The return of “Game of Thrones” Sunday is cause for celebration for legions of fans who swear their allegiance to the series, claiming there’s nothing else like it in this or any other world.
Not quite so. While “GOT” has captured the world’s imagination — and 38 Emmys — the HBO fantasy epic is not as unique as some believe. Many of the elements that appeal to the show’s fans can be found in past TV series that would make for excellent binge-watching on Amazon, Netflix or DVD as you wait breathlessly between each of “GOT’s” final 13 episodes.
If you’re drawn to the show’s family feuds: Try “Hatfields & McCoys” (2012), in which Kevin Costner and the late Bill Paxton play patriarchs who put honor above everything else, including getting a decent shave.
If you’re drawn to the epic scale of the action: Try “Rome” (2005-07), the woefully underrated HBO drama that concentrated more on edge-of-your-chariot storytelling than historical accuracy. Like Julius Caesar, it was gone too soon.
If you’re drawn to the sassy swordplay: Try the BBC America version of “Robin Hood” (2006-09). It’s not as thrilling as the 1938 Errol Flynn swashbuckler (few adventures are), but it’s loaded with sex appeal and zingers so delicious even “Downton Abbey’s” Dowager Countess would swoon.
If you’re drawn to the stronger than expected female warriors: Try Netflix’s new series “GLOW,” a powerhouse dramedy that transcends its campy premise to emerge as an early contender for show of the year. Alison Brie (“Community”) flexes new muscle as a struggling actress in the 1980s searching for identity in and out of the ring.
If you’re drawn to characters drunk on power: Try “Boss” (2011-12), in which Kelsey Grammer plays a Chicago mayor who wouldn’t be caught dead in a bar like Cheers. The series ultimately didn’t work, but if you want to see political corruption in action, abandon “House of Cards” and check out this two-term effort.
If you’re drawn to Peter Dinklage’s wit: Try “Suburgatory,” (2011-14), a sitcom for and about teenagers who loathe and envy anyone attending “Beverly Hills, 90210.” Jane Levy plays the mopey protagonist, who survives her “Stepford Wives” surroundings in a ritzy New York City suburb with a backpack jam-packed with withering one-liners.
If you’re drawn to anything ever touched by George R.R. Martin: Try “The Last Defender of Camelot” (1986), an episode of a rebooted “Twilight Zone” series in which the fantasy novelist wrote a teleplay based on a story by pal Roger Zelazny about Merlin and Lancelot trying to adapt to the modern world. You can find the episode in its entirety on YouTube.
If you’re drawn to dragons: You’re out of luck, at least when it comes to TV forerunners. Before “Game of Thrones,” the small screen couldn’t get the special effects right, which means you’ll have to get your fix from the film library. “Reign of Fire” (2002) should do the trick with Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale and Gerard Butler battling the fire-breathers with gruesome gallantry.
Neal Justin • 612-673-7431 • firstname.lastname@example.org • Twitter: @nealjustin