Where is my live-action magical fantasy series?


Television

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Scarab Sages

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Recently I ran across a cable channel running episodes of the old Legendary Adventures of Hercules tv series, and it made me realize that while there are quite a few tv series that have speculative stories, very few of them are in a magical fantasy setting. The only fantasy shows I can think of currently are Game of Thrones and Atlantis, and neither of those quite suit what I'd like to see.

I want to see a fantasy series that is based strongly in the tropes of D&D and similar games and literature. I want non-human races and magic in every episode. I want an overarching plot rather than an episodic "press the reset button at the end of every episode" show. I want the kind of things that Hercules did - magical creatures and gods appearing often - but with better special effects and less tongue-in-cheek.

Why can't we have a live-action magical fantasy tv series that takes itself seriously but not *too* seriously? Discuss! :)


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Honestly the most D&D based thing I can think of that is on TV right now is Adventure Time.


Atlantis is pretty good, what I watched of it.


You could check out the various miniseries made based on Terry Pratchet books. They're pretty close to what you're asking. Serial fantasy that has both serious and comedic moments. Plenty of magic and weird creatures too.


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The last attempt was Legend of the seeker. Oddly enough, I think is was made by the same people who brought you Zena and legend of Hercules. Was never a big fan of the books but my wife and enjoyed the short lived series. Probably because they deviated far from the novels. I wish they had a bluray release.

All shows filmed in New Zealand (and with Bridget Regan) should be in high def.

-MD


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Dire Elf wrote:


Why can't we have a live-action magical fantasy tv series that takes itself seriously but not *too* seriously? Discuss! :)

I LOVE this styling. I started watching Xena, warrior princess lately, I'm currently re-watching Andromeda. I love stargate. But I feel like the "seriously but not too seriously" has fallen out of favor lately. With all their "breaking bads" and their "Game of thrones" those dang kids only thinking of their darned drama! shakes old man fist above lawn

I would be interested in seeing one, but the basic style simply isnt common anymore. I know comedies on TV now, and I know drama, but I dont know of any current shows that hit that sweet spot in between. It's really turned me off of primetime TV lately.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
williamoak wrote:
Dire Elf wrote:


Why can't we have a live-action magical fantasy tv series that takes itself seriously but not *too* seriously? Discuss! :)

I LOVE this styling. I started watching Xena, warrior princess lately, I'm currently re-watching Andromeda. I love stargate. But I feel like the "seriously but not too seriously" has fallen out of favor lately. With all their "breaking bads" and their "Game of thrones" those dang kids only thinking of their darned drama! shakes old man fist above lawn

I would be interested in seeing one, but the basic style simply isnt common anymore. I know comedies on TV now, and I know drama, but I dont know of any current shows that hit that sweet spot in between. It's really turned me off of primetime TV lately.

Xena doesn't strike me as magical enough to be what the OP is looking for. Andromeda was actually fairly decent until Kevin Sorbo decided inflict his idea of creativity on the series' final season. I'd have to say that the answer to her question is that every time something to her standards has actually been tried, it failed aesthetically, critically, and at the box office. The ones that tried to BE the D+D movie were the worst of the lot.

Sovereign Court

The kind of series I would love to see would have to have an enormous SFX budget.

Grand Lodge

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Hama wrote:
The kind of series I would love to see would have to have an enormous SFX budget.

Pretty much this. the effects budget per episode would simply be too high. What you're looking for is still better left to animation, and sad to say that for the most part you're looking at foreign works such as "Record of Lodoss War".


Well there is Once upon a Time, but I gave up on that series towards the end of the second season.

Sovereign Court

Isn't there supposed to be a Shannara series at some point? I seem to remember hearing it was coming sometime "soon".


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JourneyQuest?

Scarab Sages

williamoak wrote:


I LOVE this styling. I started watching Xena, warrior princess lately, I'm currently re-watching Andromeda. I love stargate. But I feel like the "seriously but not too seriously" has fallen out of favor lately. With all their "breaking bads" and their "Game of thrones" those dang kids only thinking of their darned drama! shakes old man fist above lawn

I would be interested in seeing one, but the basic style simply isnt common anymore. I know comedies on TV now, and I know drama, but I dont know of any current shows that hit that sweet spot in between. It's really turned me off of primetime TV lately.

This. I do wish for something a bit less 'camp' than Hercules and Xena, but not as darkly serious as GoT. I admit I haven't been watching GoT since the first season, but that's part of what lost me, along with a near-total lack of magic.

Even the fantastical animated shows don't have the formula I'm dreaming of. I adore Adventure Time, but it also has a lot of post-apocalyptic sci-fi in it.

I guess what I want could best be described as Farscape or Firefly, but without spaceships or firearms. Some of the tropes of traditional fantasy might not be easy to do in a tv series - tv doesn't have the time or budget to do what the LOTR films did with doubles and forced perspective for the dwarves and hobbits - but elves and orcs aren't any more difficult or expensive to do than Klingons. Spell effects shouldn't be much worse to create than explosions or starfields.


Merlin, perhaps?

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

Cylyria wrote:
Isn't there supposed to be a Shannara series at some point? I seem to remember hearing it was coming sometime "soon".

Yes, it was picked up for a 13-episode season, skipping the pilot phase entirely, by MTV. Not the best network I can think of, but at least they've done Teen Wolf (haven't watched, but it makes Shannara not their first fantasy series), and Terry Brooks seems to be strongly positive about the team working on the show.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

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I tried posting earlier and my phone ate my post. Anyway...

A key issue is budget. Especially if you want to do something truly "D&D-esque" with lots of different races (lots of makeup, prosthetics, and CGI), monsters, and magic (lots of CGI, which gets very expensive--more than you think--and I disagree with the poster above, you need more than mere pyrotechnics to get off many proper spells and magical effects convincingly). Game of Thrones is a miniseries which can get a slightly larger budget--and they are still lower fantasy so not a lot of huge effects (that I know of, I haven't seen much of it). Note a lot of shows featuring magic are contemporary urban fantasy--e.g., Supernatural or, for an older series, Charmed, because they don't have to do costumes and special sets on top of special effects. Doing it all is costly. Herc and Xena got away with their cheesy effects because it was the 90s and the camp factor helped (even if Xena in particular did get quite dark at times).

Unfortunately, a lot of times an audience for "genre fiction" expects movie level SFX and cinematics even in TV shows. For example, there is a subset of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D audience who is disappointed they aren't seeing Avengers-level superpowers and action every week, but you can't do that on a TV show budget (there are other audience subsets of that show that like or dislike it for other reasons, I am just touching on the one that is relevant to the discussion here).

For a fantasy show this day and age--especially an ongoing, major network show--you'd have to really manage expectations quite a lot, so people don't come in expecting Harry Potter or LOTR.

I think it'd be doable but it would be hard to convince a network to carry it.


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I think that is why, for some of the reasons already listed in this thread, that my wife and I turned back to tabletop RPGs in our adulthood.

Neither of us was getting that itch scratched by TV/Movies, in terms of sprawling good fantasy yarns.

So...we began to make our own adventures, through Pathfinder.


As someone else stated, I think Once Upon a Time is also supposed to be pretty heavily fantasy based.


Yes...where is my Flaming Sword of Flame!


To reply without actually replying...yes I think budget is a big concern but with a really smart team you could prioritize an FX budget effectively.

Look at a show like smallville. It lasted 9 or 10 seasons with special effects every episode. They figured out how to do a few things really well and then used a lot of creativity.

You could do the same thing with a "Harry Potter" style show. Really most of Harry Potter is pointing wands and saying Latin and a lot of mystery solving and interpersonal relations.

Stings to pull wands out of hands, some good old fashioned physical effects for knocking people off of their feet. Some good locations so you don't have to CGI every backdrop and then spend your budget on a few things that can be re-used or used sparingly. A location that can be re-used over and over or a magic effect like freezing someone.

It definitely could be done.

Sovereign Court

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What I would love to see is this.

CSI but in Ankh Morpork with the watch. THAT WOULD BE AWESOME. And they could have feature films between seasons.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

Mike Franke wrote:

To reply without actually replying...yes I think budget is a big concern but with a really smart team you could prioritize an FX budget effectively.

Look at a show like smallville. It lasted 9 or 10 seasons with special effects every episode. They figured out how to do a few things really well and then used a lot of creativity.

Note what I said above about Urban Fantasy though.

You can do an urban fantasy show (or a superhero show, which is urban fantasy with comic book flavor) because the only effects budget you need is largely for magic/super powers. The vast majority of sets, costumes, etc. can be bought or assembled easily from things you can buy at a store. Special costumes and makeup are reserved for a handful of characters, usually villains. You can also film a lot in-studio, and/or in nearby outdoor locations that need little modification to work (a cafe scene).

To do a classic Western Fantasy you also need special costumes and lots of special sets, stuff that is all custom made (historic costume dramas are quite costly even with no special effects involved). Everybody is in special costume. Regulars probably need several changes of costume. If you're doing a D&D or Middle Earth style world, you also want a number of PCs as elves, dwarves, orcs, etc. meaning lots of makeup, prosthetics, etc. You need lots of special props--swords, bows, polearms, etc. as well as lots of early, pre-tech versions of ordinary things, like cups, plates, books, etc. You need custom made furniture, not something the propsmaster can pick up at IKEA for $50. Outdoor scenes mean traveling farther from studio, and studio sets need to be more elaborate. Even before adding in special effects, you have a much, much larger budget to start with for all of these things.

And THEN you need to add special effects.

Quote:


You could do the same thing with a "Harry Potter" style show. Really most of Harry Potter is pointing wands and saying Latin and a lot of mystery solving and interpersonal relations.

Stings to pull wands out of hands, some good old fashioned physical effects for knocking people off of their feet. Some good locations so you don't have to CGI every backdrop and then spend your budget on a few things that can be re-used or used sparingly. A location that can be re-used over and over or a magic effect like freezing someone.

A "Harry Potter" style show first, still isn't the classic fantasy the OP asked for, and can get away with things like minimizing costumes because a) modern day clothing that can be bought off the rack and b) school uniform means few costume changes. Secondly -- even if you did it on smaller scale, building something like a "Hogwarts" set would be monumentally expensive, at least if you wanted it to vaguely resemble an awesome ancient English school. And one way or another "some good locations" tend to be costly. (On Arrow, poor Laurel Lance can't move out of her apartment no matter how many villains have attacked her there because they haven't yet set aside a budget to build a new set.)

I mentioned it on a level of effect expectations because effects done on the actual movie were quite elaborate and have raised the bar for what people want to see when they want to see fantasy.

It could be done, yes, but there'd have to be set up very carefully and a lot of expectations would need to be managed carefully.


Don't forget Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire.

It had a flaming sword, a wizard played by Kevin Hart who could not cast any spells, and a pagan warrior with a lube gord (don't ask).

It was really bad, but I watched it all because I'm like that.

-MD


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Hama wrote:

What I would love to see is this.

CSI but in Ankh Morpork with the watch. THAT WOULD BE AWESOME. And they could have feature films between seasons.

Your wish has been (well, will be) granted.


DeathQuaker, I agree those are lots of hurdles and yes expectations would need to be managed but I think it could be done.

Especially, if a show could gain some momentum. Sets and costumes are additive. Last a few seasons and the pile of props and sets grows and grows.

Or find a benefactor with a plan like abc/Disney for Agents of Shield. Because the show is connective tissue for the movies it gets money and ratings leeway other shows don't.


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Rynjin wrote:
Hama wrote:

What I would love to see is this.

CSI but in Ankh Morpork with the watch. THAT WOULD BE AWESOME. And they could have feature films between seasons.

Your wish has been (well, will be) granted.

You sir, are a gentleman and a scholar.


Others have mentioned it, but Once Upon a Time splits itself half between what you are asking for, and half a modern-day interpretation of the characters in every episode. It uses "flashbacks" to explain the fantasy story, and the transformation into the modern versions, without missing a beat.

Unfortunately for me, I've only seen the first season, which I've been informed was the best, but it's really well done.

The basic premise is that fairy tale folk (Snow White, Prince Charming, etc) have come to the modern world. However, before you start talking about (the incredibly excellent*) Fables series, though, that's the end of the similarities. For one major difference: the fantasy characters don't know who they "really" are... or, to be more accurate, only one, young, troubled boy "knows" who they really are, and he only "knows" because of a strange book that was given to him by his teacher.

And from there, you should see the rest on your own. Don't read the wiki I linked - it just contains spoilers. Heck, don't read the box.

That said, it's not as out-right humorous as some other series - it's certainly comical at times, but the comedy is less the focus than minor one-off beats (with a few, minor, recurring jokes).

Beyond that, as Shadowborn mentioned, the incredibly great series Journey Quest exists, and is very fun. It's strongly comedy, but there's a slightly serious side to it as well, with some moments of decent drama and genuine pathos.

Very (very!) similarly, Standard Action is a mostly-comedy series with a minor bit of drama (although less hilarious and less dramatic than Journey Quest, still entirely fun).

Beyond that, mostly "fun" instead of "dramatic" is the (now older) "The 10th Kingdom" miniseries that was quite good, complete with props, costumes, and magical effects.

Also, was the old, "The New Adventures of Robin Hood", though I never really got to see much of that series. As a bonus, it was filmed in Lithuania! That's awesome!

... and that's about all I've got.

Beyond that, Laz, DQ, and Lamontius all have excellent ideas and points that I would have otherwise covered. Well done, y'all! :D

* No, seriously, if you've not read this, yet, go get it. Now.

Sovereign Court

Rynjin wrote:
Hama wrote:

What I would love to see is this.

CSI but in Ankh Morpork with the watch. THAT WOULD BE AWESOME. And they could have feature films between seasons.

Your wish has been (well, will be) granted.

I'm jumping up and down around the room right now.

I don't remember being so happy recently.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
JoelF847 wrote:
Cylyria wrote:
Isn't there supposed to be a Shannara series at some point? I seem to remember hearing it was coming sometime "soon".
Yes, it was picked up for a 13-episode season, skipping the pilot phase entirely, by MTV. Not the best network I can think of, but at least they've done Teen Wolf (haven't watched, but it makes Shannara not their first fantasy series), and Terry Brooks seems to be strongly positive about the team working on the show.

A live action version of Shannara is not going to be full of the whiz bang magic the OP seems to be looking for. Shannara is pretty much low key in the books I've read. I'd expect the series to be much on the level of Merlin at most.

Shadow Lodge

Tacticslion wrote:
Others have mentioned it, but Once Upon a Time splits itself half between what you are asking for, and half a modern-day interpretation of the characters in every episode.

The spin-off, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, was almost set entirely in Wonderland, with very few jaunts into other realms. I watched a few episodes of Once Upon a Time, but it never grabbed me, but OUaT in Wonderland was (for me) a lot more compelling.

I'd also second the nomination for "The 10th Kingdom". It was brilliant.

Muad'Dib wrote:
All shows [stuff trimmed] with Bridget Regan) should be in high def.

Agreed.

lust

Although I prefer her with Kahlan hair.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

LazarX wrote:
JoelF847 wrote:
Cylyria wrote:
Isn't there supposed to be a Shannara series at some point? I seem to remember hearing it was coming sometime "soon".
Yes, it was picked up for a 13-episode season, skipping the pilot phase entirely, by MTV. Not the best network I can think of, but at least they've done Teen Wolf (haven't watched, but it makes Shannara not their first fantasy series), and Terry Brooks seems to be strongly positive about the team working on the show.
A live action version of Shannara is not going to be full of the whiz bang magic the OP seems to be looking for. Shannara is pretty much low key in the books I've read. I'd expect the series to be much on the level of Merlin at most.

I'm not sure I agree with that. The first season is going to be based on the Elfstones of Shannara, which features a demon army and the Elfstones themselves which can blast things with magic pretty well. I don't recall specifically what magic Allanon the druid uses in that book, but he's got some pretty flashy magic at some points in the series as well. Shannara certainly doesn't have magic as common as it would be in a typical Pathfinder game, but it's no low fantasy either.

The Exchange

Can't believe nobody mentioned Doctor Who yet. While it's not, strictly speaking, a "fantasy", the science in it is silly enough to be magic. There are monsters, aliens, distant worlds/times, and a pulp adventure vibe. For me, at least, Doctor who certainly suffices when in need of some pulpy fantasy action. Well, it does when it's good, anyway, so not the last couple of seasons, but there are 4 other that are very nice.


Lord Snow wrote:
Can't believe nobody mentioned Doctor Who yet. While it's not, strictly speaking, a "fantasy", the science in it is silly enough to be magic.

"Excuse me while I pull out my magic wand...I mean Sonic Screwdriver."

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

Lord Snow wrote:
Can't believe nobody mentioned Doctor Who yet. While it's not, strictly speaking, a "fantasy", the science in it is silly enough to be magic.

Because the OP said, "I want to see a fantasy series that is based strongly in the tropes of D&D and similar games and literature."

Doctor Who is many things, but it is not that.


One of the other issues is that, other than Game of Thrones, shows along the lines of Hercules, Xena and Legend of the Seeker (which I, too, also enjoyed) aren't the hot ticket items. It seems like superheroes (Agents, Arrow and the upcoming Flash) are the in things, along with supernatural crime procedurals (Sleepy Hollow, Once Upon a Time [in the first season, though it has grown into its own Lost world], Grimm, etc).

It doesn't look like there will be a proper Tolkien fantasy programming for a while. With that said, it was only about 10 years from when the X-Men films were starting to be released and the supers shows started being viable.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Wait for Hobbit to be over and done with, those props and SFX artists are going to need a paying gig, and if there's a niche someone will fill it.


+1 for Legend of the Seeker (saw it all when it was on Netflix) and Once Upon a Time. I expy'd out Rumplestiltzkin into the mythical being that gives out Plot Twist cards to my characters in Rise of the Runelords. It did lose me when they went away from the original formula.

Vikings on History is really good for a PG-13 series that has some fantasy elements, but it's no D&D. It's much more dramatic, I suppose though...

Sci-Fi (SyFy?) is claiming they are trying to reclaim their throne as the go-to Sci-Fi channel, maybe try and organize a letter writing campaign to get a good fantasy series on there?


I have a question, though: does the inclusion of fantasy races interfere with storytelling in a TV series? Or does it make the most sense if the race is kept on the sidelines and the main protagonists remain human?

...Never mind, Star Trek and Babylon 5 answer that for me.


Kairos Dawnfury wrote:

+1 for Legend of the Seeker (saw it all when it was on Netflix) and Once Upon a Time. I expy'd out Rumplestiltzkin into the mythical being that gives out Plot Twist cards to my characters in Rise of the Runelords. It did lose me when they went away from the original formula.

Vikings on History is really good for a PG-13 series that has some fantasy elements, but it's no D&D. It's much more dramatic, I suppose though...

Sci-Fi (SyFy?) is claiming they are trying to reclaim their throne as the go-to Sci-Fi channel, maybe try and organize a letter writing campaign to get a good fantasy series on there?

I have heard very good things about Vikings. I assume it is better than the Kiera Knightly/Clive Owen Arthur? Can anyone else comment about this?

I also admit, other than the occasional post-cancellation guilty indulgence (Eureka, anyone?), I haven't gotten into SyFy enought in the last few years. I'm sure at least some people can say that while the (mini-)series are wholly worthwhile, the Sharknado-type made-for-TV-movies are less than palatable.


Ack! I realized I didn't link anything with The 10th Kingdom before! Oops! Now that that's fixed, it's also worth noting that The 10th Kingdom does do comedy - a lot. It's actually quite slapstick at times. But the plot is good, the drama is sincere (even when it's silly) and the characterization and acting is usually really good (despite any comedic moments going on). Just... don't read the plot summary before you see the show.

Heck, IMBD and the official trailer (which is... actually not a very good preview).

Also, I left out talking about the old Merlin film, for some reason - I vaguely recall seeing it as a mini-series, though I might be mis-remembering. I... don't know about the new series. Looks interesting.


And I'd better link the recent Merlin series as well.


Thanks! :D


Fig wrote:
Kairos Dawnfury wrote:
Vikings on History is really good for a PG-13 series that has some fantasy elements, but it's no D&D. It's much more dramatic, I suppose though...
I have heard very good things about Vikings. I assume it is better than the Kiera Knightly/Clive Owen Arthur? Can anyone else comment about this?

Very far from that movie, hah! It's hard to describe, it's historical fiction, but really good. The director described it as seeing how they lived from inside the time.

The story follows Ragnar Lothbrok, who apparently is a pretty popular cultural figure from that time. It really lets you see their politics and all the stuff deeper than "Barbarian Raid!" The first season had a Christian monk they kidnapped as a reference point where you'd learn more about their culture as he learned.

But the quality of the production is up there with Game of Thrones and Walking Dead.

You can get the History App and watch episodes 3-current of the second season, you'd be a bit behind on the plot, but it's really good. Not sure how to see the first season.


I was watching the first season as free downloads with my amazon prime account, if that helps. Though that was months ago, and I haven't been able to keep watching them. (Which is sad, because what I saw was really good.)


To me, the best way to handle any sort of live-action magical fantasy series is to actually dedicate to it, in the form of short-films.

Similar, in many regards, to the BBC Sherlock series.

In other words, you've got to have a pre-approved budget, and access to a large suite of costumes, make up, and similar.

It would probably have relatively "short" seasons - again, like Sherlock, perhaps three (or-maybe-four) episodes per Season.

One of the things that I wouldn't mind, and, in fact, would encourage, is the costume and prop department actually re-used old things, even things from other series, presuming those old things were in good enough condition to re-use in the first place (though they very well might not be the case in many instances).

Ultimately, it's very unlikely to come to fruition in the States right now.

There just simply isn't the perceived need or desire - between the financial investment, the distinctly (perceived) less-than-zeitgeist fan market, and the difficulties in pulling all of that off, especially when compared to (relatively) in-expensive and popular modern-setting designs, it seems very unlikely within this decade, at least not more than, say, Game of Thrones or the effectively-ascended-fan-projects like Journey Quest*.

Though I do have to check out Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (as well as the rest of Once Upon a Time!).

* Journey Quest is a professional production, and an excellently done one, but that doesn't make it not an effectively-ascended-fan-project. Being an independent studio is awesome, but it also comes with some drawbacks, such as, unfortunately, lacking a consistent budget (though it does have a budget), and the release schedule is difficult to make work in a timely manner because of it. I think they do a great job, and I wish to be clear: I entirely support Z.O.E. and Dead Gentlemen Productions, and desire that they continue doing what they're doing as long as possible!


Lord Snow wrote:
Can't believe nobody mentioned Doctor Who yet. While it's not, strictly speaking, a "fantasy", the science in it is silly enough to be magic. There are monsters, aliens, distant worlds/times, and a pulp adventure vibe. For me, at least, Doctor who certainly suffices when in need of some pulpy fantasy action. Well, it does when it's good, anyway, so not the last couple of seasons, but there are 4 other that are very nice.

Sorry to be that guy, but that's the first acceptable mention in this thread. The others are pretty much terrible. (I don't count Youtube series, though.)

Vikings - while excellent - doesn't count, as it is based on Nordic sagas. It features a lot of mysticism, but there's no magic.

The only other good example I can come up with is Robin of Sherwood. Magic swords, Celtic gods, a diverse group of adventurers combined with good scripts and good actors (though Jason Connery was a let-down). Even the freaking ninja works and he shouldn't.


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Fabius Maximus wrote:


Sorry to be that guy, but that's the first acceptable mention in this thread. The others are pretty much terrible.

How dare you. Kröd Mändoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire is a national treasure.

Good day sir, I said good day SIR!


Fabius Maximus wrote:


Sorry to be that guy, but that's the first acceptable mention in this thread. The others are pretty much terrible.

>Merlin

>Terrible

I think your problem is that you have no taste, sir, not that you can't find anything good.


Fabius Maximus wrote:
Vikings - while excellent - doesn't count, as it is based on Nordic sagas. It features a lot of mysticism, but there's no magic.

There's some cinema magic...

Silver Crusade

Has anyone watched Métal Hurlant Chronicles? Though technically sci-fi, since it is what we in America call Heavy Metal, we can expect some good old fashion fantasy thrown in as well.

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