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First Details from the Pilot Script of Lev Grossman's The Magicians

Illustration for article titled First Details from the Pilot Script of Lev Grossmans emThe Magicians/em

Lev Grossman's The Magicians brought an emotional weight, and a pleasurable snarkiness, to the age-old story of magical people discovering their powers. And The Magician King expanded Grossman's world-building themes by adding a second protagonist. But how on Earth would you go about translating it to the television screen?


Fox entrusted the daunting task of adapting The Magicians into a television pilot to the duo of Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz, who've had a great track record. And now their pilot script is finished, and the network is taking a look at it. Grossman shared with us some reasons to be excited about The Magicians on TV. Spoilers ahead...


Top image: Detail of Alice at Brakebills, as drawn by Christopher Shy.

Over on Grossman's own blog, he praised the pilot script by Miller and Stentz, for being edgy and incredibly funny, and added that the script hits the ground running, with "this dense, intense mystery that sucks you right in." But Grossman managed to share a few more details with us. Here's what we know about The Magicians:

We start in the middle. If you've read the books, you'll know they begin with Quentin as a young man, going to Brakebills for the first time. But the television script starts much later.

In fact, the script starts at the end of the first book, with Quentin going back to Earth and getting a boring office job. And then the story moves forward from there, showing us events in the mystical land of Fillory. The anchoring point of the series, at least in the first episode is, the "now" of Quentin living in New York. (We do see Quentin going to Brakebills as an important piece in the episode, but there are no flashbacks as such. An earlier version of this article said there were actually a number of flashbacks.)

We meet everybody. The pilot script introduces all the major characters from both books. That means we spend time with Alice, Poppy and Julia, among others. And we get a good look at Julia's back, covered with tattoos.


There is a lot of spell-casting. We get to see a lot of magic getting worked, both big and small, and it sounds as though there's a fair bit of talk about the mechanics of casting a spell.

It covers a lot of locations. Just in the pilot, we visit Los Angeles, New York, Brakebills, Fillory, the South of France, and Venice. And if you've read the books, you know that means we cover a lot of ground story-wise as well.


It's funny and real. Grossman describes the dialogue as "crackly" and "Whedonesque." And there are tons and tons of drinking and sex, just like in the books — Elliot, in particular, is never seen without a drink in his hand. We get to see our debauched magic-users "living the lifestyle."

Clocks are a theme. There are a ton of clocks and clockwork imagery in the pilot. It's a "visual leitmotif," says Grossman. And the Watcherwoman's watch plays a role in the pilot.


Oh, and the script calls for "Asleep" by the Smiths to be playing in the background, which is a nice atmospheric touch — if Fox can actually clear the rights to use it.

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I while ago I read "Soon I Will Be Invincible", a funny take on a morose supervillain who is convinced that This Time It Will Work. OK, OK, stealing the moon was a mistake, and kidnapping the Pope didn't work out, but the New Scheme is going to show them once and for all.

So I was browsing in the bookstore and came upon "Codex" by Lev Grossman. Hmm, that name rings a bell. Oh yes, Grossman wrote that funny novel about thinly disguised comic characters. The author picture looked right, a bald guy with glasses. I picked up the book, and found it full of unlikeable people doing improbable things.

Yep, SIWBI is by Lev's twin brother, Austin. They're genetically identical, but one has a sense of humor and the other doesn't, at least as expressed in "Codex". Be sure to check the first name as well as the last when you pick up these books.

The family as a whole seems unreasonably talented - their sister Bathsheba does way-cool math sculptures using 3D printing - Bathsheba Sculpture - and their parents are poets and novelists.