The Dark Herald explains how the Amazon Abomination came to be. It’s a long, detailed, and rather sordid story, so read the whole thing there.
This whole mess started as a vanity project. I mean it couldn’t be anything else, could it? Amazon Prime is at maximum saturation, it wouldn’t have mattered if they had produced something as big as Game of Thrones, there would not have been any new subscriptions from it. From a business perspective, this was pointless.
That said, the timing looked pretty good to take over the TV fantasy market. Game of Thrones was ending its legendary run. The market was going to be open.
Now here is the thing you have to remember about Amazon. They are always throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks. It’s just how Bezos does business, he wants as many data points as possible. So, when he set out to have his own Game of Thrones, he didn’t put all his chips in one pile. There were going to be two major fantasy series. One geared for families and another for adult content.
The adult content show was going to be a Conan show and they had made the superb choice of Ryan Condal to be the showrunner.
Slightly before this, the Tolkien Estate had gone into arbitration with the Saul Zantz company and kind of got hurt. For labyrinthine legal reasons, the Tolkien Estate was required to put the Appendices at the back of Return of the King up for sale. And for other reasons it had to be a TV series. But the Tolkien Estate was NOT required to sell those TV rights to the Saul Zantz Company. Christopher apparently said, fine anybody but you, and it was announced that those rights were for sale.
After Amazon went through a lot of people with proven track records, they signed Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne, (who have nearly non-existent IMDB credits) to be the showrunners. They do have a close association with JJ Abrams and he would be a close consultant. Their pitch was for (according to rumor) a series based on the Fall of Numenor. You have no idea how much I would like to see that.
Amazon bought the rights to the Appendices for $250 million in 2017 directly from the Tolkien estate and didn’t take a close look at the veto rights that Christopher Tolkien automatically had. Incidentally, grandson Simon Tolkien is claiming that this was his vision from the start but since Christopher was still alive at the time, I have serious doubts.
Now it gets very murky. Amazon announces that it has these rights and there are words to the effect that they will be remaking the Lord of the Rings as a mini-series.
Here comes the guesswork on my part.
Bezos is a software billionaire who thinks like a software billionaire.
Ever since Microsoft infringed all over Intergalactic Digital Research to create MS-DOS, the model has been, infringe on your target, wait for them to sue you, then spend them into the ground in court and take over his whole business.
I suspect (but can’t prove) that Jeff Bezos decided to do that with the Saul Zantz Company. The rights were supposed to be reverting to the SZC soon, and they seemed willing to license those rights to Amazon but I suspect Bezos wanted to own them outright. So, during the series, they would infringe on the IP, Saul Zantz would have to sue, and Amazon would spend it to death in court until they owned the whole Saul Zantz company to include the Tolkien IP.
It was only after this strategy was embarked on that an entertainment lawyer was consulted. He informed Amazon that entertainment copyright legal precedents are different from software copyright precedents, and it won’t work. You won’t be getting sued by Saul Zantz, you’ll be getting sued by Warner Brothers and they are (at the time) owned by AT&T. They aren’t going to run out of court money, and you will end up paying somewhere around $500 million. If you’re lucky.
Then #MeToo swept through Hollywood like a typhoon. The head of Prime Video got caught up in it and had to be fired. Jennifer Salke was brought in to start making Woke content and one of her first decisions was to shitcan Conan on grounds of toxic masculinity. Put a gigantic pin in that one, we are circling back to it. She replaced it with Wheel of Time which is almost but not quite as big a disaster as The Rings of Power.
Reminding us, once more, that the Shadow cannot create, it can only twist, subvert, and mock.