Image: The Everett Collection
When Game of Thrones first hit cable television, it was considered a risk. Despite the success of Lord of the Rings, full-on fantasy had never quite worked on network television. We're talking wizards, dragons, knights, etc. — the stuff of Dungeons & Dragons and fairy tales.
Part of the uncertainty was due to a fleet of failed fantasy series from the past. Sure, in the 1960s quirky comedies like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie dabbled in fantasy, but the genre never had its Star Trek, like sci-fi had. Of course, mythological heroes Xena and Hercules fared quite well for themselves in syndication.
Here are a handful of fantasy series from the Eighties that came and went in a poof of smoke. Some were epics, but overall they were tongue-in-cheek. They would all probably fare much better today. Do you remember these shows?
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Here's the pitch: The legendary wizard of Camelot is alive and well, living in San Francisco and working as a car mechanic. Merlin (first name: "Max") hires a young man, who pulls a wrench out of a bucket of cement. Ta-da! It was actually the sword Excalibur. Clark Brandon, who played the apprentice, became a brief teen heartthrob. The series is perhaps most notable for having TV icon Bill Bixby direct six of the 22 episodes.
Kim Cattrall of Sex in the City starred in the pilot for this comedic crime series. However, you will note that is Catherine Hicks of 7th Heaven holding the kitty in that photo. The studio was not happy after Cattrall appeared in a steamy scene in the sex romp Porky's, so she was expelled from the series. Instead, Hicks and Tim Matheson starred as a married couple with a private detective agency. Oh, and she's a witch, of course. In the first episode, six days after the Cheers premiere, Ted Danson played an elevator killer.
Image: The Everett Collection
Wizards & Warriors
Jeff Conaway of Taxi and Grease went from playing Kenickie to a knight in this CBS series, perhaps the most traditional sword-and-sorcery series of the 1980s, if not television history. Characters with names like Greystone, Blackpool, Ariel, Baaldorf and Vector battled it out in the lighthearted adventure. Heck, there was even an episode called "The Dungeon Of Death" for all the D&D kids out there. Alas, only eight episodes were made. It did at least win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Costumes for a Series.
Image: Warner Bros. Television / YouTube
A sort of cross of Land of the Lost and Stargate, this action series built an elaborate world. A family touring the Great Pyramid of Giza is thrown into a parallel universe, where humans are divided into strictly defined "zones" and androids mine for a radioactive material called "sarlax." Jonathan Banks (Mike of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul) was the big baddie, Commander Kroll, who hunts the family for revenge. From the Mad Max motorcyles to the young daughter playing drums, the synth-heavy opening is perhaps the most 1980s sequence you will ever see.
Image: Universal Television
ABC is known for fairy tales and family comedy, so a sitcom about Snow White perhaps seemed inevitable. Think of The Charmings as a hybrid of Once Upon a Time and Family Matters. After awakening from a millennium-long spell, Snow White and Prince Charming find themselves living the suburban life in Southern California. The opening credits were a mish-mash of 1970s van paintings and stereotypical sitcom schmaltz, all saxophones and forced smiles. After a decent start on Friday evenings (of course — TGIF) the show moved to Tuesdays and was cursed to sleep again thanks to its competition, Family Ties.
Image: Sony Pictures Television