Over the last few years the deterioration of television programming has become more of a trend and less of a rare exception. These days we are more likely to be exposed to reality television investigating the hair, cake making ability, make up, home furnishings etc. of so called celebrities whose fame is ill deserved and staggering in it’s scale. Or then there’s the soaps, or the “talent” shows, or the Twilight inspired nonsense that makes fools of the teenagers it seeks to entertain (Chloe King and Teen Wolf, if you’re wondering). Television seems in general to be becoming dumbed down. It’s as if the more complex and difficult ideas are seen as simply too extreme for public consumption.
Science fiction and fantasy programming has suffered greatly at the hands of this trend. The Syfy channel seems to be instrumental in this development. Legend of the Seeker, Caprica, and Stargate Universe have all been cancelled by Syfy and to date no other homes have been found for them. These shows, like many others of their genre, deal with politics, all kinds of sexual ideas, domestic abuse, familial disintegration, war, human desperation, and so on… the list is not short. But all the the while these shows display a quality of story telling and production that is rewarding to watch.
So it comes to other channels to support this style of programming altogether. Last night saw the finale of Game Of Thrones (get to it in a little while) on HBO and the debut of Falling Skies on TNT. Terra Nova will air on Fox, True Blood stays on HBO, Outcasts is on BBC. The low quality or just good fun (Warehouse 13, I love it) programming goes to Syfy, while the heavy hitters have found a home elsewhere.
In terms of very high quality television it’s hard to get past shows like The Wire, Band Of Brothers, The West Wing (first four seasons), but it does happen. The early trailers and rumours for Game Of Thrones were encouraging. The main point being that a strong cast was identified. And what a cast we got. Absolutely amazing performances from just about everybody. Personally I think the stand out star was Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister. But followed closely by Sean Bean as Eddard Stark, Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister (the man has presence) and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister (even though I hate her, Death To The Queen!). And a special mention goes to Jason Momoa, who I now can’t wait to see in Conan The Barbarian.
This show was all about the drama. The discourse between families and friends. The politics of all people, and the thirst for power of just a few. While there was a war, it wasn’t a focal point of the story, more of a plot device for the tale to progress. In this way it was very faithful to the book, and it was this I think that would lose the show a lot of viewers. I spoke with a friend about this very thing and his point to me was that he felt it was too slow. There wasn’t enough madness going on of the physical nature. He compared it to Spartacus: Blood and Sand and Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. In those two shows the political and personal battles story lines are woven between bouts of extreme violence and near pornographic sex. The kind of stuff that keeps your average viewer interested. The kind of stuff which Game of Thrones was severely lacking. I don’t see the problem with the lack of fighting, I liked the fact that it was the characters that kept me wanting to come back for more. In any television show shouldn’t that be the goal anyway?
The visual effects were few and far between here, and that was an excellent choice. What I consider to be the major special effect of the entire season was at the end of the last episode, and it was well done, and looked much as I had hoped. As it seems with the entire production, a common sense approach was taken. Where there was no need for the elaborate then it was not included. The sets and scenery all looked like they fit in and belonged to the production. The costumes were spot on, be it gowns, tunics, armour or rags, all suited the characters and the story.
In truth I find it very difficult to find serious fault with Game Of Thrones. My one personal gripe would be that there wasn’t enough of the Direwolves. That’s a pretty minor gripe, but as a fanboy I must make it known.
All this means that I’ll be looking forward to the second season recently confirmed to be made. There’s a lot more people screwing other people over in the second book and if the second season remains as faithful as the first season then people who like character driven dramas are in for superb treat.