AS SEEN ON: "Sopranos" + Middle Earth = "Game of Thrones"

by Alec Brodsky | 11/29/10 11:00pm

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by Courtesy of HBO / The Dartmouth

Showrunner David Benioff has called called the show "The Sopranos' in Middle Earth." But even though the series takes place in a fantasy world with its own geography, nations and languages much like J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth don't expect any magic, elves or orcs. Assuming "Game of Thrones" stays true to its source, it will be a series about humanity at its worst more "Braveheart" than "Lord of the Rings."

Already in development for three years, "Game of Thrones" promises to be a spectacular, big-budget affair with a top-notch cast and high-end production value. Reports coming in from HBO have the fantasy epic's pilot alone costing between $5 million and $10 million. With 10 episodes planned per season, expect HBO to invest heavily in the series.

In light of the these reports, some critics have already begun comparing "Game of Thrones" to the critically-acclaimed but ill-fated HBO series, "Rome." Although "Rome" was widely praised for its strong writing and its attempt at creating the Rome behind the marble promenades and amphitheaters, it was ultimately canceled after two seasons due to its exorbitant production costs.

HBO's programming chief Michael Lombardo has dismissed the criticism, however, citing competition from Showtime and USA as sufficient reason to swing for the fences.

"We are taking shots on shows that we wouldn't have taken a shot at five years ago," Lombardo said. "We stopped second-guessing ourselves."

If the teaser trailer is any indication, the "Game of Thrones" budget has been spent well. Filmed in Ireland, Scotland and Malta, the show looks absolutely amazing: a perfect dark fantasy world straight out of medieval Britain. The cast also looks promising: Sean Bean, the ill-fated Boromir in the "Lord of the Rings" films, Mark Addy ("Robin Hood") and many other actors and actresses from across the pond are set to star in the upcoming show.

With a solid fan base and a treasure trove of material to draw upon, "Game of Thrones" promises to be another feather in HBO's cap a proper spiritual successor to "Rome." Although its extraordinary budget presents dangerous pitfalls, I'm fully confident that HBO's incessant emphasis on quality will create a solid series for many seasons to come. Expect me to be watching opening night: I can only watch "Lord of the Rings" so many times.