You probably didn’t realize it, but a television pilot for an adaptation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time aired in the wee hours of Sunday night on cable. Here’s the story of how, why, and what’s happening.
The somewhat low-budget, half-hour pilot episode for Winter Dragon aired on FXX at 1:30 AM EST Sunday night, and was “client-supplied programming.” That basically means it was purchased airtime similar to an infomercial, meaning it's not a series FXX has secretly developed or anything like that.
So, why did a show based on one of the biggest fantasy series out there air in the dead of night with zero fanfare? It’s basically an issue of keeping the rights intact, much like the circumstances that led to Roger Corman’s infamous 1994 Fantastic Four film. The folks at io9 tracked down the show’s executive producer Rick Selvage, who confirmed that the haphazard debut was “more of an [issue of] getting it on the air.”
With the clock ticking, they had to get something on the air. So they produced Winter Dragon, which is being described as a prologue to a potentially larger and more ambitious series that would tackle the full tale of Wheel of Time. Selvage’s Red Eagle Entertainment acquired the rights to the book series in the mid-2000s and has had the project in some form of development for several years.
Here’s what Selvage told io9 about the project:
"You probably know that a lot of pilots are put on the air at different times in different ways, and for different reasons. [With] a lot of other properties, there's always an airdate that you need to air something by... and that was certainly part of it…
[It was] a pilot for a high-budget production television series. We think there's huge demand for the television series internationally, and we're looking forward to producing it and getting it out in the marketplace.”
But that’s not all. It sounds like the rights dispute surrounding Wheel of Time could get a little hairy, as Robert Jordan’s widow has released a statement saying she was “dumbfounded” and never consulted about the show, noting that Universal’s rights to the franchise are set to revert back on Wednesday. It’s not entirely clear how/if Universal is involved with Red Eagle. Like we said, this could get messy.
Check out the pilot episode below and let us know what you think about the effort: