HBO. An acronym that represents sheer brilliance. When you hear that static fuzz, your eyes better open and your ears better perk up, because you're about to watch some of, if not the, finest television ever produced. THE SOPRANOS, DEADWOOD, SIX FEET UNDER, THE WIRE, OZ, BAND OF BROTHERS... the list goes on. And while the network is best known for programming realistic, hard-hitting and hard-edged drama, last year it took a gamble and trod unfamiliar territory with an epic adaptation of the novel A SONG OF FIRE AND ICE by George R. R. Martin. I am of course referring to GAME OF THRONES, one of the most refreshing television experiences I've had in a long, long time, as is almost always the case with HBO's productions.
Now, just a month shy of the premiere of its second season, GAME OF THRONES: The Complete First Season has been released on DVD and Blu-ray in a five-disc collection featuring all ten episodes and a Lannister-sized wealth of bonus content.
There's been something of a gap in the market for a sprawling fantasy show on our TV screens, not just in HBO's line-up over the years. It's something that's almost exclusively been reserved for cinema, most likely due to the cost involved in creating a believable, authentic world. The first season alone found its budget somewhere in the region of $60 million, an incredible sum for TV, making it one of the most expensive shows of all time. Unlike say TERRA NOVA, it was money well spent, as not only does this Hollywood blockbuster of television programmes look magnificent, but it's been populated with wonderful characters, a large, first-rate cast and great scripts. Some of the finest screenwriters of today are working in US television.
Welcome to Westeros, a world comprised of the Seven Kingdoms and ruled by a drunken king who sits on an iron throne made from melted down longswords. Several families control Westeros' various regions under the king's reign, such as House Stark, headed by Eddard Stark (Sean Bean), the monarch Robert Baratheon's closest and oldest friend. Unfortunately, a disastrous combination of lies, deceit, greed and double-crossing is about to lay waste to peace in the Seven Kingdoms.
GAME OF THRONES is edge-of-your-seat television that will hook you from the very first episode. The twists and turns as the intricate story unfolds are always shocking. One particular event towards the end of the season actually made me angry, not because it was badly written or what have you, but how unexpected and brave a direction it was to take.
The show harbours great power in its richly developed, beautifully written characters, and there are many. My personal favourites are Ned Stark and Tyrion Lannister, played quite exquisitely by Peter Dinklage in a role that won him a Golden Globe earlier this year.
There is an abundance of throwaway fantasy in movies and even in the light smattering of television; films and series that focus on cookie cutter magical landscapes, dungeons and dragons. GAME OF THRONES is the antithesis to it all, showcasing interesting characters and building plots around politics and geography. There's real depth to this series and I feel we've barely scratched the surface with the inaugural season. I can't wait to explore it further come April.
The special features included over the five Blu-ray discs are:
- Audio commentaries on most of the episodes
- Character profiles
- Interactive The Complete Guide to Westeros
- Anatomy of an Episode
- In-feature episode guide
- Hidden dragon eggs that unlock extra content
- Making GAME OF THRONES
- From the Book to the Screen
- Creating the Show Opening
- Creating the Dothraki Language
- A feature on the Night's Watch
GAME OF THRONES: The Complete First Season is available now on DVD and region-free Blu-ray from HBO Home Entertainment.
I was fortunate enough to be sent these goodies, but I'm slightly disappointed that the paperweight won't hatch over time. I apologise for my (very) amateur photography.
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