HBO Speculation

HBO’s potential gripes with Thrones

There is a poster on the Westeros forums that claims to have spoken with a producer for the pilot episode of Game of Thrones. Said producer was not too enthusiastic about the project. She had a few issues and concerns regarding the viability of the series. Here is the post:

I have been asked to keep the details of this quiet, but it turns out a good friend of mine ‘may’ be working as a producer for the pilot version of game of thrones. I talked to her last night about it (i was in total fanboy shock, as you can imagine) and i have to say she wasnt enthusiastic about it.

This is essentially what im able to disclose, we discussed other aspects too, but im not posting them since she requested i didnt.

Her main issues is that the series is just too big.. and if they cut it down shes worried the story wont hold up. The other major concern she seemed to have was that the characters were in general too black and white to get emotionally invested in (at least for an american audience: see lost, sopranos etc). Of course i was immediately like ‘WTF? JAIME?? TYRION??? THE FRIGGIN HOUND???’ But unfortunately it didnt seem to change her view, and she clearly knows far more about it than me.

Anyhow, the good news is its not her decision, and hbo may make the show simply because they have no other option, but it did make me think about it all more deeply.

The question is (and i dont really post here much so i dunno if you people have already discussed this), can song of ice and fire really connect with a large enough audience? She argued that rome got the audience mostly due to the actual relevence of the historical characters, while soiaf (obviously) doesnt have this.

Winter Is Coming: I’m not really sure what this means. Assuming this source is reliable, it is a bit scary. Some of her opinions are accurate and make sense, the one about the characters being too black and white is completely off base though. I would hope that most of the people in charge at HBO realize that is not at all what this series is about. Someone over there has to have read these books right? Also whomever this producer is it sounds like she won’t be the one making the final decision. So that is good.


  • Characters too black and white? Did this woman read the books? That comment couldn’t be more off base, which makes me question the source.

    The series is big, no debating that- we don’t even know when/how it will end at this point. Size shouldn’t matter though, especially with HBO. And after reading the review of the script, the writers seem to have done a good job of condensing a lot of information/events into the pilot. The Sopranos ran for 6 seasons, taking eight years to finish 86 episodes. As a fan, I was discouraged by the length it took to produce the show; but I still never lost faith, cheerfully watching every episode upon release. ASOIAF may not generate the exact same fanbase as Sopranos, but it will find its place. Millions have readers will flock to HBO to watch what is considered the greatest fantasy epic ever written. It will be recognized by the media, which will bring in a larger audience.

    The series has potential to be the greatest book to screen adaptation ever.

  • I dont believe any of this. The producers are David Benioff and Dan Weiss. They are so into this project. There is no doubt about it. Whoever this “woman” is, she is no producer. Its a goddamn troll. The series is going to happen, whether someone likes it or not. Period.

  • “claims to have spoken with a producer for the pilot episode of Game of Thrones”….?

    …yeah, and I’m Jean Claude Van Damme…

  • Consider this problem with hollywood though. Having been involved in production and dealing with the industry in the past, the ONE thing you can be sure of with hollywood executives (regardless of ‘outlet), is that there is usually no rhyme nor reason to their thinking. Fear of failure drives the industry, and as a good friend of mine (a producer) said, “It continually amazes me that ANYTHING gets made out here”.

    As to the hope that they’ve read the books…don’t hold your breath. Most in hollywood can’t take the time to read more than page 5 of a script before making a decision based on something besides the content.

  • Look, if there is ANY problem with the preproduction George RR Martin would have said something about it on his blog.
    Like I said, and I’m quotig myself ” The series is going to happen, whether someone likes it or not.”
    I hate goddamn trolls.

  • Anon #2: Keep in mind there are many different kinds of producers. Executive producers, associate producers, assistant producers, line producers, etc. It is possible she was hired on as one of the lesser producers. Benioff and Weiss are still the ones making all the decisions regarding the series and HBO executives is the one that will decide if it gets picked up or not. So whomever this is is just giving her opinion and it is worth about as much as yours or mine.

  • I don’t buy this. The “Black and White” comment is so completely far off base, as to make this woman sound like a complete fool. Not only is it off base, it’s the complete REVERSE of the theme of GoT!

    I’m not in the least disheartened by this. The size of the cast could actually be a problem, that is true, but most of those roles could be filled with unknown actors who would be paid relatively small sums of money. And just because they are unknown doesnt mean they cant act!

  • IF this is true (and that is a HUGE if; as others have mentioned, it may just me a troll) then I am of mixed feelings about it.

    On one hand, the idea that the characters are black and white is just laughable.

    But as a fan I do genuinely worry about the size of the series. I mean, we have 22 POV characters (not counting the prologues, counting new ones in ADWD). And then there are plenty of non-pov characters that I would consider main characters (Robert, Varys, Joffrey, Robb, Littlefinger, just to name a few). And then there are all the different locations…

    So I hope they can translate this level of complexity to the screen in a way that first of all doesn’t take away from the story, and second of all does not cost too much money. It could be quite challenging.

  • ‘Its a goddamn troll.’

    Quoted for truth. It’s either that, or she was handled very carelessly by her parents in her infancy.

  • If this is true then fuck her. she has no idea how great these books are. These are the only books in this genre that all the characters are round. I can’t tell you how many books I had to put down because there is some over unexplained evel the hero has to fight. that shit sucks. It wasn’t till grrm that I found books whereI could feel something for every character because they had a ligitmate past. Sure U hate Cersie but I understand where she is coming from. there is no evil that comes out of no where. everything that happens happens 4 a reason

  • Eh.

    There is a point to the “black and white” thing, namely, that at the beginning it _does_ seem black and white — the Lannisters are mostlymurderous villains, the Starks noble good guys — and it does take a bit for this to change in the novels.

    At what point does one realize, for example, that Ned Stark’s overwhelming concern for personal honor is helping to lead the realm into civil war? For some, it’s when he warns Cersei that he knows everything and expects her to run away. For me, it was probably when he rejected Renly’s plan to seize Cersei’s children while Robert was on his deathbed.

    All these things are _late_ in the first novel. First impressions matter in TV, and if the first half of the first season is going to seem very black-and-white — because that’s how it plays out in the novels — this could be dangerous.

    So, is it any surprise that the pilot script attempts to bring in Tyrion and Jaime a bit earlier (with the brothel scene in King’s Landing)? I think Benioff and Weiss are aware of the particular circumstances of the medium and how it functions, and will do their best to make the “greyness” of the setting more apparent earlier on.

    In any case, I think this is legitimate, I don’t think it’s trolling, and I think the potential producer has a reasonable concern if she is speaking about how the first season would play out if it were entirely faithful to the way AGoT is paced.

  • Balerion, you’re awesome, I absolutely agree with you on everything. I actually thought Game was pretty much straightforward black vs. white till Robert hit Cersei and Sansa told on her father. Then, Ned’s death. Before all those events, Lannisters were evil except for the oddball ugly but kind Tyrion, and Starks were simple-minded and nice and incapable of lying and/or betrayal. It does take some time to get to the real thing

  • Gotta say, that is total BS. Since you would have to break timelines all the time to adapt it to the screen there would not be any problems as to where characters become grey.

    Anyway, my previous posters seems to have forgotten that grrm breaks any ideas of black and white when Lord Snow attends training at the wall.

    Should ad that it does not take much to fuck up a show for the general american audience. Heroes is a show the general american likes, Deadwood is not. That does not mean it should not be aired. I dont care for those sci-fi shows like BSG, that does not mean that it doesnt draw an audience. We all know agot would have a worlwide audience big enough to justify the production, so why question it.

    If this series never happens then I blame that damn Legend of the seeker. It’s reason enough just proving that there is good fantasy out there too.

  • I agree with Balerion. If you look at the series as a mundane, it must seem like neither fish nor foul. It’s sword and sorcery, but very little magic. It’s medieval but not historical (most viewers won’t get the War of the Roses allegory). I hope this woman is overruled but I bet that others in the HBO camp share her concerns.

  • Balerion makes some excellent points that make it seem less of a troll; great job playing devil’s advocate so we can see the possible legitimacy of such a claim.

    What irritates/concerns me, is why attach a producer (at any level) if that producer is not at least interested in the project? Hell, they really should be looking for someone who is enthusiastic about it (like Benioff and Weiss seem to be). In my opinion, someone who is already this negative about the series, and ignorant about the character potential shouldn’t be getting attached to a project like this.

  • Potential Spoilers…for the mythical creature who comes to this site and has not read the books.

    1. We all know the characters are not black and white in the progression of the story, but in A Game of Thrones itself I think it’s actually Robert that walks in the gray areas the most. Once a hero, now a miserable excuse for a King…and as we see through Dany’s eyes, maybe Rhaegar wasn’t a monster that needed to be slain. With the back story that is told in A Game of Thrones, there is plenty to foreshadow what is to come and hook the audience.

    2. Yea Rome had Julius, Octavian, Antony, Cleopatra…..and yet the series was mainly about two fictional characters. I’ve ignored many a bad movie or series involving Julius Caesar or ancient Rome in general. Rome was good because Rome was good. But then I guess that’s just my opinion.

  • Pullo and the other guy were not fictional characters, they were both mentioned by name in Caesar’s journals.

  • SubTech Zero, I would love to see a link to prove that statement, or a link to his “journals”. Also I agree with the first book being mostly black and white, hell we didn’t start figuring out Jamie is a somewhat decent person until the third book. I am hoping that they stick true to the books and the large fan base will be the audience and the ones whom tell their friends about it. As for Rome, it caught my eye because of his historical content but what brought be back was how it was well it executed. And if properly done this series could be the next Rome.

  • I would leave it simply put. If it’s real. That producer is an idiot, and they should find another line of work. It’s the same producer that said “Who wants to see a show about a bunch of people stuck on an island?” Guess what, you sure missed the BOAT on LOST too you fuckin’ moron.

  • ‘I would love to see a link to prove that statement, or a link to his “journals”.’

    Caesar wasn’t so up on the Interwebs ;-) Wiki ‘Lucius Vorenus’ and you get the whole story there. Vorenus and Pullo were legionaries mentioned in Caesar’s memoir of the Gallic War after they fought off a Nervii raid as an efficient team despite starting off as bitter rivals. Colleen McCullough and Harry Turtledove have both used them as characters in their books.

  • While I initially bristled as well at the black-and-white comment, when I thought back to the books, I had to agree that the Game of Thrones, which is possibly the only book a low-level non-fantasy type would have read, was very black and white.

    As far as the POV characters:
    Ned is honorable to the point of martyrhood. Bran is a child whose worst crime is that he likes to climb. Sansa’s worst crime is being a pubescent girl who is rather self-absorbed who follows the path of least resistance to climb socially. Arya is a tomboy who gets martial arts training, she’s rather like a modern child who is so into ninjas after seeing a movie. Jon is the bastard son who tries to do right by his father and tries to get along with his legit sibs. Catelyn is possibly the “worst” Stark in my opinion because she’s led more by her emotions than an adult who is constort to a territory ruler should be. This is what gets her set on vengence with Tyrion without knowing what is going on. Tyrion is undoubtedly the most sympathetic Lannister at the beginning. He was born deformed while his siblings are everything that is “good” so far as his father is concerned. In spite of this, he has kindness beneath his cynicism. And Dany is the child bride who is finally coming into her own as a woman and poses no direct threat to the crown at the moment. They’re all pretty darn good.

    Robert is the best at shades of grey, standing between Ned Stark and Cersi in the beginning color spectrum, and Ned and Robert are probably the most appealing parts for actors who want to show skill with a minimum commitment to a series. Jaime is a great character mostly as the series continues. Ditto the Hound. Until then, they’re both villains. Cersi may have her reasons, but she is most definitely the villianess all the way through book four. Joffry is the villain every minute until his death. Robb’s the good and noble boy like his father. Ah, yes, and Renley is the slick and socially ambitious courtier throughout, and Lissa (Catelyn’s sister) is psychotically bonkers, not good.

    The best way to show shades of grey, aside from the bits with Robert, is to focus on the Arya-Sansa-Joffry conflict and the Catelyn-Tyrion conflict. Perhaps even a little bit more focus on the Catelyn-Jon issue. Joffry is the villian, but the way that Sansa and Arya’s original clash of personalities is exacerbated by him will make compelling drama and paint Sansa as more of a grey lady. Catelyn has the best of intentions but is clearly wrong in persecuting Tyrion. Tyrion’s loyalty to his house clearly is getting him into trouble. And of course it seems mean-spirited of Catelyn to hate poor motherless Jon (makes her reminiscent of the wicked stepmother in the Ever After version of Cinderella), though her feelings about Ned’s lack of fidelity are understandable.

    As to the lack of history, I don’t think that will be an issue. I don’t think Rome connected with people because of the history, most people aren’t history nuts about ancient Rome. They tuned in because of Julius Ceasar, who they do recognize, and they wanted to see the bloody Ides of March (something even Shakespeare capitalized on). They stayed because the acting was good. What Game of Thrones needs is a reason to tune in. Me, I’d go with promoting it for political intrigue and swordplay. And since it is so Stark-centered, make a big deal about the foreboding at the wall.

    The first season’s tagline should very clearly be “Winter is coming.” There are a number of ways to deliver that one line, and we should hear practically all of them.

  • The series has millions of readers around the world which equals millions of people watching the HBO series which equals millions and millions of dollars for HBO. Any producer can understand that. Plus. Award winning book series could equal award winning T.V. series which does equal worldwide exposure for the show and HBO which does equal more millions and millions of dollars. Don’t forget DVD and merchandise sales. It’s win win win win for all involved especially the fans.

    HBO doesn’t seem to be laying any eggs lately so it’s safe to assume they know what they’re doing when it comes to well thought out shows.


  • I don’t think I completely agree as far as the business case is concerened.
    I don’t know much about the entertainment business, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that if what she says about the audience is true, LOTR or Narnia would never have gotten made. I realize they’re not HBO shows, but I think it’s similar.

    There are many many people who have bought the books and read them, and many people who have bought similar books but not this one.

    The Rome analogy is simply a false one, it’s not the same market. This could actually result in more HBO subscriptions, WORLD WIDE dvd sales, etc etc… lots of potential revenue on the back end, online, etc. To simplify it the way she did is, well, too simple.

  • A comment on the Rome analogy. Yes, there are history buffs. Yes there are fantasy geeks (like me). But to say they aren’t the same market is a bit myopic. I think there is a huge comparison to be made between Rome and GoT. They are extremly similar in scope. Sure Rome is very loosely based on true history and GoT has a smattering of dragons, shadow creatures and others but at the core the two brands have a ton of parallels.
    The trick is not to separate the two markets, but find creative ways to “market” the franchise into both potential markets.
    There is a growing sub (cross?) genre out there of alternate history novels. Anyone interested in these books would be a huge target audience for HBO. GoT is definately more of alternate earth type of saga than it is a true high fantasy novel. It focuses much more on the political manuevering and clashes between false, but more or less accurate medieval Houses than it does on sorcery and the arcane. Of course there are elements of both, but Martin has painstakingly played down the magic stuff on purpose to put his cast of thousands in the spotlight.
    No there isn’t a “julius Ceasar” to base the series around in this franchise, but the characters that Martin has developed fit into this pseudo but believable medieval fantasy world that he has created with vibrant personalities, human foibles and heroic purpose that rivals any true historical tale.
    In summary, I truly thinki that GoT if marketed the right way could bring in fans of true history as well as those of pure fantasy. Its all in the books. Its just up to the HBO marketing department to get the word out.

  • They’re probably just worried because it looks like George RR Martin has no intention of finishing the books.

  • the only black and white characters are the ones we don’t really get to know. all of the others, clearly have complex persona.

    sansa is duty bound, wants to be a princess to the point of delusion, and yet so innocent and ignorant.

    tyrion is a self-depreciating imp, too clever by half, who wants to impress his father, yet has a deep honor that can call even THAT into question.

    ned is a hero, to a fault, and it gets him and his family into serious trouble. he also worships different gods from his wife catelyn.

    catelyn herself has conflict. she loves her children more than anything, and yet her relationship with jon reveals rust on her angel’s wings.

    robert is a fallen hero, spiraling out of control. he takes his best friend’s council as hand, and yet is so blind to other things.

    i could go on. but the point is, sure jamie, tywin, renly, even dany, they’re all kind of one-dimensional. fortunately, however, EVERY single viewpoint character in the books are complex, flawed characters.

    after all, is it not the flaws in these viewpoint characters that make GoT so damn good?

    whether this producer claim is legit or not is trivial at this point. benioff and weiss are the EP’s and they are excited, GRRM is the author, and he’s excited, HBO gave the pilot a green light, so they must be at least intrigued enough even if they ARE skeptical.

    studios are SUPPOSED to be skeptical anyhow. so what? the pilot has to kick ass whether we like the books or not. otherwise it will fall into the slush pile with the rest of the B-minus pilots out there.


  • hey guys, not sure if this has been stated already. but i am a memeber of imdbPRO, which gives you more technical details on any and all projects in production. i gleaned two noteworthy bits of information…

    1. the release is slated for 2009.
    2. the first and only location listed so far is IRELAND.

    thought i’d pass this along in case it hasn’t been stated.


  • This post is full of book spoilers. yall have been warned.

    I like some of what’s been said, but I’ll just add…

    I have no trouble believing that this producer is somehow involved in the project and has these misgivings. Assuming she hasn’t read the books, well, the pilot is a SNAPSHOT. How the hell is she supposed to know that Jaime may have had justification for oathbreaking? The opening is an establishing scene, and the characters have to have a point A in order for us to be compelled by their move to point B. Character development can’t happen in a pilot; what drives the pilot therefore is the plot, setting, etc. So really, I ascribe her knee-jerk “black and white characters” response to someone who’s been in the business, is probably jaded, and as soon as she identifies a few telltale signs of characterization, assumes that that’s the end of the story and can’t imagine the direction that George sends his characters.

    But I think that even by episode 2 we’ll already have evidence of grayness. I can like Catelyn in episode 1 and Jon in episode 1; one of them is “mother” and one is “bastard.” By episode two, though, it’s put to the test. I understand why Catelyn would say “It should have been you” even as I empathize with Jon over what a horrible thing that is to say to someone. I get why Arya did what she did, but I also get why Sansa did what she did. And that shit happens throughout the series! Battle of the Blackwater: I like Davos, and I like Tyrion, I can’t choose sides! I like Dany, but Jaime was right to kill Aerys!

    Basically, the characters in this series are ridiculously dynamic, and George is masterful at creating tons of ties that shape the story in unexpected ways. Example: we the reader know that Ned is honorable to a major fault. But what does Dany know of Ned Stark? That he helped the Usurper overthrow her father, and that Ser Jorah hates him b/c he sent Jorah into exile over the trifling matter of some poachers. It’s skewed, but it’s understandable. The reader thinks Ser Alliser Thorne is a prick, and so does Tyrion; the reader wants the King to help out on the Wall because of the advance of the Others; Mormont sends Ser Alliser to court with the hand b/c Thorne is known in court; and just our luck, Martin hands us a clusterfuck because of all people, Tyrion sits the Iron Throne when Thorne shows up and treats him like the prick we know he is. All those tiny connections shape the story in major ways: it could mean that Dany is merciless to the Stark family because of her warped impression of Ned, and that the Wall remains woefully undefended while the southron pit man against man instead of man against Other. So to sum up, the producer with her cursory glance at the pilot has no way of knowing this shit. Maybe a deeper consideration would even change her mind.

  • @ lordnedshead

    Yes on second evaluation I do agree with you that there are overlaps, clearly the subject matter will appeal to a variety of people.

    Also my comments assumed that HBO would do all it could in terms of marketing to acquire customers, I think that would go without saying and not useful in a business case by itself. It’s the projected success in acquiring the viewership that is needed for a go/no-go decision on a big spend (or any spend for that matter). I.e. not just ‘we’re going to try and get a lot of viewers’, but ‘what is our target, and how likely is it that we’ll acquire them, and how many more can we expect from peripheral sources’.. etc. and find out if those numbers are worth the spend.

    I supposed I was trying to say that the ‘producer’ is wrongly implying a Rome audience is the same as the GoT audience. Like you point out, the audience is much wider than just Rome’s, so yes, it’s not a SEPARATE market, but a much bigger one.

  • I don’t believe this. As soon as I read she thought the characters were too black and white I knew it was nonsense. The most appealing aspect of GOT and SOIAF is the characters are NOT black and white.

  • in any case, comparing it to LOTR, where I kinda liked the first movie, liked a few scenes in the second and hated the third one, while I loved the books, I know I will watch this show even if I absolutely hate it, and I think a huge part of the fan base would do the same thing. That said, so far this is the first negative post I’ve seen about the series (not counting the eyebrows nonsense and other stuff like that) so I’m pretty sure I won’t be disappoined even though my quality bar is set pretty high…I’m even willing to give Boromir a second chance :D

  • Saso Alauf,

    You do realize that this thread was more than 2 years old, right? We kinda moved on from there…pilot, season 1 filmed, season 2 almost certainly green-lighted… :-)