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I'm trying to stay positive about the situation with fantasy on television. We recently got word that HBO had ordered A Game of Thrones to series, picking up a pilot and ten episodes as reported on Sci Fi Pulse. Tempering this good news for fantasy fans, the syndicated Legend of the Seeker has been effectively canceled, according to TV by the Numbers.
Now there's still the slightest of chances that ABC Domestic television might syndicate the ABC Studios production themselves. To this point the Tribune Company has stated that the series will not be renewed for a third season. As Tribune owns the majority of the stations the series airs on in syndication, including WGN, getting dropped from all of them would be enough to spell its doom.
My optimistic stance is that going from a lower-budget syndicated fantasy series, based on Terry Goodkind's The Sword of Truth fantasy book series, to an HBO fantasy series is a step in the right direction for the genre. It's not a statement about whether or not I think George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice an Fire book series, on which A Game of Thrones is based, is superior to Goodkind's epic or not. It's about the quality of the television product we're getting.
With the syndicated model, Sam Raimi and company had to take liberties with Goodkind's narrative, creating more stand-along episodes and a lighter more frivolous tone to the adventures. On HBO, the creators have unparalleled freedom, as well as a potentially larger budget, to tell serialized sophisticated stories that treat its source material with the utmost respect.
If Thrones does well for HBO, it would be a statement to all of television that fantasy is as viable a genre for airing as crime procedurals and science fiction. Fans of other great fantasy epics can also hold onto perhaps a bigger glimmer of hope that their own favorite series might translate into a serious and fantastic TV series.