'Game of Thrones' v. 'Lord of the Rings': The Biggest Battle in Fantasy TV History Is Here | WIRED

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  one month ago  •  30 comments

By:   Conde Nast (WIRED)

'Game of Thrones' v. 'Lord of the Rings': The Biggest Battle in Fantasy TV History Is Here | WIRED
'House of the Dragon' premieres on HBO Max this weekend, 'The Rings of Power' on Amazon two weeks later. The winner will set the course for fantasy—and streaming.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



House of the Dragon premieres on HBO Max this weekend, The Rings of Power on Amazon two weeks later. The winner will set the course for fantasy—and streaming. House-Of-The-Dragon-Monitor-Culture.jpg Courtesy of Ollie Upton/HBO

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Fantasy stories, in recent years, have become the stuff of prestige TV. This isn't to say the genre wasn't always prestigious, but now properties like The Sandman and The Witcher are getting bigger budgets and bigger stars than they ever have before. Arguably, this is due to the wild success of Game of Thrones , but even that show owed a little bit of its appeal and popularity to another fantasy franchise: The Lord of the Rings . In the next two weeks, the two will go head-to-head—and determine the future of television in the process.

Frankly, this showdown has little to do with either House of the Dragon (the Thrones prequel that launches Sunday) or The Rings of Power (the upcoming Lord of the Rings show) and everything to do with the state of TV itself. In the time since HBO announced it was making a Game of Thrones spin-off, its parent, WarnerMedia, merged with Discovery, creating a company that seems more inclined to run a lean operation than blow millions on pointy chairs. Meanwhile, Rings of Power , which launches September 2, is airing on Amazon Prime, a streaming service with seemingly limitless resources.

Both shows have the potential to be hits, but their ability to manifest that might depend on how long they stay funded. As The New York Times noted this week, "HBO's new corporate overlords, executives from Discovery, have a crushing $53 billion debt load, and they have been looking for savings—in other words, high-cost Thrones spinoffs had better pay off … Will two splashy, big-budget fantasy series be too much for some viewers?"

This sets up a weird dichotomy. Game of Thrones , let's be honest, did not end well. Public opinion on the finale was lukewarm at best, but it still got a ton of attention. HBO greenlit its prequel as a way to milk more viewers out of the franchise—and now the network needs them more than ever. Amazon, on the other hand, ordered The Rings of Power partially because Jeff Bezos is a huge J.R.R. Tolkien fan and Jeff Bezos can do what he wants with his billions.

Of course, television lives and dies based on how many people tune in, and mega-rich people have been creative benefactors pretty much since the dawn of creativity. But something about this battle puts all of that in stark relief. House of the Dragon may get canned after one season, even if it's amazing, just because it's too expensive. Alternatively, it looks like there will be five seasons of Rings of Power because Bezos wants them, whether they're compelling or not.

Look, I will go to the mat defending crappy TV (I have before), but those full-throated defenses are usually reserved for the mid-budget things with small but devoted audiences (and occasionally misunderstood Wachowski pictures). Spending millions on something that is just "meh" feels like a waste when good TV gets canceled all the time just because its pint-sized budget results in a pint-sized audience. Remember, Mad Men never had a large viewership; it probably wouldn't have made it past a second season on Netflix. Neither did The Wire or Deadwood . Such is cable. But at a time when algorithms and bean counters can determine the return on investment for any show, the TV that survives has to be either racking up new subscribers or the passion project of a behind-the-scenes billionaire. Lately, fantasy has been good at bringing in viewers— The Sandman is currently in the top TV slot on Netflix—but that may not last forever.

Which brings us back to the Times ' question: Will two massive swords-and-sorcerers shows be too much? Quality aside, will folks just pick one show or the other and stick with it? Will lifelong Thrones or Tolkien fans continue to line up no matter what? It seems possible, but it also seems highly likely that whichever show comes out ahead, its "success" will set the tone for TV decision-making going forward. There is only one ring to win.


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JBB
Professor Principal
1  JBB    one month ago

We tried to watch it, but HBO's server crashed on us.

 
 
 
Snuffy
Masters Guide
2  Snuffy    one month ago

I run the HBO app on a Fire Stick and it kept crashing on me too.  I looked online, it was an issue mainly for Amazon device users and the suggested fix was to create a new profile.  I created a second profile and it streamed just fine.  Crazy fix...   

Normal first episode of a new series kind of evening, lots of background to set up for the season.  But (HURRAH) it did hold a good bit of the gratuitous violence and sex appeal that one comes to expect from Westeros. 

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
2.1  JBB  replied to  Snuffy @2    one month ago

I will be damned if that didn't work. Thanks for providing a fix...

 
 
 
Snuffy
Masters Guide
2.1.1  Snuffy  replied to  JBB @2.1    one month ago

You're welcome.  I found that suggested fix online last night.  HBO says they are aware of the issue with Amazon devices and are working on an update to the app.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
2.2  Ender  replied to  Snuffy @2    one month ago

I am lost. If one pays for HBO why not go straight to their website instead of using a third party.

 
 
 
Snuffy
Masters Guide
2.2.1  Snuffy  replied to  Ender @2.2    one month ago

Mostly because I would rather watch it on my big TV in the living room rather than my computer screen in my office.  Comfort (which I'm all about).  My TV is not fully web enabled so I use a third party device for streaming services on apps.  It works just fine for most things, I've not found the actual issue that the HBO app had on Amazon devices but that is where the issue was.  Most other views did not have that issue.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
2.2.2  Ender  replied to  Snuffy @2.2.1    one month ago

Ah thanks. I guess I can understand that.  My big tv in the living room is not a smart tv. What is funny all the smaller tvs around the house are. I have watched plenty of shows on my laptop but for something like that I can see the want for a large screen.

Anytime I have tried to use amazon something goes wonky. One time I had to argue with them for an hour just to be able to access my account.

Haven't used them since.

 
 
 
evilgenius
PhD Guide
2.2.3  evilgenius  replied to  Ender @2.2.2    one month ago
My big tv in the living room is not a smart tv.

I used to use a smart DVD player until smart tvs became a thing. Now I have a 55" TCL Roku 4k UHD TV and a 7.2.2 (2 height channels and 2 subwoofers!) Dolby Digital surround sound receiver. I really enjoy my tv time... LOL!

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
2.2.4  Ender  replied to  evilgenius @2.2.3    one month ago

The Roku tvs are actually a really good tv for a great price. I have one that is a 32" in the bedroom and one of the same in the little nook area of the kitchen. I really like them so my next larger tv I would probably go for one of those. Mine still works good so I hate to get rid of it.. Haha   I will say the older ones are a lot heavier.

 
 
 
evilgenius
PhD Guide
2.2.5  evilgenius  replied to  Ender @2.2.4    one month ago

The new Heisenth 8K Google TV looks outstanding for the price. It just hit the market and the price is expected to drop. I think I heard the 65" will be under a thousand dollars soon if it's not already there. If I were in the market (my current TV is a 1.5 years old) I'd be looking in that direction. First looks show outstanding color and picture.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.2.6  JohnRussell  replied to  Ender @2.2.4    one month ago

One doesnt need to spend a lot of money to get a good, serviceable tv.  I bought a refurbished 32 in. for my bedroom for 120 dollars from Walmart and it has worked perfectly for three years. 

I had heard a long time ago that the off brand tvs are actually made by the same companies that make expensive ones. 

 
 
 
evilgenius
PhD Guide
2.2.7  evilgenius  replied to  JohnRussell @2.2.6    one month ago
...it has worked perfectly for three years. 

Yeah... a bicycle would work perfectly fine to get me to work too. I don't need a luxury car either, but something in middle is were most people find themselves. 

I had heard a long time ago that the off brand tvs are actually made by the same companies that make expensive ones. 

What people need to know here is where the cost effective quality lies. Even among the same models there is a quality manufacturing issue - The reason stores like Walmart can sell a model at a lower cost than a store like Best Buy is that Walmart buys the manufacturing run that has more unit failures than other runs. You'll hear about more returns after huge sales like like Black Friday or Cyber Monday than at any other time of year too. There is no way I'd buy a knock off brand TV at Walmart on Black Friday and not hold my breath when I turn it on the first time and test it. 

There are also reason people pay for quality named items. There is a level of expectation that goes with the price tag. 

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
2.2.8  TᵢG  replied to  JohnRussell @2.2.6    one month ago

The big difference is usually picture quality and speed.   Picture quality needs no explanation.  The slower speed is a result of a cheaper processor and it appears to the user as though their streaming is throttled.   But it is just the TV's CPU cannot keep up.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.2.9  JohnRussell  replied to  TᵢG @2.2.8    one month ago
The big difference is usually picture quality and speed.   Picture quality needs no explanation.  The slower speed is a result of a cheaper processor and it appears to the user as though their streaming is throttled.

Eh, I dont need a "perfect" picture on my television. 

In my opinion it is not a big risk to buy a generic brand tv.  But if people want to spend their money on expensive tv's thats fine too. 

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.2.10  JohnRussell  replied to  evilgenius @2.2.7    one month ago
There is no way I'd buy a knock off brand TV at Walmart on Black Friday and not hold my breath when I turn it on the first time and test it. 

I'd be more upset if I paid a lot of money for a tv and it turned out to be a lemon, which certainly happens too. 

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
2.2.11  Ender  replied to  TᵢG @2.2.8    one month ago

I can see lag even on my computer. Don't judge me too harshly but I sometimes watch the Big Brother cams. One can watch one of four cams or a split box with all four.

The original small picture for the cams is always a couple of seconds ahead of what I watch on the larger screen.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
2.2.12  Ender  replied to  evilgenius @2.2.3    one month ago
I used to use a smart DVD player

I can hook up my laptop, I think. I did it once before but never tried to watch anything.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.2.13  JohnRussell  replied to  evilgenius @2.2.7    one month ago

My sister has a 60" tv that she paid a couple thousand dollars for three or four years ago. In my opinion the picture on that tv is mediocre. 

 
 
 
evilgenius
PhD Guide
2.2.14  evilgenius  replied to  JohnRussell @2.2.10    one month ago
I'd be more upset if I paid a lot of money for a tv and it turned out to be a lemon, which certainly happens too. 

It does happen. The brand I have had a lot of screen complaints online that was often referred to online as winning/losing a screen lottery. Other than that each person has to decide for themselves what a lot of money means to them. A year and half ago my TV cost me $850.00. That is a lot of money for me, but I got 24 months no interest so that made things much easier to make that decision.

 

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
2.3  devangelical  replied to  Snuffy @2    one month ago
a good bit of the gratuitous violence and sex

the only things that can hold my attention on watching television. I'll have to check it out now...

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
3  JohnRussell    one month ago

The story sets this up as an either. Either one will become the show all the fantasy fans will be talking about and the other won't. 

I dont see why they both cant be hits. Television (streaming) has been overflowing with science fiction/fantasy shows for many years now, and I dont see why this would be anything new. 

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
3.1  Ender  replied to  JohnRussell @3    one month ago

Do like the networks use to do and put them for showings at the same time...

 
 
 
evilgenius
PhD Guide
4  evilgenius    one month ago

I got about 10 to 15 minutes into the show last night and the kids called to facetime. I'll have to finish it off tonight.

That said I don't understand why this is so competitive? I think almost all genre fans will be watching both. 

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
5  TᵢG    one month ago

I love both of the storylines and will work very hard to enjoy them both.   The House of the Dragon is great so far.   I wish they had started at the beginning with the original Aegon the Conqueror, but maybe a prequel prequel is is planned.

 
 
 
evilgenius
PhD Guide
5.1  evilgenius  replied to  TᵢG @5    one month ago

I was hoping someone would develop the Night King origin story. The Night King was the 13th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch almost 8000 years before Game of Thrones. According to the fandom page he...

...fell in love with a woman "with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars"; he loved her though "her skin was cold as ice", and when he gave his seed to her he gave her his soul as well. He brought her to the Night fort and bound the brothers of the Night's Watch to his will through sorcery. He declared himself "Night's King" and ruled over the Wall and the Gift as his own. The King in the North and Joramun, the King-Beyond-the-Wall, joined forces to defeat him. After he was killed, it was discovered that he had been making human sacrifices to the Others - the White Walkers - and all records of him were destroyed, and uttering his name was forbidden, so it became lost to history.

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
5.1.1  TᵢG  replied to  evilgenius @5.1    one month ago

I am all for it.   Hopefully this series will be like GoT seasons 1-7 and not fall apart like season 8.   At least this time we have George R.R. Martin's completed book to work with.

 
 
 
evilgenius
PhD Guide
5.1.2  evilgenius  replied to  TᵢG @5.1.1    one month ago

I THINK the reason season 8 was so awful was HBO wanted as many as 10 seasons, but Martin and the show runners wanted to be done with it. Season 8 ended as a compromise. 

I remember reading back during that time the show runners were trying to develop a new show on the premise of - what if the US still had slavery in the South. They got hammered for even thinking the idea out loud and it got shut down before it got very far.

 
 
 
evilgenius
PhD Guide
5.2  evilgenius  replied to  TᵢG @5    one month ago
I wish they had started at the beginning with the original Aegon the Conqueror, but maybe a prequel prequel is is planned.

I just read that IF this series is a big enough hit they talked about going there and/or to Robert's Rebellion. This House of Dragons series is set for only 3 seasons. 

 
 
 
Hallux
Junior Principal
6  Hallux    one month ago

If I am still alive at any series end, I'll binge watch. As for now, with new glasses, back to subtitled foreign language shows and movies ... dubbed voices are irritating.

As to folks not liking the finale of G of T, meh, all that means is their pick did not get the throne.

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
6.1  TᵢG  replied to  Hallux @6    one month ago
As to folks not liking the finale of G of T, meh, all that means is their pick did not get the throne.

The most commonly stated criticism of season 8 is that the story was rushed to an undeveloped finish.   Unlike the first seven seasons (which were brilliant), season 8 was forced, contained many contradictions and the ending ultimately did not logically flow ... appeared contrived.

 
 

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