HBO’S Got It: Vicious Queens and Viking Vampires

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Photo above: Creepy Prince Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) glowering with Menace.
Photo: Helen Sloan

Patty Wittnebert Tomsky
Spare Change News

Dude. Gimme a fantasy with long velvet dresses and hot guys in leather and armor. Gimme Viggo as Aragorn.

Or gimme a hot vampire and a heroine with killer curves. (Kristin Stewart need not apply). Gimme Alexander Skarsgard as an undead Viking vigorously schtupping the serving wenches. And did I mention the daring dresses?

On HBO this spring and summer, Imma gettin’ it, but good. “Game of Thrones” this month and “True Blood” this summer will have taken over my DVR and my fantasy life. To leave me swooning, for sure.

Boromir’s Back!

When I saw Sean Bean in preview for the first season of “Game of Thrones” last year, I was hooked. He is, after all, the guy who played Boromir in Peter Jackson’s Tolkien trilogy—the absolute best book-to-movie adaptation EVER.

“Thrones,” Bean’s newest hottie-on-horseback vehicle, is based on George R. Martin’s six-soon-to-be-seven-book saga, “A Song of Ice and Fire.” Like classic Tolkien, those books have everything a fantasy geek could want—plus more sex. The books are written well, with a pacing belying their thousands of pages. On the tube, as in the books, characters hover on the brink of caricature —the bastard son, the spunky tomboy, the gruff dwarf with a heart of gold—but don’t fall off the precipice into predictability. Think of the story as libidinous archetypes on parade, that never march into mawkishness.

Queen of Pain

And acting? Boy howdy! Bean as Eddard Stark and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister stand out in particular. You’ve never met an evil queen with more juice than the Lannister broad. Queen Cersei is in an incestuous relationship with her brother and is creepily touchy-feely with her prepubescent son. It’s fierce fun to watch her devour the screen. The same screen also sports magical wolf protectors and zombies made of ice that will eat you. But none of it is corny, as these castle-knight sagas can be.

The second season is in full throttle and may I say, “Bravo, Bitches!” HBO is enthroned as king of adult-themed television for a reason. I know I blaspheme heartily, my fellow Soprano-philes, but I haven’t seen anything this good on the small screen since Tony and company got their crime on in primetime. Unless, of course, it’s the campy fun of the multiple-season hit, “True Blood.”

Oh, Sookie

To borrow from The Cure, circa 1988, “True Blood” is hot, hot, hot. Never mind that the two primary characters hooked up in real life. (Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer, playing waitress Sookie Stackhouse and Bill the Vampire for four seasons now). Never mind that the peripheral characters were cast so masterfully that writers quickly gave them more to do and juicier plots than some of the main actors. For example, main character, Sam (Sam Trammel) started strong as Sookie’s fourth in the Eric-Bill-Sookie triangle. However, his storyline swerved into stupid pretty quickly. It was great when Sam stomped the local meth lord and werepanther, Cal Norris, into the ground. (Cal was played by Gregory Sporleder with menace and aplomb.) Not so much when he toyed with Sookie’s best friend, Tara (ex-ballerina Rutina Wesley and her ultra-toned, Mrs. Obama arms) or angst-ed over his shifter status (he can turn into any animal at will).

Let’s just say I am hoping the fifth season will give Sam a subplot with, er, um, teeth. Or at least find him progressively less passive: The guy seems to react to the stronger characters around him rather than act on his own. Goofy, gorgeous Jason (Ryan Kwanten) needs more screen time, too. Sookie’s n’er-do-well brother spent prior seasons saving neighbors from the evil Maenad Maryann and almost becoming a werepanther. He ended last season in a luscious love triangle with his best friend’s girl, hot teen vamp Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll). And that bod is…..MMMmrrrooow!!

Thrones or Truebie?

No matter how sexy the thing gets, how kinky or how dark, “True Blood” is saved by its own soapy goodness. If you take out the supernatural element, the people cavorting across the screen could be denizens of Peyton Place or Pine Valley of ABC’s “All My Children” fame. The source books, by Charlaine Harris, are well done but fluffier than their darker, on-screen cousin. And “Game of Thrones” is darker still. It is camp-free and comes chock full of Shakespearean themes and well-choreographed gore. “True Blood” is dirtier (as in, heck yes, my schtuppin’ Swede Skarsgard) but “Game of Thrones” episodes are filthy, too, especially with all of the sexual tension coming under wraps in velvet and armor. Medieval mashing in the torchlight.

Needless to say, come June 10, I’ll be drooling over Vampire Eric in the “True Blood” premiere. I’m already thundering through “Thrones” at a gallop (you can get caught up on both shows on HBOGO if you are a subscriber). No need to choose vampire over vicious queen, thank badness. There’s enough room on my DVR for both.

PATTY WITTNEBERT TOMSKY is a freelance writer.

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