Swinging swords, monsters lurking in forests, and plenty of earnest conversations by men in battle armour.

It looks and sounds like Game of Thrones, especially when the theme music kicks in, but the creators of Beowulf: Return To The Shieldlands say the comparisons end there.

"Game of Thrones is a great series but many people, including younger viewers, can't watch it because of the level of sex and violence," says co-creator Tim Haines.

"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."


Fellow co-creator Katie Newman says their version is closer aligned to Lord of the Rings, a family-friendly take on the ancient English poem Beowulf about an exiled hero battling a gruesome creature.

The show, which has little to do with Robert Zemeckis' so-so 2007 film, shifts the poem's setting of Denmark to a fictional place called The Shieldlands.

It kicks off with the titular hero - played by Kieran Bew - returning to his home village of Herot, only to find it under attack by the poem's gigantic villain, Grendel.

Along with Grendel, this is a show with quite a few monsters, including trolls, skinshifters, sand "wyrms" and barghests - giant heavy-breathing wolves with fire in their eyes.

Taking them all on is Beowulf, who Bew describes as a "loner with quite a few secrets".

"In the poem he's very decisive and front-footed and he's the same in our drama. He's living in a town where outside the borders there are very scary, dangerous creatures. It makes people paranoid, brittle and reactionary because they're defensive and have been hardenedre by it," he says.

"There are times when Beowulf wants to do the right thing but has to make decisions he doesn't want to make because of the circumstances he's put himself in."

While the show is yet to be renewed for a second season by ITV, Duke is airing all 12 episodes and critics have praised it for its acting and sets.

The San Francisco Chronicle called it "well plotted, acted and directed" while The AV Club called it an "unapologetic sword-and-sorcery fantasy".

Some of the CGI monsters, however, were criticised by Variety: "Some of the show's computer-generated interiors are impressive, but when it comes to the fantastical beasts, there are a number of moments in which they look plastic-y and unreal."

Still, Bew has been putting his body on the line for the role, sustaining several injuries that made him declare it "the hardest job I've ever done".

"We're making an action show - 12 episodes of horse riding, battling against monsters and various different tribes of humans. I'm fine now.

"My knee has healed, my eye has healed and my ribs have healed."

Where and when: Duke, 8.30pm, Friday

What: Swords and sheepskins epic inspired by a poem

Easter viewing

Elizabeth McGovern and Felicity Jones in Cheerful Weather for the Wedding. Photo / Supplied
Elizabeth McGovern and Felicity Jones in Cheerful Weather for the Wedding. Photo / Supplied

• IF you're looking for easy diversions on the box over Easter weekend, there are plenty of movies on offer. TV2 is catering for family needs, offering The Karate Kid tonight, and then throughout Friday Sophia Grace & Rosie's Royal Adventure, Fly Away Home, Stuart Little, The Waterboy, and The Avengers.

• Sky Movies Family are also screening some 90s classics across the weekend including Babe, The Jetsons, and the Back to the Future movies (all three in the trilogy).

• Sky Movies' pop-up channel pays tribute to selected directors each day, featuring the films of Tim Burton on Friday, Martin Scorsese on Saturday, Ridley and Tony Scott on Sunday, and Francis Ford Coppola on Monday.

• If you've been feeling some Downton Abbey withdrawals, there's a British period film on Saturday evening (Prime, 7.30pm) called Cheerful Weather For The Wedding, starring Felicity Jones and Elizabeth McGovern, along with Luke Treadaway, in a proper romantic triangle rom-com.

• Aside from the movies, you can look forward to Michael McIntyre's Easter Night at the Coliseum (Friday, 7.45pm, TV One), which has the British comedian presenting a variety show with who include Bill Bailey, Eddie Izzard, Sia, and an impressive bunch of acrobats and dancers.

• And finally Ripper Street begins its fourth season on UKTV tonight (10pm), with Matthew Macfadyen returning as Detective Inspector Edmund Reid and Game of Thrones' Jerome Flynn as Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake. In the high summer of 1897, the detectives confront the fallout of an all-too-human monstrosity crawling up from the city's underbelly.