Creators Pitched Game Of Thrones As Sopranos In Middle Earth
According to George R.R. Martin, Benioff and Weiss pitched Game of Thrones to HBO as "The Sopranos in Middle Earth."
When the first season of Game of Thrones premiered on HBO in 2011, it appeared to be a long shot. The program did have a difficult start in terms of production, since the initial pilot had to be extensively re-shot before eventually broadcasting. Set in the fictitious country of Westeros, the program was primarily focused with a chess game between numerous factions fighting for control, resulting in the series' emphasis becoming a literal "game of thrones" (but with fantasy elements like dragons and magic thrown into the mix).
Given Game of Thrones' fantastical theme, it's no wonder that many compared it to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, the most famous of all literary fantasy works. In fact, GoT showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss mentioned Lord of the Rings and its Middle Earth setting when they first presented the series to HBO. However, as book author Martin just disclosed at the Santa Fe Literary Festival, another program more closer to HBO's heart was also mentioned during that early pitch (via The Independent):
It’s also good in a pitch to compare things to previous things that have been successful. When Game of Thrones was first sold, David Benioff and Dan Weiss – I was still writing the books as I seem to be for the rest of my life, forever – and I was out of television for some years. So David Benioff and Dan Weiss who would eventually be the showrunners, were the guys taking it around, and taking it to HBO and other places to try to get someone to buy them and option them and make them. And their pitch was “Sopranos in Middle Earth.” You have to be able to, high-concept things, you have to be able to say it in a sentence or two, you know?
The Sopranos, of course, preceded Game of Thrones as HBO's most popular show, and has been credited with launching the entire period of prestige television. The Sopranos, the narrative of angst-ridden New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano and his family and mafia associates, appears to be nothing like a fantasy drama starring dragons, giants, and mystical ice creatures. However, there are significant thematic parallels between The Sopranos and Game of Thrones: both deal primarily with family; both have individuals attempting to obtain power via harsh violence and behind-the-scenes planning; and both include awful death occurring at the drop of a hat at times.
Whether or not it makes sense to compare Game of Thrones to The Sopranos, Benioff and Weiss' bizarre proposal clearly worked because HBO picked up the program. Martin's experience is an excellent lesson for aspiring TV writers who wish to get the attention of network executives. Simply connect your fantastic new concept to something really familiar and successful, even if the comparison appears absolutely odd on the surface.
Source: The Independent