The summer of our discontent rapidly approaches as HBO’s “Game of Thrones” begins its march toward its final episode. There’ll be much gnashing of teeth and blood-thirsty battles, both onscreen and on the couch, as viewers face the prospect of a future lacking Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, Arya Stark and the remaining inhabitants of Westeros.
Sure, we could all wait for creator and author George R.R. Martin’s next book in the series, “The Winds of Winter,” but a release date is yet to be announced and the book-publishing business moves at a far slower rate than digital appetites are accustomed to.
Rather than spend the next six weeks quietly fretting about what shows will fill a dragon-sized hole in your viewing schedule, here we present a few replacements to consider. While some pack the emotional and cliff-hanger punches of “GoT,” all contain characters worth investing time on, and deliver fully-realized worlds worth exploring. All, bar one, are available to stream immediately.
With a sprawling storyline set 400 years in Earth’s future and diverse characters representing a fully-realized version of humanity grappling with the arrival of an infectious “protomolecule” that may or may not have alien origins, “The Expanse” has developed a justifiable cult following over three seasons on SyFy and now Amazon Prime. Gorgeously rendered and available in 4K on Amazon, “The Expanse” explores a future where warring factions–Earth, the Moon, Mars and the Belt–must align with each other to face a common threat not yet understood. With series four in the can and rumored to be arriving on screens mid-year, it’s a binge-worthy substitute layered with the world-building appeal of “GoT,” the atmospheric allure of “Blade Runner” and, as the seasons progress, a satisfying dose of “Star Trek’s” mission to boldly go where no man has gone before. Starring Steven Strait, Dominique Tipper, Cas Anvar, Wes Chatham and Shohreh Aghdashloo.
If “Russian Doll” has not made it onto your viewing queue since it was released on Netflix in early February, the end of “GoT” is as good a reason as any to discover this mind-bending drama-comedy series about a cynical New Yorker who repeatedly dies and must relieve the same evening over again with different outcomes each time. Natasha Lyonne, as Nadia Vulvokov, must relieve her 36th birthday celebration in a seemingly endless loop in this gritty and addictive urban “Groundhog Day.” It’s a wild ride that will stay in your head long after the final episode. Created by Lyonne, Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland, it also stars Charlie Barnett, Greta Lee and Elizabeth Ashley.
Canadian sitcom “Schitt’s Creek” is the fish-out-of-water tale of the Rose family, a once wealthy clan now down on their luck who have to move to the titular small town which is their remaining sole asset. Delivering laughs and heart in equal doses, “Creek” stars Eugene Levy as a video store magnate, Catharine O’Hara as his wife, a former soap actress, and Daniel Levy and Annie Murphy as their adult children. The first four seasons are currently available on Netflix while the fifth, and penultimate season, is currently screening on Pop TV.
“Tales of the City” is based on the enduring and endearing novels of the same name by Armistead Maupin which chronicle the comings and goings of a San Francisco apartment complex. It’s relocation to screens began as a 1993 miniseries before further episodes arrived in 1998 and 2001. Now at a Netflix address, the inhabitants of 28 Barbary Lane return June 7 for a further 10-episode run featuring original stars Olympia Dukakis as Anna Madrigal and Laura Linney as Mary Ann Singleton, with Murray Bartlett new to the role of Michael Toliver and Ellen Page as Shawna, a new character who has a painful link to Mary Ann’s past. This embracing community of survivors is the perfect destination when “Thrones” spills its final blood and the dust settles.