Can JJ Abrams and HBO’s ‘Westworld’ still be ready to air in 2016?

'Game of Thrones' actress Emilia Clarke poses before attending the Spring/Summer 2016 women's ready-to-wear collection show for Dior fashion house during the Fashion Week in Paris, France, October 2, 2015. — Reuters pic
'Game of Thrones' actress Emilia Clarke poses before attending the Spring/Summer 2016 women's ready-to-wear collection show for Dior fashion house during the Fashion Week in Paris, France, October 2, 2015. — Reuters pic

LOS ANGELES, April 9 — The American press reports that filming has resumed on the Westworld TV series, with production restarted a few days ago. That’s good news for the fantasy western, produced by JJ Abrams and Jonathan Nolan, which is seriously starting to keep fans waiting.

HBO’s Westworld has fallen behind its initial schedule. After a pilot filmed in summer 2014, the series was expected to air the following year. But a host of setbacks forced producers to delay filming, and even halt production altogether to give more time to the screenwriters and creators — Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy — to finish the scripts for the four last episodes.

The series finally restarted filming this April in Los Angeles. A new actress was also added to the cast, with Lili Simmons (True Detective, Banshee) stepping into the role of Abigail, a theme park employee who uses and abuses her charms to lure in clients.

Although production has now geared up once again, it’s unclear whether the HBO network will be able to stick to its schedule. After being announced for the first half of 2016, Westworld is now unlikely to land before the end of the year, maybe even 2017, given how far the show has fallen behind. And that’s a real blow to the cable network, which is still searching for its next big hit.

Enthusiasm from the American media

Since Game of Thrones landed in 2011, HBO hasn’t managed to find a show that inspires the same levels of widespread and global enthusiasm. Even if the network’s productions (series and TV movies) are still generally well received by critics, HBO is still in search of a new flagship title. Right now, Westworld looks like a contender to fill that void, on paper, at least.

Inspired by Michael Crichton’s 1973 feature film of the same name, the Westworld TV series is based on the same premise as the original movie. This sees the invention of a futuristic amusement park that immerses visitors in the era of their choice via themed worlds inhabited by robots. However, things turn sour when the robots begin to develop an artificial conscience and turn against humans.

Filling an amusement park with humanoid robots seems like just as dangerous an idea as putting a bunch of dinosaurs on an island. Still, the notion of the theme park gone wrong proved a global box-office hit for Jurassic World. The series also boasts a star Hollywood cast, including Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, James Mardsen, Miranda Otto and Jeffrey Wright.

Initial murmurs in the American press have so far been positive about the project. Plus, a new trailer shown exclusively to festivalgoers at South by Southwest back in March met with enthusiastic response.

Comparisons have even been made with Game of Thrones, which took over four years to reach the small screen, and all in spite of a disastrous pilot that had to be reshot. — AFP/Relaxnews

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