2014 Medieval Year in Review: Television

The White QueenWhile the silver screen offered very little for medieval viewing the small screen is taking over! There was the obvious Season 4 of Game of Thrones, but it wasn’t alone. HISTORY, Starz, PBS and even Netflix offered something for TV Viewing. In fact your best bet for medieval fantasy is Television.

Game of Thrones continues to sit atop the ratings and is a fan favorite and not just with medievalists. America (and the world) has embraced the mythos of Westeros. For those of us who don’t subscribe to HBO it can be frustrating waiting until the DVDs come out to watch Game of Thrones. Thankfully there are other options, some require a pay channel while others do not*.

*Only one was broadcast on a completely free channel, PBS. The rest require a subscription to basic cable or Netflix.

HISTORY Channel continued their series VIKINGS with a stellar second season and Season 3 looks to be even better! If you don’t know we have a podcast dedicated to VIKINGS. We review the show and breakdown the history to see what they got right and what was wrong. It also covers Norse Mythology. If your a fan of the show or of Viking culture your sure to like The Vikings Podcast!

The UK is killing it for Medieval shows and documentaries and thankfully some of them are making it to the US. Starz channel picked up The White Queen, an adaptation of Phillipa Gregory’s book of the same name. It covers the beginnings of the Wars of the Roses. Starz is another of the ‘Premium’ pay channels in the US and I am not a subscriber. I had to wait until the DVD release to see the whole series and it was well worth the wait!

Another show from the UK was Hollow Crown an adaptation of Shakespeare plays; Richard II, Henry IV Part I and Part II and Henry V. In the US it aired on PBS during the Masterpiece Theater time slot.

Two shows aired in England but haven’t made it too the US yet. Both focused on the Plantagenet Dynasty. The first was simply titled The Plantagenets and hosted by Professor Robert Bartlett. A three episodes series that covers the highlights the Plantagenet Dynasty.

The other show titled Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty is based on the best selling books by Dan Jones. We talked with Dan in October about his books and the show. Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty is four episodes covering Henry II, III Edward II and Richard II. Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty is still available to stream on the Channel5 website. (Streaming may not work outside of the UK)

One of the last shows came from an unlikely source, Netflix. Marco Polo is a $90 million production that was originally shopped to Starz. When the deal fell through Netflix picked up the show. The show is interesting and offers a look into the court of Kublai Khan. In fact the show could have been called Kublai Khan instead of Marco Polo. The show is well produced and there are several reasons why you should watch it. The only way to watch Marco Polo is with a Netflix account

2015 promises to be another good year for Medieval television. Vikings Season 3 hits the airwaves in Februray and Game of Thrones returns in April. However one of the shows I am most looking forward too is Shannara, the adaptation of Terry Brooks’ book ‘The Elfstones of Shannara. The Shannara series is one of the reasons I fell in love with the Middle Ages! The show is set to air on MTV in 2015, no official date yet.

What are your favorite medieval television shows of 2014? Share them below in the comments, on the Medieval Archives twitter feed, or on the Medieval Archives Facebook page.

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