I'm the kind of person who tries not to get too excited when I hear good news, in case things don't work out. Thus, I've tried to be realistic about these Game of Thrones spinoff rumors. A lot would have to fall into place in order for it to become a reality, but could a Game of Thrones prequel on HBO happen? It's hard to stay level-headed when there are so many similarities between this potential project and creation process of Better Call Saul, which was spun-off of Breaking Bad. Without getting too ahead of myself, Better Call Saul might provide the perfect template for a successful GoT prequel series, as well as give us an idea of when we might be able to expect it.
The reason we're having this conversation is because Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have hinted that a spinoff might be in the cards. And, recently, A Song of Ice and Fire scribe George R.R. Martin revealed that he had pages and pages of unused prequel material, so everything's lining up perfectly. It should also feel pretty similar to the way we started talking about a Breaking Bad spinoff in July 2012.
At that point, the show was still staring down its final season, and creator Vince Gilligan gave his first winks to the audience, expressing his interest in a follow-up to the series centered around the character of Saul Goodman. That idea went into development a little less than a year later, in April 2013, in advance of Breaking Bad's September 2013 finale. It then began filming in June 2014, with a February 2015 premiere.
Because of the success of Breaking Bad, and its popularity even post-finale, Better Call Saul was an immediate hit. It got renewed in June 2014 before it even premiered, the same month filming began. It averaged around 6 million viewers per episode in its first season, making the AMC-spinoff the most-watched series on cable. Sure, viewership for Season 2 dropped slightly, with the finale pulling in an audience of just 4.4 million. But Better Call Saul is still an undeniable success story, garnering multiple award nominations; it has even been renewed for a third season as of March 2016.
So what does this mean for a Game of Thrones spinoff? Well, GoT has been compared to Breaking Bad from the beginning, with the two shows coming in as the most-pirated series in 2013 when they shared the airwaves. Game of Thrones has claimed the dubious honor ever since, however, which suggests that it's equally buzzy. That makes it reasonable to compare the success of a Breaking Bad spinoff like Better Call Saul to a potential Game of Thrones prequel project. For both, the momentum of the initial project did or would help propel the spinoff forward. If Benioff and Weiss want to follow the success model set by Gilligan, they're smack-dab in the middle of a window of opportunity right now.
To really capitalize on the success of Game of Thrones the way that Better Call Saul took advantage of Breaking Bad's buzz, a prequel spinoff should go into production early in 2017, before the show returns for its seventh and final season. That way, we'd have something to look forward to to wean ourselves off of the original, and we could move smoothly into a spinoff. I'm thinking late 2018 or early 2019 if we get things in motion now.
The precedent is there for a cable series spinoff to be a success. You just have to strike while the iron is hot.
Images: HBO; AMC; Giphy