“Shadow and Bone” and “The Nevers” Are Trending. Is Fantasy Having a Big TV Moment?

Photo Courtesy: HBO/Netflix

The first season of the fantasy TV show Shadow and Bone debuted on Netflix on April 23. One week and a half after its release, the show sits at the number-two position on Netflix’s Top 10 in the U.S. list. And it’s the most popular TV show right now on IMDb.

Not only that, but several of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels in which the show is based are also among the top positions at Amazon’s Kindle Store. The creator of the Netflix series, Eric Heisserer, dared to not just adapt the trilogy Shadow and Bone in this show but also added to the mix the characters from the two heist novels of the Six of Crows series, also by Bardugo.

But the young adult (YA) TV show Shadow and Bone, whose eight episodes are already available on Netflix, is not the only fantasy series enjoying some popularity right now. HBO’s The Nevers sits at number 8 on IMDb’s Most Popular TV Shows’ list. The Nevers premiered on April 11, and HBO is releasing the first six episodes of the show’s first season on a weekly basis. The show’s filming was halted by COVID-19, and Part Two's six episodes will be released at a later date.

The Nevers is a particular case. On the one hand, the show is not based on any already published material with an established fan base, as is the case of Shadow and Bone and other recent TV fantasies like Game of Thrones, The Witcher and His Dark Materials.

On the other hand, the show was created by Joss Whedon, who also wrote and directed the first two episodes and served as showrunner. Whedon has recently been called out for abusive behavior and mired in misconduct allegations that go all the way back to his days working on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He resigned from The Nevers in November of last year.

Philippa Goslett is the new showrunner, but The Nevers remained very much Whedon’s creation, at least in those first episodes, and it was a complicated property to market and promote. The show has a 44% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from the critics but an 83% from the audience. And while these kinds of disparities are common on the review aggregator, it could be a case of the audience just judging the show by its content and entertainment value without taking into account all of its baggage.