It was only a matter of time before someone actually made Foundation. We've come close a couple of times, with movie versions being threatened. I've always been worried about this, as Isaac Asimov's novels - especially the core trilogy - do not lend themselves to movies. They take place over the course of thousands of years, telling the slow story of humanity's future after the Galactic Empire falls into barbarism. It's possibly Asimov's masterwork, and it's one of my all-time favorite stories. And it would only work as a TV show.
That might be happening, as Jonathan Nolan - who wrote Interstellar, in theaters now - is developing a series based on it for HBO. The climate seems absolutely right, as we live in a time where smarter scifi travels to wider audiences and where season-long anthology shows have found acceptance. The nature of Foundation means that whoever stars in the first season would be gone by the second (except for whoever plays Hari Seldon, the man who founds the Foundation, and who keeps popping up in recorded messages). As a TV show Foundation could be a close-ended epic on par with Game of Thrones but with the sweep of centuries.
Asimov's books - Foundation, Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation - are set in the distant future where the Galactic Empire spans the entire Milky Way galaxy. Scientist Hari Seldon has perfected psychohistory, a study of societal indicators that can, on a large scale, predict the future of civilizations. He has come to believe that the Empire is about to fall and that the galaxy will be consumed by thirty thousand years of Dark Ages. But if he takes the right moves - setting up a secret base to protect the best of civilization - he can reduce those Dark Ages to one thousand years. And so is born the Foundation. Seldon's predictions can foretell the broad outlines of future history, but his math cannot take into account the chaos of specific humans, especially The Mule, a mutant whose actions confound psychohistory.
They're so fucking good. They're a bunch of short stories put together as novels, so even within each book there are decades and centuries being jumped. The books have galactic war and exciting madness, but they're also very interested in politics and the art of war and peace. They're thrilling science fiction examinations of the larger issues and problems of civilization.
In the documentary Showrunners Nolan talks about how his work on Person of Interest is all about creating episodes that work as week-by-week procedurals but also function as parts of an overarching story. That's the exact right approach to Foundation, where the stories of each character must be their own, but also fit into the larger, thousand year span of the entire saga.
And while the Foundation Trilogy is the core of it all, Asimov wrote more books in that universe, including prequels (Prelude to Foundation). While the Triliogy is the obvious source of inspiration for this show, Nolan could be drawing from a rich well of science fiction greatness.