great adaptations

15 Fantasy Adaptations We’re Excited to See on TV Soon

Photo: Vulture

With Game of Thrones and its monstrous ratings preparing to bow out in the middle of 2019, it’s reasonable to assume that every network executive is currently sitting in their office, laptop out, and Googling “oh my God, please give me a fantasy adaptation that can sustain itself for eight seasons.” Actually, that’s more than reasonable — looking back at the year in terms of ambitious projects in development, it’s clear that all the big network players are hoping to recapture that Westeros magic in any way possible, green-lighting dozens and dozens of adaptations to fill the void.

But there’s a long road between a green light and a series actually making it to air. For every Thrones — which itself took more than four years to make it to TV after HBO first acquired the rights — there’s a Dragonriders of Pern, the Anne McCaffrey fantasy series that’s swerved in and out of development hell for over two decades.

Given that there’s no shortage of (very exciting) announcements, Vulture decided to pick 15 of the TV fantasy adaptations we confidently feel will be premiering in the near(ish) future, as opposed to a one-and-done press release that hasn’t come to fruition after a few years’ time. Hell, some of them even already have a premiere date. So here’s what you should be keeping your eyes open for when 2019 rolls around — sorted, for your convenience, by how soon we’re likely to see them.

Watchmen (HBO)

Damon Lindelof is out here comparing his “remixed” Watchmen adaptation — based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel about superheroes being treated as outlaws — to the goddamned Bible, which means it’s nearly done shooting its first season, with Regina King, Jeremy Irons, and Don Johnson confirmed as leads. “The reason that I’m doing this is these are dangerous times,” Lindelof explained, “and we need dangerous shows.”

What’s the production status? It’s upon us very soon! HBO confirmed that the show will debut in 2019, with other actors, such as Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson, James Wolk, and Louis Gossett Jr., joining the cast. There will be ten episodes in total.

The Witcher (Netflix)

Three words: Legolas Henry Cavill. (The hair, anyway.) Andrzej Sapkowski’s saga revolves around a malaise-prone monster hunter with a great name (Geralt of Rivia!) who “struggles to find his place in a world where people often prove more wicked than beasts.” He eventually teams up with a princess and sorceress with the same ideals, who might be able to help him find meaning in this dark, cruel world after all — and also kill a bunch of monsters.

What’s the production status? We’ll get it even sooner than Watchmen, most likely. Netflix confirmed that the eight episodes will debut in early 2019, with other cast members including Eamon Farren (that creepy guy from Twin Peaks: The Return) and Freya Allan.

His Dark Materials (BBC, HBO)

James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson, Dafne Keen, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are attached to lead this adaptation of Philip Pullman’s epic trilogy — The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass — which netted a second season before filming even began. Keen, whom you probably remember from Logan, will be the orphan hero who lives in a parallel universe and gets into all sorts of misadventures, mostly alongside Miranda’s balloon adventurer.

What’s the production status? The networks are going in on this one. A second season has already been commissioned well before the first season even airs, which will come Stateside sometime in 2019. That means we’re already confirmed for 16 episodes.

Cursed (Netflix)

13 Reasons Why’s Katherine Langford is taking the lead in Netflix’s Cursed, which is based on Lady of the Lake, the Arthurian legend. In a reimagining of the tale, Langford’s teen heroine and her “mysterious” gift are destined to become the Lady, and she unexpectedly teams up with “a young mercenary” named Arthur after her mother dies to find Merlin and give him his ancient sword. This is less of a buddy comedy and more of a life-or-death quest.

What’s the production status? It’s chugging along! While no other actor has been confirmed besides Langford, Netflix is assuring us that the ten-episode season will be released in 2019. Frank Miller (Sin City) and Tom Wheeler (Puss in Boots) are spearheading the adaptation.

The Chronicles of Narnia (Netflix)

It’s the Chronic WHAT! ’cles of Narnia! Netflix is funneling ridiculous amounts of money to create a bunch of “classic stories from across the Narnia universe” for viewers, which will be explored in dualities with “new series and film projects.” It’s unclear what that exactly translates to — anything from a short film to a mini-series could happen, really — but all seven of C.S. Lewis’s books have been acquired for the very first time, so opportunities abound.

What’s the production status? Netflix confirmed the deal in October. Given that each Narnia project would involve a different showrunner and writers room, they’ll all be developed at different speeds. One report states that we’ll likely see the first project of this “multi-year deal” debut in 2019.

The Watch (BBC America)

With Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens set to debut on Amazon next year, we have another one of his adaptations to look forward to — only this is a little more punk rock. Based on his Discworld novels, The Watch follows a group of ragtag cops as they try to protect their city from “normalized wrongness” from the past and future, whatever that may entail. Death will be a character, obviously.

What’s the production status? Early stages! BBC America only announced this pilot order in October, so the writers room, lead by Simon Allen (The Musketeers) is in full swing with no casting announcements yet.

Untitled Game of Thrones prequel (HBO)

Unsurprisingly, the first (of apparently many) intended Game of Thrones spinoffs has a lot of forward momentum, with Naomi Watts and that handsome Poldark lad already cast as the two leads. (Guess which one is playing a “charismatic socialite with a dark secret.”) George R.R. Martin and Jane Goldman (Kingsman: The Secret Service) will be helming the pilot, which takes place about 10,000 years before the events of the original series, near the end of the Age of Heroes.

What’s the production status? The pilot was commissioned in the spring, and as mentioned, Watts and Josh Whitehouse have been chosen to lead the cast. We have a feeling that this will be an easy full-season order for HBO.

Lord of the Rings (Amazon)

In an astonishing $250 million deal, this Lord of the Rings original series is being described as a prequel to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, with Amazon getting the full support of the Tolkien Estate and Trust. (The deal also includes the option for spinoffs.) Set in Middle Earth — duh — the adaptation is spearheaded by J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, perhaps best known for their Star Trek 4 and Jungle Cruise scripts.

What’s the production status? Amazon gave the series a “multi-season, straight-to-series commitment,” and the showrunners were selected in the summer.

The Wheel of Time (Amazon)

After gestating for a few years in development hell, Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time will finally get to tell its story of a world where magic exists and is part of daily life — but the twist is, only women can use it. Amazon will be going all-in on the viewpoint of Moiraine, a member of a shadowy organization with other young men and women, one of whom she believes might be a reincarnation of one of the most powerful beings to ever grace the earth. If that doesn’t break the group apart, who knows what can.

What’s the production status? Amazon confirmed a series order in October, saying each episode would be an hour long.

Conan the Barbarian (Amazon)

Not to be confused with the equally iconic Disney series Dave the Barbarian, Amazon’s Conan is teasing that its take on Robert E. Howard’s books will find the titular lead wandering the “mysterious and treacherous world of civilization, where he searches for purpose in a place that rejects him as a mindless savage,” after being banished from his homeland.

What’s the production status? Amazon confirmed in February that the series was in development, with a mix of creatives from Game of Thrones, Colony, and Fargo taking the reins.

Foundation (Apple)

Isaac Asimov’s science-fiction trilogy is one of the many projects Apple’s new streaming service has in development, with Foundation chronicling the thousand-year saga of “The Foundation, a band of exiles who discover that the only way to save the Galactic Empire from destruction is to defy it.”

What’s the production status? With Apple still remaining coy about what exactly to expect from all of its shows, what we know is that Foundation has a ten-episode, straight-to-series order for a first season. David S. Goyer (a DC Universe VIP) and Josh Friedman (Avatar 2) will be sharing showrunning duties.

Vampire Chronicles (Hulu)

Just what the doctor ordered, sexy vampires! The Anne Rice–penned novels will be taking the form of one cohesive narrative by revolving around noted hero, antihero, and narrator — and did we mention vampire? — Lestat de Lioncourt, as he lives his best life and tries to hide his fangs from the general populace.

What’s the production status? Rice and her son, Christopher, will be executive producing. Hulu confirmed in July that Bryan Fuller was originally planned as the showrunner, but this new development stage will have the Rices primarily spearheading the series.

The Sirens of Titan (Undisclosed network)

Comedy juggernaut Dan Harmon is going all-in on adapting Kurt Vonnegut’s 1959 novel for the small screen. (Everyone loves a good Vonnegut joint, after all.) The novel deals with the richest man in 22nd-century America, the humorously named Malachi Constant, who believes he possesses “divine favor” due to his remarkably good luck — luck that brings forth a journey to outer space and back in preparation of an interplanetary war. Not all goes according to plan.

What’s the production status? Kudos to Harmon, who, despite not having any network attachment yet, is hard at work writing the entire show. In a May GQ profile, Harmon described it as a “miniseries” that was always completed.

Consider Phlebas (Amazon)

Not content with its Lord of the Rings and Wheel of Time acquisitions, Amazon is hoping to tantalize you with the first book in Iain M. Banks’s Culture space-opera series — a winding journey that’s best described as how a “highly advanced and progressive society” ends up at war with “a deeply religious, warlike race intent on dominating the entire galaxy.” Artificial intelligence, technology, and rogue agents are all woven in for good fun.

What’s the production status? The streaming network is working on a pilot to accompany its “sizable script-to-series commitment,” which will be written by Dennis Kelly (Utopia) and Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment.

Ringworld (Amazon)

After SyFy failed its own adaptation attempt, Amazon stepped in to green-light Larry Niven’s seminal Ringworld sci-fi novel, which follows an apathetic man celebrating his 200th birthday “in a technologically advanced, future Earth.” You know what that means: journey time! He joins a young woman and two aliens on a voyage to Ringworld, a “remote artificial ring” that happens to contain a multitude of mysteries. Let’s hope they all come back from their mission (relatively) unscathed.

What’s the production status? This one we’re a bit less optimistic about, if we’re being honest. Despite Amazon teasing the development stages last winter in a big announcement, no other updates — such as showrunners or actors — have subsequently emerged.

15 Fantasy Adaptations We’re Excited to See on TV Soon