In an era when Game Of Thrones rules on TV, one question posed to the executives producers and cast of MTV’s frosh series The Shannara Chronicles was whether the postapocalyptic fantasy genre is tapped out on the small screen.
The show’s star John Rhys-Davies (who plays Eventine Elessedil) was so urged to answer that question that he jumped to his feet — so hard that his mic flew off his suit lapel. “It’s not mined out. Plus, this material has real history. Our writer started this in 1976!” he said, referring to the source material’s novelist Terry Brooks, also present at the TCA panel.
EP Jon Favreau — a fan of the novels since high school — scrambled out of his chair to fetch Davis’ mic and cover for the actor, exclaiming hysterically, “I used to do roadie work on the side!”
Later in the panel, Davies had numerous superlatives for the new MTV show, short of saying that it was the best project he ever worked on since Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Davies beamed, “It will start a new level of expectation for fantasy” and cause a lot of commotion for a number of production offices in town. “Terry comes with a real audience,” Davies said before putting the author on the spot: “How many books have you sold, Terry?”
“Oh, well, north of 50 million,” said Brooks.
Added EP Miles Millar: “We do think there’s a real appetite for the show. It’s based on a classic book series, and we think it works on cable. It works for binge-watching. It’s very accessible on all platforms.”
The Shannara Chronicles is set thousands of years in the future, where three heroes endeavor to save the human race from a demon army. The tale concerns the Shannara family, whose descendants are empowered with ancient magic.
When asked about his earlier trials in mounting the material for the big screen, Brooks said: “Taking this to TV is a considerable improvement of it being a movie. There was always interest of some sort, given that it was a very successful book. But it was all talk. ‘Blah blah and goodbye.’ I kissed a lot of frogs and nothing happened.” That was until 10 years ago, when the show’s now-EP Dan Farah started gradually assembling what is the current creative team of Favreau, Millar and EPs Al Gough and Jonathan Liebesman.
For MTV, they see Shannara Chronicles as another genre piece to build on its millennial audience that has savored Scream and Teen Wolf. Given the novel’s core fans, MTV EVP and head of scripted development Mina Lefevre said “we believe there’s also a bigger, broader audience” for the network with Shannara.
This begged the question from the TCA press corps: Will MTV ever play music again?
“They’ll be some,” said Lefevre, “but music videos are available in a number of other different places.”