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Instead of 'Game of Thrones,' there are appropriate alternatives to mature content

By Chris Vander Kaay

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, March 8 2014 10:02 p.m. MST

A scene from the "Once Upon a Time" episode "Lost Girl" on ABC

Jack Rowand, ABC

The HBO series “Game of Thrones,” returning for a fourth season April 6, is based on the hugely successful fantasy novel series by writer George R.R. Martin. The series is credited with making fantasy popular on television with its intense narrative and excellent performances.

It's also noted as one of the most violent and sexual programs on HBO’s line-up.

For those television viewers who like the idea of watching a long-form fantasy series made for television but are not interested in all of the mature content baggage that comes with “Game of Thrones,” here are a few recommendations for programs that provide similar concepts in a more family-friendly manner.

"Once Upon a Time"

Number of episodes: 55 (and counting)

A fun and fast-paced ensemble fantasy series that combines nearly every fairy-tale legend imaginable, “Once Upon a Time” is the only series on this list still making new episodes, and its popularity promises to keep it around for at least a few more seasons.

Created by “Lost” writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, the series follows the residents of Storybrooke, Maine, a town full of fairy tale characters that have been taken from their enchanted homeland and trapped with no memory of who they were previously. Their only hope is a young boy named Henry, adopted son of the town mayor (and former Evil Queen), and his birth mother, a bail bondswoman named Emma. With an excellent cast, including “Stargate: Universe” actor Robert Carlyle, and a writing crew that finds clever ways to reinterpret and interconnect classic fairy tales, the show is an adventure series with heart and a great sense of humor.

"Merlin"

Number of episodes: 65

Based on the mysterious magician at the heart of the tales of King Arthur, BBC’s “Merlin” follows a young Merlin as he is still learning his craft and becoming the great wizard of legend.

The series that boasts Anthony Head (from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) as Uther Pendragon and the great John Hurt (“Harry Potter,” “Alien,” “Doctor Who”) as the voice of The Dragon, also helped start the careers of Katie McGrath (now starring on NBC’s “Dracula”) and Asa Butterfield (“Ender’s Game,” “Hugo”). With a subtle sense of humor that never undermines the drama or the fantasy, the series plays fast and loose with the source material, but does so in an attempt to make a compelling weekly series. It succeeds.

"The Storyteller" and "The Storyteller: Greek Myths"

Number of episodes: 13

Following the successes of darker fantasy material in the films “Labyrinth” and “The Dark Crystal,” Muppets creator Jim Henson came up with the anthology fantasy television series “The Storyteller” for HBO.

Each week, The Storyteller (played by both John Hurt and Michael Gambon), with the help of his talking dog, narrates Greek and European folk tales that are brought to vivid life through stunning set design, make-up, puppetry and animation by the technicians at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Though there are only 13 episodes — nine of the European tales and four of the Greek myths — each episode is its own epic standalone story that makes for perfect anytime viewing and won’t leave you on a cliffhanger.

"Hercules: the Legendary Journeys"

Number of episodes: 111

The syndicated series, which began its run as several made-for-TV movies in 1994, stars Kevin Sorbo as Hercules, child of the god Zeus and a mortal woman, whose strength made him a legend, and whose friends Iolaus and Salmoneus got him into endless adventures and problems.

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