'Shannara' Ordered Straight to Series at MTV

The Elfstones of Shannara - P 2014
Courtesy of Del Rey/Terry Brooks

The Elfstones of Shannara - P 2014

MTV is moving forward with what it hopes will be its own Game of Thrones.

The younger-skewing cable network has picked up its adaptation of Terry Brooks' Shannara straight to series with a 10-episode order, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The Viacom-owned cable network is teaming with Jon Favreau and Smallville duo Al Gough and Miles Millar to adapt Brooks' international best-selling fantasy novels Shannara. From Sonar Entertainment, the deal—first announced in December—had a straight-to-series commitment attached. Executives were pleased with the script from Gough and Millar, and Shannara bypassed the traditional pilot stage. Casting has not yet begun. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Jonathan Liebesman will direct, taking over for Favreau, who had a scheduling conflict. Liebesman will direct the first two episodes and also be credited as an exec producer. Gough and Millar will write and exec produce; Brooks, Dan Farah and Favreau will also exec produce. 

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The Shannara series first started in 1977 with The Sword of Shannara and encompasses multiple trilogies and a prequel, totaling 25 books, with author Brooks most recently publishing Witch Wraith last July. Another three books are due to be published in 2014. Shannara takes place thousands of years after the destruction of our civilization. The story centers on the Shannara family, whose descendants are empowered with ancient magic and whose adventures continuously reshape the future of the world.

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Producers—including Brooks, Favreau, Gough, Millar and Farah—plan to base the first season on The Elfstones of Shannara. The second title in the series, published in 1982, spent 16 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and is credited with cementing the series in the fantasy world. The series has more than 26 million copies in print in the U.S. alone, according to Random House imprint Del Rey, which has published the series since the start. 

The Shannara books are estimated to be the highest-selling un-adapted fantasy book series in the world. Brooks is considered to be the second-highest-selling living fantasy author, trailing only Harry Potter mastermind J.K. Rowling.

Shannara reunites MTV programming president Susanne Daniels with Smallville's Gough and Millar. The WB Superman prequel series ran for 10 seasons and was developed by the former WB Network head of programming.

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This marks the first time Shannara has been brought to TV. On the feature side, Warner Bros. picked up rights to the Shannara universe in 2007 for a feature film. The studio's rights expired in 2010. Global developer, producer and distributor Sonar (Ring of Fire, Neverland, Alice) and Farah Films acquired the rights to Brooks' fantasy series in 2012, with the plan to recruit a showrunner and director before shopping the project to networks.

For MTV, Shannara comes as the cable network has continued to find success with scripted supernatural drama Teen Wolf, based on the 1980s Michael J. Fox feature film. The network in October renewed the drama from showrunner Jeff Davis for a fourth season and picked up a companion post-episode talk show. Shannara is considered a big swing for the cable network, which hopes the series will do for them what Game of Thrones has done for MTV. The fantasy drama, based on the best-selling book series by George R.R. Martin, ranks as HBO's most-watched series in history, recently besting The Sopranos.

Shannara joins a roster of original scripted dramas at MTV, including Teen Wolf, Finding Carter and Eye Candy. On the comedy side, the network's lineup includes Awkward, Happyland and Faking It. The network is still developing an adaptation of Scream, which remains its lone pilot in the works.

Liebesman is with CAA and Principato Young.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit