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HBO orders fantasy pilot 'Thrones'

The cost of producing a fantasy series is usually a big factor thatdeters networks. The producers note "Thrones" is written as acharacter drama and major battles often take place off stage.

"It’s not a story with a million orcs charging across the plains,"Weiss said. "The most expensive effects are creature effects andthere’s not much of that."

Martin plans seven books in the series. The producers intend for each season to span one novel.

But before the series can get on the air, the producers first have toslay a more formidable threat than any dragon: pilot competitors. HBOhas 10 other pilots in contention for series orders. Though the networkdeclines to project how many shows will receive an order since HBOdoesn’t need to fill a specific number of time-periods likebroadcasters, at least six are expected to get a pickup.

Also, the success of "True Blood" may work in "Thrones'" favor. HBO hasalways sought to defy any sort of specific genre branding for theirnetwork, emphasizing that each project is judged on its own merits. Yetgiven how the vampire drama continues to gain viewers, and howShowtime’s swords-and-monarchy historical drama "The Tudors" hasperformed strongly, it’s not unreasonable to believe the network maysee "Thrones" as a good fit.

Previous fantasy titles on TV are few and far between. ABC’s "PushingDaisies" might qualify as a member of the genre, though its fantasticalelements are wrapped in a modern day crime procedural. ABC Family’s"Kyle XY" could fit. Some would consider the WB’s "Buffy the VampireSlayer" fantasy, though supernatural drama is probably a moreappropriate term. Former syndicated program "Xena Warrior Princess,"however, is firmly in the genre. NBC’s upcoming "Kings" also qualifies.

"Swords and sorcerers are more the province of movies -- and kid's TV cartoons -- than of prime time series," said TV historian Tim Brooks. "There are occasional attempts, such as the syndicated 'Conan: The Television Series' and 'The Adventures of Sinbad,' and the various revivals of Robin Hood sometimes included magic. But none of TV's big hits, that I can think of, fall into this category. Adult viewers prefer characters they can relate to."

Some thoughts: I suspect a fair number of viewers are going to lovethis idea -- a high fantasy series with a grown-up budget and no contentrestrictions? Not even the hugely popular movie franchises cited bythe producers have offered such a prospect, because no studiogreenlights a fantasy budget without the promise of a PG-13 rating.Combined with "True Blood," this also suggests an interesting,AintItCoolNews-targeted direction for the network. Less edgy-PBS, moreR-rated Comic Con.