The folks at Amazon Studios are excited about their upcoming “Lord of the Rings” series. So am I.
But I’m less excited about the lack of information about it. And a tiny bit annoyed that they don’t realize that some of us have actually read the books and know what we’re talking about.
Here’s the transcript of an exchange I had with the co-head of Amazon television, Vernon Sanders, about the upcoming “Lord of the Rings” series:
Me: “Do we know yet when it’s set? I mean, if you give me a year, I’ll figure it out.”
Sanders: “When, storyline-wise?”
Sanders: “We’ve already shared with the fans that it will be during the Second Age.”
Me: “The Second Age is 3,441 years long.”
I knew what Amazon had shared with fans, and that the show will be a prequel to the events of the “LotR” novels and movies. And I was hoping (but not actually expecting) that they might narrow it down a bit. Nope. Just ... sometime in the Second Age.
“Makes for a great, long-running series,” said Amazon television co-head Albert Cheng. (At this point, Amazon has committed to five seasons.)
Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke, reacting to the laughter that erupted from members of the Television Critics Association, insisted that 3,441 years is “a tiny expanse of time in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ saga.” That’s not actually true — even though the timeline runs tens of thousands of years.
“Tiny” is the amount of information we've gotten out of Amazon.
But, honestly, I’m encouraged by what little we know. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s narrative, there were massive, exciting events in the Second Age. There are all sort of possibilities.
Full disclosure: I knew off the top of my head that there were 3,441 years in the Second Age of Middle Earth. (I did Google it after I made the comment, just to make sure I remembered correctly.) So, yes, I am a huge “LotR” geek; I’ve read the books dozens of times — so many I’ve lost track.
For those of you less geeky, early in “The Fellowship of the Ring” movie we saw a flashback of Sauron being defeated; his finger cut off; and the One Ring taken. That was at the end of the Second Age — the new series will take place before that.
Amazon has hired writers/producers who’ve worked on “Game of Thrones,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Breaking Bad” and “Stranger Things,” and a lot of high-profile behind-the-scenes production staffers.
Without elaboration, Salke told us that executive producers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay and their team “have been working for months” on scripts, which “have been outstanding.” Casting is underway, and Salke added, “We can’t wait to update you more as we move into production next year.”
Me neither. (Production is planned for 2020; the earliest we’ll see episodes is 2021.)
The “LotR” books and movies take place at the end of Third Age, which lasted more than 3,000 years. So the series will predate the movies/books by perhaps 4,000, 5,000 or 6,000 years — and almost none of the characters in “LotR” will be in the Amazon series.
We have to assume Sauron will be; he’s far older than that, and he is, after all, the Lord of the Rings. And there will probably be some familiar elves — I’m guessing Elrond has to be part of this, and maybe others like Galadriel and Celeborn.
We don’t know how old Legolas is — Tolkien never specified — but even if he was around during the Second Age, don’t expect to see Orlando Bloom reprise that role. “I haven’t had any conversations about that,” he said. And he pointed to the fact that elves are immortal and unchanging and he was in his early 20s when he starred in the “LOTR” movies; he’s 42 now.
“I mean, I like to think of myself as ageless, but I don’t know,” he said.
In other words, even if Legolas is part of the TV series, Bloom will not be playing him.
“THE EXPANSE” EXPANDS • Reportedly, one of the reasons Amazon saved “The Expanse” from cancellation is that Amazon chief Jeff Bezos likes the show. If that’s true, great. Sometimes a multibillionaire actually does good in the world.
Whatever the reason, I’m thrilled. I’m a huge fan of the show and the books on which it is based.
Not only does Season 4 start streaming on Dec. 13 — Friday the 13th — but Amazon has already ordered Season 5. Way to go, Bezos!