New TV Series: The "Game of Thrones" Effect?
The cover of Isaac Asimov's "Foundation"
Heroic fantasy was always a popular genre in pretty much every area of the entertainment industry - literature, film, video games. We've seen many massive universes filled with the adventures of heroes and mages, barbarians and princesses - sometimes, in a family-friendly way, other times in a more brutal, aggressive setting. When it comes to fantasy TV, though, we didn't have any truly epic productions to binge-watch until 2011, when HBO released the first season of George R. R. Martin's epic fantasy novel series, "Songs of Ice and Fire".
"Game of Thrones" was an experiment that went super well for the channel, gathering countless awards and a lot of recognition. The series was massively popular, and not only among "traditional" viewers: it also has the questionable accolade of being the most pirated TV series of all time.
Its effect on the world of television was immediate, with several studios and channels trying to offer viewers their own epic fantasy universes - with little to no success, though. Game of Thrones has remained the fantasy TV series - and it will end with its eighth season, leaving a big hole in the world of series that will need to be plugged. Luckily, we have quite a few candidates.
Disney is set to launch its own online video streaming service, Disney+, sometime next year, and it promises to populate it with a lot of content - after all, it has a massive pool of IP to exploit. One of the most promising ones - with no history in live-action TV - is Star Wars. The first live-action TV series in the Star Wars universe will be launched sometime next year - called "The Mandalorian", it will explore the outskirts of the galaxy, and will likely mix space opera and western.
The Mandalorian is one of the stories that have the potential to grow big, perhaps even bigger than Martin's fantasy world of Westeros. It is a fantasy where the swords are replaced by blasters and lightsabers, and the sorcerers are played by Jedi knights and Sith lords. It is unexplored territory - let's hope they don't screw it up for good.
Science fiction classics
One of the most successful "hardcore" science fiction TV series of our times is "The Expanse", inspired by James S. A. Corey's popular series of novels. The series received a Hugo and three Saturn awards - this seems to have been too little for SyFy, as the channel discontinued the series after just three seasons, at the moment when the story could truly become epic. Luckily, Amazon was ready to take over, so we can expect the on-screen adventures of humanity suddenly becoming a space-farer species to continue.
This is not the only series hardcore science fiction fans can look forward to, though. Apple reportedly ordered a 10-episode run of a series based on Isaac Asimov's famous "Foundation" trilogy. It will reportedly be produced by Skydance Media, the company that gave us Altered Carbon. It is truly something to look forward to - hopefully they won't screw it up.
"The" fantasy classic
Another notable endeavor that will hit the screens in the (hopefully near) future is Amazon's "Lord of the Rings" series. It's an ambitious project that will need to erase the memory of one of the most spectacular fantasy epics ever put on film, Peter Jackson's trilogy that pocketed a football team's worth of Oscars and is still pretty vividly imprinted in all fantasy fans' minds.
Amazon reportedly won't spare any expense to make it a "truly addictive" series, having paid more than $250 million for the rights and earmarking about $1 billion for the total production costs. I guess we'll have to wait and see - the series will likely not be released until 2021.
Epic TV and Streaming
The above are but a handful of the "epic" TV shows (and streaming serials) set to be launched in the coming years. I think it's safe to say that we have HBO's "Game of Thrones" to thank for this rise of high-quality serialized content.