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What the Hell Happened: Harry Potter and the HBO Max TV Remake

The Hogwarts Express passes through the real life Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland, which is features in four films in the series.
The Hogwarts Express passes through the real life Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland, which is features in four films in the series. By Courtesy of de:Benutzer:Nicolas17 / Wikimedia Commons
By Selorna A. Ackuayi, Contributing Writer

Nowadays, it seems like nearly everything in TV and film is being remade. In the past few years we’ve seen remakes of classic movies like Little Women (2019), A Man Called Otto (2022), and Emma (2020), or TV reboots of shows like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Saved by the Bell, and Gossip Girl. Now, Harry Potter — a beloved staple of popular culture — is next.

If Harry Potter is already a cult classic, why is HBO trying to remake it?

While a Harry Potter TV series has been in the works with HBO Max (where the Harry Potter 20th anniversary reunion special aired last January) for a few years, it has only now been officially confirmed, and set to stream on their new streaming platform Max in a series of releases over a ten-year period.

Remakes often swing two ways with audiences: Either they improve on and bring a fresh wave of appreciation to the original piece, or they fail to achieve the classic just-right feeling that the original piece garnered in its time.

Because of Harry Potter’s undeniable and beloved place in the fabric of modern popular culture, a TV remake runs the risk of feeling like a desperate attempt to maintain the relevance of Harry Potter universe, riding on the wave of the success of the “Fantastic Beasts” movie series and the Broadway play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”

However, given the success of these extensions of the Harry Potter franchise, it doesn’t seem likely that the TV series remake will be a flop. According to Bloomberg, the TV series will be organized such that each book takes up a whole season, which means at least seven seasons of the show are set in stone.

JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, will be involved in the series as an executive producer to maintain the accuracy of the TV show compared to the original series.

It looks as if this remake is set to please and perhaps make up for any — although likely sparing — letdowns the Harry Potter movies made amongst fans in the past.

In the past, TV show remakes of books that have been already made into movies have generally garnered positive reviews. The Netflix show “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” which came out in 2017, achieved the success that the movie of the same name did not. Author Daniel Handler was involved in the making of the show, which was not the case for the movie, and this created a noticeable difference. Many viewers felt that the show captured the essence of the book perfectly, with lines in the show taken almost directly from the books.

In 2024, Disney+ will be releasing a TV series of “Percy Jackon and the Olympians” which preemptively appears to be more faithful to the original series than the movies were. The TV series has cast age-appropriate characters and will be executively produced by the author himself, Rick Riordan, who had limited engagement with the movies and has famously shared his disdain for the 2010 movie adaptation since their release.

It is possible that the Harry Potter remake will see a similar form of praise that “A Series of Unfortunate Events” received and Percy Jackson appears set to receive.

Unlike Riordan and Handler’s somewhat estranged involvement with their series’ remakes, this TV adaptation of the Harry Potter series doesn’t seem to be JK Rowling’s version of the remake, because the author was involved in the initial movie-making process as well. Therefore, the TV show isn’t necessarily being made to redeem the movies, which are considered excellent adaptations in their own right.

However, the author has mentioned that she is committed to adding a new level of detail to the visual adaptation of the stories that the movies did not provide. Maybe Harry Potter fans will be able to see more depth or screen time given to their favorite side characters from the books, like Ginny Weasley or Peeves.

Fans of Harry Potter will definitely have to reckon with the unfamiliarity of the new faces that are likely to play these beloved characters. Given the fact that the later books in the series were released in tandem with Harry Potter movies, it’s likely that their overlap helped make the portrayals in movies feel so accurate to the characters in the books.

Just as past remakes have polarized fandoms, fans will probably have a love-hate relationship with the Harry Potter remake as well. Nonetheless, an HBO Harry Potter remake might be just what the Potterheads want and need as it continues to bring the stories to life and spread the love of the series to those who have not encountered Harry Potter yet — and if not, maybe it’s the perfect excuse to cancel your HBO subscription.

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