Thursday 20 June 2019

From What/If to Stranger Things - the best TV shows to fill the Game of Thrones void

 

The Game Of Thrones finale drew a mixed reaction from fans (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
The Game Of Thrones finale drew a mixed reaction from fans (HBO/Sky Atlantic)

Ed Power

It's been a wild - and lately divisive - ride. But winter finally came for us all on Game of Thrones this week as the series wrapped up after nine years. Rather like Drogon the dragon, it has now vanished into the sunset leaving us with nothing but memories and - if you were one of the many who found the final season a huge letdown - a vague burning sensation.

Still, no need to be a big mopey Jon Snow about it. If our wild days in Westeros are at an end, there's lots of other great television in which to lose ourselves. There will, of course, be at least one Game of Thrones spin-off, the Naomi Watts-starring Bloodmoon, already filming in Belfast and expected to air in 2020.

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Plus, a king's ransom of major swords and sorcery properties are being adapted for the screen. Netflix is bringing us The Witcher, Amazon The Wheel of Time and a Lord of the Rings prequel. And George RR Martin has just dropped an internet update confirming that, yes, he is still writing his much awaited sixth A Song of Ice and Fire novel, The Winds of Winter, and that it will see daylight eventually (we believe you George).

However, that's all in the future. More immediately, here is a countdown of forthcoming TV treats sure to help with your Westeros withdrawal pangs. And best of all, Thrones showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss are off to make their Star Wars trilogy, so won't be around to ruin any more of our favourite fantasy sagas. Huzzah.

What/If, Netflix, Friday

Renée Zellweger stars in this heightened drama that asks if one bad decision can change your life. The question pertains to a pair of naive San Fransisco newlyweds entering a faustian bargain with Zellweger's bullying billionaire and coming to regret it.

Good Omens, Amazon Prime, May 31

A cherished fantasy novel reaches the screen after years of build-up. No wonder many Game of Thrones fans are in a tizzy ahead of the Amazon-BBC adaptation of the Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman cult read. David Tennant and Michael Sheen play a demon and angel whose cosy existence on earth is threatened by the arrival of the Anti-Christ.

So they join forces to try to prevent Armageddon with results by turns wry and twee (the late Terry Pratchett gave good whimsy when the mood struck).

Love Island, ITV 2, June 3

A time and place beyond human understanding, populated with people who speak a bizarre language and where hard-to-credit shocks lie around every corner. Forget the Red Wedding. If you really want to step into a fantastical alternative universe, nothing compares to the Love Island villa in Majorca.

Big Little Lies, season two, HBO/Sky Atlantic, June 9

The ultimate Game of Thrones palate cleanser. Both shows are produced by HBO - but that's where the parallels end. Set amid the chattering one per cents of gorgeous Monterey, California, Big Little Lies is about twitching curtains, mysteries hidden behind closed doors and family secrets that bubble up between the cracks. Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman return, while little-known actress Meryl Streep will hope the series serves as a springboard to bigger opportunities.

Stranger Things 3, Netflix, July 4

It's back to Hawkins Indiana for further spooky goings-on in the tradition of Stephen King and ET-era Spielberg. The kids who battled the Demogorgon in season one are growing up now which means that, in addition to wrestling with inter-dimensional nasties, they will have to run the gauntlet of adolescence in Reagan-era America. Winona Ryder returns as the slightly panicked mother.

Watchmen, HBO/Sky Atlantic, autumn 2019

The joke in American media circles is that HBO's subscriber base will collapse like Dothraki screamers crashing into a wall of ice zombies now Thrones has run its course.

But the network is betting big on an adaptation of Alan Moore's influential comic book series, produced by Damon Lindelof.

A revisionist look as superheroes - what if they had super-sized flaws to match? - the original graphic novel played out like an anti-Avengers. The new adaptation stars Jeremy Irons as the Superman-esque Ozymandias, though many of the other key casting decisions have yet to be announced. Expected this autumn.

His Dark Materials, BBC late 2019

The 2008 Nicole Kidman take on Philip Pullman's young adult fantasy series was a glittering flop. Now the BBC and HBO hope to repair the damage with an eight-part adaptation (the series has already been renewed for a second season).

The setting is a steam-punk alternative Britain, under the dominion of Spanish Inquisition-style religious extremists and where everyone has their own personal animal familiar or "daemon". The cast is top-rank, with James McEvoy as noble Lord Asriel and Ruth Wilson as nasty Mrs Coulter.

Star Wars: The Mandalorian, Disney +, November 2019

Disney is taking on Netflix in the streaming wars and will fire its first salvo with Jon Favreau's already filmed Star Wars series. The Mandalorian begins five years after the end of the Return of the Jedi and stars Pedro Pascal (aka Oberyn Martell from Game of Thrones), Nick Nolte and Breaking Bad's Giancarlo Esposito. The story will follow "a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic".

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