For the longest time, it seemed that fantasy books that gained immense popularity were destined for the big screen. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Chronicles of Narnia, for example, all became movie franchises with varying degrees of success. However, in more recent years, book series such as A Song of Ice and Fire [off which the TV show "Game of Thrones" is based on] have been extremely popular.
Having seasons that last 10-15 episodes, meaning potentially that many hours per season to tell the story allows the writers to go into much more detail with the plot. Characters become more developed, and there is the potential to have larger stories be told. There are downsides, of course, mainly in terms of budget and audience size, and so the small screen isn't for everyone. But, there are definitely books that suffer from being squeezed into a two-hour run time and would benefit from the extra detail. Here are three fantasy series that I believe would fit the role and make amazing TV shows.
I'll start with the most obvious one - The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien, creator of Middle-Earth and the father of fantasy. While the Tolkien estate has yet to sell the rights to this book and have firmly stated that they will not, a man can hope. If by some miracle Christopher Tolkien decides to allow the history of Middle-Earth to be used by Hollywood, then a television show would unquestionably be the way to go.
The Silmarillion, as stated before, is a history book that spans thousands of years, from the creation of Middle-Earth itself right up to the events we find happening in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This is far too much information to put in one movie or even a trilogy, and would be perfect for a series lasting say 5 seasons (one for each of the sections in the book) about 12-15 hour-long episodes per season.
We all want to return to the magical land of Middle-Earth at some point, and this seems like the best shot to do so.
Alright, so this is probably lost on anybody who isn't aged 15-25 or so, but one of the best fantasy series of the last ten years was Ranger's Apprentice. Written by John Flanagan, these twelve books follow the adventures of a young ranger named Will who is, well, an apprentice. He travels all over the fantastical land of Araluen and it's surrounding countries, which would lead to a very diverse set with multiple landscapes and cities to explore.
There are multiple story arcs that are covered over the course of the series, which could all be different seasons of a show. The first arc covers the first three books, the second covers books 4 and 5, the third 6 and 7, and the fourth 8 and 9. Books 10 and 12, The Emperor of Nihon-Ja and The Royal Ranger, each have a distinct plot associated with them, but could consist of one season together. The Lost Stories, the 11th book in the series, is a collection of short stories that could easily be a season by itself.Flanagan also has a sister series that is set in the same world as The Ranger's Apprentice called Brotherband that could also make up a few seasons if the show gained some popularity.
I would love to see this fun and diverse set of stories make it onto the small screen, possibly on an FX or even Netflix!
The Inheritance Cycle
Duh. The Inheritance Cycle, written by Christopher Paolini and consisting of Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance, ranks right up there with Lord of the Rings in my opinion. It is without question the most entertaining book series I have ever read, fantasy or not, and after seeing the massive flop that "Eragon" (2006) was, I'm convinced that a TV show would be the only way to do it justice. Even just five years ago, television budgets wouldn't have been able to support such huge battle scenes, let alone multiple dragons. "Game of Thrones" has changed that, and I believe that such a popular and incredible story as Inheritance would be able to gain the funds to do justice to Paolini's world.
The movie made off of the first book was absolute garbage, receiving a 16% rating from Rotten Tomatoes, and suffered from many of the downfalls that movies endure when big stories are forced into two hours. Characters vital to the rest of the series were killed off, and the main villain that you don't even encounter in person until the last book was shown and wasn't even remotely scary. If given 10 or more hours per book (the last one is twice as big and would probably be split into two seasons), this could become one of the greatest TV shows of all time. Give it to HBO, they'll do it justice.