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There's an Awkward Battle Brewing Behind the Scenes on 'Game of Thrones'

By Dustin Rowles | Game of Thrones | April 16, 2015 |

By Dustin Rowles | Game of Thrones | April 16, 2015 |

How many seasons Game of Thrones will ultimately run has become a contentious question, with the three parties involves — HBO, showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff, and George R.R. Martin — each seemingly wanting different things.

To sum this up for you, in February, George R.R. Martin expressed hope that Game of Thrones would run as long as it needed to tell the entire story, even though that entire story has not yet been written and may not be written for quite some time yet. Here’s Martin’s desires:

“We will have a 7th, 8th or 9th, no one knows. They only renew one or two seasons at a time. After we do season 6, maybe we’ll get a renewal for 7th and 8th. That all depends. Television is a very changeable medium.”

I certainly hope that we get to tell the entire story. Because whatever happens with the show I’m going to finish the books, it will be seven books. But each of these books are 1500 pages long and they each have enough material in them for several seasons. I have two more books, the one I’m writing right now, ‘The Winds Of Winter,’ and after that the last book, ‘The Dream of Spring,’ so those will be the two final books. But we’re talking 3000 pages of material. How many seasons that translates too? That’s up to D.B. And David.”

So, Martin the author clearly would like to see his entire vision for the book series adapted to television, but we all know that’s not practical, especially given the length of those novels, the fact that they haven’t been written yet, and the fact that — I understand — Martin’s work needs streamlining.

Meanwhile, in March, HBO — through programming president Michael Lombardo — also expressed a desire to go beyond seven seasons. Why not? Game of Thrones is their highest rated series, there’s plenty of material, and lots of money to be made.

“This is the hard part of what we do,” sighs HBO programming president Michael Lombardo. “We started this journey with David and Dan. It’s their vision. Would I love the show to go 10 years as both a fan and a network executive? Absolutely.”

So if the producers prefer seven seasons and HBO prefers more, what happens? A conversation…Like amicable spouses who avoid a sensitive area of disagreement, this issue is something HBO and the showrunners haven’t discussed thus far…”We’ll have an honest conversation that explores all possible avenues,” Lombardo says. “If they weren’t comfortable going beyond seven seasons, I trust them implicitly and trust that’s the right decision—as horrifying as that is to me. What I’m not going to do is have a show continue past where the creators believe where they feel they’ve finished with the story.”

So, HBO wants more, and Martin wants more, but they both concede that they will ultimately defer to the showrunners. And what do Weiss and Benioff want? The same thing they’ve always wanted: Seven seasons, as they reiterated to Variety yesterday:

Benioff: We’ve got a very definitive idea of how much longer it is, and we’re getting there. We’ve just started writing episodes for season six. I think we’re heading into the home stretch. Hopefully, we’ll have a clear answer soon.

We could go another four years — and we could come up with good stories — but the one thing that really got us excited when we pitched this to HBO was that this isn’t just a regular series. It’s a real story with a beginning, a middle and an end.

We know what the end is, and we’re barreling toward it. So the idea that we’re going to try and stretch it out by an extra couple years just because we’re all having a good time doing it and people are making money off it just feels like it would be a betrayal.

Weiss: It’s like sometimes you’ll be at a party, and you’re surrounded by people you love and you’re having a great time and it’s late and you’re like, “I should really go home, but man, this is a great party. I’m going to order one more beer, why not? When’s the next time I’m going to be in a party this great again?” And then you have another beer and you have a martini, and then it’s 6:30 in the morning, you’re like, “Why the f— am I still at this party?”

Benioff: You wake up ashamed and covered in your own feces.

Weiss: We want to go home before that happens.

So, assuming that HBO and Martin stick to their word, and agree to defer to the showrunners, there will only be seven seasons. But this is television, and where there’s boatloads of money involved, you never know. With HBO saying that ceasing after seven seasons “would be horrifying,” they clearly don’t mind risking waking up ashamed and covered in their own feces. Weiss and Benioff want to go home to their families, and they’re already writing with the end in mind. Will this be settled amicably? Or will Weiss and Benioff have to abandon the project they have so deftly brought to life and let someone else finish their series?

We’ll see how it plays out.