The Question Is, What Studio Could Handle a “Cutting Edge” Wheel of Time TV Series?
As genre fans are keenly aware, there are more and more TV series and movie adaptations of books, especially in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. And with the success of shows such as Game of Thrones, or The Magicians in the genre of fantasy, it’s always been a little surprising that there hasn’t been a Wheel of Time TV series, a franchise (14 books spread over nearly 23 years) ripe for adaptation if ever there was one. Well, it appears that we may finally be getting that Wheel of Time TV series everyone’s been clamoring for. Well, to be more accurate, we’ve already had one, but we might actually be getting one that isn’t terrible. Not sure what I mean? Well, it’s all part of the reason we’ve haven’t had the series until now.
Here’s the short version. Universal Pictures had the Wheel of Time film rights, but they were set to revert back to The Bandersnatch Group (the group representing Jordan’s estate, run by his widow and editor Harriet McDougal Rigney1) on February 11th, 2015. Now, apparently, as part of the rights package, if Universal produced and aired something before that date, they could extend the rights. And this is where it gets a little weird. A company named Red Eagle Entertainment (who had prior involvement with Jordan2, but an unclear role with and questionable access to the rights) threw together a quick pilot called Winter Dragon starring Max Ryan and Billy Zane (is there any project Zane won’t take a part in?) and aired it on an FXX channel at 1:30 in the morning on Monday, February 9th, a couple of days before the rights were up.
This was an apparent bid to keep the rights alive, though Universal was not listed in the credits, and when FXX (owned by Fox, further confusing the question of rights) was asked about this, FXX simply said “This was client-supplied programming. For further comment, please reach out to Red Eagle Entertainment.” Red Eagle CEO Rick Selvage said “We can’t talk about it right now. Additional announcements coming shortly, probably within the next few days. This video is a lead-in to a well-funded full series, with a tie-in to Red Eagle’s mobile games.” However, McDougal Rigney was having none of it, and released this statement the day after the pilot aired:
“It was made without my knowledge or cooperation. I never saw the script. No one associated with Bandersnatch Group, the successor-in-interest to James O. Rigney, was aware of this.
Bandersnatch has an existing contract with Universal Pictures that grants television rights to them until this Wednesday, February 11 – at which point these rights revert to Bandersnatch.
I see no mention of Universal in the “pilot”. Nor, I repeat, was Bandersnatch, or Robert Jordan’s estate, informed of this in any way.
I am dumbfounded by this occurrence, and am taking steps to prevent its reoccurrence.”
This didn’t sit well with Selvage, who filed a lawsuit against her, further tieing up the rights.
Yeah, that’s the short version. For a longer, meatier version, you can pop over to Wired, or Io9, both of which have pieces well worth reading. Also, Observation Deck has a great piece that details the actual content of the Winter Dragon pilot itself, which is a fun read. And, if you want to see just how painful it is, you can catch some of it on YouTube:
Now, just recently, according to McDougal Rigney, the legal web has been untangled, and the TV rights to this fantasy epic have been acquired by a major studio who is looking to do a “cutting edge” series. This news came via an announcement on the Wheel of Time Google Plus group:
“The following is a press statement that has been approved by the studio involved in contract negotiations:
No word yet from any major studios, so it’s still unknown who will be handling the Wheel of Time TV series.
What do you think about this? Are you a fan of the series? If so, who would you feel safest about handling the Wheel of Time TV Series? HBO is probably high on many fans lists, due to their excellent handling of Game of Thrones. MTV, probably not so much, after many fan’s disappointment over their handling of The Shannara Chronicles. Other strong candidates would be Showtime, who has done well by fans with their adaptation of Outlander, and AMC, who has created a juggernaut with their adaptation of The Walking Dead. Fox / FX could be an interesting choice, though their involvement (if they actually had any) with the Winter Dragon pilot might have knocked them out of the race. ABC, NBC, and CBS are all options, I suppose, though none of them seem particularly appealing. The CW? Ahahahahahaha. Sorry. Yeah, no. SyFy? Ehhhh. That’s a really iffy proposition. They can make quality series (Battlestar Galactica, Helix) but more often than not, the result causes more pain than pleasure. Personally? I think they should let Cinemax take a shot at it. The Knick was flat out, all-around amazing, Banshee was tons of fun, and Strike Back displayed an accomplished knack for action, a cinematic feel, and strong production value. Of course, this all also (of course) depends heavily on the cast and crew they get involved, but I think Cinemax could make a pretty great Wheel of Time TV series.
1 – Robert Jordan was a pen name for author James Oliver Rigney, Jr, who also wrote historical fiction under the name Reagan O’Neal, penned a western as Jackson O’Reilly, and provided dance performance reviews as Chang Lung. He also ghost wrote an international thriller that he declined to identify in an interview, saying he was fine with it being credited to someone else.
2 – In a blog post weeks before Rigney/Jordan passed away in 2007, he had this to say about his involvement with Red Eagle: “I hear things now and then floating out in the air. For instance, I hear that word was floating about ComicsCon [sic] in San Diego that I am displeased with Red Eagle. Too true. Too very true. In a few more months that last contract they have with anyone on God’s green earth that so much as mentions my name will come to an end and we can see what happens after that.” Which begs the reason how they maintained any involvement as late as 2015.
Featured Image: Greg Manchess / Tor