For most of the past decade, TV producers have been desperate to find ‘the next Game of Thrones’, and now Amazon apparently reckons it’s found it: Lord of the Rings.
The retail giant has reportedly spent an astonishing $250 million to secure the rights to an ongoing TV show set in Middle-earth, with a commitment to multiple seasons and the potential for a spin-off, all to air exclusively on its own Amazon Prime Video streaming platform.
When is the Lord of the Rings TV series coming out?
Right now… uh, we don’t know. It was only announced that Amazon was buying the rights in November 2017, so the final show is probably a long way off still.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Amazon's contract requires it to enter production within two years, which makes November 2019 the deadline for production to kick off, meaning 2020 is likely the earliest it will hit our screens. Jennifer Salke, Amazon's head of TV and film, even said that airing in 2021 "is the hope," so even 2020 might be quite optimistic at this point.
Whenever it turns up, it'll be an exclusive to Amazon Prime Video, Amazon's rival to Netflix. You can get Prime Video as one of several benefits from a general Prime subscription, with other perks including free next-day shipping and Prime Music.
Prime normally costs £79 a year, but you can always try it for free through a free trial. There are also rumours that Amazon is in talks to launch a totally free, ad-supported version of Prime Video in the future, but it's all uncertain right now.
Cast and crew
The show is a long way off having a cast, and we don't even know much about who will be creating it behind the scenes. The first official announcement came in July 2018, with news that writing duo JD Payne and Patrick McKay would be "developing" the series, though Amazon stopped short of confirming if they would be writers or showrunners.
You won't have seen anything they've written yet, but they were involved in adapting Disney's Jungle Cruise theme park ride into an upcoming Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt film, and are also busy working on the script for the untitled Star Trek 4 for producer JJ Abrams.
"The rich world that J.R.R. Tolkien created is filled with majesty and heart, wisdom and complexity," the pair Payne and McKay said in a joint statement. "We are absolutely thrilled to be partnering with Amazon to bring it to life anew. We feel like Frodo, setting out from the Shire, with a great responsibility in our care — it is the beginning of the adventure of a lifetime.”
What’s the show about?
Again, we don’t know much, but we do know a little. For one, the show “will explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring,” according to Amazon’s statement - but we don’t know if that means between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, or before the both of them.
Amazon apparently "may use material from the films," and there's even a chance that original director Peter Jackson will come on board as an executive producer, so whatever happens it's likely this will exist in the same universe as the film series, rather than rebooting it entirely.
Matt Galsor, a representative for the Tolkien Estate and Trust and HarperCollins also explained that Amazon will “bring to the screen previously unexplored stories based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings,” so we know it will at least partly draw on Tolkien’s writing.
There’s one big unadapted prequel - The Silmarillion - but since it reads more like a history textbook than a novel, it would be tough to adapt into an ongoing show. Still, Amazon could be taking it as a source of loose inspiration.
There are also a number of published books based on Tolkien's notes and unfinished writings, such as The Children of Húrin or the Unfinished Tales compilation. There's yet another on the way in 2018 - The Fall of Gondolin - and anyone keen to figure out what Amazon's show will cover could do worse than reading all these books, as it's almost certain that Amazon will be drawing on one (or more) of them to tell its story.
Then again, other speculation points to a story with closer links to Lord of the Rings itself. Fan site The One Ring claimed on Twitter that the first season of the show will focus on a young Aragorn, Viggo Mortensen's character from the films. There's a lengthy Twitter thread digging into the details of what such a show might look like (with plenty of niche Tolkien references to back it up), but this is still just rumour until we get confirmation from Amazon itself.
We do know that Amazon has signed a multi-season deal - so it’s clearly confident about the show - and also has the option for a second spin-off TV series if everything goes well.