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HBO Picks Up Thrones, Places Bet on Dustin Hoffman

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While I was in New Orleans, visiting the set of Treme and seeing the premiere screening of The Pacific, HBO was keeping  busy on its next generation of series. First came news that Dustin Hoffman will star in the pilot of Luck, the horse-racing drama from David Milch and Michael Mann. It’s not guaranteed to make it to series. But if you’re a betting man/woman, are you going to wager on the headline “HBO Passes on Hoffman/Milch/Mann Series”?

Best of all, yesterday HBO announced that it’s picked up the much-anticipated (by me among others) fantasy series Game of Thrones. Some thoughts, and HBO’s announcement and cast list, after the jump:

As I’ve said before, I think this is the perfect match for HBO. The Song of Ice and Fire books that it’s based on, by George R. R. Martin, have the kind of literary complexity and fine moral shading that great HBO series are known for: they do for fantasy what Deadwood did for the Western, that is, dirty up and morally complicate a genre often (though not always) known for black-and-white portrayals.

We’re also going to be done with Lost after May, and I really believe that this series (probably due in 2011), with its numerous factions and complex mythology, could if not exactly replace Lost, at least scratch a similar itch. (It even involves, among its many parties, a mysterious sinister group known as the Others.) If anyone thinks fantasy can’t be widely popular, may I introduce you to Mr. Peter Jackson.

Of course, unlike Lost, it will be based on already-published books, but the series is not yet finished—to the frustration of some fans, who wish Martin would drop the TV idea and just write the books. It also raises the question of a successful Thrones series running out of story. I say worry about that high-class problem if it comes up; maybe the pressure of TV deadlines will even light a fire under the novelist.

Besides, how can you not love Martin? He announced the pickup on his blog by posting a YouTube clip of the Peanuts kids doing a happy dance! Could you imagine J.R.R. Tolkien announcing something on his blog with Peanuts kids doing a happy dance on YouTube?

No, I declare this unambiguously great news, and I shall not be gainsaid! HBO’s announcement follows:


Series commitment is pilot plus nine episodes
Production is set to begin in Belfast, Northern Ireland in June 2010

Based on the series of books by George R.R. Martin, GAME OF THRONES is an epic
struggle for power set in a vast and violent fantasy kingdom.

David Benioff Executive Producer
D.B. Weiss Executive Producer
Tom McCarthy Director
Carolyn Strauss Co-Executive Producer
Guymon Casady Co-Executive Producer
Vince Gerardis Co-Executive Producer
Ralph Vicinanza Co-Executive Producer
George R.R. Martin Co-Executive Producer
Joanna Burn Producer
Mark Huffam Producer
Frank Doelger Producer

Written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
Based on the series of books “A Song of Ice and Fire,” by George R.R. Martin.

Mark Addy as Robert Baratheon
Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy
Sean Bean as Eddard Stark
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jamie Lannister
Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister
Jennifer Ehle as Catelyn Stark
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon
Iain Glen as Ser Jorah Mormont
Kit Harrington as Jon Snow
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
Harry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen
Richard Madden as Rob Stark
Rory McCann as Sandor Clegane
Tamzin Merchant as Daenerys Targaryen
Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark
Maisie Williams as Arya Stark
Isaac Hempstead Wright as Bran Stark

Ron Donachie as Ser Rodrik Cassel
Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo
Donald Sumpter as Maester Luwin