The writer at the helm of Netflix’s planned TV adaptation of the Witcher franchise has confirmed that eight episodes have been ordered, to arrive in 2020. The property began life in the early 1990s as a series of stories and novels by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, focused on the fantasy-world adventures of mercenary monster-hunter Geralt of Rivia. The books were later adapted into video games that were major commercial and critical successes.
Though association with a video game might make some scoff, Geralt’s story invites comparison to some of the hottest properties in episodic television. Most obviously, it features the combination of spectacular fantasy, gritty politics, and unapologetic sex that have made Game of Thrones a sensation. The franchise also often delves into complex morality, personal relationships, and social issues, paving the way for the sophistication of Mad Men or The Sopranos.
The series was announced in May, but major new details came yesterday from veteran TV writer Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, hired as showrunner and executive producer in February. In addition to the show’s planned debut schedule and length of the first season (there are almost certain to be more), Hissrich revealed on Twitter that the series will be shooting in Eastern Europe, writing that “this show couldn’t exist anywhere else.” Though the series will reportedly be based on the original novels, The Witcher’s game incarnations are deeply influenced by Slavic mythology and, arguably, a dour Eastern European temperament.
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That backdrop does present a potential problem for the Netflix series. Though critics hailed the most recent Witcher game for its rich atmosphere, they also pointed out that it did not feature a single non-white character. While the game’s developers defended that as reflective of its Polish roots, repeating the lack of diversity in a high-profile, American-backed TV series would spell almost certain doom. Hissrich said that casting for the series is still in progress.
Netflix has continued to invest massive sums on shows and movies, including a planned $8 billion in 2018. That puts it on par with the non-sports spending of established giants like Time Warner, Fox, and Disney. The spending has helped drive spectacular subscriber growth and a market value currently north of $140 billion.