| 9.7°C Dublin

Television: Let's be adult about this violent kids' fantasy show Game of Thrones


Not a show for adults: Game of Thrones.

Not a show for adults: Game of Thrones.

Not a show for adults: Game of Thrones.

The week's main event was the return of Game of Thrones (Sky Atlantic), but then you already know that. Indeed, you've probably spent the last 10 months on tenterhooks, wondering if Jon Snow is really as dead as he seemed to be at the climax of season five.

If, on the other hand, you've no idea what I'm talking about and are under the impression that Jon Snow is Channel 4's main newsreader rather than the bastard son of an imaginary lord, then feel free to join my small but very select club of Game of Thrones unbelievers.

Yes, yes, I know that the series is a global phenomenon, breeding die-hard devotees and doctoral theses at the rate of rabbits; and I also know that it's brilliantly made and has oodles of torrid sex and tumultuous violence; and I'm aware, too, that it's doing tremendous things for Northern Ireland tourism; but get a grip on yourselves because in essence it's just a kid's comic-book fantasy that's being gleefully flogged to credulous adults.

For me, it's Lord of the Rings with disembowellings, decapitations and eye-gougings, or Harry Potter with Hermione getting her kit off, but what it isn't is an adult drama in which adults should be truly engrossed - you know, like Happy Valley or Better Call Saul or Borgen or Fargo or Wolf Hall or House of Cards.

Or even, perhaps, this week's other fantasy drama, Wrecking the Rising (TG4), which wasn't a masterpiece but which teasingly invited us to consider what might have happened if three unwitting time-travellers found themselves back in 1916 and accidentally killed Padraig Pearse on his way to the GPO for the insurrection.

This what-if scenario was engagingly followed through as the three gormless guys sought to persuade the other rebels that Ernest, who was the spit of Pearse, was actually the man himself, and sought, too, a better ending for the rebellion and a better future for Ireland.

Some of this ambitious three-night drama, scripted by James Phelan and directed by Ruan Magan, was quite clunky and not all of the attempts at comedy worked, though there was a good deal of fun to be had along the way - when the pretend Pearse sent his pupils home and ended up having sex in a backroom of the GPO with feisty firebrand Molly, Tom Clarke remarked: "Looks like we had Pearse pegged all wrong - sending boys home and now this".

And there were other amusingly knowing moments, with gags about cellphones and selfies and lots of droll remarks based on hindsight. "I don't compromise," Michael Collins barked at one of the time-travellers, to be met with the response "some day you will".

Peter Coonan, Owen McDonnell and Sean T O Meallaigh were good company as the clueless trio, with fine playing also from Jeanne O'Connor as the fictitious Molly and Enda Oates as James Connolly, and while the drama didn't warrant its three-hour running length, it was a lot more intriguing than RTÉ1's soapy and silly Rebellion earlier this year.

The same channel's Eoin MacNeill: Fear Dearmadta 1916 was an impressively nuanced profile of the friend of Pearse who tried to stop the Rising and to whom Irish history has not been kind, and it featured interesting contributions from such historians as Gearoid O Tuathaig and Diarmaid Ferriter and from MacNeill's grandson, Michael McDowell. But perhaps the Irish channels could now call a halt to their centenary commemorations.

Meanwhile, it was the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, with Arena: All the World's a Screen (BBC4) focusing absorbingly on the movies (over 400 in the silent era alone) that have been based on, or influenced by, the bard's work.

Due attention was paid to Laurence Olivier's landmark wartime film of Henry V and to his 1948 version of Hamlet, but I was pleased that tribute was also paid to the remarkable 1964 Russian version of the latter.

Video of the Day

Then, of course, there were Orson Welles's financially troubled but brilliant accounts of Macbeth (1948) and Othello (1952), the latter featuring Welles's mentor Micheal MacLiammoir as Iago, and his marvellous portrait of Falstaff in Chimes at Midnight (1966), distilled from five of the historical plays and featuring an extraordinary battle scene.

In Louis Theroux: Drinking to Oblivion (BBC2), the presenter met up with four lost souls on their journey through alcoholic hell. This was a less snide and more sympathetic Theroux than I recall from his encounters with Paul Daniels and Christine and Neil Hamilton - and, indeed, with the vile Jimmy Saville, whom he repeatedly questioned about rumours of sexual abuse, not that the BBC bothered to follow up on these allegations.

The most affecting interviewee here was 45-year-old French-born Aurelie, who expressed surprise that she was still alive and maintained, without any self-pity, that "you get what you deserve". But this nice woman, who had been abandoned by her parents and dispatched to a children's home for the first years of her life, didn't deserve the alcoholically abusive boyfriend who demeaned her to camera.

It was heartbreaking and you feared for her.

Most Watched