if Martin's story is told more or less as he wishes it to be, regardless of the medium.

Of course I'd like George to finish first, but I will definitely watch the show if it catches up.

Anonymous said...

For me with snow on the throne in Dany's vision (from TV) is pretty much says who will get the throne an who his parents is is also clear enough. And Dany has to fight Wight Walkers at some stage.

Apart from this Martin can differ from TV the endings for some characters, Arya and Sansa for example, retaining more fitting and complicated ones for the books.

Still all this situation means that the book series will become TV series, leaving books second role.

Anonymous said...

There's no way Martin will catch up. Winds of Winter would need to come out early next year (2015) to give enough time for the screenwriters to write the episodes before production on S6 would start later that same year, for a 2016 broadcast. So he's already way behind the show!


Anonymous said...

I am amused at the idea that the producers can't have a good show without a book to adapt. Many seem to be forgetting that some of the best scenes on the show aren't from the books at all. Examples: Robert and Cersei's dialogue about marriage, Varys and Olenna, Varys and Littlefinger bantering, Tywin and Arya, Jaime-Tywin skinning deer scene,Yoren's monologue, etc,. Ill stop there.

My point is this: the writers on this show can actually WRITE. So unrustle your jimmies. Also: its not like book 4 and 5 are perfect either. There is some serious fat that could be trimmed from them.

Anonymous said...

One important factor I didn't see anyone address is that, even if HBO were willing to slow down or delay production on any future seasons in order to let GRRM stay ahead with his writing, this is ultimately impossible due to the high number of child actors playing major roles.
With each passing year, it becomes more and more difficult to pass off Maisie Williams and Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Arya and Bran, respectively) as children. Any delay in production would only exacerbate this problem.
It may be possible to recast some of the other important children's roles, such as Rickon, Myrcella, and Tommen, because those actors have yet to have significant screen time, but even that could increase expenses, because the search for child actors is always more complicated than casting adults.
Granted, we don't know how involved any of these characters will be with the events of books 6 and 7 (and in certain cases, the events of books 4 and 5 may affect how some characters will be portrayed), but at the very least I think it's certain that Arya will continue to be integral to the story, and Maisie Williams has grown an awful lot since Season 1 was filmed.

Adam Whitehead said...

"There's no way Martin will catch up. Winds of Winter would need to come out early next year (2015) to give enough time for the screenwriters to write the episodes before production on S6 would start later that same year, for a 2016 broadcast."

That's not so much of a problem. If GRRM is repeating what he did with ADWD, he's almost certainly already giving Benioff and Weiss copies of the incomplete manuscript. By the time they start writing Season 6 (which would be around September 2015) the MS would - hopefully - be close enough to completion that they nail most of it.

The bigger problem is Season 7/ADoS. It may be possible to get GRRM to write more episodes than normal of Season 7 (including, hopefully, the finale) to get more of his voice into the characters, or for him to perform an extra script edit on the scripts to ensure important dialogue he has in mind for the final book still gets in there.

However, I think we are, as said above, underestimating Weiss and Benioff a little. They've been writing this show for four years already and most of their original stuff (and Cogman's) is pretty good anyway, dialogue-wise.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, last two books have been terrible after the amazing third one. Nothing really happens exept cersie having lesbian sex and tyrion wishing he was drunk. That can easily be filled into one or one half season.

Kurgan_Connell said...

At least this will keep us busy watching for some years. Whether GRRM can maintain the momentum for his show is indeed the challenge. I suppose he can't kill off so many characters either without introducing new ones. And whether the series is supposed to end at all (in the books as well as the TV series).

Unknown said...

disappointed about the tv series a little about deviated from the book... but its ok...

Unknown said...

Season 7 is yet to come.

Game of Thrones Season 6 is coming in april 2016. Check here

Thewindowsplusblog said...

'm a book reader, and to be honest I don't really feel the potential outrage that some of my fellow readers seem to threaten if the show catches up to the books. Yes, the show can never be as good as the books, and yes, I'm aware that there are many people who've been reading since before the show who may feel 'betrayed' if the show finishes before the books (Full disclosure: I only read the books around a year ago and started watching when Season 3 started) but my two cents is that I will be statisfied if Martin's story is told more or less as he wishes it to be, regardless of the medium. Click here for more.

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