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Game of Thrones: Screaming for the teenage male

Call me barmy, I don't care. Fact is, I don't give a rodent's posterior about Game of Thrones, which returns for a bloody new season this Sunday (HBO Canada, 9 p.m.).

I can see that it's well-made. I can see the attraction. But it leaves me as cold as the long winter at the latter end of the kingdom of Westeros. (That's where it's always snowy, right?) I have an instinctive negative reaction to it. And here's why.

First, it is so screamingly aimed at the adolescent male mind that I feel slightly embarrassed about once being a male teenager. Swords, sorcery, magic, fellas riding around on horses talking about honour and betrayal. That's attractive to young chaps seeking escape from the mundane world around them. And, add in the regular appearance of half-naked noble ladies, with an equal number of buxom wenches turning up repeatedly, and you've got an excellent recipe for entertaining the brooding male of a certain age. Plus, no-goodniks gets their heads cut off with great precision. That's a thrill too.

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Based on George R. R. Martin's books, which are written in the most lividly purple prose, Game of Thrones makes for good TV in the right hands. The writers and directors involved with the series have an illustrious pedigree, many being involved with such series as The Sopranos, Brotherhood and The Riches. As a result, the drama is pithily done, moves quickly but in a shapely manner and it looks gorgeous. Much of Martin's verbosity is peeled away to reveal the sharp integrity of the essential storytelling.

And yet the pomposity of Game of Thrones irritates me: the grandiosity of statements about kings, queens, royalty and nobility; the ponderous dwelling on some guy dissing some other guy. And the depiction of relationships is only one step away from pornography – slight, bosomy women overpowered by huge, growling guys. Women seem to spend an undue amount of time on their hands and knees. I'd speculate that women viewers feel differently about Game of Thrones.

A second reason is an aversion to medieval-fantasy material that is ludicrously inauthentic when compared with real history and genuine mythology and legend. I've no problem with the Arthurian legends because they arise from a bona fide cultural impulse. As an Irishman of a certain age, I could talk to you till your eyes fell out about the magic of An Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid at Cooley), the central story of the Ulster cycle of legends. It's about an attempt to steal a particularity fertile bull. But it teems with warriors and magicians, dominated by the god-like warrior Cú Chulainn. There are even ravens swirling in the mist. It shares much with Game of Thrones in surface detail but there's a powerful, authentic poignancy to An Táin, and a rawness to the action, the work of many hands and storytellers, generation after generation. In comparison, Game of Thrones is slick and contrived.

On Sunday's second-season opener, we get a monstrous, egotistical teenage boy on the throne of one kingdom, which seems appropriate. He dislikes older men, and there's an awful lot of blood spilled. Of course, there are others who want to claim the throne. Hence, machinations leading to battle commence. In another area, the adorable Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is trying to keep her wee dragons alive. "The night is dark and full of terrors," someone says several times. Indeed. And also full of terribly adolescent longings and fantasies. Enjoy, if it's your thing.


The 2012 Juno Awards (Sunday, CTV, 8 p.m.) happen in Ottawa, are hosted by William Shatner, no less, and feature performances by Blue Rodeo, Hedley, Feist and Nickelback.

The Killing (Sunday, AMC, 8 p.m.) is back with a two-hour season opener. Last year's most thrilling and frustrating of crime dramas continues the search for the killer of Rosie Larsen. Lead investigator Sarah sees a possible cover-up, and the Larsen's house is the focus of a new investigation.

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Masterpiece Classic: Great Expectations (Sunday, PBS, 9 p.m.) is a new, not-so-thrilling adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel about an orphan boy who rises to become a rich gentleman, thanks to an unknown benefactor. The story drags and is notable mainly for an utterly astonishing performance by Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham. It's a curl-your-toes turn.

All times ET. Check local listings.

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More

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