- 2022 is an incredible year for people who love fantasy television shows. On top of the regular fantasy TV shows that are currently airing, two of the biggest franchises in history came to streaming services this year. Up first in August was the Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon on HBO, set about 200 years before the original series. Then, in September, The Lord of the Rings came to Prime Video with The Rings of Power, set thousands of years before the events in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Whether these new shows match up to the best of all time or not is to be determined, but it is a wonderful time for fantasy fans.
When people think of great television, they think of dramas, procedurals, comedies, and science fiction, but rarely fantasy. In years past, fantasy was seen as a niche genre. But what many people get wrong is that fantasy doesn't just apply to stories with magic and dragons.
Fantasy is a concept that encompasses a great deal of fictional material, and while there have been successful fantasy TV shows in years past, it's undeniable that it has become more and more popular over time. Many of TV's greatest pieces in recent history have been fantasy shows, but it's a genre that has been making waves on the small screen for far longer.SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
UPDATE: 2022/09/26 19:34 EST BY SHAWN S. LEALOS
2022 is an incredible year for people who love fantasy television shows. On top of the regular fantasy TV shows that are currently airing, two of the biggest franchises in history came to streaming services this year. Up first in August was the Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon on HBO, set about 200 years before the original series. Then, in September, The Lord of the Rings came to Prime Video with The Rings of Power, set thousands of years before the events in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Whether these new shows match up to the best of all time or not is to be determined, but it is a wonderful time for fantasy fans.
What We Do In The Shadows (2014-)
* Stream now on Kanopy
In 2014, Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement co-created the mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, a movie that debuted at Sundance. Five years later, Clement brought the story to TV and premiered the show on FX. The show takes a similar format to Modern Family.
The TV show sees the wannabe aristocratic vampires living in Staten Island, New York. Along with the three regular vampires, there is also an energy vampire who pretty much just bores people to death, and Guillermo, Nandor's familiar. Four seasons of What We Do in the Shadows have aired since 2019 and it shows no signs of slowing down.
The Witcher (2019-)
* Stream now on Netflix
Before Netflix released its fantasy series The Witcher, the franchise had already established popularity thanks to both a series of novels and video games based on the world. However, when it arrived in 2019, the fantasy franchise gained a lot more fans.
Henry Cavill, who had already picked up a lot of fans playing Superman in Zack Snyder's DCEU, took on the role of Geralt of Rivia, a magically-enhanced monster hunter. The storyline also played around with time, bouncing between the past, present, and future, piecing the action together like a puzzle. The series has also picked up an animated spin-off and a live-action prequel series, and a family-friendly spinoff as well.
Stranger Things (2016-)
* Stream now on Netflix
Stranger Things took a great mix of horror television and fantasy action and created one of the most successful shows in Netflix history. The first season was popular thanks to it wearing its love for the 1980s on its sleeve, and this mix of Stephen King horror and Steven Spielberg fantasy, and it hasn't slowed down yet.
The kids from the first season now play teenagers, as they still battle to protect the world from monsters, even when they end up living apart in Stranger Things fourth season. The show will end after its fifth season, and fans hope it goes out as spectacularly as it started.
Dark Shadows (1966-1971)
* Stream now on Prime Video
Some people will recall the critical and commercial 2012 flop, Dark Shadows, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp as the titular vampire Barnabas Collins. When word got out that Burton and Depp would be reuniting after their live-action Alice in Wonderland, fans were expecting another hit. After all, Dark Shadows is based on a famed Gothic soap opera from the '60s, created by Dan Curtis and starring the likes of Joan Bennett and Grayson Hall. However, Burton's Dark Shadows was anything but a hit.
Although the series wasn't initially a success, it generated massive popularity after the aforementioned Barnabas Collins appeared in the show's second season. Despite Burton's movie being a flop, it managed to remain largely faithful to the TV series it's based on, focusing on the everyday lives of the misfit Collins family who, of course, lived with an immortal vampire.
* Stream on Peacock+
As the first prime time series to feature a coven of witches, Charmed excelled where virtually all other shows have failed. Perhaps that is due to the amalgamation of magic, sci-fi, fantasy, and comedy; all perked up with accurate pop-cultural timing. But, the popularity of Charmed comes from its leading stars, who carried the series for eight seasons on The WB before concluding in 2006.
Charmed starred Shannon Doherty (later replaced by Rose McGowan), Holly Marie Combs, and Alyssa Milano as the trio of Halliwell sisters, who were collectively known as The Charmed Ones. It became the longest-running hour-long series in history to feature all female leads, until it was dethroned by Desperate Housewives.
Penny Dreadful (2014-2016)
* Stream now on Fubo & Showtime
Showtime's hit British-American horror drama Penny Dreadful is more supernatural than it is fantasy. However, its use of public domain works such as Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Hyde justifies its inclusion.
Starring the likes of Reeve Carney, Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, and Timothy Dalton, Penny Dreadful's exhibition of Gothic horror mysteries are truly captivating. The series doesn't rely on jump scares for its horror aspect, instead opting for subtlety, and considering its setting, its characters, and its stories, the creatives made the right choice.
* Stream now on Prime Video
When a broadcast network airs a show on a Friday, fans usually interpret that as a warning of an impending cancelation or a lack of confidence. Rather than suffering from that suspected fate, NBC's Grimm - a modern-day police procedural fantasy drama, based on and inspired by the Grimm's Fairy Tales - excelled in its Friday slot.
One aspect in which many shows tend to falter is increasing the stakes for its heroes (and the world) by compromising the personal story audiences were initially attracted to. While Grimm took the story worldwide and drastically upped the ante, the plot always boiled down to the core characters and their lives. That's in part why it maintained a steady supply of devoted viewers.
* Stream now on Roku
Like Dark Shadows, Bewitched is another show that aired on ABC in the late '60s/early '70s which also went on to develop a cult following. The comedy starred Elizabeth Montgomery as witch Samantha Stephens, who marries a mortal man, is universally considered to be one of the greatest shows ever created.
Bewitched finished its eight-season run and has since spawned numerous spinoffs and remakes, including a 2005 film starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell. Though the movie was a flop, Bewitched remains a beloved franchise.
Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008)
* Stream now on Netflix & Paramount+
Forget about M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender movie. The animated TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender is far and away a masterpiece, the quintessential series in its genre. In addition to being critically and commercially successful, Avatar was nominated for and won several Annie, Peabody, and Primetime Emmy Awards.
Set in an Asian-influenced world where martial arts and elemental manipulation are complementary components, Avatar: The Last Airbender centers on twelve-year-old Aang and his fight to maintain peace across his world -- which consists of four elemental-focused nations. The series premiered on Nickelodeon in 2005 and ran for three seasons, and has since spawned a film, video games, and comics, as well as the television sequel, The Legend of Korra, which itself was a hit.
* Stream now on Starz
Starz's British-American fantasy show Outlander - based on Diana Gabaldon's series of historical, science-fiction, mystery, fantasy time-traveling novels and short stories of the same name - has proven time and time again that it is one of the most imaginative and daring shows on television.
Beginning in World War II, the pilot episode quickly transports the series' protagonist, married nurse Claire Randall, back in time to 1743, where she meets her husband Frank's evil ancestor, Jonathan Randall. While the series tends to stray from its source material from time to time, Outlander remains faithfully a fantasy show.
Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001)
* Buy now on Prime Video
Just like Bewitched, Xena: Warrior Princess is one of the most widely recognized TV shows in history. Starring Lucy Lawless as the fictional warlord-turned-warrior, Xena: Warrior Princess established a devout cult following after the series concluded in 2001, and has even inspired novels, comic books, and video games throughout the years.
Xena initially appeared in a three-episode arc on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and was supposed to die in her final episode, but audiences loved the character so much that Hercules producer Robert Tapert elected to give Xena her own series. Which ended up being the right decision, seeing as Xena: Warrior Princess not only surpassed Hercules' ratings, but also became the highest-rated syndicated drama in only its second season, and it remained in the top five throughout the rest of its run.
Once Upon a Time (2011-2018)
* Stream now on Disney+
ABC's Once Upon A Time suffered a slump in the past few seasons, but its magnificent first two seasons warrant its status as a great fantasy TV series. With a simple yet unique premise of storybook characters being cursed by the Evil Queen and ripped from their world to a land without magic, Once Upon A Time did the seemingly impossible: bring fairy tale characters to life on the small screen.
It all began with a small town in Maine called Storybrooke, but five seasons in, audiences traveled to Oz, Camelot, Wonderland, Neverland, and more. Several Hollywood studios - not just Disney - joined the trend of adapting fairy tale characters and stories into live-action movies, but Once Upon A Time mastered it.
* Stream now on Netflix
Instead of concluding the series after its fifth season, as creator Eric Kripke had originally planned, Supernatural acquired a new showrunner, shifted in scope, yet remained faithful to its premise. Finally, after 15 seasons. Supernatural ended as the longest-running fantasy series in television history, as well as The CW's longest-running series, the last remaining show left over from when the network used to be The WB.
Starring Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as brothers Sam and Dean Winchester, respectively, Supernatural is a modern Western, which focuses on the Winchester brothers exorcising supernatural forces.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
* Stream now on Prime Video & Hulu
Before Hollywood became aware of its lack of leading female characters on TV, Sarah Michelle Gellar showed audiences what it meant to be a strong female on screen by playing Buffy Summers: student by day, vampire slayer by night. Created by Joss Whedon and based on the movie of the same name, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the greatest shows to grace the small screen.
Casual audiences who would mistakenly view Buffy as being a teen drama would miss out on an epic fantasy tale of slayers battling supernatural forces like vampires and demons. To say Buffy the Vampire Slayer impacted the entertainment industry would be an understatement. Its enrichment of geek culture can only be compared to franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek, and comic book publishers DC Comics and Marvel Comics.
Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
* Stream now on HBO Max
While there are plenty of ground-breaking fantasy novels, there have been little to no ground-breaking fantasy TV shows.
Sure there are some great fantasy shows, but HBO's Game of Thrones - based on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, and adapted for television by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss - is the only series of its kind to not only alter the television landscape, but also open the door of the fantasy genre to casual audiences and turn fantasy TV into a prestige genre.
NEXT: 13 Facts About The Rings Of Power Only Book Fans Know