In an interview with the UFC Unfiltered podcast and picked up across many outlets, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss admitted that production on Season 7 would begin later this year because now that “winter is here,” they’ll need to wait for actual physical winter before they begin shooting. As a result, the show’s typical April premiere date is unlikely.
Right now, the exact length of Season 7 is unconfirmed. But it’s expected that the final two seasons will likely be shorter, between 13-15 episodes total, as opposed to 20. The shortened order could mean that “Thrones” might still make it under the deadline: If an eight-episode Season 7 is able to premiere on Sunday, May 7, 2017, four episodes would be able to air within the eligibility period, keeping the world of Westeros in the game.
However, let’s say “Thrones” misses that cutoff. “Game of Thrones” not being eligible to compete in 2017 would be welcome news for every other drama in the field. In 2015, the juggernaut racked up 24 nominations and 12 wins, and Season 6 is likely to perform at the same level. No “Thrones” might give longtime overlooked contenders like “The Americans” a shot at glory, but it could also make a big difference for HBO’s other dramas, which then would benefit from the full thrust of the network’s campaigning machine in “Throne’s” absence.
One show worth mentioning right away is “The Leftovers,” which might not have much of a shot this year (only one Gold Derby expert has it listed in his predictions — sorry, Ben). But Season 2 was critically beloved, and if the show finishes strong in Season 3, it could build on the already existing buzz to be a real contender.
Much more of a wild card is “Westworld,” the long-delayed sci-fi drama set to debut this fall. Right now, we have only hints as to what to expect from Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s adaptation of Michael Crichton’s 1973 film about a robot-run amusement park – but a lot of those hints have us intrigued, from the rumors of boundary-pushing on-screen sex to trailers packed with big ideas and dazzling imagery.
The one guaranteed element: An awards-friendly cast that includes Anthony Hopkins, James Marsden, Tessa Thompson, Jimmi Simpson, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton, Rodrigo Santoro and Ed Harris. That’s a lineup that boasts a total of eight Oscar nominations and one win, and nine Emmy nominations and three wins.
There’s also “The Deuce,” the upcoming drama from David Simon and George Pelecanos (premiere date still TBD). Simon might never have gotten the awards attention he deserved for “The Wire,” but taking on the seedy underbelly of 1980s Times Square could be the project that fixes that.
In fact, theoretically “The Deuce” might be HBO’s best bet, given that it’s a period drama. But the awards success of “Game of Thrones” has dispelled the idea that genre programming can’t compete with shows like “Better Call Saul” and “Downton Abbey,” so who knows? There might be room for limbo hotels or self-aware robots in 2017 — presuming, of course, that the dragons don’t get in the way.
Special thanks to Kyle Kizu for research assistance.