When the new Watchmen TV series on HBO started getting chatter back in 2015, many fans of the iconic graphic novel, or Zak Snyder’s 2009 film adaptation, will have wondered if this incoming TV series is just a retread of what we’ve seen before. So far, though, the evidence points towards the HBO show being quite a radical handling of the Watchmen universe.
Watchmen was originally released as a comic mini series, eventually collated together into the graphic novel you’ll still find in countless bestseller lists, as well as Time’s 100 Best Books of All Time. Created by comic book artists Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, The Killing Joke) and Dave Gibbons (2000 AD), it’s no surprise to see HBO wanting to riff on the story of Watchmen for the small screen.
The nine-episode Watchmen TV series, however, will actually take place 34 years after the end of the comic series, in an alternate 2019 America that swaps out modern conveniences like the internet or smartphones for a culture of masked, vigilante justice.
UPDATE: We now have a firm October 20 release date – as well as reports of the Watchmen TV series being a one-season project. Read everything you need to know about the Watchmen HBO show below.
The Watchmen TV series is being produced by Warner Bros and DC Entertainment, and broadcast by HBO – which will likely want the show to prop up viewer numbers before the Game of Thrones Prequel lands in 2020. Screenwriter and producer Damon Lidelof (Lost, Prometheus) has created the TV series.
On the surface, this looks to be a grounded take on the source material, and might not include some of the more… giant alien squid elements of the original comic series. Then again, it might. To find out what will be included, read on for our full Watchmen TV show guide below.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The TV adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s graphic novel
- Is the Watchmen TV show a sequel? It takes place after the events of the graphic novel, rather than being a sequel to the 2009 film
- Where can I watch it? HBO (US), Channel 4 and Sky Atlantic (UK), Foxtel (AU)
- When will it be released? October 20
- Is it in 4K / HDR? Yes to 4K, though no HDR formats have been confirmed
- Is Dr Manhattan in it? Yes. We got a brief glimpse in the trailer, but it’s unclear how big a role he’ll play
Watchmen HBO TV series trailers
There’s now a host of trailer content to feast your eyes on ahead of the Watchmen TV show’s release in October. HBO has dropped an official trailer (first below), showing off Regina King in full mask getup, navigating the thorny situation she finds herself in, with a brief glimpse of some old characters too – or at least their vehicles.
With what looks like a militia group inspired by the legacy of Rorshach (an iconic anti-hero from the Watchmen comics), and police forces taking to wearing masks as well, the scene is set for a lot of action – and some difficult questions about police brutality and the means by which citizens seek justice. Who will watch the Watchmen? Who indeed.
It comes a week after a ‘featurette’ with commentary by show creator Damon Lindelof on footage from the show, for more of a behind-the-scenes perspective on the incoming Watchmen series.
We got our first good look in a Watchmen TV show teaser back in May 2019, which you can see below.
Watchmen HBO TV series release date
The Watchmen TV show is releasing on October 20. The date was somewhat leaked early by the Instagram fan account hbo.watchmen, which spotted an interview with Lindelof in the magazine TV Guide’s Fall Preview, with what looks like an October 20 release date printed in the pages. Originally there had simply been a “Fall 2019 release window.
How many episodes will the Watchmen TV series have?
Season one of the Watchmen TV series will have nine episodes, with each episode dropping on a weekly basis. Given the series starts on October 20, the series is likely to finish before 2019 is out.
In an interview with Deadline, show creator Damon Lindelof stressed that the story was created to tell a one-season story and that no renewals or follow ups were currently planned:
“We designed these nine episodes to be as self-contained as the original 12 issues. We wanted to feel like there was a sense of completeness, to resolve the essential mystery at hand.”
Lindelof distanced Watchmen from the the notorious cliffhanger endings to the six-season run of Lost, while adding that there was “potential promise for the further exploration of the world.”
Where can I watch the Watchmen TV show?
The Watchmen TV series will be landing exclusively on HBO in the US, with UK viewers being able to watch on Channel 4 / the All 4 on-demand TV streaming service. In Australia, viewers will be able to access the show through Foxtel.
Watchmen TV show cast and characters
Who will play the Watchmen? There’s some big talent lined up to appear in the show, including Academy Award winner Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), and British actor Jeremy Irons (lots of things, but also the original voice of Scar in the 1994 The Lion King).
Other cast members include Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Frances Fisher (Titanic, Fargo), Hong Chau (Downsizing), and Yahya Abdul-Mateen (from the Black Mirror episode Striking Vipers).
Given the jump in time from the graphic novel’s setting, it looks like we’ll be getting a lot of original characters. Only three canonical figures have been confirmed for the series, including the Silk Spectre, the blue Doctor Manhattan (who appears briefly in the trailer), and ‘smartest man in the world’ Adrian Veidt (also known as Ozymandias) who we know is being played by Jeremy Irons, despite attempts to keep it somewhat under wraps.
Watchmen favorites seen in the film, like Night-Owl, Rorshach, and The Comedian aren’t expected to appear, at least not without some liberal changes to the Watchmen timeline.
How is the Watchman HBO series different to the comics?
Show creator Damon Lindelof cleared up some confusion in an Instagram post, where he clarified that the source material would be “remixed” rather than retread. It’s an original story, then, and – unlike the 2009 film adaptation – one that will take place over 30 years after the events of the graphic novel, meaning there will likely be a lot of artistic license to spin something new.
Touching on Alan Moor’e explicit disapproval of Watchmen being repeatedly adapted (which is only possible given DC and Warner Bros. retaining the rights to the characters), Lindelof also apologizes to fans while laying out his personal connection to the story and why he felt “compelled” to take on the TV series anyway. It’s very much worth a read.
In the hbo.watchmen post that found the October 20 release date, there are a number of comments from the interview that caught our attention – including Ozymandias having some surprises in store, and some “weird” things for old fans or those coming to Watchmen for the first time. Even that “giant alien squid” – one of the weirder moments from the graphic novel – gets a shout out.
These claims should be taken with a pinch of salt for now – given we don’t have screengrabs of the actual magazine – but the Watchmen TV show is shaping up to be a curious addition to HBO’s programming.
So, can we expect more than the nine episodes currently coming to your screens? In the eternal words of Doctor Manhattan: “Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.”