It’s not a stretch to say that Game of Thrones is a once in a lifetime television phenomenon. In the age of streaming and television on demand, it’s one of the few scripted television programs that can still be considered appointment TV.
It’s a show that may never be duplicated in its popularity.
But that hasn’t stopped other networks from trying.
Specifically, streaming services. Amazon made news a few months back that they would produce an adult fantasy drama set in middle earth, the fictional landscape of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Jeff Bezos has long wanted a program on his platform that could rival GOT and he thinks this might be it.
Netflix, in turn, is developing their own Adult fantasy series as well. Instead of hobbits, dragons, and rings, they will be adapting the popular video game “The Witcher”, in the hopes that those who have played the action-adventure game will be compelled to watching a live action version of the game series.
Not Your Father’s Monster Slayer
The games themselves are an adaption of a series of fantasy novels written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. They tell the story of Geralt of Rivia. Witchers are Monster Hunters who, with a combination of training and body modification, develop supernatural powers at a young age to battle the beasts of this fictional world. Think Van Helsing of Dracula fame, or if you are of a certain age, Simon Belmont of the Castlevania Series of video games.
Andrzej created the series in 1988, as short stories published in the Polish Sci-Fi magazine FANTASTYKA. They precede George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series by a few years, and no doubt both series owe a debt to Tolkien’s epic Lord of The Rings series.
The Novels were very popular in Poland and around eastern Europe, but the character himself would not become an international star until DC Projekt RED, a game developer based in Warsaw, Poland, developed and distributed a series of games, featuring Geralt of Rivia, for the PlayStation and Xbox gaming systems.
The game’s popularity, along with its medieval setting and strong resemblance to GOT, made it ripe for an adaptation. And Netflix came calling.
Geralt of Rivia, as played by the Man of Steel
There isn’t a deep casting list as of this writing, but one major development has been Henry Cavill. Best known for playing Superman/Clark Kent in Man of Steel and Justice League, Cavill is no stranger to period piece drama (if you want to consider The Witcher as a period piece of sorts). His biggest role prior to Man of Steel was as Charles Brandon in the Showtime drama The Tudors.
It’s a safe casting move, to be sure. If you have seen the computer-generated avatar that represents Geralt you can see the resemblance. And with all the training that Henry has done to stay in shape for the role of Superman, it’s obvious why they wanted a man of his stature in the lead role.
The casting isn’t without controversy, specifically with the role of Ciri, Geralt’s adopted daughter, however. A casting call was made for the character, with an emphasis on finding a minority female to play the part. Some felt that the character should stay close to the look of the character on the game, who is white. The counter to that argument is that the novels and game don’t do much in terms of diversity, which makes sense given that they were written by a polish author and it’s what he knows. Still, any opportunity for diversity in a cast is good. It’s all about who plays the part best.
The Potential to be an epic guilty pleasure
No one really knows if The Witcher can make the kind of mark on television that Game of Thrones has. No show can be asked to do that. But it’s quite possible that The Witcher can join a long line of Epic Fantasies that are violent, exciting, erotic, and just plain fun.
Netflix hasn’t yet created that type of show that could stand with some of the greater epic fantasies on Television today. But that may change once The Witcher premiers.
At the very least, it will be a great rebound relationship once GOT ends.