Tuesday, 15 November 2016

What news on the WHEEL OF TIME TV series?

Back in April, the Robert Jordan Estate (aka the Bandersnatch Group) confirmed that the TV and films rights issues related to the Wheel of Time novels had been resolved and a studio had optioned the rights, with an announcement anticipated from the studio directly shortly thereafter.

Seven months later, we still haven't received any confirmation of the studio involved or any other information. This is unusual given the significance of the deal. With between 90 and 100 million copies sold, The Wheel of Time is easily the biggest-selling epic fantasy novel series since Lord of the Rings*, giving it a much bigger audience, name value and cachet than the likes of Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Peter Brett's Demon Cycle or other works of fantasy that have been optioned, if not indeed actually put into production (or in the case of Shannara, already filming a second season).

There are several likely reasons for this. There may have been a last-minute legal snarl-up which has put everything on hold. Given the contentious state of the rights, with the Jordan Estate in dispute with Red Eagle Productions (who optioned the screen rights in 2004 on an eleven-year basis), that is quite possible. It's also possible that the studio which has bought the rights has decided to hold back and make a much more substantial, "done deal" announcement with a showrunner confirmation as well. If the option is tentative, that may prevent another studio from trying to outbid them (which after an option is sold is unusual, but not impossible given the brand value of this particular series).

Here's what we know so far:
  • A "major studio" has bought the rights.
  • They are to make a big announcement at some undetermined point in the future.
  • The Estate's legal contentions with Red Eagle have now been satisfactorily resolved, allowing the project to go ahead.
  • This will be a TV series. The previously-mooted movie deal is dead in the water.
  • Universal previously held the film rights but let them lapse.
  • Sony Television held talks with Harriet McDougal (Robert Jordan's widow and chief executor of the Estate) and Red Eagle in 2014 about a possible TV project but it is not known if they are involved in this new deal.

Here's the text of the original announcement from 28 April 2016 in full:
The following is a press statement that has been approved by the studio involved in contract negotiations:

Update: Wanted to share with you exciting news about The Wheel of Time. Legal issues have been resolved. The Wheel of Time will become a cutting edge TV series! I couldn’t be more pleased. Look for the official announcement coming soon from a major studio —Harriet 

And the last official word from the Jordan Estate, made on 9 September:
Sorry, folks, we would love to be able to tell you more about the announcement Harriet made in April, but according to the terms of the contract, we can't say anything more about it. We assume the next statement will come from the studio. We share your frustration.

Here's what is heavily rumoured but not confirmed:
  • The deal is allegedly worth "eight figures" (so therefore $10 million minimum).
  • Some well-known Wheel of Time fans may be involved in an advisory capacity on the project.
  • HBO is not involved in the project whatsoever, already having their epic fantasy TV show (Game of Thrones) and recently confirming that they have started speculative, early work on a spin-off from that show as their next fantasy project.
  • Given that the book rights have been purchased, we can assume the TV show will directly adapt the novels and will not be a new story set in the same world, or a prequel or sequel to the books. 
  • Given the money apparently involved, this will be a live-action project (an animated series would involve far smaller figures).
  • Given the money involved, this would likely either be a cable or streaming (Netflix/Amazon) show. A mainstream network is unlikely to have spent so much money on an option alone.

I have previously speculated on how a Wheel of Time TV series should be adapted and undertaken. The current big debate in the fandom over the TV project is what studio is on board. I think the following options are possible:
  • Sony Television previously held discussions with the Estate and Red Eagle. Having deep pockets and a string of recent hit shows (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Blacklist), this makes them a stronger contender for the role. They are also working on The Dark Tower TV series, a spin-off from the new film, which may have given them a taste for fantasy.
  • AMC are currently on a roll with shows like The Walking Dead and Preacher. A Wheel of Time TV show would allow them to go head-to-head with Game of Thrones in the fantasy stakes. If Sony are developing the project, AMC (whom they previously partnered with on Breaking Bad) are the most likely contender to air the show.
  • Starz have some big-hitting genre shows at the moment, such as Outlander and the forthcoming American Gods. Starz likewise are looking at big fantasy projects and may be the second-most-likely home after AMC on cable.
  • Netflix have a lot of original content and are going all-in on it, producing vastly more original content in the next couple of years. A full-scale epic fantasy series, their own Game of Thrones, has to be an attractive prospect. They certainly have the funds to do it and a flexible release schedule, not to mention automatic worldwide distribution.
  • Amazon have some very solid original content (such as the excellent Man in the High Castle), but arguably lack a killer app, a must-see show which gets people to sign up in droves. Wheel of Time could provide that. They also have access to sales figures of the Wheel of Time novels since 1998 and a much greater pre-built awareness of the franchise. I would rank Amazon as a more likely streaming possibility than Netflix.
I would comfortably rule out the following options:
  • HBO already have Game of Thrones and Westworld as their mega-budget shows, and they are interested in a Game of Thrones spin-off show as their next fantasy project. According to rumour, HBO are highly unlikely to be interested in Wheel of Time.
  • SyFy has spent big bucks recently developing The Expanse, The Magicians, Dark Matter and Killjoys. It is unlikely they have the resources to also buy and develop Wheel of Time.
  • The CW has some additional critical kudos recently with The 100, but they have severe budget restrictions which makes them highly unlikely to be able to afford Wheel of Time, at all.

Hopefully, we won't have to wait too much longer until we can get some reliable information on what's going on.

* If you assume that Harry Potter isn't epic fantasy, as some do. Also, A Song of Ice and Fire has sold c. 70 million copies and is bearing down on Wheel of Time like a freight train, and already has far more sales-per-book (and thus overall readers) than WoT.


Dr Talos said...

Great summary, Adam!

But I still don't think that an eight-figure deal - or, indeed, any deal - for TWoT is a good decision. The novels are mediocre and the overall story (which would be the likely plot of a multi-season series) is overblown, derivative, and immature.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for keep us fans in the loop- my god I hope this happens.

Ryan said...

I'm having a very hard time imagining WoT working as TV.

It has a weird mix of seriousness and campy cliches which makes things seem much lighter than they are. As an example, slavery and torture play major roles in the world and plot, but WoT is sometimes considered YA fiction because of the writing style.

Its impossible to achieve this balance in live action. You can't depict casual slavery and torture on TV without the show being gritty and dark.

If you throw the damane and polygamy into a serious TV show it will get protested off air.

Anthony Pero said...

A caveat to consider regarding A Song of Ice and Fire. A large percentage of that audience was acquired post-show. The WoT could see an additional resurgence of readership in a similar situation.

Adam Whitehead said...

Yes. I would expect a well-done TV show to blast the already-large book sales through the stratosphere.

Seeker said...

Well, I hope anything branded as a Wheel of Time product is much better quality than the Shannara series. That was pure garbage.

Unknown said...

Yeah cause GoT doesn't show the worst of humanity (rape, incest, murder, etc) I see WoT as quite dark. I don't see why slavery or torture would get the show cancelled. Its worked for GoT. And in all honesty, I do not see the writing style as YA. Is it the lack of real life swearing? Foul language does not a automatically create better writing.

I think this could be a phenomenal show, as long as they cut down the number of books to adapt. Looking at you books 8-10! So little really happens in those 3, apart from the cleansing of saidin. A whole lot of filler there. Still love them, but needs to be trimmed down for a potential series.

Unknown said...

The biggest obstacle is simply the enormity of the series. You can't cut anything out, and if you assume they use the one season (or film, if they ever went that route) per book, and TV generally don't like to plan anything beyond 8 seasons, and I don't think they can wrap the series in that. Roughly 13 seasons would mean an audience staying involved for over a decade. I think they can do it, but it's a huge risk

Anonymous said...

Not if it's on Netflix in a partnership with Sony. You can be as dark and gritty as you need on there and the way the Marvel series have been handled is encouraging

Jim said...

Great analysis! Wheel of Time is in my opinion the greatest fantasy story of all time and a tv show is long overdue. However, I can't help but be sceptical since much of the strength lies in the complexity of the story and vastness of the cast/world, both of which will be difficult if not impossible to translate to tv. Without immense financial resources there is a great risk of being stuck with something that's not Wheel of Time at all, but something more like the Shannara Chronicles "shudder".

Unknown said...

i offer to be mattrim for Free, i can use a staff and dandle a barmaid while dicing no problem by the light my oath on it.

Unknown said...

opinions are like a-holes. everyone has one. I love the WOT books and it's probably my favorite series in Fantasy that i've read - and i've read quite a few. I respect your opinion, not every one is going to like them, but to state your opinions as if theyre fact is demeaning to me and fans like me

Unknown said...

Isaac - Yes, there are a lot of books, and they are all quite long. Most of it is world-building description, which shown in film/tv rather than read/explained in long expository dialogue. And, as I said before, at least 3 of the books can be cut down/out completely, keeping the most important moments. I think they could do this show within 7 or 8 seasons, much like GoT.

insurrbution said...

I don't see this taking off.

The general public isn't into this type of fantasy anymore, mostly thanks to the advent of Game of Thrones. I mean, look at Shannara on MTV to how a Wheel of Time adaptation could be received.

Adam Whitehead said...

It was slated, but it also got very good ratings (for MTV, anyway), made a profit (somehow) and was renewed for a second season. So that worked out well for the makers (and Brooks).

Charles Clark said...

This is gonna be a huge project with an enormous budget for whatever cable network puts it out. But I still look very forward to when that day comes. I know it is probably still a few years off and then some, but from the news I have heard, it sounds like TWOT tv show is on the right track. I am glad to hear this is not gonna be a new story set within the world. And bringing it to the theaters would take too much work. I enjoy GRRM series and find it entertaining, but I don't see every single nation in the world at war over a throne or leadership position. I just wish we did not have to wait another year or two for the next book or AGOT season 7. I love TWOT series even though the books are finished. Overall, very excited to hear this news. Wishing everyone a great holiday season!

Anonymous said...

could go badly. SoT was equally good if not better than WoT but the TV rendition was horrid. even i as a hc fan could not stomach it a

Unknown said...

It seems like this news about the TV series is making everyone a little anxious. I may turn out to be wrong, and it is still a long ways off, but I think and hope the TV series will be great. As for TG series, I enjoy his series way more than GRRM, but the far fetched stories like Soul of the Fire, and The Omen Machine, his cheesy photographs on the back of his books, and how Richard is such a good boy leaves me enjoying RJ series way more than TG series.

But if you like other authors or series more than TWOT, I say read whatever you enjoy and get the most out of. I have been a die hard RJ fan since I first read TEOTW. I like reading other books too, but TWOT series is one that I can read over and over countless times, and still get something out of it every time. But like I said, read whatever floats your boat.

I will add one other thing. Whichever cable company has the rights to TWOT series: if they play around with it like red eagle did, the contract nearly expires, and there is nothing but some type of idiotic pilot released, then I am going to be disappointed. I don't want the TV series rushed in any way, though I just want to share that. But I have hopes that the TV series will be done right whenever it comes out.

Thanks and wishing everyone the best.

Gaaaalf said...

Novels are mediocre? Sounds more like you didnt endure the fact that they were long and described the nature and things better than any other novel.

Lisa said...

I absolutely love this series. I really thought this would have come out before Game of thrones, but always loved both anyway.
Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

8 seasons with 20-24 episodes per season would cover the series easily. The story only spans a few years time irl. The series is as long as it is due to the amount of descriptive writing style employed in developing the characters.

Anonymous said...

You're looking at an MTV-produced show as to how the quality would be?

MTV hasn't had decent programming since... ever.

Fantom Crazy Person said...

Lets face it; the key issue any producer would look at is how long and detailed the books are. In order to do the books as a TV series some things would need to be trimmed out of the show. There are parts of the books that are not totally necessary to carry the story line with out changing the intended story.

If this is done by HBO, they will cut each season down to 10 one-hour episodes (Per Book). They also have the option to do books 8 threw 10 as one season and somehow find a way to do 12 threw 14 as one. But that still leaves us with ten seasons. This would need to be cut down to seven or eight seasons to make it commercially viable to produce.

The key trap is in order to do this as a full 14+ season story, Is if a cast member gets a better offer or dies or any other unforeseeable issue. It would better to be done as a CGI or animation story. This would be to allow replacing various cast members with people that sound similar while keeping the same appearance.

GOT had the two advantages of having the original author handy and that not all the books were printed at the start of season one. For WOT they don’t have these advantages. With a large fan base (shown by how many books were sold) there is a fairly large group of people that will need to be pleased.

So the choice is to cut the story down or to do it as CGI. I don’t see any way around it. Whatever way they choose to do it, to make it good it will need a decent budget to allow it do dazzle the fans or it will just piss off the fans and not make it past the first season.

Anonymous said...

best comment ever

Unknown said...

WoT is different than GoT. There is much more focus on use of the One power and magic. Given the diverse landscapes, I think an animated production would be the best. The cost is lower so you could produce more episodes. You wouldn't have the issues with real characters aging or large scale battles over 10+ seasons. The problem is american animation is so poorly done, like so many super-hero shows, when compared to Japanese anime.

A poorly done series is worse than no series at all and I am afraid a live action series will cut corners, delete too many scenes and wind up never finishing with the amazing ending battle scenes.

Aamir said...

Exciting to know about WoT.. Wished I could get more information about film rights of other interesting projects like these!

Unknown said...

To Gaaalf:

I did not say the novels were mediocre. You did. TG and RJ books are all pretty long books. I am familiar with both series because I have read both series before. And just because TG books are long does not make them bad books. Still I enjoy RJ series more though.

And it is good to hear this news about the potential TWOT TV series.

RSW said...

Don't forget the fact that there are 2000 or some odd characters!

Unknown said...

whatever the case,
Let's all dream about them spending millions on it, use the best screenwriters, and continue to the end if they start it. If they fail to deliver any of those things, I will not be watching. If there is 1 series I don't want them to screw up, it's this one. I grew up with this world even more than LOTR, and will not see it ruined. Fingers crossed, but the bar for this is raised to Jupiter or beyond.

Unknown said...

To rweakley:

There are definitely a lot of characters in TWOT series, though I do not have as hard a time keeping track of them in TWOT as opposed to ASOIAF.

About TWOT series appearing on a cable channel or whatever network, I am hoping it will be great, yet keeping expectations low. I think it will be done right, though just have to wait, and see.

Wishing everyone a happy Easter in advance.

Anonymous said...

Is no news bad news? You'd think there would be an official update by now if there were any progress on this.

Adam Whitehead said...

It's a bit odd. The option was bought and the money spent, so the studio's reasons for not formally announcing it are completely unknown.

Miles Rex said...

If the series is produced by a big-name company (as it seems it is), I personally expect them to ruin it by throwing in profanity and needless sexuality, to attract a mature "new era" crowd, and to compete with GOT crudeness. Hoping against it, though.

Unknown said...

I hate to say it but outs string to feel like thus project is dead in the water

Charles Clark said...

It is not dead in the water, it is still in progress, as we all know. By the way unknown you might want to call it this project and not thus etc. You might want to proofread your spelling.

I know a lot of people have doubts about TWOT TV series. I am not perfect and have my doubts as well.

But basically, it is like this. I enjoy TWOT series immensely. It came out as a book series, and I love to read. Since the TV series is still in production after the book series, everybody knows that the TV series will be much different FROM EVERYONES EXPECTATIONS including my own. Movies based on books are always different, and that is ok.

I want to stay positive and keep my expectations low about the TV series. That way I will not be too upset, although I look forward to hearing more about and watching the TV series eventually whenever it comes out.

At least that way I can learn about this and apply it to my own life and find happiness in my own life even if the TV series is way different. I have TWOT series, and other great books, movies, games etc. to enjoy.

Wishing everyone a happy easter and a great 2017.

Gaaaalf said...

Was i talking to you Charles Clark? Read the first comment instead and you will know that i was talking to the idiot who made the first comment -.-

Unknown said...

Whatttt???!! Lol you are the only person I know who has ever called the wheel of Time series mediocre.. im just curious what do you consider to be good novels?

Unknown said...

Yeah Netflix or Starz are our best bets here. They both have the money and they both can show whatever they want. So Rand completely destroying trollocs will actually have the gore it should
Lol but i hope they don't cut much content and definitely not whole books out. That would be stupid. They can have a bunch of seasons with all of the content and every book was very good

Unknown said...

That tv series was disappointing. The elfstones of Shannara was my fav book in that series too. Idk why they got MTV to do it. Dumbasses.

RSW said...

Charles Clark, you say "as we all know." Who is "we all?" Seems not much is known at all. We haven't heard anything in what...a year? I'm becoming skeptical.

Francesco said...

To Martin McCormick: Tbh, twot is a good novel but nothing more. It's right there on the limit of being just a YA novel. It's quite evident that Jordan was not a good writer, but of course you have to consider the book for what it is, a fantasy novel with a well developed world and story. This was enough to make me read all the books. This was exactly the type of book i wanted when i looked for a good fantasy novel. A well define world where to escape.
They are of course not at the same level as lotr, but that's pretty obvious, as Tolkien was a philologist and a university professor.
On the other hand, if i want to read something that is actually very well written, i read novels from hemingway, pirandello, franzen, tolstoj, ferrante, munro etc etc. Do not even think that i need to explain why, if you read them it's self-evident.

Regarding the tv series, I really hope HBO or Netflix will produce it. They are among the few that can really give us good screenplay and epic YA-bullshit-free scenes.

Unknown said...

We at least know the TV series is in development like I said. If you cannot figure that out rweakley, then you are the only one who does not get it and has a problem with it.

All of this news about the TV series makes people respond in three ways. First off are the complainers and whiners. People who just cry like little girls about the series. Second are the people who give a negative complaint or just have to give a negative opinion like pissants about TWOT series or other people. Lastly are people who actually enjoy the series and are excited about the TV series and add meaningful comments to the discussion.

Nobody really cares too much about the first two types of people. They get whats coming to them and they know it.

As for TLOTR series, I enjoyed Tolkiens books, yet it is not without flaws also. In TFOTR, near the beginning, he mentions the charcter Tom Bombadil, but does not explain too much how he is critcal to the story. Tolkien also mentions a number of other things in his series without explaining or giving details about them. I read the books, and then saw the movies. I thought the movies were much better.

RJ put a lot of attention and details into the series which is why people enjoy it so much.

Getting back to the TV series, I am staying positive and keeping expectations low in spite of my doubts and misgivings as I mentioned in earlier comments, although I do think TWOT TV series is something to look forward to for me at least.

Anonymous said...

Few thoughts here:

Firstly WoT is my hands down favorite series of all time. As a Harry potter, LOTR, Mortal Instruments, Narnia, and Shannara fan that means quite a bit.

Secondly: I pray to God that MTV doesn't get their hands on it because what they did to The Elfstones Of Shannara was a blatant travesty. Shannara was my favorite series for most of my life, up until the wheel of time and I'd had high hopes for a good tv show or movie but instead I ended up wanting to choke someone out.

Anonymous said...

Thirdly: WoT is actually a VERY dark series from monsters to torture to mind control to slavery. In all honesty a lot of mature stories are labeled as YA and should not be portrayed as such. I pray the producers are not as enslaved to this rating system for I'd love a more accurate presentation then Shannara received.

Lastly: it should be easy to shorten it. Much like Tolkiens work a lot of the books thickness is due to descriptive dialogue which can be summed up just by a scene shot. The real question is... Will their special effects budget be up to task with portraying some of the more elaborate weaves? (Such as death gates and flame threads) or will they try to save a penny with more generic weaves like fireballs? I'm hoping that they don't sacrifice quality for profit gain. (If they don't... Then the book sales should skyrocket once more) a little personal suggestion; perhaps change the series end a little. I've always been bothered by Rand just wandering off and leaving everyone he loves behind. It never sat right with me...

Anonymous said...

Okay, first things first.

I'm a massive WoT fan, and nothing would make me happier than a well-made TV series. I do agree that the casting and the budget will be the biggest two problems. However, another issue is the director, who do we (the fanbase) want directing the series?

My choice is probably the obvious one, Peter Jackson, his work on LotR was off the charts, and I have a feeling, if he's read the Tolkien books, he'll have read the Jordan books.

As for casting, Jordan has 2000+ named characters throughout the series, the most obvious way to deal with it is an open casting call. As for the armies and other masses, either CGI using the MASSIVE program, or they can do what The Walking Dead did and let bystanders get involved.

Budget is the one issue that I will leave untouched.

I might come up with some more potential roadblocks, but this is what I can come up with for now.

Adam Whitehead said...

Worth checking out the breaking news today: