Saturday, May 7, 2011

Game Of Thrones: May contain sexual content, scenes of violence, and nuts.

Amid all the more obvious HBO imports currently being touted by Sky Atlantic at the moment is a fantasy cuckoo in the nest. Fantasy books and movies always live, to an extent, in the shadow of JRR Tolkien. He’s the daddy of dwarves. He’s the don of dragons. Nobody writes an elf into a story without kicking a buck back to JRR.

Game Of Thrones is not your average kiddie-friendly trip to Middle Earth though. As the continuity announcer reminds us at the outset of every episode there’s talk of effing, there’s talk of jeffing, there are boobs and supposedly there’s violence although so far I’ve been disappointed on that score.

Everyone knows if there are boobs in something then it's OK for grownups to watch it. Even if it's about an imaginary olden days time that Simon Schama never told us about.

The tricky thing about writing fantasy is that there’s a whole new set of rules to get across. Fewer people than you think have read Lord Of The Rings or the Narnia books but there’s enough of that stuff floating around for most viewers to have absorbed most of the grammar without noticing.

In Game Of Thrones there are few of the standard fantasy tropes to lean on. In the handful of episodes I’ve seen so far no animals have spoken, despite numerous hints no dragons have appeared, and there’s only been one dwarf.

Oh, but what a dwarf: Peter Dinklage plays Tyrion Lannister, a louche and manipulative nobleman who just happens to be rather less than average height. It’s a great part and Dinklage is terrific in it.

But he’s not the star.

Or at least, not as far as UK audiences are concerned. That honour goes to Sean Bean. Or at least I think it’s Sean Bean.

There was a time, not so long ago, when British women watching a TV adaptation of Lady Chatterly’s Lover or (most likely against their will) Sharpe would to muse privately to themselves how delightful it might be if Sean Bean were to shimmer up behind them and whisper into their ear “..’appen I’ll swive thee now, Milady”

Now those same women, lured into watching Game Of Thrones by the promise of Bean’s muscular charm, must now be speculating that the Sheffield-born actor must have been murdered by Peter Kay, who is now wearing his victim’s skin as a suit.

Bean - or Kay wearing Bean – plays Eddard Stark, the closest friend and confidant of the ruler of the whole affair, A chap called King Baratheon. Say what you will there’s no escaping the fact that this noble king looks a lot like the slightly dim fat bloke in the Tesco ads.

King Tesco faces various challenges for ownership of the most uncomfortable-looking throne in history – not least from a sinister albino sort of chap called Viserys Targaryen.

If you have trouble following all the various relationships and alliances there's a cracking infographic that explains everything here

I think that when Sean Bean keeps saying ‘Winter is coming’ he means Edgar Winter, which would be a perfectly understandable mistake to make.

Viscous Tarmacadam or whatever his name is wants so badly to usurp King Tesco’s uncomfortable throne that he has forced his sister into marrying the leader of a tribe of near-savages who all look a bit like members of Faith No More. Except the women, who more closely resemble the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

There’s masses of sex, mainly between the king of Faith No More and Viscous Tarmacadam’s sister, and an awful lot of talking about things that might happen in future episodes but nothing much has actually happened yet.

I’m staying with it – after all the notionally historical but effectively fantastical Spartacus show is on hiatus and so there’s a massive gap in the market for boob & swordplay based entertainment.

I do wish it would get going though.

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