Most of the time, TV pilots follow the pattern of development, network order, and either bad news or good news follows. But not Winter Dragon. This one-off pilot adapting Robert Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time fantasy series aired on FXX at 1:30 a.m. ET earlier this week, garnering raised eyebrows and harsh talk from Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal. And now it’s at the center of a heated lawsuit between McDougal and the production company that put it together.
Manetheren LLC, owned by Red Eagle Entertainment, is taking McDougal to court over her disdainful comments after the Winter Dragon pilot aired, in which she claimed to have no knowledge of the project – nor knowledge of what FXX is – and said Universal was one of those with the rights to her late husband’s work. But according to Manetheren, that’s a big wheel of bullshit, and their lawsuit contends that her allegedly false and misleading words damage their reputation and credibility moving forward in finding a studio and network to work with.
Here’s how the timeline works, according to THR. Manetheren first acquired the rights to the Wheel of Time series from Jordan himself, whose real name is James O. Rigney, for $35,000 in 2004, paying almost $600,000 in later years to hold onto the rights, which would have reverted back had the Winter Dragon pilot not aired by Wednesday, February 11. To go back a bit, the company made a deal with Universal in 2009 to try and make a movie out of it, but that deal ended in April 2014, at which point Manetheren entered into negotiations with Sony and Radar Pictures about a TV series.
That’s where McDougal comes into it. According to the suit, McDougal was contacted directly for a meeting with Sony and Radar about the TV project, and was reportedly told of the Universal deal ending by email. She was allegedly asked about coming into the project as a consulting producer, and knew about the expiration date on the rights. And so Manetheren is suing for slander-of-title and for statements that could hamper the project’s future.
It’s worth noting Red Eagle had a deal set up for a Wheel of Time comic book series where the contract reportedly stated the author’s estate couldn’t make disparaging comments about the product. I guess they should tack that on to everything they do from now on.
The pilot wasn’t very well received across the Internet, beyond the fact that it exists in general. But it’s also not entirely representative of whatever the first novel in the series will get turned into. Here’s hoping the lawsuit gets figured out and Manetheren’s chances of getting the show on the air aren’t actually sullied. The world needs more epic TV like this.