15 TV shows to fill the Game of Thrones gap
Staff Reporter | On 04, Jul 2016Reading time: 10 mins
There is no worse feeling in life than knowing there will not be a new episode of Game of Thrones this week. The season has finished. It’s gone. It’s over. There are 40 odd weeks until the next one.
You could take up jogging. Or knitting. You could learn another language. Or start organising all that rubbish you have shoved under your bed. Or you could watch more TV.
No prizes for guessing which one we choose.
With so much stuff around, though, it can be hard to work out where to go next, to whom to transfer your emotional allegiance with no Tyrion Lannister on hand. So we present our pick of the current VOD line-up to help curb your Game of Thrones withdrawal.
Here are 15 TV shows to fill the Game of Thrones gap.
Penny Dreadful (Sky / NOW TV, subscription – £6.99 a month)
When was the last time a TV show surprised you? Penny Dreadful, starring Eva Green, Timothy Dalton and Timothy Dalton’s moustache, mashes up classic horror literature, such as Frankenstein and Dorian Grey to produce a piece of pulp art that sounds trashy but rings with class. How close will it stick to the stories we all know? John Logan’s script weaves it all together with a taste for mortality – and adds a whole heap of freaky witchcraft in Season 2 (and Brian Cox in Season 3) to scare even the manliest of facial hair off. It hasn’t been renewed for a fourth season, but the three form a neat story arc – and with the third only available until 21st July, there’s more than enough motivation to get binge-viewing.
Daredevil (Netflix UK, subscription – £7.49 a month)
Think you’ve seen a super hero TV series? Think again. Marvel’s violent take on the familiar tale of blind lawyer Matt Murdock, who fights injustice in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, in the court and – by night – on the streets as the eponymous vigilante. Charlie Cox is charming as the timid lawyer, while Vincent D’Onofrio as his polar opposite, brutal businessman Wilson Fisk is terrifying.
Outlander (Amazon Prime Video, subscription – £5.99 a month)
Tired of men ruling the fantasy world? Outlander, based on Diana Gabaldon’s novel, is a refreshingly female-led drama, which sees WWII nurse Claire (Caitriona Balfe) accidentally transported back in time to 17th century Scotland, where she meets – and falls in love with – the strapping soldier Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). Season 2’s about to finish on 10th July, so this is the perfect time to catch up Season 1 too.
Vikings (Amazon Prime Video, subscription – £5.99 a month)
Amazon’s first exclusive show for its subscription service, Vikings has always been considered an attempt to rival Game of Thrones. It’s smaller in scale, but over four seasons, that’s actually given it lots of space for character development, as Ragnar Lothbrook and his family grow from farmer and co. to warrior legends. Out of the shadow of George RR Martin, give Michael Hirst’s historical epic a chance and it will impress on its own violent terms. Especially when they get to Paris.
Orange Is the New Black (Netflix, subscription – £7.49 a month)
White woman goes to prison, is surrounded by people from different backgrounds. Sounds cliched? Jenji Kohan’s show is anything but. Fleshing out every single inmate behind bars, it’s an equal opportunities drama; a humanist ensemble that treats people as people, not as their labels. Funny, dark and rude to boot, it’s a binge-viewing sentence you won’t want to end. Fortunately, there’s a whole fourth season to enjoy, as of last month.
Community (Netflix UK, subscription – £7.49 a month)
Now available on both Netflix UK, Dan Harmon’s comedy about a study group in college may not sound like much from that description, but since its debut in 2009 has grown and evolved into one of the best sitcoms of modern TV. Rich characters, surreal humour and an endless barrage of pop culture references make this not just the show that the cool kids talk about – but the show that the cool kids are in. It may be cancelled now, but if you’ve never tried Community, it’s worth watching just for the paintball episode in Season 1 (directed by Fast & Furious’ Justin Lin).
Archer (Netflix, subscription – £7.49 a month)
LANAA! How do you even begin to describe Archer? It’s like the love child of The Office and Leslie Nielsen’s Bond parody Spy Hard, if it were adopted by sick, twisted person and fed alcohol for months. Following the mostly incompetent attempts of the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS) to do thing with guns, everything about it is funny, from the cast – H Jon Benjamin and a smattering of Arrested Development veterans) – to the unique animated style. Quirky, irreverent and just plain wrong.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix, subscription – £7.49 a month)
Sometimes, you just need something funny to cheer you up after George RR Martin has killed all your favourite characters. This sitcom from Tina Fey is that pick-me-up. It stars Ellie Kemper as the titular Kimmy, who escapes from a (literally) underground cult to discover the world hasn’t ended after all. The ensuing confusion as she tries to get her life back on track is fast-paced, brightly-coloured and very, very silly.
Once Upon a Time (Netflix, subscription – £7.49 a month)
This fantasy series sees Mary (Ginnifer Goodwin) drawn to the small Maine town of Storybrooke, where elements of the fairy tale universe seep into the modern, real world. That, it turns out, is because the Evil Queen Regina (Lana Parrilla) has sent everyone from the Enchanted Forest to the Land Without Magic after wiping their memories with a curse from – yes – Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle). After being dropped by UK broadcasters, Netflix has now picked up the show. All seasons of it. Start catching up now.
Halt and Catch Fire (Amazon Prime Video, subscription – £5.99 a month)
AMC’s period drama about a computer company attempting to reverse engineer an IBM PC to create their own rival machine is a visually sumptuous, well-acted drama that grips thanks to its efficient cast – Scoot McNairy and Lee Pace – and precisely calculated characters.
Mr. Robot (Amazon Prime Video, subscription – £5.99 a month)
USA Network’s cyber thriller – available exclusively on Amazon Prime Video – is that rare thing: a TV show that understands how computers work as well as it presses its audience’s buttons. The result is as tightly structured as it is thrillingly modern. Season 2 starts on 14th July, with episodes arriving weekly.
Transparent (Amazon Prime Video, subscription – £5.99 a month)
When Amazon released Transparent, a show about a father who comes out as a mother to his children, we declared it the best TV series of 2014, a ground-breaking piece of television, both on-screen and off. Now, with two Golden Globes under its belt, Transparent has gotten even better.
Jill Soloway’s first run, which saw Jeffrey Tambor’s Maura navigate the initial steps of being a woman, was a provocative, uplifting story about someone accepting who they were. That acceptance had a knock-on effect for the other members of the Pfefferman family, each one starting their own journey of self-discovery. If Season 1’s strength was in the power of the self, though, Season 2 expanded Transparent’s scope to explore how people are defined in relation to others. This is an endlessly nuanced drama that understands family and history are the same thing. The emotional baggage just keeps getting passed down.
The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime Video, subscription – £5.99 a month)
If Transparent put Amazon’s original shows on the map, The Man in the High Castle carves out a whole country for the streaming site, which more than rivals HBO and Netflix for ambitious, addictive story-telling. The show, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, shows us what it would be like if the Axis Powers won World War II, with Japan ruling the Pacific half of the US and the Reich ruling the Atlantic. Produced by Ridley Scott and created by The X-Files’ Frank Spotnitz, the world-building is astonishingly effective, providing spades of exposition without characters saying a word. The cast, meanwhile, are engagingly enigmatic, as resistance fighters attempt to smuggle banned newsreels across the border – and Rufus Sewell’s SS officer, John Smith, hunts them down. Able to make us feel sympathy with either side, this is a provocative and daring study of indoctrination, propaganda and national identity. What would the world be like if the Nazis won World War II? The show’s brilliance isn’t that it asks the question, but that it provides such a chillingly convincing answer.
The Affair (Sky / NOW TV, subscription – £6.99 a month)
If you were shipping Briemund in the latest season of Game of Thrones, then get your romance fix with The Affair. Showtime’s drama, which stars Dominic West and Ruth Wilson, follows Alison, a young woman waiting tables at a popular Hamptons diner, who begins an affair with West’s married husband. What follows is a conflicting series of flashbacks, as we follow the story of their infidelity from alternative perspectives. The result is a mesmerising study of memory, lies, control and story-telling. What makes Season 2 just as gripping is creators Sarah Treem and Hagai Levi’s decision to add two more POVs to the mix: Helen’s and Cole’s. That extension forces us to spread our sympathy further, adding more shades of grey to the emotional palette. We can’t wait for Season 3, where we get the perspective of the local bus driver. Or Season 4, where we find out what the postman makes of it all.
Fortitude (Sky / NOW TV, subscription – £6.99 a month)
Sky’s first major drama in its recent push for original programming, Fortitude didn’t always win the highest praise from viewers and critics, but its bizarre blend of detective thriller and supernatural horror makes for a refreshing (if uneven) cocktail, as we see a gruesome murder committed in the tiny Arctic town. The icy location, with its frozen corpses and isolated community, adds to the eeriness, while The Killing’s Sofie Gråbøl, Richard Dormer and a scene-stealing Stanley Tucci led an impeccable cast.
The Living and the Dead (BBC iPlayer, free)
Colin Morgan is superb in this spooky new series, which sees a young couple – Nathan and Charlotte Appleby – inherit a farm in Somerset, only for strange things to start happening. While you might expect bumps in the night and bloody gore, though, there’s more subtlety to this haunting story than that. Director Alice Troughton keeps things lingering in the corner of your eye, rather than in your face, tapping into the pastoral nature of the surroundings; nature and the earth are supernatural forces in their own right, as much as any ghosts, while some of the nastiest moments play out in the golden sunlight rather than moonlit hallways. The fact that this is from the pen of Life on Mars’ Ashley Pharaoh, meanwhile, gives you an idea of what to expect in the long run, as an intriguing glimpse of light at the end of Episode 1 suggests things could be far more complicated than they appear. Released as a box set for binge-viewing, this is a horror show to savour. Read what the cast and crew have to say about the show.
Photo: Photor: BBC / Sophie Mutevelian
And of course, if none of those fill the Hodor-shaped hole in your life, there’s one other show that never fails to scratch that Game of Thrones itch: Game of Thrones. You know, if you can handle the sadness of it ending a second time. See Where can I watch Game of Thrones online?