It seems like everybody in TV is looking for the next “Game of Thrones.”
Could it be Apple TV+'s “See”? • Nope. It’s terrible.
Could it be HBO’s “Watchmen”? • Nope. It’s good show, but it’s not even the same genre.
Could it be Netflix’s upcoming “Chronicles of Narnia”? • Highly doubtful. Netflix’s upcoming “The Witcher”? • Maybe. At least it’s in the same genre.
Could it be HBO’s “His Dark Materials”? • No — but I like that new series and I’ll tell you more about it below.
Could it be Amazon’s upcoming “The Lord of the Rings” series? • Absolutely not! Let’s get serious — “GoT” was the next “LotR,” not the other way around.
The search for the next “Game of Thrones” a fool’s errand, because it’s almost impossible to catch TV lightning in a bottle twice. Yet this kind of effort is certainly nothing new. It reminds me, oddly enough, of “Friends.” The year after that show debuted, there were more than a dozen imitators on network schedules. (Do you remember “Partners,” “If Not for You” or “Dweebs”?)
Honestly, the next “Game of Thrones” will probably be the “Game of Thrones” prequel that HBO just announced. “House of the Dragon” is based on George R.R. Martin’s prequel novel “Fire & Blood,” and I’m actually excited about it. (I didn’t know enough about the other planned prequel — which HBO killed — to have an opinion about it.)
“Fire & Blood” begins 300 years before the events in “GoT.” It’s about the Targaryens conquering the Seven Kingdoms; then they fight over the succession to the Iron Throne and civil wars break out. And there are dragons, dragons and more dragons. (OMG, I love the dragons.)
I’m also encouraged that Miguel Sapochnik, who directed some of the best “GoT” episodes (including “Battle of the Bastards” and “The Long Night”), is on board as an executive producer. Martin is also an executive producer, although exactly what his involvement will be is uncertain. I’m just glad he’s part of it, if only to help keep a lid on the social media whiners.
They’re also adapting just one (at this point) book that covers about 136 years in 700 pages, as opposed to the five books (and counting) that were adapted for the “Game of Thrones” TV series — books that run almost 4,200 pages covering about seven years. There are still tons of characters in “Blood & Fire,” but there aren’t a bajillion side plots to sift through.
There’s more than enough narrative in “Fire & Blood” on which to base many TV seasons, even if Martin never publishes Part 2 of the Targaryen prequel. If there’s a next “Game of Thrones,” this will be it.
But why not try something different now? Something like “His Dark Materials,” which premieres Monday at 7 p.m. on HBO. It’s based on Phillip Pullman’s novel trilogy (“The Golden Compass,” “The Subtle Knife” and “The Amber Spyglass”), which is set in a parallel world where humans have animal companions called daemons, manifestations of their souls.
The story centers on young Lyra (Dafne Keen) — a child of destiny, although neither she nor the viewers know what that means. She’s quickly caught up in a sinister plot that involves child kidnapping, a mysterious woman (Ruth Wilson) and the Magesterium — the oppressive church/state hierarchy that controls this world. Meanwhile, her uncle (James McAvoy) is investigating a strange phenomenon known as Dust and seems to involve other worlds. Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton”) arrives in Episode 4 as an amusing aeronaut.
The previous attempt to adapt Pullman’s novels, the 2007 movie “The Golden Compass,” was a failure, both critically and at the box office in North America. This attempt is gorgeous to look at and, if you give it two or three episodes, it will grow on you. And it will be around for a while — a second, eight-episode season has already been shot.
It does, however, seem that those who haven’t read the books (including yours truly) are less critical of the series than those who have — for whatever that’s worth.