Fantasy and Television

Most of us love fantasy. That is why you’re here on this web page and on other pages like mine. I love fantasy…I read it, write it, and watch it. But why is fantasy so successful on written page as opposed to television? I ask myself that all the time as I thirst for more quality fantasy on television. On the big screen fantasy is a hit and miss sort of thing. Either you get a quality showing like Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and I dare say the Hobbit. Some others speak out such as Harry Potter films, The Princes Bride, and Narnia films. The rest of movie fantasy are usually animated films. I might add Sci-Fi fantasy such as Star Wars and Stargate into the mix, but I mainly want to focus on pure High Type Fantasy. Although I wish there were more quality movies involving fantasy I desire for more on television. Here are some that I watched in the last recent years:

Merlin: I loved Merlin. Although it wasn’t this high budget/ CG sort of fantasy it was a show that quenched my thirst for fantasy and magic. It was a very predictable show, but the characters were well written and I fell in love with them. That is usually what makes a series successful. There was humor, action, adventure, and magic. All that makes a great fantasy. This series lasted five seasons.

Legend of the Seeker: Legend of the Seeker was a series I had much anticipation for when I heard that it was going to be made. This television series is based off of the novels by fantasy author Terry Goodkind. Mr. Goodkind writes doorstop fantasy books. I read only one of his and this is the one that was made into a series. Although it started well, it ended poorly and was canceled quickly after two short seasons. I was not surprised that it was canceled as I lost interest in it. This is one example of how hard it is to put on a great fantasy television series. I was sad that this one ended because the author is so good and I think this series did not portray the written page to screen very well.

Revolution: Revolution is a post-apocalyptic fantasy in the realm of steam punk that had little magic, but I fell in love with almost immediately. NBC had a good thing going and cancelled this show way to early. The story was just beginning to arc when he show got the axe. As with most television, ratings drive everything. There is not much love or connection front he network to its viewers. NBC yanked our hearts out when they cut the show short and rushed a lame ending. As I get older I am learning not to get attached to what I am watching… a lesson that is hard to learn.

Grimm: Currently I am twelve episodes behind on my DVR for this series, but that doesn’t mean I lost interest. I love Grimm. Although there some lagging story lines I still love the show and the characters. The next twelve episodes may change my mind, but as of now it still holds a place in my fantasy loving heart. Since the show is still on it has proves its salt in longevity. What I love about this show is the loosely Grimm brothers tales that are used as story line anchors.

Game of Thrones: This is by far the best and most successful fantasy on television. Hands down. Characters!? who needs them? If you get used to one they die. The production value is top notch and no cent is held back and it shows. It has a movie feel with quality acting, gruesome death scenes, and well as a well written story line that follows the novels somewhat closely (so I’m told…I’ve never read the novels as of yet). The leg up that this series has over the others on my list is production value. It has no cartoonish or comic book features to it as do the others, but instead a real medieval old world reality. I love this series.

Lastly, Shannara: My favorite fantasy author is going to get his shot at television as the world of Shannara is going to be played out on MTV of all places later in 2015. I can hardly wait, but have much fear that it will wind up as Legends of the Seeker and Revolution did. I hope not as his books are full of quality fantasy and deserve a play on television.

In summary…it is hard to sell and put a good fantasy series on television. Most of the ratings suggest that the average person in not that interested in fantasy as they are in reality shows, and crime solving shows. Even if there is not much in the way of motion picture and television fantasy there is plenty for the movie of our minds eye in print. Never a shortage of fantasy for sure.

For a new fantasy fix help support fantasy by purchasing my latest novel Dark Moon Shadow. I thank you for being a Patron of the fantasy arts.

Happy Reading

Robert Penner

Fantasy TV

I love reading high fantasy, you know the stories that have castles, swords, magic, and mythical creatures. Each story, good or bad, is an attempt to steer us from the every day stress and reality of life to a world of imagination and adventure. That is why I always love it when I hear that a great authors imaginary universe is getting made into a television series. Even if it’s not an authors series that is getting produced, but that an attempt to bring good fantasy to TV is on the way. If you are a watcher of fantasy TV then you may have some opinions on how that has fared in recent years. Because it is such a hit and miss kind of thing I am a little concerned when I read that author Terry Brooks’ Shannara series is going to be made and aired on MTV. That’s right…MTV. Didn’t that used to stand for Music Television? Not sure what network is actually airing content that it set out to do anymore? Take a look at Travel Channel, A&E, TrueTV, AMC etc. Here is the article from Terry Brooks website that announces the project: http://www.terrybrooks.net/2013/12/why-shannara-on-mtv-is-a-good-thing/ It just so happens that I am in the middle of that very same book Elfstones of Shannara.Terry Brooks is quickly becoming my favorite fantasy author. I’ve read his previous two books in this series and I must say I am loving every word. I particularly wish they would have decided to start the TV series with the first book in the series The First King of Shannara. So all this leads me to say, will they get it right? Too many times a good book story is destroyed by the television version. Can we say Dracula (NBC),  and I dare say the new take on Frankenstein…although I know it’s called I, Frankenstein…even though I havent seen it yet, but the trailers tell me so much. The most recent before that was author Terry Goodkinds adaptation to his Sword of Truth series called Legend of the Seeker. I had high hopes for that when it came out and then was greatly disappointed as the series went on.  They took a fantasy series that was medieval and edgy and made it cartoonish and full of costume and make-up. Will MTV do the same? From my perspective and taste here are some good fantasy television: Merlin, Grimm, and Game of Thrones. Merlin gave me just what I wanted in a high fantasy legend series that was youthful and fun. I loved the whole series and was sad when it ended. Grimm is current and I enjoy the play on the Grimm stories. It’s totally made up and has hardly anything to do with the actual writings but makes for good modern fantasy. Lastly, The Game of Thrones. Television wise I think the production value and the money put into this series along with the acting is superb, however I have long been a critic of the unnecessary foul language and nudity. If you watch any of the series above you will quickly understand why Legend of the Seeker failed. If you haven’t had a chance to watch Merlin it is on Netflix streaming, and Grimm is still currently on NBC. Game of Thrones is in-between seasons and should start-up again in March (I think).

Fantasy Fiction

Attached are a couple of articles on the topic of fantasy fiction. As some of you may guess I write and read fantasy. I simply love it. The main reason is real life and the drama it brings is simply all one can handle at times. Why spend my time watching or reading more real life drama? Fantasy is a great escape for entertainment. The Passive Voice had a great article about fantasy writing rules and why fantasy authors should break them in order to produce better fantasy. http://www.thepassivevoice.com/ As long as the story is entertaining I say “Hey write the story as you see fit.” If it is fantasy, fantasy readers will love it. As long as the story is good. The article talks about the omniscient view of writing. I, personally, prefer that style of writing, and as a reader I love it even better. I like to see the BIG picture instead of one persons point of view all the time. Not to say that first person is not good, I just prefer the overall view. Great article for fantasy fiction readers, I encourage you to check it out.

Another article a read on the subject of fantasy here:http://www.film.com/movies/fantasy-genre-movies-failure  is why fantasy movies these days fail at the box office. This story cannot be more dead on. Fantasy movies for a long time have really “sucked.” Aside from The Lord of the Rings, and most recently The Hobbit there hasn’t been much in the way of good fantasy. Most movies these days are re-makes of fairy tales poorly done. The main reason that I haven’t enjoyed fantasy movies lately is the way they are filmed. Too cartoonish, not real enough to make me feel like I’m in another world outside of my own. Secondly, bad CG (Character Generation). When CG is involved at least make it look real. I don’t want to be watching something and say WOW that looked really fake. At least that is my take on the box office. I can handle a little lesser quality if I know the budget is low. For instance, I just finished watching a really good fantasy series that aired originally in the UK and is also on the Syfy channel called Merlin. I had great fun watching this, and yes it looked fake at times, but because the story was so good and fun I didn’t mind. Although I wish Arthur knew of Merlins secret earlier. I will say the CG of the dragon was really awesome too.

Fantasy is simply that…Fantasy. That is why we love it. It doesn’t need to be complicated, just a fun story. Lots of adventure sprinkled with magic.