It looks as though A Game of Thrones (and the upcoming American Gods television show) will have even more competition throwing its weight into the fantasy-drama ring: Lev Grossman’s The Magicians has been optioned and Fox is planning on turning it into a series.
The appearance of this new project amidst a slew of new fantastical shows highlights a clear tilt in the preferences of mainstream entertainment; fantasy has not previously been treated as a serious dramatic genre unless it left out references to magical incantations, faraway lands, and mythical creatures. It seems as though Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Broadwalk Empire will have to move over for this upcoming era of television. But how does Fox’s project stack up against the rest of them?
The good news is they have some solid writers on board in the form of Ashley Miller & Zack Stentz, co-writers of X-Men: First Class, along with episodes of Fringe and Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles.
They will unfortunately be landing this series in a puddle of more-of-the-same, and A Game of Thrones and American Gods aren’t necessarily to blame for that: NBC and ABC, in a desperate attempt to catch up with the times, are launching their own fantasy yarns in the form of Grimm and Once Upon A Time. One can only hope that The Magicians series is properly promoted to gather the audience it rightly deserves.
On the other hand, Fox does not have the best history with their genre shows; they continued The X-Files long after Chris Carter left the show, weakening what was arguably one of the best SFF series in more recent times. (Look for the Tor.com rewatch of that to begin very soon, in fact.) Fox was also responsible for trashing both Firefly and Dollhouse before either show could find its footing. Joss Whedon has stayed away from the network since and has been more prosperous for it, if The Avengers is anything to go by. Granted, if the show does well, Fox is likely to give them a pretty wide berth, as they currently have with Glee. Then again, I’m not sure anyone needs to see a reality show that decides which newcomer will be the Magician King.
Of course, the real question that hasn’t been asked yet is how are they planning on telling this story in a television format? Will the first book equate to one season? More? Will Lev Grossman write more books in this universe? Will they simply riff on the themes and ideas set forth in the novels, more in the way that True Blood has been handled? Who gets to play Quentin Coldwater?! Only time will tell.
One thing’s for sure — just seeing Brakebills would be a real treat.
Emily Asher-Perrin is the Tor.com Editorial Assistant. She’d rather not have to learn magic the Brakebills way. Though she would love to have a demon in her back.