HBO recently released a new trailer for its upcoming fantasy series Game of Thrones and today announced that they're airing a fifteen minute clip of the first episode on April 3rd. So the full PR roll-out has officially kicked into high gear, and while clips and photos indicate that it's certainly grand and gorgeous looking, can it ultimately work as a series?
It's not the most original question to pose, I guess, but the closer we get to the series premiere, I get more unsure. A fantasy series of this scale needs to find a pretty sizable audience to justify its budget. So can it find it? I've gotten dinged in the past for calling Game of Thrones "not mainstream," with fans of the books (on which the show is based, duh) arguing, correctly, that the series has sold spectacularly well. But still... It's not like they're making a Harry Potter series, or even a Camelot series (no, that'd be Starz), by which I mean one based on stories whose characters are essentially household names. Plus in Harry Potter and Arthurian legend there's lots of magic! Dumbledore and Merlin and spells and goblins. There is "magic" in Game of Thrones — mysterious ice people, dragons — but it's somehow more terrestrial and less, well, fantastical. And besides that, we're working with an entirely new and mostly unknown mythology. Are TV audiences, even HBO's more savvy and intellectual crowd, going to respond heartily enough to a world they have to learn from scratch?
The trailers we've seen for the show are certainly heavy on drama, but it seems to be a lot of political machinations in cold stone rooms. Sure there's a beheading, but we've seen little of the excess of gore and sexual anatomy that we were treated to on HBO's previous sprawling dynastic period piece Rome. (And again, with Rome we knew those characters going in.) So far I'm just not feeling the buzz machine running at full capacity with this one. In the little vacuum of my social world, my nerd friends who have slobbered over the books in recent years past and eagerly await the fifth in the series (there are seven total planned, and the author, George R.R. Martin, took an agonizing six years between books four and five, with five finally debuting this summer) are all looking forward to the show, but the uninitiated seem mostly perplexed and only mildly intrigued. It's certainly a bold gamble for HBO, which has lost a decent amount of subscribers in these recession years, and whose most recent attempt at a flagship series, Boardwalk Empire, is a costly period piece that didn't quite connect with the ball the way the network clearly had hoped, maybe even expected, it would.
Obviously at this point the first season of Thrones is in the can, so the network will just have to sit back and see if people get sucked in. They can at least be comfortable knowing they've got a wealth of material to work with (the books are long) should the series perform well enough for additional seasons. If it doesn't, well, I guess they can pass it off as a grand-scale miniseries. They've got another one of those on the way, Todd Haynes' Mildred Pierce, based on the James M. Cain novel about a Depression-era woman opening up a restaurant. Which, to be honest, seems like an even unsurer bet than this series. Oh well, they can't all be True Blood. (Thankfully.) But I'd bet not a few at HBO wish they could.
Talk to me! Are those of you haven't read the books looking forward to the series?