The Weird Story Of Why A Wheel Of Time Pilot Aired At 1:30 AM Last Night

The sub-industry of TV pilots is completely different from what it used to be, with networks switching to yearlong schedules, and Amazon allowing viewers a chance to give feedback. But this is still one of the strangest pilot stories we’ve ever heard, as a fully produced prototype episode adapted from Robert Jordan’s classic fantasy series The Wheel of Time was aired on FXX without fanfare in the middle of the night on February 9. What the what?

As it happens, FXX wasn’t even aware of what they aired, as the slot was part of the network’s paid programming lineup, and it sounds like the episode aired mainly as a way of making sure the rights to the Wheel of Time novels stayed in the hands of current holders Red Eagle Entertainment. io9 spoke with Red Eagle CEO Rick Selvage, who basically implied that the episode needed to get on the air by a certain date, lest the rights revert back from Universal to Bandersnatch Group.

Makes sense, but by doing this bit of legal wrangling, Selvage managed to tick off Jordan’s widow, Harriet McDougal Rigney, who released the following statement.

It was made without my knowledge or cooperation. I never saw the script. No one associated with Bandersnatch Group, the successor-in-interest to James O. Rigney, was aware of this.I see no mention of Universal in the “pilot”. Nor, I repeat, was Bandersnatch, or Robert Jordan’s estate, informed of this in any way.I am dumbfounded by this occurrence, and am taking steps to prevent its reoccurrence.

To be fair, I’m pretty sure Winter Dragon wasn’t ever going to air again anytime soon anyway. And even though this was possibly the worst way for this prologue pilot to have aired, it doesn’t appear to be a setback for a Wheel of Time series to exist in the future. Selvage said that it doesn’t serve as “an introduction to the series, although it is a pilot,” and is basically a calling card to the world that Jordan’s magnificent world of characters is on the way. It might not just stay relegated to the small screen, either, although former plans for a movie are on the backburner.

Here’s how Selvage sees this adaptation working, citing Game of Thrones’ success as an inspiration to bring this acclaimed series to TV.

We felt the story for the [first novel] Eye of the World was very complicated. You need character development, you have to build the world…That doesn’t mean we won’t do film at some point in the future. But at the moment, this project is destined to be a television series.

It’s unclear what’ll end up happening with Wheel of Time, which was also supposed to get an RPG video game at some point. Will there be a legal battle? Will the One Power get used to sweep things under the rug? Head here to find the Winter Dragon pilot while you still can.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.