And when I say five ideas, I of course mean five intellectual properties that already exist… so five ideas that are not mine.
HBO has a long history of stellar television programming. Since the mid-1970s, HBO has created shows such as Oz, The Sopranos, Fraggle Rock (not kidding), The Wire, and Flight of the Concords. Their current broadcasting line-up includes Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, and True Detective. In short: they make a lot of kick-ass shows. What does the future currently hold? Well, there is a post-rapture series known as The Leftovers in the works… that sounds interesting. Sadly, a miniseries based on Neil Gaiman’s American Gods has just officially fallen through so that will not be happening.
Not that HBO needs help but American Gods would have made for a very interesting series (to say the least). There are other known series out there floating around, some are currently trying to land television networks. Here are five ideas for existing series that would be perfect for HBO to adapt into television:
Honorable Mention: Dune
Essentially Game of Thrones on a desert planet with giant worms. Look it up.
5. The Sandman
Forget American Gods, if there is any Neil Gaiman series that would make a killer show: it is The Sandman. This series of graphic novels is arguably the best piece of created work in that medium ever (sorry Watchmen). The plot revolves around a protagonist called Dream, who is one of the Endless (others include Destiny, Desire, Death, Despair, Delirium, and Destruction). Their names reflect their role in the world of humanity, which is obviously separate from their own. It sounds complicated because it is, and there really is no better way to understand the Sandman than to read it.
Unfortunately, this one is very unlikely. Two reasons: the first being that HBO already tried to get the show off the ground in 2010. It is unclear why the pitch fell through but, needless to say, it didn’t happen. Second, Hollywood (with the help of Joseph Gordon-Levitt) have acquired the rights for a movie, due out at the end of 2016. Can the Sandman even work as a movie? I am very skeptical (this is a 75 issue series with a lot going on), nevertheless, this appears to be the direction that the adaptation is heading in.
The comic series by Bill Wilmington may be overstaying its welcome at this point (ending next year) but it is still perfect for a gritty HBO series. The story primarily follows Bigby Wolf (the Big Bad Wolf) who is the sheriff of a community of fables living in our world. They are outcasts, driven from their homelands. Bigby, along with the rest of his community, must try to keep themselves hidden as they plot to reconquer their homeland and defeat the unknown empire that has set up there.
While dealing with fantastical characters, this series handles everything in a very realistic manner, so it would not be one of those ideas torpedoed by budget costs. Apparently, a television series was already pursued on NBC without achieving any results. There is also a movie in very early stages. Fables would be at its best as a series. There are multiple protagonists and multiple villains.
Okay, that’s it for the safe choices. Now let’s get to the great untapped world of video game adaptations.
The idea of an HBO series coming from a video game (made by family-friendly Nintendo) is untested. It has never been done. In Metroid, I believe the potential exists to create a very cool sci-fi drama revolving around bounty hunter Samus Aran. For those unfamiliar, in the Metroid series, Samus goes from planet to planet, looking for her targets. It is a very cold and solitary existence, which might present problems in terms of the supporting cast.
In the past, Nintendo has tried to solve the problem in multiple ways. First, the hunters: they are simply other bounty hunters that Samus competes with. Secondly, in Metroid: Other M, her squad and trainer were introduced. However, I would stay away from this group as it was used to rob Samus of her agency in Other M. The feared bounty hunter suddenly became a little girl who had to ask permission from her superior male officer to use her weapons… it sounds like I’m exaggerating but that game was kinda sexist (it was bad).
Metroid is a risk but, the science fiction genre is huge right now and people love a strong female protagonist. Metroid could be a fantastic and unique series if done right.
Arguably the most intellgient AAA game made in recent years, BioShock would be perfect for a dark horror/sci-fi series. The setting of Rapture, the city at the bottom of the sea, would be challenging but not impossible to pull off with modern day visual effects. Andrew Ryan’s (no relation to Ayn Rand) world of capitalism gone wild and elaborate gene splicing would create a welcome newcomer to television.
This series was already tried as a movie but failed. The primary reason was the dark nature of the subject material. Simply put: there is no way to make a true BioShock movie without it earning the R rating, something that companies shy away from as it tends to drive profits down. Solution: HBO series. Sex, grotesque murder, insane characters, children in danger… why that’s all the best parts of HBO right there.
Best part is the spinoff is already taken care of with BioShock Infinite.
1. Mass Effect
Stop me if this sounds familiar: a world consumed by politics while greater dangers come in from areas outside the political focus. Sounds so far-fetched right? Mass Effect follows the story of Commander Shepard, the man (or woman) trying to save the galaxy from itself…. and also a massive indestructible army of space squid called the Reapers. Shepard must travel from planet to planet, forging allies and eliminating enemies before time runs out. His crew: aliens from essentially every major race out there. His boss: occasionally the government (known as the Citadel), occasionally pro-human terrorists (Cerberus), and occasionally the military (he is a commander after all).
Mass Effect really would be perfect. The only thing holding it back is the budget requirements. This would be an expensive show. That said, it is still well within the realm of possibility. With the movie adaptation floundering under script difficulties (this is a massive story to condense into three two-hour segments), it seems like a well-made TV show is the way to go. If this is done right, it would be the next Star Trek… only, you know, popular when it initially airs.
So there they are, five ideas for HBO to pursue. Of course, if one is looking for actual quality television to watch, I recommend starting here.