I can picture the scene now. A load of suits sitting around a table too big for any room are bouncing ideas off one another for their next big TV hit. “Dragons?” ventures one of them. “Done that,” says another, pointing to a House of the Dragon poster on the wall. “Superheroes!” shouts another, only to be shot down with a retort of, “We’ve had Watchmen, Doom Patrol and Peacemaker in the last five years.” That’s it, there are no new ideas left. After a long period of silence one of them pipes up: “Harry Potter?” Nods and shrugs ripple through the room.
So here we are, dealing with the depressing, tiresome news that a Harry Potter TV series is on the way. According to Bloomberg, Warner Bros Discovery (which owns the rights to JK Rowling’s franchise) is close to signing on the dotted line with HBO Max to create a show based on all seven of the original books, with each season dedicated to each volume. That’s right — they’re planning seven whole series of this thing.
You may have already sensed from my tone that I’m not overly enthralled by the idea, though the reason actually has little to do with Harry and his wizarding world. I’m a big fan of the franchise — I’ve reread all the books as an adult and will watch the films any time I come across them on ITV1 (which is often). It remains a magical story that played a huge part in my childhood and I’m sure many millennials will feel the same way — just this morning I saw a woman my age wearing Ron Weasley’s famous Christmas jumper. But isn’t it a bit… done?
Frankly, I’m sick and tired of TV execs’ laziness. Rather than spend time (and, crucially, money) crafting a new idea or developing a new writer, they’ll rest on their laurels and present their audience with a rehashed version of something we’ve already seen. The best shows on TV at the moment — Yellowjackets, Rain Dogs, Succession — are all fresh, original ideas that don’t feel tedious or old hat. In the next few months alone, we’ll be subject to remakes of Eighties movies Fatal Attraction and Dead Ringers. There’s a Grease spin-off coming to Paramount+ this Friday, and today news of another Game of Thrones prequel hit the headlines.
It barely even matters if these new shows are good or not. Most of them will be; the original movies and series they’re based off are being rehashed for a reason, after all, and studios that own these intellectual properties (IPs) usually have enough money to lob at a production to make it worth watching at least one episode. But if I wanted to watch Harry Potter, I’d watch Harry Potter!
And then there’s the JK Rowling problem, the big trumpeting elephant in the room. Her involvement in the series is enough to put even the most diehard fans off any new Harry Potter outing. Just look at the furore around the recent video game, Hogwarts Legacy, which saw thousands (if not millions) boycott the game over Rowling’s comments about trans women. Still, that didn’t stop it making over £68 million and becoming one of the fastest-selling video games of all time.
Anything even tangentially related to Harry Potter will surely suffer the same fate, something Warner Bros Discovery seem keenly aware of: Bloomberg’s report explains that while Rowling will have some creative control over the resulting show, she will not serve as showrunner. Nevertheless, as with Hogwarts Legacy, she will no doubt make money off any further Harry Potter projects. Another uproar is on the cards.
Which begs the question: why bother? Well, Warner Bros might have paid just £1 million for the rights to the first four books back in 2000, but the IP is now worth almost £20 billion — money that room of suits would rather exploit than let fester in a dusty Gringotts vault. The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them experiment, while initially successful, has ultimately failed with last year’s The Secrets of Dumbledore. Dismal reviews, Covid-19 interruptions and a scandal around the continued casting of Johnny Depp (alongside JK Rowling’s public attacks on trans women) created a perfect storm of negativity, leaving future iterations of the prequel untenable. The production company has to try another avenue to spin yet more gold from its Harry Potter nest egg.
What about The Cursed Child, the West End play that has ticked along nicely since it opened in 2016? Set 19 years after the events in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the second half of which was released as a movie in 2011, a TV adaptation of the play would be the perfect opportunity to revive the magic of the original films. Except, I imagine none of the original cast would want to resurrect the characters that made them famous. Not only because they don’t need to — Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are certainly doing well enough post-Harry Potter — but because to get back into bed with JK Rowling is nothing short of career suicide. All three of the franchise’s main stars have spoken out in solidarity with the trans community in light of Rowling’s opinions. Good for them.
Any continuation of the original films would, then, require a recasting — something I and other fans would never abide. And so, there’s only one thing that could save the Harry Potter franchise: start all over again.
Or, and hear me out Warner Bros Discovery execs, if you happen to be reading this, you could leave it alone. Thanks to its creator, the legacy of Harry Potter is already dangling off a cliff edge. A new TV show wouldn’t just push it off the edge but make the original movies redundant — a crime worthy of a spell in Azkaban.