I loved Harsh Realm just as I loved every project we did at Ten Thirteen. It was a rich world with emotionally engaging characters, and an intriguing high concept that let us tell thought-provoking stories.
But Harsh Realm was Ten Thirteen’s least successful effort – canceled after only three episodes – and it seemed to struggle from the start.
The concept - about a military simulation, a virtual world ruled by a dictator set on ultimately destroying our own – was difficult for studio and network executives to grasp. Nor did it become any clearer to them after they screened the pilot. There were repeated calls and meetings asking us to explain what was actually going on - perhaps in the main titles?
Then, months before we aired, a story about another virtual world – The Matrix – was released in movie theaters, and seemed to eclipse ours. Years later, another blockbuster called Avatar was released, containing even more similarities to Harsh Realm.
I still meet people to this day who remember Harsh Realm with fondness, but it seems it was a series too far ahead of its time.