I’M a bit over journalists continuing to prattle on about the strength of television drama, the drama series as the new novel, a golden age of TV — another? — and the rest. Yes, we get it. TV drama is rather strong at the moment. Sure, Homeland is good. As is Sherlock. But they’re merely part of a continuum. TV should evolve.
US cable network HBO has been instrumental in that evolution. Its list of seminal dramas is intimidating, a list led by The Sopranos. This week’s releases from the network only add to its reputation, with two telemovies — You Don’t Know Jack and Temple Grandin — and two series, Mildred Pierce (MA15+, HBO, 342min, $34.95) and Game of Thrones (R, HBO, 540min, $59.95).
Mildred Pierce is a lush, if languorous, adaptation of the Depression-era novel by James M. Cain that provided Joan Crawford with her quintessential performance — and only Academy Award — in the 1945 film.
Kate Winslet has picked up her own swag of awards for her portrayal of a mother who becomes a baking impresario. And director Todd Haynes delivers his most conventional work after ripper films including Safe and Far from Heaven.
HBO’S big-ticket item is the Game of Thrones series. Was it unreasonable to expect we might have had our fill of fantasy epics after the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter films wrapped? Apparently so.
Game of Thrones is an adaptation of George R. Martin’s book series, A Song of Fire and Ice, which weaves fantasy with medieval scheming so that you feel as though you’ve stumbled into a blend of Shakespeare and Tolkien without the jolly pub scenes. It’s all about kingdoms being protected, houses seeking dominion and families scheming. It would all be quite ridiculous if the production weren’t so rich and extensive (no Spartacus: Blood and Sand staginess here), the dialogue weren’t so strong and performances so credible. Peter Dinklage is particularly good. You can see why geeks salivate over this: it has swords, mini-dragons and occasional nudity. That sells it short. As one who tends to shun fantasy, I concede Game of Thrones is grand, involving TV.