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These 16 shows desperately want to be the next Game of Thrones

There are no shortage of contenders to the throne being produced by Apple, Hulu, Netflix, HBO, and Amazon (especially Amazon!). Can anything match the drama and spectacle of the original?

These 16 shows desperately want to be the next Game of Thrones
[Photos: courtesy of Helen Sloan/HBO; courtesy of Macall B. Polay/HBO]

With the news that Netflix is creating a new TV series and film projects around C.S. Lewis’s children’s fantasy book series The Chronicles of Narnia, the stakes have been raised (again) in the arms race to create the next Game of Thrones-like TV sensation. 

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The HBO series, which will finally conclude next year, has of course been the phenomenon of all phenomena in television for the past seven years. A sprawling, action-packed adventure set in a mystical past, GoT is also a serious drama that is as much about familial infighting and betrayal as battle scenes. It’s that rare series that attracts both geeks and sophisticates–i.e., people who love The Walking Dead as well as those who still deconstruct scenes from The Sopranos–and racks up Emmy awards along the way. In a world of fractured audiences who increasingly search out their own niche-interest entertainment on YouTube and Netflix, GoT has been a unifying force that still can draw a huge crowd: Last season, the show averaged more than 30 million viewers across platforms.

So it comes as no surprise that as it begins to wind down, everyone–including HBO–is desperately trying to find a GoT heir. In general, this means acquiring a pre-existing property, whether it’s books, comics, or even a painting–GoT is based on the series by George R.R. Martin–that combines fantasy, action, and deep, compelling, and often complicated storytelling. (There are actually several dozen more, but these seem like the likeliest to be made and have a pre-sold audience.)

This whole idea may be a faulty premise: After all, the next Sopranos–a deep, compelling, and often complicated storytelling sensation–was not another mob drama.

But you never know! Herewith is a guide to some of the biggest projects that Hollywood and Big Tech alike are trying to hoover up in order to engineer their own post-GoT smash.

Netflix

1. The Chronicles of Narnia

Netflix plans to take C.S. Lewis’s seven, best-selling young adult novels and turn them into a “Narnia universe” of TV series and films. The most famous, of course, is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which tells the story of a group of children enter into the fantastical world of Narnia through a magical wardrobe. Netflix isn’t the first to go Narnian. Disney released two movie adaptations of Lewis’s books—The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Prince Caspian—in 2005 and 2008, respectively.  

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2. The Witcher

The eight novels and story collections in this series by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowsky follow “witchers,” or hunters who develop supernatural abilities at a young age to battle deadly monsters. The main witcher is Gerald of Rivia, and he’ll be played in the series, which debuts next year, by Henry Cavill (Man of Steel). The best-selling series has already been turned into a video game franchise, comic books, and tabletop games. 

3. Cursed

Based on a YA novel by famed comic book writer-artist Frank Miller (Sin City) and writer-producer Tom Wheeler that will be published this fall, Cursed is a reimagining of the King Arthur legend. The story is told through the eyes of Nimue, a teenage heroine with a mysterious gift who is destined to become the famed Lady of the Lake. She sets out with Arthur to find Merlin and deliver an ancient sword. The book and TV series were created simultaneously, and the idea is that the series will explore characters more deeply than in the book.  

4. Recursion

Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes and Matt Reeves, the writer-director who rebooted The Planet of the Apes movies, are teaming up to create a franchise based on a sci-fi book by Blake Crouch that’s coming out next summer. Recursion “explores what happens when a brilliant scientist invents a powerful technology that allows people not just to reactivate their most visceral memories but to completely reinvent them,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. Rhimes says she sees it as “an opportunity to explore a multi-genre universe in innovative ways.”

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Amazon

1. Lord of the Rings

Amazon is shelling out over $1 billion in production and other expenses to make a new series based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels set in Middle Earth. This makes Amazon the biggest spender—by far—when it comes to the GoT arms race. As well as the most confident: It’s already committed to a five-season run of the show, which will be a prequel to The Fellowship of the Ring. The Middle Earth business has strong synergy potential for Amazon, which sells Tolkien’s novels and other LOTR-related merchandise.  

2. The Wheel of Time

This series is based on Robert Jordan’s epic, female-driven fantasy series that kicked off in 1990 with The Eye of the World. The franchise spans 14 novels that are set in a world where magic exists, but only women can use it. Amazon’s series will start with the 2004 prequel New Spring, which follows Moiraine, a member of a shadowy and all-female organization, Aes Sedai, as she embarks on a world-spanning journey. 

3. Consider Phlebas

This is the first installment of Iain M. Banks’s space opera series, Culture, that consisted of 10 books released between 1987 and 2012. Amazon has described the series as a “kinetic, action-packed adventure on a huge canvas” that is about “a highly advanced and progressive society that ends up at war with the Idirans, a deeply religious, warlike race intent on dominating the entire galaxy.” 

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4. Ringworld

This series will be based on Larry Niven’s classic sci-fi collection from the 1970s. The books tell the story of Louis Gridley Wu, a bored man celebrating his 200th birthday in a technologically advanced future. After being offered a position on a space voyage, he joins a young woman and two aliens to explore Ringworld, the remote artificial ring beyond “Known Space.” 

6. Lazarus

Written by Greg Rucka (Jessica Jones), Lazarus is based on his comic book about an alternative future in which the world has been divided among 16 rival families who run their territories via a feudal system. As the families clash and try to quell uprisings among them, they rely on their own Lazarus: a one-person killing squad. 

7. Snow Crash

Based on Neal Stephenson’s cult novel, this is planned as a one-hour sci-fi drama. The series follows Hiro Protagonist, who delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza, Inc. But in the Metaverse he’s a warrior prince who’s on a search-and-destroy mission to find the villain behind a new computer virus. 

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Hulu

The Vampire Chronicles

Hulu is developing this series based on Anne Rice’s best-selling novels about Lestat de Lioncourt, a French nobleman turned vampire in the 18th century. The character was famously played by Tom Cruise in the 1994 movie adaptation of the first books Interview with the Vampire. Rice is coproducing the series along with her son Christopher.  

Apple

Foundation

Based on Isaac Asimov’s classic sci-fi trilogy, Foundation was originally published as a short story series in Astounding Magazine in 1942. The books tell the story of The Foundation, a band of exiles living under the rule of the Galactic Empire. Apple is pushing the gas pedal on the project, having made a straight-to-series, 10-episode order. David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight) and Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) are running the series. 

HBO

1. Game of Thrones Prequel(s)

Of course. HBO is developing not one but five GoT prequels in an attempt to keep the magic–and ratings–alive. Last year, HBO announced that it would put several GoT offshoot scripts into development, and this year committed to filming a pilot for one of them, making it the most likely to progress to the screen. GoT show runners Dan Weiss and David Benioff will not be involved with the prequels (they’re off writing Star Wars movies for Disney), but will be attached as executive producers. George R.R. Martin wrote the story for the pilot, which is set in an era known as the Age of Heroes, along with Jane Goldman, cowriter of the Kingsman movies. 

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2. Watchmen

HBO’s adaption of the DC graphic novel will debut next year with a cast that includes Jeremy Irons, Regina Kin, and Don Johnson. Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers) is writing and exec producing the series. He’s said that it will be the “New Testament” to the original Watchmen‘s Old Testament, and that it will be influenced by current politics and figures like Donald Trump, Theresa May, and Vladimir Putin in the way that the first book was a product of the Cold War. HBO has said the show is “set in an alternate history where superheroes are treated as outlaws.” 

Disney

Star Wars

As Disney prepares to launch its family entertainment app in late 2019, it’s been readying content to make the service a viable rival to Netflix. The most high-profile of these is a new Star Wars, live-action TV series that Jon Favreau is writing and executive producing. It was just revealed that the new show will be called The Mandalorian. On Instagram, Favreau posted that it’s “set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.”

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About the author

Nicole LaPorte is an LA-based writer for Fast Company who writes about where technology and entertainment intersect. She previously was a columnist for The New York Times and a staff writer for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and Variety

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