Beowulf : Return to the Shieldlands

"This spectacular drama re-imagines one of literature's most enduring heroes, the great warrior Beowulf"

So says the marketing blurb on the back of the DVD. 'Spectacular' is not the word that I would have chosen. When ITV announced that they were going to produce a dramatisation of Beowulf, I was overjoyed and couldn't wait. The reality however was far less than the anticipation. ITV spent £17 million on a production which they hoped would be family friendly equivalent to The Game of Thrones. It was nothing of the kind however. 

Game of Thrones, for example, is a great series but many people, including younger viewers, can’t watch it because of the level of sex and violence, Beowulf is a show that delivers epic fantasy, danger and excitement but that three generations can enjoy and, we hope, find fascinating for many series.  - Tim Haines, co-creator and executive producer 

What wasn't understood by ITV was the fact that people were only really watching TGOT for the 'sex and violence', so a family friendly production was never going to gather a large following, and this was proven by the ratings. When the first series only managed to acquire viewing figures of 1.5 million in comparison to TGOT's 5.5 million, the programmes fate was sealed. It was cancelled after the first season. 

Had ITV chosen to make a straight dramatisation of the poem, they would have achieved a solid following. Instead what they did was take the names of the poem's characters and create a story of political intreague, filled with trolls, skinshifters, warewolves and set in a world which was more Tolkeinesque than Norse. What there was of it was interesting enough as a 'sword and politics' fantasy, but Beowulf it most certainly was not.