Why Did HBO’s CEO Call The ‘Game of Thrones’ Spin-off Plans an “Embarrassment”?

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: HBO)

There’s been some slightly weird chatter coming out of HBO about all the Game of Thrones spin-offs that are currently in development.

HBO’s CEO Richard Plepler has been speaking about his plans for the company, and what we can expect from the television network in the near future.

In addressing the subject of the planned Game of Thrones shows that are currently on the drawing board (there are four or five depending on who you ask), Plepler seemed very enthusiastic, despite at the same time being more than a little awkward about the whole endeavor.

One thing is certain, this show will be a prequel. That much at least has been nailed down. As to the subject matter, the creators that will showrun the project, and the direction that the series will take, it seems that HBO is struggling with the consequences of commissioning so many different pilots.

Said Plelper:

“I think we will find with this embarrassment of [writing] riches an exciting property for us to moves forward with. We are looking some things, I have read a couple of early bibles and I’m excited about what I’ve seen.”

An “embarrassment of riches”?

This is an interesting expression to use. Obviously Plelper isn’t genuinely embarrassed by what’s been made thus far (at least, we hope not), but the phrase rather means having so much of something that it’s cumbersome, unwieldy, and difficult.

Basically, to have an embarrassment of writing riches means having too much of a good thing; too many shows to try and keep track of, with different ideas and premises bouncing around.

Plelper and his fellow HBO executives are in the unfortunate position of having to try and predict which of all these upcoming pilots are actually going to make the most popular shows, and that’s no small task.

Game of Thrones Heroes
Source: HBO

After all, HBO doesn’t actually intend to make four or five Game of Thrones prequels. It’s fairly clear that the executives got trigger happy with signing off on potential pilots, thinking that it’d be easy to simply watch what’s presented and choose the best show.

It’s not working out that way. Instead, a mass of different creators are all in communication with HBO regularly, trying to get feedback on elements as they develop their pitches. With Plepler attempting to keep up with several “early bibles” of story premises at the same time, there’s going to be some confusion between the different projects.

There’s also a danger that these shows will start overlapping, with tonally disconnected ideas and plot points whirling around without context. When it gets time to actually watch these finished pilots, it wouldn’t be surprising if HBO’s executives entertain the idea of mashing a couple of good show ideas together to create something with the best of all worlds – whether or not that works as a foundation for a show moving forward.

The good news is that thus far, HBO has been very protective of the Game of Thrones brand. Their multiple spin-off plan comes from a desire to find the best way to continue the franchise, and they likely won’t make any big decisions unless they’re sure they’ll work in the context of the prequel.

At the same time though, this is a dangerous balancing game that could very easily fall flat. Let’s be honest – prequels to popular shows or movies very rarely work out well.

As enthusiastic as Richard Plepler may be at the moment, there’s still a very real danger that the new Game of Thrones spin-off could end up being a literal embarrassment for HBO.