It’s fair to say that every TV studio is looking for the next Game Of Thrones. A ratings and award giant that dominated the conversation for almost its entire 8 seasons. The show was impossible to ignore even if you didn’t watch it, children are named Arya, Khaleesi and even Tyrion in honour of the show. You can even buy a doorstop based on one iconic line. With the show now over, studios are searching for the perfect show to take its place. Amazon spent a whopping $250 million on the rights to J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings. Could this be the return of the king?
“Things that were, things that are, and some things that have not yet come to pass”
The as-yet-untitled show will be a prequel to the films, set in the second age of Middle-Earth, thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit. The second age is notable for being the time that the dark lord Sauron (the big bad who spent most of the films as a big eye) was forging the one ring (to rule them all). While nothing is known about the plot currently, one of the big events in the second age is the fall of Numenor. A display of Sauron’s power and coercion, his rise to power would certainly be an epic tale. The rights deal came with a guarantee of five seasons, so there’s plenty of time to tell the story
And there is a lot of story to tell, while the third age is well documented, and the first age is covered in the Silmarillion, the second is a relatively blank slate. While this setting may be because Amazon aren’t allowed to reference the books, it still leaves a lot of room for them to expand. While some events are set in stone, the characters involved and what leads to them are ripe to be explored. The show has the chance to answer questions that Tolkein scholars have wondered about for decades. It will be for all intents and purposes, official Middle-Earth canon.
“The world is changed”
While the books have been adapted into various mediums, the Peter Jackson films are arguably more iconic than the books. Part of that appeal is the location filming in New Zealand, which doubles for Middle-Earth. Like Jackson’s films, the new series will also be shot in New Zealand, but the production won’t be using any existing sets. So it’s likely familiar locations like the Shire or Rivendell won’t appear or may look slightly different. It might look different, but it won’t look cheap. While the three films had a total budget of $281 million, season one alone has a $465 million one. For a more modern context, the final season of Game of Thrones cost around $90 million for just six episodes. Amazon seems pretty confident about what is already the most expensive TV show ever made, with 20 episodes in the first season.
The show is in production, but it is shrouded in secrecy. We know some cast members, but no confirmation of who they’re playing. The only cast member with a character attached is Morfydd Clark (of Saint Maud) who is playing Galadriel. Cate Blanchett played the character in the films, and it’s safe to assume Clark is playing a younger version. Other confirmed cast members have been announced, but no idea who they could be playing and few big names. Even behind the scenes, the show is being headed by two relative unknowns, Patrick McKay and John D.Payne. Although they have no IMDb credits, they are well known within the industry and come recommended by J.J Abrams.
It’s too early to say if the show will do as well as Amazon hopes, but they’re clearly going all out to try. No other streaming service has a show or license like this, with Disney+ and The Mandalorian probably being the closest comparison. Streaming services are moving towards original content, and this could be a game-changer if it pays off. Netflix and Disney+ are notoriously cagey about actual viewership numbers, and streaming has made pirating shows even easier. While shows like The Mandalorian and Game of Thrones are big, they are also the most pirated shows. The show certainly has the ambition and potential to become the next big thing, but only time will tell.
Also Read: Returning to the Lord of the Rings