10 Best Fantasy TV Shows: Warriors, Wizards, Monks, and Swords
With the recent airing of HBO's new high-fantasy miniseries Game of Thrones, we became inspired to let our geek flags fly and reminisce about days when men were warriors, and women were noble ladies; when swords battled sorcery, and titans clashed -- the good ol' days of fantasy. We delved deep into the caves of our memories and come out bearing a trove of classic TV fantasy. You know, the ones that remind you why you have that replica-quality sword in the garage next to your old Monster Manual. We hear you, wizards and warriors. We hear you.
10. The Tudors
Showtime never claimed that its 2007 production was based on historic fact, and maybe that's why this show is so terr-awesome. It's supposedly about the reign of King Henry VIII of England, and it sort of is, even if it's not strict, shall we say, in terms of factual accuracy. But who cares if the plotlines are all about lust and ego? It's Dynasty with swords, which is more than enough for us. And the formula works -- it built a considerable audience over its four seasons, and it was nominated for several awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Drama in 2007. And after all, he's "Henery the Eighth," he is! (Are you singing the song? We are, we are.)
This notoriously expensive HBO series (which is purportedly why it was canceled after only two -- sorry, II -- seasons) focused not only on the lives of the privileged, but also the soldiers and lower classes that supported and enabled the luxuries of the realm in the first century BC. Though it didn't last long on the air (this Rome fell in 2006), it was one of the most beautifully filmed and sexiest series on pay cable. If you check this out on DVD, remember to enjoy the Roman Empire in traditional fashion: with a eunuch fanning you and feeding you grapes. (Craigslist is a great place to find a eunuch.)
Forget Richard Gere's First Knight. (Richard Gere would probably appreciate it.) This is a new foray into Arthurian legend, and it premiered on Starz on April 1. And it makes sense that this is one knightly story to which we keep returning -- the love triangle between Arthur, Guenevere, and Lancelot is one of the best in literature. Add sword-fighting, sex, and chivalry, and suddenly, for one brief, shining moment, the draw of Camelot makes total sense. And here's a bonus: It's scripted by Chris Chibnall, a writer who also worked on Torchwood and Doctor Who. Serious geek-cred.
7. Pillars of the Earth
Nominated for three Golden Globes, this 2010 miniseries was based on the Ken Follett novel of the same name. It follows 12th-century characters through the romance, violence, tragedy, and triumph surrounding the construction of a cathedral. We know, we know, a movie about architecture -- sounds thrilling, right? But it is, due in no small part to the acting of Deadwood's Ian McShane. And did we mention that none other than Donald Sutherland makes an appearance? It's worth tuning in just to see if he flashes his ass, Animal House style!
6. Legend of the Seeker
This TV series, produced by Sam Raimi and based on Terry Goodkind's massively popular Sword of Truth novels, premiered in 2008. It was then canceled last year after a deal with SyFy fell through, and a campaign to save the show didn't work (yet, at least). Of all the shows on this list, this one perhaps most resembles a Dungeons and Dragons game; in it, a small and diverse party bands together to defeat a great evil. Okay, don't throw your 20-sided dice at us -- we know it's not completely the same. But seriously, aside from the '80s D&D cartoon, you're not going to get much closer than this.