Sunday, 2 June 2013

Game of Thrones Withdrawal, or Andy Tells You What to Watch Now

It's that tragic time of year again folks: Game of Thrones is coming to an end. And while the finale is still just over a week off (meaning we've got two more lovely episodes to enjoy) my experiences in the last two years of vicious withdrawal lead me to write what I hope will act as a TV-based methadone clinic.


The Vikings

Many of you will have been burnt by historical dramas in the past. For every Rome, there has been a Braveheart (although some people would swap these around). This is the first one produced by the History Channel and it's pretty good. We follow the adventures of Ragnar LoĆ°brok, a semi-legendary figure who definitely existed but may not have done all the awesome stuff attributed to him, but he does on the show. If you want to see rowing longboats, raids on monasteries, blood feuds and men desperately wanting to make it to Valhalla through fighting to the death, you'll probably like this program.

  • Travis Fimmel is really good as Ragnar, alternatively brooding, adventurous, paternal and violent.
  • Gustaf Skarsgard, George Blagden, Katheryn Winnick and Gabriel Byrne are all pretty good as well.
  • No sex at all, really, which makes a nice change.
  • The theme tune by Fever Ray is amazing.
  • They're VIKINGS. 
  • The story is a LOT less complicated than GoT, but this means the characters aren't as well developed.
  • In a similar vein, the characters (with the exception of Ragnar) are more reacting to historical events than driving the plot forward.
  • There are a couple of weak links in the cast. I'm looking at you, Jessalyn Gilsig.
  • If you're not into Vikings, there's not a lot here to change your mind or keep you entertained. 
  • The first episode is kind of weak, but it takes off very quickly after that.
 Status: The series finished at the end of April, and got renewed for another ten episodes showing next year.


The Hollow Crown

Showing on the BBC last year, these adaptations of Shakespeare's Henriad (Richard II, 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV and Henry V) were part of the celebration of British culture leading into the Olympic Games. Produced by Sam Mendes, they are high class, reasonably high budget adaptations of the plays and about a million miles from those staid, slightly dodgy BBC adaptations from the seventies you may have been shown clips of at school.

  • The cast over the four plays is ridiculous: Sir Patrick Stewart, Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston, Richard Griffiths, John Hurt, David Morrisey...
  • Game of Thrones, Schmane of Thrones, THESE are the original dynastic struggles, based on real people and real events. 
  • The language is beautiful.
  • ...Simon Russell Beale, Julia Walters, Alun Armstrong, David Suchet...
  • The plays are easier to follow than on stage as the action moves around to actual locations.
  • It's unapologetically Shakespeare. If you find his language difficult to follow these don't soften it much.
  • They are all pretty long. Richard II clocks in at about 3 hours and the shortest, Henry V is still over 2.
  • Henry IV part II is seen as one of Shakespeare's weaker plays for good reason.
  • Ben Whishaw is a bit...fey as Richard II. He also speaks exclusively in verse.
  • For Shakespeare purists, they do do a bit of trimming, but that's mainly to control the length.  
Status: Shown last July and available on DVD. I really want them to make the other historical tetralogy (1 Henry VI, 2 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI and Richard III) but doesn't seem likely as nobody watched this one.



A bit different from the other two on this list, it makes it through the quality of the acting. Mads Mikkelsen stars as the legendary cannibal, consulted by damaged special agent Will Graham at a point in time before he realized that maybe he shouldn't be eating the hor d'oeuvres on offer. In a TV landscape dominated by 'police' procedurals this one stands out through being beautifully shot, well acted and gruesome as hell.


  • By the end of the first episode, Anthony Hopkins has moved to the back of your mind, as Mads Mikkelsen effortlessly inhabits the role, displaying just the right mix of cultured refinement and suppressed sadism.
  • It's lovely to look at, and has lots of nods to fans of the books or films.
  • Hugh Dancy as Will Graham acts out his loosening grip on reality perfectly, and the scenes with Hannibal are a joy to watch.
  • Excellent selection of guest stars, from Lance Henriksen to Eddie Izzard to Gillian Anderson. 
  • Despite anyone who's seen Silence of the Lambs or Red Dragon knowing how it eventually pans out, still one of the most unpredictable shows on TV
  • I cannot emphasize this enough: It is really, really gruesome. One of the most gruesome things I've ever watched. Strong stomachs required.
  • Jumps around a bit between 'killer of the week' and the overarching plot, so can be a bit disorientating.
  • Any time Will and/or Hannibal aren't on screen, it becomes a lot less interesting.
  • Freddie Lounds (Philip Seymour Hoffman in Red Dragon) is now a red-headed woman for some reason, and is distractingly irritating.
  • On a similar note, almost none of the female characters are well-developed.  
Status: Finishes on June 20th and has just been renewed by NBC.


So there you go. I'm not claiming any of these are as good as GoT BUT they should help with the come-down. Choose the one you like most and enjoy!

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