This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Is that hour between nine and ten on a Sunday night burning a hole in your schedule now that the Game of Thrones finale has aired? Then step this way for more excellent TV show recommendations than Ser Beric Dondarrion could shake his flaming sword at, from vintage to modern classics.
It didn’t have dragons, but this lush HBO/BBC co-production was the real Game of Thrones precursor. It was two seasons of top-notch production design, rich people scheming and underlings battling, led by an impressive, largely British cast (that included Edmure Tully, Ellaria Sand and Mance Rayder actors Tobias Menzies, Indira Varma and Ciaran Hinds).
If Littlefinger’s journey from poverty to power via double-crosses, dangerous alliances, and manipulation caught your imagination, then the story of gangster Nucky Thompson (played by Steve Buscemi) is what you need. Boardwalk Empire, produced by Martin Scorsese, is a rich period drama studded with excellent performances, from Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, and Stephen Graham.
If the rival houses vying for power in Game of Thrones was based on the Wars of the Roses period of English history, you could treat this as a sequel (although you probably shouldn’t). Mark Rylance plays kingmaker Thomas Cromwell, with Damien Lewis as Henry VIII and a pre-The Crown Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn in this acclaimed six-part BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novel series.
Over a decade since its cancellation, David Milch has finally been able to conclude his ambitious birth-of-America drama with the HBO Deadwood movie, which makes it a better time than usual to catch up with the show. Ian McShane leads an excellent cast in a drama that’s layered and literary as well as being tough and bloody.
House Of Cards (1990)
Before he even caught a whiff of the White House, Netflix’s political schemer Frank Underwood started life as Francis Urquhart in this 1990 BBC drama. Think Tywin Lannister, but possibly even more evil in a gripping tale about the corridors of power.
See also: The Americans, Deutschland 83/Deutschland 86, State Of Play
This Starz series has a well-deserved reputation for squelchy cable TV goodness of both the violent and sexual variety. Battles, blood, gladiators, slave uprisings, and the story of a fighter who led his people in a rebellion – it ticks a lot of Westerosi boxes.
Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins dazzle in this FX crime drama about a Kentucky sheriff bringing his own brand of Wild West justice to the criminals of Harlan. Adapted from an Elmore Leonard short story, Justified pulled off an almost unknown feat in receiving acclaim almost all the way through its six seasons. There’s much more to it than the odd bit of ultra-violence.
Pulp TV at its best, Banshee made no claims to Shakespearean complexity. The story of an ex-con who arrives in a small town posing as its sheriff, Banshee knew exactly what it was and leaned hard into its schlocky side with albino giants (Game of Thrones’ own Wildling Thenn Joseph Gatt), brutal fights, and ludicrously larger-than-life stories.
Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal quickly attracted a dedicated fandom, drawn by its elegantly sinister lead’s (Mads Mikkelsen) chemistry with FBI special investigator Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). Add to that a strong supporting cast including Gillian Anderson, some truly stunning design work and the rich mythology of Thomas Harris’ world and the result is quite the three-season trip.
HBO’s first original drama, Oz paved the way for so many shows to come, including Game of Thrones. This prison-set show’s antiheroes, ambition, stomach-flipping violence and complex character arcs set the standard for The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and more.
See also: The Shield, American Horror Story
The brothel scenes being no small part of some fans’ attraction to Game of Thrones, Hulu’s Harlots, set in the 18th century world of two competing “disorderly houses,” could scratch that itch. Be prepared though, the sex workers in this series are a great deal more than set dressing – these women have interior lives, passions and wills of their own, and none greater than the two leads played with rare relish by Samantha Morton and Lesley Manville.
Mystical creatures and boobs combine with Southern charm, laughs and stomach-churning levels of blood in HBO’s True Blood, adapted from Charlaine Harris’ series of Sookie Stackhouse novels. Pulpy goodness with an increasingly complex mythology.
Orange is the New Black
This drama about a minimum security women’s prison has much more to offer than just sex, but that’s definitely part of the package. Due to enter its seventh and final season this July, head to Netflix if you want to catch up in time.
The Crimson Petal And The White
Another brothel-set period drama, this one adapted for the BBC from the novel by Michel Faber. Romola Garai plays Sugar, a Victorian sex worker and bright spark would-be novelist, with Chris O’Dowd, Mark Gatiss, Shirley Henderson, and Amanda Hale. It’s lush and involving, with a terrific lead performance from Garai.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover (2015)
Starring the King in the North Richard Madden, this 2015 BBC film was adapted from the modern classic by D.H. Lawrence by Bodyguard and Line Of Duty creator Jed Mercurio. See Robb Stark pursue sweaty countryside pleasure with Holliday Grainger’s Lady Chatterley.
See also: Masters of Sex, Californication
Sons of Anarchy
If you thought the Lannisters were dysfunctional then … you were right, but coming a close second are Sons of Anarchy’s Teller-Morrows. This outlaw motorcycle gang show was as much a drama about family. Full of ambition and guts, Kurt Sutter’s show was themed around brotherhood and loyalty.
Its time-travel conceit turns Outlander into a multi-generational family saga as it progresses, but this epic historical romance leaping between the 1940s and 18th century Scotland also has plenty of action to recommend it.
The prequel is currently filming, so if you’ve never had the pleasure, now is as good a time as any to get caught up on David Chase’s mob family masterpiece, which recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary. Undeniably a modern classic with a lead character in James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano that blazed a trail for antiheroes to come.
The History Channel’s Vikings checks a few Game of Thrones boxes – battles, ambition, power struggles, parents attempting to prepare children for a cruel and brutal world … It’s an involving family saga set against a fascinating period in the 10th century.
Six Feet Under
Alan Ball’s excellent drama (not strictly a saga) about the Fishers, who run a Los Angeles funeral home, is darkly comic and weaves multiple stories around the central family. No dragons, but well-written characters and excellent performances guaranteed.
See also: Succession, Empire
John Logan and Sam Mendes’ supernatural horror series is a dark and violent pastiche of nineteenth century literary monsters, featuring vampires, witches, werewolves, reanimated creatures, demonic possession and more. If you like fantasy with teeth, this is your bag.
This AMC TV adaptation has not skimped on the bonkers gore and dark sense of humor that characterized Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s comics. Starring Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga and the always-charismatic Joseph Gilgun, it’s a story about celestial powers, vampires, fallen angels and an uncommon search for God. Its fourth and final season is due to air in August.
Ash vs Evil Dead
Now cancelled, this Evil Dead franchise spin-off still offers three seasons of madness, gore and demonic mythology, all topped off by Bruce Campbell’s iconic horror performance as Ash Williams, battler against evil and all-round survivor.
American Gods (recently renewed for a third season on Starz) comes adapted from Neil Gaiman’s weighty novel about a war stirring between the new and the old gods. Myths and deities clash in a road trip starring Ian McShane, Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning and Pablo Schreiber.
This Netflix original has pervaded modern culture much in the way Game of Thrones did, so you almost certainly don’t need a nudge to watch it. Set in the 1980s, it’s a brilliantly realized dark Spielbergian fantasy about a group of kids, their friend with special powers, shady scientists, and terrifying fantasy creatures. Stranger Things season 3 arrives in July.
See also: Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Magicians
Ronald D. Moore’s 2004 reimagining of the ’80s sci-fi series is a triumph. Its story of the few human survivors of a devasting attack searching the galaxies for a new home while trying to establish new power structures, all the while dealing with an existential threat from androids indistinguishable from them, is a must-see.
Band Of Brothers
Produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, this acclaimed HBO series set a new bar for television drama in 2001. It follows one WWII company from training to combat in Europe all the way until the end of the War, taking inspiration from Stephen E. Ambrose’s non-fiction book of the same name. Gripping, shockin,g and instantly involving, there’s never been a better war drama on television.
The Last Kingdom
Adapted from Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories novels, The Last Kingdom tells the tale of Saxon-born, Danish-raised Uhtred of Bebbanburg. There are military skirmishes and full-scale battles inspired by the history of King Alfred’s Wessex, alongside genuinely gripping character drama, fond comedy and easy-to-invest-in relationships.
Military sci-fi The Expanse was saved last year from cancellation when Amazon picked it up from Syfy. Based on James S.A. Corey’s novels, it follows a ragtag crew who find themselves caught up in an intergalactic political conspiracy that threatens the fragile status-quo of the solar system. Space soldiers with big guns and a complex unwinding story.
Without giving too much away, Westworld’s second season justifies its inclusion under this category more than the first. This beautifully designed cerebral sci-fi has scope, ambition, elegance and in season two – battles. Before Amazon’s pricy Lord of the Rings series arrives, this is the only show to rival Game of Thrones in terms of budget and scale. Westworld Season 3 looks to be even more of a departure.
See also: The Punisher, The Pacific
Read more about Game Of Thrones season 8 on Den Of Geek here.