TV review: The real game of thrones

The Queen of TV History
10 Apr 2013 @ 9.23 pm
| Entertainment
Historical swearing in a severe haircut: Lucy Worsley on Fit To Rule. Photograph: BBC
Historical swearing in a severe haircut: Lucy Worsley on Fit To Rule. Photograph: BBC

lucy-bellerby-byline-photo-bwRoyals real and imaginary have made for a majestic viewing week for Lucy Bellerby


bellers-on-the-box-logo-230Fit to Rule: How Royal Illness Changed History (BBC2) is not the vacuous reality TV fare that I usually revel in, but I love a good history programme. I am, actually, a massive history geek. My go-to first date question is “what’s your favourite war?”, which is often met with a blank stare, so I move on to the topic of how good the red button game is on Antiques Roadshow.

Fit To Rule is presented by Lucy Worsley, who has what my mother would describe as a “severe” haircut, plus a penchant for historical swearing and an encyclopaedial knowledge of royal naughtiness. In short, she is amazing, and she makes watching a history programme feel like you’re being let in on a load of juicy secrets.

It helps that Worsley used to be the curator of Hampton Court Palace, because I’m currently obsessed with the Tudors. Henry VIII is slightly behind Boursin on toast and dogs dressed as old men in my favourite things league table. We learn all about Henry’s illnesses and how it affected his reign; plus Worsley explains that doctors tried to cure Henry’s impotence with a mixture of herbs and goats testicles.

She also tells us how the physicians of the time handled Queen Mary’s suspected phantom pregnancy. I love Queen Mary almost as much as Henry; I like to imagine her as short and angry with a brow like a baby dinosaur, although that may have something to do with Kathy Burke’s portrayal of her in the film Elizabeth.

Worsley also gets to look at Edward VI’s real diary. He comes across as a right little tyrant, a mini King Joffrey (more of which later). The Stuarts are up next, who were a bit of a yawn in comparison to the crackers bunch that preceded them, except for the openly gay lover of debauchery King James, who seemed like quite a laugh.

I’m looking forward to the next programme, which will probably only feed my obsession. Next week I’ll be writing my column in a wimple, drinking out of a stone tankard and pretending to launch cannonballs off the roof of my two-up-two-down in The Groves.

And so, from a real lot of bloodthirsty royals, to some fictional ones. Game Of Thrones (Sky Atlantic) is the show of the moment; something about lusty, bearded chaps chopping off heads speaks to the inner wants and needs of the Great British public. It’s based on a series of novels by George R R Martin, which follow characters through a fictionalised sci-fi imagining of the War of the Roses.

A warning: don’t expect to understand everything that’s going on. There are too many characters and too much going on, but that’s the fun of it. They’re all fighting for the Iron Throne, burning and drowning anything in their paths and chucking dragons at people willy-nilly.

The current King of Westeros is Joffrey Baratheon. King Joffrey is potentially the most hated fictional character since Voldemort. He is Stanley Kowalski, Patrick Bateman, Alec d’Urberville and Satan all wrapped up in one horrible blond package. He stomps about in his little boots, casually slapping anyone that gets in his way like a camp, jumped-up Little Lord Fauntleroy.

As he rules, chaos is going on in the rest of the kingdoms as several other families vie for the crown. Unfortunately, the best chap for the job (Sean Bean) was killed off in series one, but 90 per cent of all RADA graduates from 1960-2012 are there to step in.

My favourite part of Game Of Thrones is the tidal onslaught of celebrity cameos. People turn up when you least expect it; Mackenzie Crook telepathically seeing through the eyes of crows, Diana Rigg eating cheese, the dad from Pramface covered in blood on his way to “The Wall”. Chris from Skins is in chain mail, and… is that… yes, that’s Dennis Pennis. Dennis Pennis with some prosthetic teeth and a spear. In series one Wilko Johnson even turned up as Ser Iiyn Payne.

Dennis Pennis with some prosthetic teeth and a spear. Photograph: Sky Atlantic
Dennis Pennis complete with prosthetic teeth. Photograph: Sky Atlantic

It’s been a whole year since series two, but it was definitely worth the wait. Buy yourself the box sets and start catching up, otherwise you’ll feel like a right prat at the water-cooler come next Tuesday; Game Of Thrones is all anyone will be talking about. Now where did I put that sword..?