For anyone who actually wants to exist in the world of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit,” or even “Game of Thrones,” it doesn’t get much closer than “The Quest.”
Premiering Thursday (July 31), the ABC competition — appropriately billed as “part reality, part fantasy” — has a distinctively medieval bent as it gives 12 contestants, ranging from a bartender and a math teacher to a horse trainer and a Mixed Martial Arts fighter, various challenges in a manufactured land named Everealm.
All the expected elements are present, including dragons, ogres and other fearsome creatures generated via such techniques as animatronics and prosthetics.
To that end, it makes sense that one of the show’s executive producers had the same job on the “Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy. Mark Ordesky is partnered in the new venture with multiple-Emmy-winning “The Amazing Race” veterans Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri, among others, and he says the idea for “The Quest” actually pre-dated those films.
“The seed of the series was born during pre-production,” former New Line Cinema executive Ordesky tells Zap2it. “When the cast of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was going down for sword training and archery training and horse training, my producing partner Jane Fleming and I looked at footage we’d get, takes of the actors. Jane pointed out, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if real people could do that? Why can’t we do sword camp?’ And that seed flowered years later.”
Even if the “Quest” contenders are role-playing to a degree, Ordesky maintains they’re not meant to be actors in the literal sense.
“The whole point of the casting was to not have the contestants be tempted to act whatsoever,” he notes. “The production values were designed so that these people, who are (genre) fans of various stripes, would have a real environment that they could respond to organically.
“For example, the 3-D projections we use were meant so that the people would see real things and simply have reactions to them. There’s a real emphasis on the contestants just being contestants, then there are proper actors who are playing roles that help push the narrative along.”
If the initial round of “The Quest” catches on with viewers, there’s plenty more where that came from … by design.
“Let’s put it this way,” Ordesky muses. “The Everealm mythology contains 12 kingdoms, only one of which is featured in Season 1. As far as we’re concerned, 12 kingdoms and 12 seasons? That would be fine by us.”