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The story of the Wizard’s First Rule panel at Comic Con is simply this: If you’re a fan of the books, prepare to be miserable. If you’re a fan of Sam Raimi or Xena: Warrior Princess, get ready to relive the syndicated television fantasy magic of the mid-90s.
Sam Raimi and author of the “Wizard’s First Rule” series of fantasy books Terry Goodkind, showed up at the San Diego Comic Con this year to talk about Raimi’s new syndicated television series based on Goodkind’s books. Joining them were show executive producers Robert Tapert and Kenneth Biller. Goodkind made his philosophy regarding the project pretty clear from the outset. His plan? Hand it over and let Raimi do whatever the heck he wants with it. Says Goodkind, “They’re going to do things for the right reasons. These are the most talented people in the world. Let them find the path to accomplish this story on the screen, and do it the best way it can be done. It doesn’t mean they’re going to constantly follow the story… but they’re going to do stories inspired by the books.”
And he’s right, they aren’t going to constantly follow the story. “Inspired by” was a term used a lot throughout the panel. Actually they may not follow the story at all. Raimi and his team latched on to the project out of a desire to bring syndicated fantasy back to television. The days of his Hercules and Xena series are long gone, and since their departure from the TV landscape there really hasn’t been another fantasy property to move in and fill the void. Raimi revealed that he’s out to resurrect syndicated programming, and in particular syndicated fantasy programming back. He’s using “Wizard’s First Rule” to do it, and though he claims to be a big fan of the books, unfortunately he may piss off fans in the process of translating it.
Rather than take on a linear format which would allow them to tell the complex stories of the books the way they’re told in the books, Raimi’s team is doing the entire series in single episode, self-contained story shots. His explanation is that it’s impossible to do otherwise on television… apparently he hasn’t seen Battlestar Galactica or Lost. Actually, they have seen them but Raimi and his team insist that what audiences want is closed in stories, and it’s what their network partners have demanded from them.
The TV landscape may have changed since Raimi last did TV fantasy, but he isn’t interested in being a part of the new way of better storytelling created by Ron Moore. He’s working old school, with self-contained stories “inspired” by the books he’s source rather than the complex tales told in the books. I guess it’s appropriate then that he’s re-titled the show as well. They’re abandoning the Wizard’s First Rule moniker and calling the series Legend of the Seeker. Goodkind defends the title change by pointing out that this is more reflective of what the series is actually about. He says, “it’s about the Seeker. I thought it was more important to connect the title of the show with what it’s really about.”
If you’re a fan most of the above is probably bad news, and the response from Goodkind fans during their Q&A session was, as you might expect, tinged with suspicion and in some cases outright anger. But the clips Raimi showed look promising and the new cast members announced (which we told you about here), are if nothing else, nice to look at. They really do have that same vibe we got in Hercules, and with Raimi behind it you can bet the show will be entertaining. Sure linear stories are all the rage, but every once in awhile we all get nostalgic for those lazy, family friendly, Saturday afternoons with Hercules. That’s what Raimi’s trying to tap into here, and whether or not Wizard’s First Rule fans support it Legend of the Seeker may have a bright future in syndication.