The Wheel of Time books comprise one of the biggest fantasy series in publishing today. Started by Robert Jordan in 1990 and continued by Brandon Sanderson after the original author’s death in 2007, the series has swelled to 14 novels, a prequel and a companion book. What with the massive popularity of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series, you’d think someone would have snapped up the Wheel of Time for adaptation. Turns out someone did. Several years ago, a company called Red Eagle Entertainment purchased the rights to make video games, comic books, TV shows and movies based on Jordan and Sanderson’s novels. The company evidently failed in all of those efforts. On the verge of losing the rights to the property, Red Eagle rushed ahead to make a TV pilot. It aired earlier this month. So how come you didn’t hear about it?
Well, it aired at 2:30 in the morning on FXX. And it didn’t air “on FXX” so much as it aired during the network’s early morning commercial time. In other words: The producers bought a half-hour commercial and showed their “Wheel of Time” pilot instead of the vacuum cleaner commercial that would have been there normally. Why? Shooting a film or TV show in order to maintain the license isn’t unprecedented in Hollywood. Long before 20th Century Fox started shooting Spider-Man, X-Men and Fantastic Four movies, legendarily cheap movie producer Roger Corman owned the rights to certain Marvel characters. Mere weeks before he was about to lose the rights to Fantastic Four, Corman shot an infamously cruddy film version. This turdblossom of a movie was never intended to be released, but it allowed Corman to retain the rights and forced Fox to pony up a lot of dough down the road.
Well, it aired at 2:30 in the morning on FXX. And it didn’t air “on FXX” so much as it aired during the network’s early morning commercial time. In other words: The producers bought a half-hour commercial and showed their “Wheel of Time” pilot instead of the vacuum cleaner commercial that would have been there normally.
Red Eagle appears to have done the same thing with its “Wheel of Time” pilot. Titled “Winter Dragon,” the 30-minute episode covers exactly six pages of the prologue of the first book. It all takes place in the front entrance hall to someone’s very nice mansion somewhere in Europe and looks like it was shot in an afternoon. In it, aging, senile, mostly insane hero Lews Therin Telamon (Max Ryan, Death Race) wanders around his palatial home, chasing what we can assume are the ghosts of his dead family. He bumps into bearded, dressed-in-black villain Elan Morin (famous overactor Billy Zane, who will clearly work for cigarettes and baloney sandwiches in these post-Titanic days). The two have a mysterious, go-nowhere conversation. That’s pretty much it. Apparently, Telamon fought and defeated the devilish source of all darkness and evil known as “Shai’tan” years ago. (We don’t get to see that part.) Now Morin is pulling a Last Temptation of Christ on the guy, trying to get him to switch sides. After 22 minutes of jabber, Telamon wanders upstairs, and some narrator comes on to spout a bunch of gobbledygook about the world ending and “the living envying the dead.” We don’t get to see that either.
Red Eagle insists it’s going into production on a “high-budget” version of the show any day now. But if this boring, inscrutable abortion of a pilot is any indication, these guys are living in a fantasy world. Judge for yourself by checking out the “Winter Dragon” pilot, available in all its no-budget glory on YouTube.