But it was a beginning
February 9, 2015 3:11 PM   Subscribe

Early this morning, viewers of the FXX network were treated to an unheralded TV pilot for a show based on Robert Jordan's epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time (previously on Metafilter). Adapting only the first six pages of the 13,000 page series, it appeared just two days before film and TV rights were due to revert to Jordan's estate. Jordan's wife and editor has stated that the pilot was filmed without the knowledge of anyone involved with the estate, which casts doubt on producer Red Eagle Entertainment's plan to continue the series.
posted by penguinliz (58 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
How...without any apparent buzz does a pilot just appear...huh? Well, off to watch.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:18 PM on February 9, 2015


The quality of that pilot ought to cast doubts on Red Eagle Entertainment's plan to continue the series. Ye, gods. Poor acting, naturally. Boring ass interiors that evoke no sense of place and are poorly lit. Costumes are either poor or just inexplicably... modern.

If you're going to rip off GoT, figure out what made it popular. For starters, make the world a character in the story otherwise don't bother filming an altworld setting.
posted by absalom at 3:19 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


What the? how the?

I haven't watched it, and it's pretty much completely unrelated, but I want Chris Dane Owens to be involved with this pilot somehow. Just something about that low-budget fantasy.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:20 PM on February 9, 2015


So can we expect another 1694 episodes, if each one only spans 6 pages? At 13 episodes a season, that's a good 130 seasons worth of programming.
posted by T.D. Strange at 3:21 PM on February 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


How...without any apparent buzz does a pilot just appear

Presumably, they rushed it so as not to let the rights lapse.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:22 PM on February 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh, for the TL;DR crowd: It's a dodgy copyright extension plot. All of the criticisms above are probably a result of it was never intended to be a quality product. I expect this was basically filmed over Christmas break in someone's house, then airtime was rented on some cable station in the netherworld of your TV dial and run in the middle of the night two days before the rights reverted.
posted by absalom at 3:24 PM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


it appeared just two days before film and TV rights were due to revert

Oh yeah, I know this one.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:24 PM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Some poor screenwriter made it through six pages of a Robert Jordan book? Congratulations. Hope you were well compensated.
posted by dortmunder at 3:29 PM on February 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


I skipped to 4 minutes or so in, to skip the credit sequence and saw a cheesy battle sequence with a blonde buxom knight and some cheap, but okay special effects. A bit cheesy, but surprisingly good I thought. Then the advert for a crappy pay2win app game ended.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:35 PM on February 9, 2015 [37 favorites]


These people wanting to push forward with a WoT series because of how popular the GoT show has become is like me deciding to get into that whole professional football racket because the Patriots seem like they've done all right for themselves.
posted by Justinian at 3:35 PM on February 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


Ye, gods. Poor acting, naturally. Boring ass interiors that evoke no sense of place and are poorly lit. Costumes are either poor or just inexplicably... modern.

Never mind all that, let's get to the important thing: how many braids were pulled? WAS THERE PROPER AMOUNTS OF BRAID TUGGING!?
posted by happyroach at 3:37 PM on February 9, 2015 [30 favorites]


Lews Therin's suit actually made a lot of sense given the descriptions offered for the clothing styles of the Age of Legends, so that was cool. The Handsome Elder Statesmen they hired to play him was almost serviceable.

Billy Zane though, was terrible. Has he always been this terrible?
posted by Poppa Bear at 3:40 PM on February 9, 2015


Sniff.
posted by erlking at 3:40 PM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


*Watches first few seconds... randomly clicks ahead and unknowingly hits an ad* 'Woah, this is radical!'
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:47 PM on February 9, 2015


I... just, ugh. If you are reading this and haven't clicked the link on youtube yet, do so. These 30 minutes are not 30 minutes you will ever get back. But you should go watch this right now, before it disappears from the youtubes, because you should bear witness to the One Power of Hollywood Contract Games.
posted by andreaazure at 3:47 PM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Galadriel: History became legend. Legend became myth, and for two and a half thousand years, the Ring passed out of all knowledge.

Random Chick With RP Accent: ... and ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend; legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the age that gave it birth comes again.


Although in neither case, so far as I know, are these exact quotes from the books they are based on, but the transparent mimicry and relative levels of lyricism seem to just about precisely sum up the relative levels of Tolkien and Jordan.

As a side note, I recall users on a board I was on years ago weeping and lamenting at the news of Jordan's death that now, "We will never know how the series ends! There will never be any more WoT!" The New York Times #1 bestseller that day in 2007 as I recall was Tolkien's Children of Hurin. Tolkien was 34 years in his grave.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:52 PM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


The presence of Billy Zane was the only tipoff needed that this was a horseshit production. Zane has worked exclusively in horseshit productions for many years now.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:52 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Zane has worked exclusively in horseshit productions for many years now.

Are you counting The Phantom on the good side of that line?
posted by Etrigan at 3:55 PM on February 9, 2015


Random Chick With RP Accent: ... and ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend; legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the age that gave it birth comes again.

Although in neither case, so far as I know, are these exact quotes from the books they are based on


Nah, that's a direct quote from every [?] prologue in the series, maybe with slightly different punctuation.

I'm a bit sad that I know this.
posted by dorque at 4:03 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


>it appeared just two days before film and TV rights were due to revert

Oh yeah, I know this one.


See also, the 12-minute cartoon version of Tolkien's The Hobbit, created to retain the rights in the 1960s. The dragon Slag does not sleep easy ...
posted by wilko at 4:14 PM on February 9, 2015


Never mind all that, let's get to the important thing: how many braids were pulled?

I'm not going to lie, I skipped ahead every minute or so to see if anyone was even wearing a braid.

In my skipping, I don't think I saw anyone who was remotely the age of the book's main characters, so I'm kind of confused. Is it all a flashback to Lews Therin? Blrgh.
posted by tofu_crouton at 4:17 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nah, that's a direct quote from every [?] prologue in the series, maybe with slightly different punctuation.

Hunh. I read the first one. It has vanished entirely from my mind, and just now is the first time that absence has been noticeable or in any way inconvenient.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:18 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


boring ass interiors

Although the use of colonoscopy footage is certainly groundbreaking for this genre of entertainment.
posted by yoink at 4:18 PM on February 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


oh wow I'm 7 minutes in and this is incredibly terribly bad

MST3K we need you
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:21 PM on February 9, 2015


I've never read any Wheel of Time but is it really just fifty thousand pages of ads for other shows on the FX network?
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:33 PM on February 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


I couldn't make it through the whole thing. There's like 3 minutes of voiceover/credits. I do admit to howling with laughter when I saw Billy Zane's name. Because of course. I'm going to assume that was his mansion they shot this thing in.

I liked how the costume design was mostly "I dunno. Just wear the most medieval thing you own. We need to get this thing done in an hour."

I'm sorry for all the Wheel of Time fans who'd love to see a real show of this, and yeah, this is a shitty case of rights-squatting. But ... even without this, I can't really imagine it would happen. I think, at best, it would end up on late nights on Syfy.
posted by darksong at 4:36 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


> In my skipping, I don't think I saw anyone who was remotely the age of the book's main characters, so I'm kind of confused. Is it all a flashback to Lews Therin? Blrgh.

Yep, it's a flashback - i.e., the prologue to the first book (set long before Rand or Nynaeve), illustrating the Lews Therin backstory. So no braid tugging for you. :P
posted by snap, crackle and pop at 4:37 PM on February 9, 2015


This is cargo-cult TV making though. They did the (arguably much more complex) Ring backstory in about eight minutes in FOTR.

And this backstory would be conveyed best in flashback anyway, maybe Moiraine talking.

And this just sucks everything ugh. I'm no Jordan apologist--I think the books are dreck and ricochet biscuit's comment above about Tolkien/Jordan is spot on--and yet I think there's probably an entertaining TV story to be told once someone carves out the excess the way they did with GoT.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:42 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I skipped to 4 minutes or so in, to skip the credit sequence and saw a cheesy battle sequence with a blonde buxom knight and some cheap, but okay special effects. A bit cheesy, but surprisingly good I thought. Then the advert for a crappy pay2win app game ended.

Ok, I thought you were joking about the mobile game ad.

I was incorrect. Exact same thing happened to me. "Wow, damn, there's a flaming catapult and everythin- oh, WAIT."
posted by selfnoise at 4:51 PM on February 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


In my skipping, I don't think I saw anyone who was remotely the age of the book's main characters, so I'm kind of confused. Is it all a flashback to Lews Therin?

It's the prologue of the first book, poorly lit, with two talking heads and horrific music cues.

I declare it horrid. *sniff* *braid tug*
posted by nubs at 4:54 PM on February 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


So, my takeaway from this whole thing is, Iliana. Iliana? Iliana! Iliana! Iliana? Iliana!
Is that correct?
posted by Countess Elena at 4:59 PM on February 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


Malkovich malkovich.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:07 PM on February 9, 2015


I'd call myself a Jordan defender, sure. Eye of the World was a fun, dumb escapist fantasy. It wasn't especially clever, and it could've benefited from a more judicious editor, but it was an enjoyable read. (I've never read any other books in the WoT series, though, and I'm not especially eager to do so.)

But I'm having a hard time picturing WoT working. The story seems to silly to support a big-budget, effects-heavy serial drama... the only way I can see WoT working is if they did it low-budget, made it more light-hearted, and put the emphasis on monster-of-the-week type conflicts. A straight-up adaptation just wouldn't work; the main story is too simplistic and dull to carry a show on its own.
posted by Green Winnebago at 5:14 PM on February 9, 2015


Monster-of-the-week doesn't really happen in WoT though. It's all interminably slow plotting.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:24 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Billy Zane though, was terrible. Has he always been this terrible?

Yes.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:25 PM on February 9, 2015


I skipped to 4 minutes or so in, to skip the credit sequence and saw a cheesy battle sequence with a blonde buxom knight and some cheap, but okay special effects. A bit cheesy, but surprisingly good I thought. Then the advert for a crappy pay2win app game ended.

Even though I had read this comment, I still thought that this part was a scene from the show until the ad ended. But no, it was much more compelling than the show itself.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:43 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is just like a real-life 80s movie! With a deadline fast approaching, a ragtag bunch of misfits bands together to put on a show to save the community center a popular fantasy franchise from falling into the hands of greedy property developers competent production.
posted by ckape at 5:44 PM on February 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


That was surprisingly deep for only 6 pages of back story.
posted by fiercekitten at 6:09 PM on February 9, 2015


I can't even read the whole series* and this thing still makes me sad. I think Jordan's universe, like him or not, obviously deserves better... or to be left alone altogether.

*I've gotten to book 6 or 7 several times and all the braid tugging and blah, blah, blah just gets to me and I have to quit.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:10 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


So can we expect another 1694 episodes, if each one only spans 6 pages? At 13 episodes a season, that's a good 130 seasons worth of programming.

Sounds about right.
posted by Sand at 6:11 PM on February 9, 2015


Most people complain about how a novel, say The Lord of the Rings or Dune, is far too dense to be compacted into a single short film. Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time is the opposite; the books are so ludicrously decompressed, with often 500-600 pages of buildup to the actual interesting action-y parts, that it would benefit tremendously from each being turned into a film in the 150 minute range. At least with the first five books, I kept going because in each book there would eventually be a "switch" and things would get interesting and I read the remainder relatively quickly to the end. A good screenwriter forced to cover each novel in a feature film would function as the editor Jordan never had, cutting the bloated soap opera down to what was actually essential in its story.
posted by graymouser at 6:13 PM on February 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


Weird modernism, strangely inconsistent tone, interesting design and worldbuilding choices buried under dull dialog choices and endless exposition dumps - yes, I'd say this adapts the Wheel of Time fairly well.
posted by EatTheWeak at 6:20 PM on February 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


A good screenwriter forced to cover each novel in a feature film would function as the editor Jordan never had, cutting the bloated soap opera down to what was actually essential in its story.

So basically do that was done to LA Confidential, but at least five or six times in a row. It's possible, but you're going to burn out the screenwriters quickly.
posted by Kevin Street at 7:24 PM on February 9, 2015


Yeah, each novel as a feature film would be 14 films. This seems unreasonable.

Though if you cut out 90% of Mat Cauthon you could probably get that down to 7 or 8.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:36 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lord I used to love this series. That having long since burned out, and knowing it was at last coming to an end, I grimly forced my way to and through the last volume. I finished it to have closure on a series I'd spent a good part of my life on, promptly sold my stack of hardcovers, and hope to never to see anything about it again.

The worldbuilding was well done though. Too bad about the whole nobody-talking-to-each-other-and-thus-solving-what-are-fundamentally-simple-problems thing. And Perrin's silly angst. And the braid tugging. And all the clothing descriptions. And books 7-10. And...

I think there's a reason all my fiction is pulp now. Cornell Woolrich or John D. MacDonald could complete a great story in the time it took to learn about the dye choices in Caemlyn.
posted by Palindromedary at 11:04 PM on February 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


Billy Zane is a cool dude.
posted by maxsparber at 4:27 AM on February 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I was going to defend Billy Zane in The Phantom but them I remembered that what I actually liked was Phantom 2040 and Zane's movie wasn't any good.

As for WoT, I couldn't make it through the pilot. (Nor the books for that matter.)
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 6:43 AM on February 10, 2015


I thought the pilot was kind of neat. It was pretty horrifying seeing Lews Therin walking around in his nice clothes completely ignorant of what he had done. I'd like to see this show actually made some day.

/no I didn't watch the whole thing, who could?
posted by Drinky Die at 10:48 AM on February 10, 2015


The worldbuilding was well done though. Too bad about the whole nobody-talking-to-each-other-and-thus-solving-what-are-fundamentally-simple-problems thing. And Perrin's silly angst.

Oh my god yes. The characters in WoT make the ones in GoT seem positively loquacious when it comes to talking about what they're thinking and feeling. Nobody says fuckall to anyone else about anything.

Also, said it recently here: Jordan had a serious fixation on spanking women, in a really creepy way.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:03 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Grantland's coverage.

The story behind this gets mind-boggling: James Seda (credited as just "Seda") made the entire thing in just over 2 weeks, from Jan. 15 to Feb. 4, including shooting an Ed Wood-like 22 pages in one day, and then almost immediately died in a car accident on Feb. 8, hours before its paid-programming airing.
posted by frogstar42 at 11:06 AM on February 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Peter Jackson, paging Peter Jackson...
He could turn the 14 books into 37 films.
posted by twidget at 11:34 AM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


This made me cross my arms under my breasts and sniff.
posted by VTX at 1:39 PM on February 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Oh my god, my eyes.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:35 AM on February 11, 2015


feckless fecal fear mongering: "MST3K we need you"

Countess Elena: "Iliana. Iliana? Iliana! Iliana! Iliana? Iliana!"

Cabot? Cabot?!? Cabot!!!
posted by Chrysostom at 12:44 PM on February 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Beat PunchBeef!
posted by Drinky Die at 12:58 PM on February 11, 2015


Cabot? Cabot?!? Cabot!!!

Rowsdower!
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:06 AM on February 12, 2015


then almost immediately died in a car accident on Feb. 8

Jesus Christ I really hope it wasn't related to sleep-deprivation from rushing this mess through.

And man, this dialogue. "You, who wore the X of the Y and sat on the Z of the W and ate of the N of the M." I had to take a laugh break. Paced slower than the books, too, if that's possible - at least the books were so diffuse that they were easy to rip though.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:02 PM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]




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