Why ‘The Lord of the Rings’ TV Show Is Set Up to Fail: Where Amazon Went Wrong

If you haven’t heard, Jeff Bezos demanded that his Amazon employees give him “the new” Game of Thrones, and his eager-to-please underlings responded with a Lord of the Rings’ TV series. Amazon signed a $250 million rights contract with author J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate, HarperCollins Publishers, and New Line Cinema to produce the multi-season epic in 2017.

The Lord of the Rings
‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.’ Pictured is Best Supporting Actor nominee Ian McKellen (L) as Gandalf with Elijah Wood as Frodo | Photo by New Line/WireImage

The Lord of the Rings show will be set in the Age of Númenor – the 3,441 year period before The Fellowship of the Ring – according to NME. Casting has yet to be announced, but Ian McKellen has already communicated his eagerness to rejoin, joking that “Gandalf is over 7000 years old, so I’m not too old.” While watching Ian McKellen don such a familiar suit would be all-too satisfying, his reprisal would not be enough to save the show from its probable peril.

The Lord of the Rings show, in terms of media coverage – is endlessly marketed as an upcoming masterpiece, destined to rival Game of Thrones. A show aimed at filling the same niche, satisfying the same desire for a fantastical epic filled with battles, magic, and arduous journeys. The problem: as a result,  the Lord of the Rings show now already exists in the shadow of a vastly different masterpiece.

Why comparisons to ‘Game of Thrones’ will be the downfall of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ TV series

The Lord of the Rings series has already seen its fair share of cinematic reimaginings; meaning, those awaiting the show’s release – Ringers and Tolkienists alike – have expectations built upon years of novel-to-screen transitions.

The Fellowship of the Ring, The Return of the King, and The Two Towers all boast over 90% critic scores on Rotten Tomatoes. If living up to the movie magic isn’t enough, now the show must rival one of the biggest cultural phenomenons to ever hit the small screen. And why? The media has decided that – on the grounds of the shows’ shared genre and Jeff Bezos’ personal statements – GoT and Lord of the Rings should be juxtaposed.

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Queen in the North. #GameofThrones

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The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, as fans of both will tell you, are more dissimilar than they are similar. However, existing in the same ballpark – two blades of grass on opposite sides of the outfield – they are deemed “close enough” for comparison.

The Lord of the Rings show will not possess the “never-before-seen” factor inherent to the Game of Thrones HBO show. From The Lord of the Rings trilogy to the Hobbit series, this show will be far from “new.”

Creating yet another tale out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s source material smells of money-hungry businessmen. Too lazy to discover, or take a risk on the next “Harry Potter,” those behind this production will try to strike gold in an overexplored mine. How many times can you find treasure looking in the same space?

Jeff Bezos asked for the next Game of Thrones, and he got Fantastic Beasts: a fun-to-watch series that fans of Harry Potter enjoy, yet one that will never reach the status of its predecessor. Similarly, fans of The Lord of the Rings will likely enjoy the show – if done well (will get to this momentarily) – but find themselves saying “It’s not the same.” For just like Fantastic Beasts, some of the magic will simply feel amiss.

A former ‘Game of Thrones’ writer will work as a consultant on ‘The Lord of the Rings’

Amazon will use former GoT writer Bryan Cogman as a consultant on the show. Cogman will work alongside JD Payne and Patrick McKay, according to TV Line. What is Cogman’s purpose? Is he there to ensure that The Lord of the Rings remains similar enough to GoT: not a replica, but clearly a comparable experience?

If the media’s comparisons weren’t enough, now those behind The Lord of the Rings have decided to forge yet another point of contact to a hugely successful, and largely considered unmatchable saga. Given that he is largely responsible for the successful reviews following season eight’s second episode – “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” – Cogman is a wise man to employ as a consultant. However, in what way will his services be rendered?

With The Lord of the Rings production connecting itself to GoT, and the media implying that its destiny is to fill the void GoT left behind, The Lord of the Rings show is set up to disappoint.

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Where Amazon went wrong? They did not create the next Game of Thrones, for they did not venture into something new. They did not take a risk. They created Fantastic Beasts. Meaning, the show will likely have its fair share of viewers and do “just fine,” but it will never be GoT, for the two should never have been compared in the first place.

The one thing working in The Lord of the Rings’ favor? At least, the final season of Game of Thrones was an utter letdown.