George R.R. Martin wants 13-episode Game Of Thrones seasons

News Louisa Mellor 13 Jun 2014 - 07:22

If George R.R. Martin had his way, Game Of Thrones seasons would run to 13 episodes...

It's hardly uncommon for a writer to want a bigger slice of budget and airtime for their show, but when one with the influence of George R.R. Martin says as much, people take notice.

In an interview with The New York Times this week, Martin bemoaned having had to cut texture-adding scenes from early episodes of Game Of Thrones due to lack of time, and admitted, "I wish we had more episodes. I’d love to have thirteen episodes. With thirteen episodes, we could include smaller scenes that we had to cut, scenes that make the story deeper and richer."

We're usually fans of brevity when it comes to TV series on this site. The US trend for bloated twenty-four episode seasons pretty much guarantees diminishing returns in quality across a season, which fans now accept will start strong, meander unpredictably, then - with any luck - end on a high note. A neat eight or twelve-episode season, in contrast, can maintain pace and quality in a more compact frame. See True Detective and the like for proof of that.

Given the enormous cost of making Game Of Thrones (The New York Times reports an estimated sixty to seventy million dollars per season) the question is likely to be academic, but would longer seasons benefit the show, adding texture and character development as Martin suggests, or would it lead to TV bloat?

New York Times

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Not sure about thirteen, seems a bit much possible and if you give them enough time the show could be in danger of becoming overly complex, but I'd definetly like to see slightly longer episodes each week. Aaah sod it who am I kidding, I wish it ran every bloody day like a soap :)

There is NO bigger cashcow than GoT right now. NONE. This should be a producer's wet dream - just pour money into the money multiplying machine.

From a consumer's perspective - hell, I can only remember, like, three guys' names plus Danaerys. But I would indeed like to see more betrayal and full frontal nudity.

I wish ran an episode per 2 or 3 chapters.. That way it MAY just keep behind the books. Actually, it would probably still take over the books. Stop talking George and pick up the pen (I love you though)

I'm sure you've heard this many times but you sir, should read the books! You'll remember all the names then!

Stalling tactics, Mr Martin? I see your left hand makes the sign of the smokescreen, but is your right hand HOLDING A PEN?

I prefer 10 episodes, it keeps the storylines moving and the filler to a minimum, the show has already began some of the AFFC and ADWD storylines that are mostly filler and travelogues, if the show tries to be faithful to those books it will be cancelled.

GRRM is just saying all this because he knows he is running out of time, the show will probably reach the books in season 5 (that is about to start filming) and he doesn't seem to be anywhere close to finishing TWOW, but he has to stop with all this "13 episodes" and "GOT films" nonsense, he knows is not going to happen, the showrunners have said they can't do more than 10 episodes, and is not only because they have a budget, they spend all year working on got, when they are not filming they are taking care of the post-production process or promoting the show or writing scripts for the new season or preparing for filming, is a miracle they are not dead, and when GRRM says he would like longer seasons or several asoiaf films or 11 seasons of GOT he gets the fans excited, and D&D are the ones who have to come out and say is not going to happen, even though they have said 7/8 seasons from the very first day.

GRRM had years to move the story forward, if the show gets ahead of him is because he let it happen, he should stop looking for ways to get more time to finish the books.

This is GRRM. The first season might be 13 episodes. The last series would be 52 episodes, with a mid-season break, with a production time of 5 years.

I started doing this, actually. I have "all" of the books. But I find myself annoyed by the fact that now I would need to wade through so much stuff I already know, that usually the Artifact Cycle from Magic wins out.

I like 10 episodes just fine. If you look at the first three seasons you can see a very distisnctive dip in quality every season between episodes 5 and 8. Admittedly a dip in quality means for GoT means the show goes from beyond awesome to just really good but I do think longer seasons will probably lengthen the dip in quality.

GoT is indeed a huge cashcow but it is also the most expensive tv show to date. With a budget of over sixty million per season. I don't think HBO would feel happy extending that even further. And if not then a longer season means they have a smaller budget per episode and I don't think the show would benefit from that.

Precisely. We want you to finish the damn books George before your unhealthy lifestyle leads to a heart attack.

We can only speculate since we don't know how much money they actually make with their budget. So it may be financially sound or it may not.

13 episodes per season would be good, I had thought maybe the last season or two should go to 12, but I doubt at this point they would go from 10-13, 10 is an arbitrary number anyway so I dunno why they would feel the need to stay there, but that's how it's been so that's how it'll probably stay

How about 10 episodes it 75-90 min each. That would be awesome.

The 10 episodes we do get already have the same combined length as 13 episodes of a network show.

Oh God. Anyone who's slogged through the 4th book should have pretty low opinions of GRRM's views on "texture". Some stories come out of the author's pen fully formed for TV adaptation and some benefit hugely from the addition of an editor/showrunner's red pen. GoT is certainly the latter - even when a discussion does read well in a book, that won't necessarily translate to the screen, and the 4th book struggles to meet even that initial standard.

The showrunners have already vastly improved on his efforts when it comes to Bran, by having something actually happen to him - the Crasters Keep aspect wasn't in the books, and was replaced with lengthy scenes of walking and talking and moaning about how cold the North is. If people want depth and richness, the books are available for all to read. The TV series should stick to what TV is good at - concentrated, hour-long bursts of drama and action.

It's not just reading stuff you already know though, it's reading it with so much more detail, background and subtext. I only caught up to the show at the Red Wedding but it was just as good when I knew what was coming as when I didn't.

Honestly, the books are great.

I don't doubt that. ^^

Think I'm with the rest. As good as the books are, they are bloated in places and could benefit from a damned good edit. One of the many things I love about the series is how tight and to the point it is without losing any of the story quality. Direction/Writing/Acting/FX aside... I often find myself marvelling at the logisitics of the thing.

Give the man what he wants, or he'll kill ALL the characters!!

I feel the series would benefit from 2-3 more episodes a season to allow some of the minor but key characters more time to develop and allow their arcs to have the resonance intended. Certain scenes this season have felt rushed (Mormont's and Lyssa's arcs recently for example) as they have focused on other areas for all the right reasons, Tyrion's plight for example.
...and lets be honest more Game of Thrones is a good thing!

How about keeping $60m per season but stretching it to 3 more episodes, so there are just 2 or 3 more 'cheap' episodes in the mix.

To be honest, I just want more...!
My name is James, and I am a GoT addict.

I think 75-90 minutes would add a lot of unnecessary filler to the series, causing it to drag. No, hour-long episodes like we've had so far keeps it tight and concentrated.

I read all the books after watching the first two seasons. Now I get to be a smug idiot to all my friends, it's great

Looking forward to seeing how they adapt books 4 and 5, weakest books

Since I'm a smug idiot all the time, that would sadly be no improvement to my life. :/

the crasters keep fiasco smacked of pandering to the holywood audience who require an action sequence every 15 minutes to remain engaged, it was unnecessary and clearly shoe horned for the benefit of people with short attention spans, i'd rather have a quality, well written dialogue heavy scene which adds depth to the characters or moves the narrative forward any day of the week

I would stick with the 10 (long) episodes. No filler and the story can build on previous events without the need for recaps. If they were going to do longer seasons, they should have done it earlier. The next two books are far more in need of editing than the first three (I honestly struggle to remember highlight moments of AFFC - boring chapters about voting are not a highlight).
The budget point is a significant one. Sure, GoT is critically successful and is making money. Sadly, as I have reminded myself in the past week by finally cracking open the box set that has sat on my shelf for far too long, so was Deadwood, and that was cancelled without a "proper" ending (although this may have been as much due to the show runner's stubborness as due to HBO). If the series' ratings start to dip, as we move away from the more eventful books and format, that will not bode well for getting a proper ending to this story.

If I had MY way, Mr. Martin would stop doing interviews and finish The Winds of Winter ALREADY!!!!

I honestly don't see a need. The only reason the episodes seem stuffed and "jump around" is because the writers insist on inventing plot padding for characters who have less of journey within a particular series and we end up losing time with the critical plots.

Lord knows why they do this as it often adds little (theons story comes to mind, you don't see him after the sacking of winter fell for several books and when you do get reintroduced it's quite a while before you realise it's the on, because he's essentially an animal) and leaves other character stories feeling patchy and frantic

Point out the scene where Bran has a lot of well-written dialogue in book 4? I don't remember that, I remember them wandering around being dull as dishwater. Same goes for Brienne and a number of other characters that I won't name for potential spoiler reasons.

The 4th and 5th books are mostly filled with characters slowly wandering around until they get to the places they need to be for the resumption of action in the upcoming book 6. That doesn't make good TV, so I'm more than happy for the showrunners to tell GRRM how to put that on screen in the most interesting way possible.

I am with you on this Graeme, Books 4 and 5 were slow. Was there any need to describe each families standards again. I think casual viewers of the TV show will start dropping away next year, there just aren't any Red Wedding moments in those books. I think each book should have been edited by at least 150 pages. I do however think that they should be filming them continuously. Arya and Bran are just ageing too fast in real life. At this production speed, Arya will be nearly 30 when filming closes.

we're not even at the fourth book yet and the show is already guilty of dumbing down

perhaps the writers of the show should actually get to writing some decent dialogue of their own instead of lifting all the good stuff from the books?

we're constantly hearing about how good the writers of the show supposedly are (this site in particular is nauseating in its praise of them) so i'd like to see more quality character development and if there must be action scenes, then they need to push the narrative instead action for actions sake

I don't know how you even get to the see the show! Is reception good up in that Ivory tower you live in? I really don't understand why you comment on here or read any of the articles you clearly think everybody who doesn't share yor opinion is an idiot. Its a shame your obviously vast intellect is wasted on us all.

Because watching tyrion turtle seeing and dany thinking about how much she wants to be with Daario and Jon making inventory is amazing TV. AFFC and ADWD are filler, the sooner the show ends with those books, the better.

And let me remind you scenes like Robert and Cersei in season 1, Tywin and Arya in season 2 and 99% of the Margaery and Olenna scenes were written for the show only.

I don't know......only ten episodes per season and yet, season 4 has been somehow so uneventful. Stannis and Davos have done nothing at all for this entire season except pay a visit to their bank manager, the whole thing with Tyrion being blamed for Joffrey's death has which started in episode 2 is STILL going on, and what was that last episode about? The whole thing was devoted to one set piece entire battle, there was nothing what so ever shown of the characters in other places like King's landing. And the whole "something bad is coming from north of the wall" thing has been simmering away for ages now. Talk about slow burn. Just seems like more happened to move the plot in the previous seasons.

I was under the impression that books 3 and 4 (4 and 5?) ran parallel to each other, with each focusing on a different group of characters? This would mean we're about halfway through both books on TV.

Doing Theon's story the way it appears in the books simply wouldn't work on TV though, would it? We'd all recognise the actor...

granted there have been many great scenes in the show which weren't in the books and that is part of the reason why it's disappointing when the show resorts to the type of pandering which has plagued this current season

i am currently at the end of book 3 and so haven't reached the fourth or fifth yet however not everyone balks at the prospect of some heavy reading, you may believe that it's filler but i'm sure there are many who rate the later books very highly and i look forward to them

it will be interesting to see how the tv show adapts next season however whichever path they choose i hope that it's not at the expense of quality story telling

lol chill your beans i'm just telling it like it is, if you don't like the truth then don't read my comments :)

You know nothing rikimaru.

Fair enough I should know better than to feed the troll. Truth is a relative term reading your comments though. I'll continue to read them though, they read well and are quite insightful, I just think it's a shame you can't hide your loathing for the small folk.

It's 4 and 5 that run parallel, with (generally) Kings Land and the South being covered in book 4, and The North and across the Narrow Sea being covered in book 5. They've actually split book 3 into two seasons because so much plot happens in it, so we're reaching the end of book 3.

I think a lot of it depends on how much plot he has in TWOW, because he has said that he cut two big battle sequences from the end of ADWD. I'm one of the people who's like 'guys, let him write at the pace he wants to' but I do think he has to release TWOW next year if he wants to avoid the show overtaking him.

I think it's strange that GRRM is talking about the possibility of films when he said during promoting season 1 that numerous people had approached him about doing ASOIAF as film, and his response to them had been that the story was simply too vast and interconnected to do as a two-hour film without butchering the source material.

I guess you can't really blame Martin for keeping the party going... He's making great money, has lots of fame, is clearly really into what he does, and loads of people love his work. I reckon he planned a short series originally, but then, my oh my, save me Jeebus, the books got so bogged down with mind-numbing filler and random acts of "oh that's right, something has to happen in this book!" violence, that I simply gave up. And I *loved* book/series 1.
I really feel for the TV guys. Series 1 was absolutely superb, but now they're scrabbling so hard to make some semblance of an interesting story out of the swathes of unnecessarily tedious bumph that they're just making it all up as they go along and ramping up the cruelty and violence to depressing levels. I gave up watching a long while back.
Tyrion deserved better than this.

What pandering are you talking about? Got any examples?

I don't claim to know anything, wasn't being neg, I was just thinkin' aloud.

This. If it was up to Martin there would be entire episodes devoted to a single family meal. Like Stephen King, Peter F. Hamilton and Quentin Tarantino, he's a highly talented storyteller whose self-regard and lack of an internal edit button renders him completely unable to separate lean from fat.

Read them. You'll see what everyone's on about, I guarantee it.

13 episodes is fine. If Arrow can do 24 and Star Trek can do 26 episode seasons then why not 13?

To be fair, some of that walking and talking was used to flush out some history, one bit of which gave a different viewpoint on Lyana and Rhaegar's first meet.

they still haven't resurrected Catlin with the Red priest... guess that'll be 2 seasons late or more... ;(

Loving some of the comments on here. There's nothing funnier than someone getting all snobby about the fact they read ACTUAL BOOKS, making them far superior to people who watch mere television.

Newsflash you dweebs, you read pulp fiction with maps in the front about dragons. It's not like you're sitting in your wing-backed leather chair comparing Proust and Turgenev, thinking back to what your old lit tutor at Oxford had to say about unreliable narrators. If you want to get into an artform snobbery competition, bring it on.

the scenes at crastors keep, and yara trying to save theon, don't get me wrong i like yara but the scene felt so rushed and forced, action for actions sake with no substance or pay off

Surely the season runtime should depend on what happens in that season? Seasons that don't have particularly beefy narratives should be shorter, and those with massive arch's, stories and events should be longer.

I suppose it has to do with HBO's revenue model. If they were selling advertising during the show, then they would be all over more episodes. If it was pay-per-view, then again, more episodes would make sense.

But because they sell subscriptions, adding three more episodes to a hit show doesn't increase their bottom line, it's just an unneeded expense.

I'm largely PRO-the editing down and streamlining of the novels - there are huge amounts of text there that frankly don't add much other than prompting one to skim read. Book 2 especially is a major chore of continuous rapeyness and detailed descriptions of food and effectively is just George manoeuvring all his characters into place ready for good times in 3. All of which could have been alluded to rather than novelised. Don't get me wrong: i AM a fan of the books, but they are often beyond indulgent. I firmly believe the story would have worked just as well and been a more satisfying read with about 2 novels worth removed.

Considering how many sets of characters the show is following, it shouldn't be that difficult to find enough material for three more episodes per season.

Believe me, AFFC and ADWD are not quality storytelling.

But thanks for asuming that my dislike towards books you haven't even read is because I don't like heavy reading, that was wonderfully condescending. Seriously, thank you

all's i'm saying is that i have heard many people speak highly of the later books so your belief that they are boring is merely one opinion, and others are available

I read the title of this article and came on to write a similar thing.

Ahh well read those books and come back on. Lot's of filler.

I want more too Jame but this is Walter's meth and it' quality over quantity.

I agree to an extent but really just wanted to say I like both your avatar and name. That is all,

Oh, absolutely. I would much much rather stick with 10 episode that rather from 'very good' to 'downright amazing', instead of having 3 more clunkier installments in the lineup.

Haha cheers Greg!

I reckon he's already written the books - at least in first draft - and is just keeping them back to maximise hype and sales. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the next book is released just after season 5 of the show with the final one miraculously tying in with the final season of the show.

Try using A Wiki of Ice and Fire. It's great for being reminded of things without having to trawl through those bloated books again (and, yes, I did like them but they needed some serious editing).

You're right. We're all assuming the show will run to the end, but there's always the threat of the C word - cancellation. With the increase of fantasy elements, there's the chance that the budget will increase while those non-fantasy loving viewers decide to stop watching. Nothing's definite.

I don't think so, if that were the case he would have published TWOW, the show is about to reach the books and GRRM made it very clear he didn't want the show to catch up to him, a new book would give him more time to finish, which exactly what he wants.

Craster's Keep may have felt like a detour, and it was mostly shown for action's sake, but it also tied up a loose-end in the story that needed to be done. We had to get some kind of pay-off for what happened with the mutineers, and it did give Bran's story something more interesting than what it would have been otherwise (although, I do wish they would have found time for Coldhands. Hopefully they'll include him somehow in future seasons).

I think the show does a good job of balancing story/drama with action and intrigue. And I do think that it's natural for different seasons to have different balances. Season 4 was notably more heavy on action, but the Yara invading the Dreadfort scene is the only one that felt superfluous to me. Caster's Keep, while detour-y, at least felt like a necessary detour. We couldn't leave Carl and Rast's characters without some kind of big conclusion. They had a pretty big scene and cliffhanger in season 3. I'm glad they paid it off.

It's likely the action will increase as the story goes forward. They'll be condensing books 4 & 5 a lot, I think, or at least being quite brief with a lot of the scenes. Something tells me they'll be pushing a few of the story lines further sooner. We'll probably be into Winds of Winter stuff by the latter half of season 6 (which I assume David & Dan know a fair amount about). They have said their goal is to finish in 7 seasons. Who knows if that will pan out. GRRM is already saying there will probably be 8 books now. We'll see.

10 episodes is satisfactory to me. In an ideal world, I'd say 12 episodes would be perfect. But I'm already amazed at how much they manage to do in a year, so I totally understand that they can't do more.

I think Winds of Winter will come out either late next year or early 2016. I think GRRM has most of it done, and it's likely he may end the book sooner in the story than he expected, since he's now talking about making it 8 books.

If Winds of Winter is released before or around the time season 6 airs, then they'll have enough material from that book for at least one more season. GRRM isn't likely to get another book out in just a year, so it seems that regardless of how fast GRRM tries to get them out (and he won't rush himself)... the show will overtake him after season 7, and I imagine they'll probably do an eighth season to wrap things up. They've been told things by GRRM, and I'm sure that as the years go by and he writes more and more, he's telling them more and more. So they probably have a fairly good knowledge already of what happens, and they have their own plan going already to boot. So regardless of what happens with the books, the show will be it's own thing and become even more of it's own thing as we get into the final seasons. It'll end before all the books are released. I think we should all agree that's pretty much a certainty.

"I think it's strange that GRRM is talking about the possibility of films when he said during promoting season 1 that numerous people had approached him about doing ASOIAF as film, and his response to them had been that the story was simply too vast and interconnected to do as a two-hour film without butchering the source material."

That's for doing entire books in one movie. Some producers even wanted to combine the whole series into one movie or a trilogy.

What GRRM is suggesting is that they get the story to a certain point in the series, and then pick up and finish off in a movie or movies.

His objections are to squeezing entire books or the entire story into movies. But finishing off a 7 or 8 season series with a movie that covers only the climax of the story wouldn't mean any more significant cuts than the series already requires.

You may be right. If an increase in episodes or runtimes coincided with an increase in budget, so that the extra time could be spent not just on more dialogue scenes and filler, but also on making the main event bigger and more comprehensive (I think Oberyn vs. the Mountain could have been more extensive, for example)... more scenes like the Purple Wedding and Tyrion's trial, where we focus on big events for huge sections of an episode. We could have more on-screen battles. If they had given this kind of treatment to seasons 1-3, maybe we could have seen at least one of Robb's battles. Maybe they would have been able to include Tyrion's chain at Blackwater.

Of course, to do more, they'd also need more time. That's actually the biggest barrier to doing more or longer episodes... they need time to make them. So if we want more, we'd have to be willing to wait longer between seasons.

Well, season 4 was the biggest, most action-packed and most expensive season so far, so they ARE increasing the budget as they go. Season 1 was about $59 million, Season 2 almost $70 million. I think Season 3 went back down a bit, and season 4 must have been at least $70 million.
I'm hoping this trend continues and they can do more dragon and battle scenes. The books slowed down after this point in the story, but something tells me they'll be condensing and adding stuff to the point that the story will either stay pretty high or get more intense going forward. Remember, they've already pulled a lot of stuff forward from Books 4 & 5 into Season 4, so they're probably planning to speed things up from this point on. Season 5 might be a bit of a breather, but Season 6 will probably be pretty riveting on-screen.


I think Season 6 will climax with the battle of Meereen, which is reportedly at the beginning of Book 6. So it's likely already written. David & Dan likely know all about it. So regardless of whether the book is released by the time season 6 airs (I think it likely will be), I think they'll include the battle in Season 6. It'll likely be that season's episode 9.

It's not that near. The show has just started on AFFC and ADWD in which events run concurrently so arguably, events in these books could be dragged out for another two seasons, which would mean Martin doesn't need to release TWOW until 2017 should he so wish (although I note that the next book is slated to be released in 2015). Martin's already released some chapters of TWOW so it's a fair bet that a first draft has already been completed. We have no idea how big this book will be and so no idea how many seasons could be filmed of it. And I'd find it very hard to believe that in writing such a meticulously planned series as A Song of Ice and Fire, Martin doesn't at least have a skeleton of the last novel, if not a completed draft.

Dany: already in DWD territory
Bran: already in his DWD plotline
Arya: about to start her AFFC chapters
Sansa: finished all published material
Jon: in the beginning of DWD
Theon: changes aside, he is also in DWD territory
Tyrion: begins his DWD chapter this next season
Brienne: with a lot of changes, but is already in her AFFC chapters
Cersei: about to start AFFC
Jaime: same as Cersei
The Ironborn: still have some chapters left but they can be done very quickly, if they are included.

AFFC and DWD are extremely slow, the plot barely moves forward, specially in DWD, and the show has to tackle both books at the same time because they take place at the same time.

All the chapters GRRM has published of TWOW are leftover chapters from ADWD, a few weeks ago his editor said he only has delievered 168 pages of TWOW, and those pages are not finished, add to that the fact that every book takes longer to finish, that GRRM took a sabatical after DWD and that he has declared he doesn't write much while he travels and he has spent the last few years going to tons of conventions and events and tours, and things look very grim. The only way TWOW comes out before the show reaches the book is if GRRM writes non stop until he is done and if they publish a bloated, unedited mess like they did with DWD, and even then is very unlikely they would be on time.

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