Vol. 2, Issue 24, June 15, 2004
WB Launching Americanized Harry Potter Series In Fall 2004
The WB network has announced it is launching a new series in the fall based on J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books.
"We're very excited about this addition to our lineup," said WB co-CEO Jordan Levin. "The Harry Potter books have proved wildly successful when transferred to film, and we think a TV series is the next logical step for this franchise." The WB is owned by Warner Brothers, which has produced the first three Potter films.
The series, provisionally entitled "HP," will be an Americanized adaptation of the original books, more in keeping with the typical teen dramas which are the trademark of the WB.
"The first two movies did okay, but the third one [Prisoner of Azkaban] has been much better received. And do you know why? Because the kids are becoming teens," said Levin. "We think a teen Harry Potter drama really has potential to connect with our prime demographic - especially once we tone down the British cultural references."
The network's controversial decision to Americanize the series and re-imagine Hogwarts School of Wizardry as a high school in Malibu has incited an uproar from Harry Potter fan communities. The WB has expressed confidence that viewers will change their minds after the pilot airs in September, but critics are not so sure.
"The prime-time soaps aired by the WB are beyond awful," said television critic Gregory Vinson. "They're filled with ludicrously attractive twentysomethings pretending to be teenagers and sleeping around at the drop of a hat. The very concept of "Hogwarts 90210" makes me want to retch."
The decision to cast the muscular, six foot three Smallville heartthrob Tom Welling as Harry Potter has already sparked a storm of discussion on fansites worldwide.
"We think that Tom has already shown the brooding intensity you need to play Harry," countered Levin. "I mean, he's already got the dark hair. A pair of glasses and a little scar, and it'll be like Harry walked out of the book."
Fellow WB star Alyssa Milano, who has played a witch for years on the cult favorite Charmed has been cast as Hermione. The part of Harry's pal Ron Weasley has not been cast yet, but the network has confirmed rumors that the role is being "tweaked" to better resonate with American audiences.
"J.K. Rowling's books are extremely British," said Levin. "America's a much more diverse place than Britain, and we really needed to introduce a more urban element to the very provincial original. So it seemed logical to cast an African-American in the role of Ron."
Rowling herself has not officially commented on the new series, and there has been no mention of the series on her website. However, in an online chat over the weekend, she did offer the following enigmatic advice in closing:
"Make bloody well sure," she noted, "you always, always, always read the fine print when you sign something."