2019 has been a banner year for television. As the numerous streaming services compete, we the subscribing audience were left with a bounty of TV series to enjoy. This is most true in the twin genres of sci-fi and fantasy. This year has seen the conclusion of HBO’s epic Game of Thrones saga. While its ending may have disappointed some fans. Its true climax at the Battle for Winterfell remains an enduring favorite. In 2019 Disney debuted its own premium streaming service, headlined by a new Star Wars franchise, The Mandalorian. Mando as he is called by his friendimies, is a bounty hunter in the mold of the original Star Wars trilogy character Boba Fett, but with a heart of gold. Featuring an adorable Baby Yoda, this marquee effort bodes well for the launch of yet another pay-to-watch platform, in an already crowded market. There is now so much good TV to see that a journeyman effort like The Witcher hardly stands a chance.
Dropped on Netflix this month, this sword and sorcery offering stars hunky Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia and is based on source material created by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. Basically, a witcher is like a warlock and Geralt is also a “good” bounty hunter. Hunting only bad monsters. He co-stars with sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra), and princess Ciri (Freya Allan), who find that all of their destinies are tied together. Lacking the production values of either Thrones or The Mandalorian, Witcher compensates with a certain campiness and a sense of not taking itself too seriously. It comes across like a playing of the game Dungeons and Dragons.
Think of the actors as knights of the dinner table, inhabiting their characters, with adlibs and asides. Like in any good D&D story, there is a fair amount of bumbling about, as the characters go hither and yon, questing for whatever each episode has served them up. There is an underlying story, the arc of which is eventually told across this show’s eight episodes of season One and nicely tees-up season Two, which has already been green lit. Witcher is not as good as its better competition, but is still enjoyable and not worthy of just discounting.
Unlike the Staten Island Ferry, Netflix isn’t free. It has held the lead in the race of competing TV subscription services, but everybody and their brother is in the race now. It remains to be seen how well it will perform in the future. Striving for king of the hill shows may not be their forte and the network might be better suited to utility programing, relegated to living on the margins with short haul successes, getting one from place-to-place.