Medieval-fantasy has a flag-bearer in television with Game Of Thrones, an excellent first season of what is likely to be a recurring series (other seasons are yet to air and are currently under development). Based on the first book of George R R Martin's Song of Fire & Ice series (4 of the planeed 7 books have been published so far), this is epic story-telling of the highest quality. Much of the credit goes to the author for the rich prose the series is derived from, but equal credit must be given to the show's creators in adapting the book. The performances (down to and especially of the child actors), production value (costumes, locations, sets, effects) and the technical aspects (directing, editing, score) are top-notch.
Game of Thrones is targeted at adults where Lord Of The Rings was for a wider audience. The political game between the many Houses of Power, the interplay between the characters, threats and dilemmas that each of the characters face and the highly engaging main plot (struggle for the throne) make it perfect ingredients for a TV series; a movie would not do this vast source the justice it deserves. Anyone who has not watched this yet ought to add it to their 'must-watch' list, and put it on high priority. For a series such as this, it is best to stay abreast of the plot while each season completes (Season One had a total of 10 hour-long episodes), instead of waiting for the remainder of the seasons in the series and then watch them in one go. It will keep you from becoming aware of crucial plot-lines and the presence 9or absence) of cast during subsequent seasons that can act as spoilers. Think of it as akin to watching Fellowship of the Ring as it released, without being aware of the presence of Gandalf the White in The Two Towers. Watch this season and let it sink in and incubate while the adaptation of the second book gets underway.
A bit more about the outstanding performances. While all are praiseworthy and none below par, two actors deserve high praise. The obvious one is Sean Bean, anchor and thespian when it comes to period/fantasy settings. His Ned Stark, head of the Stark house, is the primary protagonist. The struggle for the throne revolves around his single-minded dedication to honor and servitude to the realm. In playing the part, Sean Bean brings a familiar face from the genre and also sets the tone for the show. The one other actor that really stands above the rest is the littlest of them: Peter Dinklage, the real-life dwarf who plays the stunted brother of the Lannister siblings. He owns all his scenes with his formidable presence, a deep voice and the best lines. Being short of stature and reach, and therefore not the best at being a soldier, his Tyrion Lannister invests his mind in knowledge and strategy, making him the most insightful of characters. Here's hoping for a deserved Emmy for his portrayal.
Game of Thrones is helmed by four directors over the ten episodes of this first season. While the first three directors spanning episodes 1 to 8 are uniformly excellent, Alan Taylor who helms the last 2 episodes does not do justice to the standards set by his three predecessors. The great writing, performances and production do make for a good last two episodes and a jaw-dropping finale, but the direction in episodes 9 & 10 simply pales in comparison.
All-in-all, a show not to be missed for those who enjoy great TV or cinema. Do note: the gratuitous nudity, gore and subject matter requires a strong-stomach and an open-mind.
My Rating --> 4.5 of 5