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This Game has us intrigued

IF I had any sense I probably would have listened to the critic in The New York Times, who wrote: "Thinking of jumping into the new season of Game of Thrones without having seen the first? Don't even think about it; your brain doesn't have that many neurons."

I seem to be the only television critic I know of who hasn't been entranced by the first season of Game of Thrones. If you want the truth, I barely saw more than 10 minutes of last year's 10-episode epic. Too busy watching other stuff.

Anyway, the words "sword and sorcery", which conjure up lurid paperback-cover images of scantily-clad wenches with big breasts clinging to the thigh of a six-packed warrior with even bigger breasts and a sword pointed at a brooding sky, rather put me off.

Whenever I flick idly through the fantasy shelves of a bookshop, I tend to feel a bit like Woody Allen in that scene from Bananas where he desperately tries to hide a porn magazine inside copies of Newsweek and National Geographic.

Sure, I thoroughly enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies (haven't read the books), but then JRR Tolkein was the daddy of the genre, wasn't he? But it's this kind of stuff that puts me off fantasy: "Morlack, bastard son of Olaf the Incorrigible and Shellac of the Two Backs, must venture into the dreaded Forest of Indifference to retrieve the legendary Silver Fleece of the Poxes and rescue the fair Princess Twatley in order to prevent darkness befalling the Land of the Seven Moons. But the forest is patrolled by the ferocious Barfs, half-human, half-Thwack guardians of the evil Lord Grillox."

But people kept saying, "But it's not like that! It's like The Sopranos with swords instead of guns!" Not having any sense, I DIDN'T listen to New York Times man. I DID jump in -- albeit armed with knowledge gleaned from 30 minutes on the internet.

First impression: Game of Thrones is dense. But not dense enough to make the first-time viewer feel like a dunce, so I gather they measure their neurons differently at the NYT.

It opened gorily, with one iron-clad knight spattering another iron-clad knight's brains all over a courtyard -- always a promising sign, I find -- and closed gorily, with soldiers tearing through villages slaughtering young men and babies.

The victims, I believe, are the bastard half-siblings of Joffrey, the tyrannical young ruler of the kingdom of Westeros (which sounds like a suburban shopping centre), an appalling streak of snotty blond nastiness who's the product of an incestuous relationship between someone called Jaime and his twin sister Cersei. Jaime is being held prisoner by one Robb Stark (which could be the name of a Premier League footballer), whose dad Ned Stark, played -- I know this much -- by Sean Bean, had his head lopped off at the end of Season 1.

Elsewhere, various characters from various territories are converging on the capital, King's Landing, with a view to snatching the throne, and a big battle is looming. Game of Thrones is well-written, well-acted and looks every cent of its lavish budget.

I'm not boxset-hooked yet, but I can get a sense of what people have been raving about, so I'll certainly be going back for another look.

Another week, another documentary about Travellers. This one, Unsettled: From Tinker to Traveller, had none of the tedious big-fat-bareknuckle ingredients of previous ones. George and Sharon Gmelch, married anthropologists from California, returned to Ireland to hook up with the Traveller families they spent a year living with 40 years ago.

Much of a meandering hour was spent reminiscing and contrasting old photographs with what things are like for Travellers these days. The big issues were skimmed over but never penetrated. Though nicely filmed, a lot of it was like looking at the holiday snaps of people you don't know, with all the interest that implies.



Game of Thrones 3/5 Unsettled: From Tinker to Traveller 2/5


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