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5 Forgotten fantasy classics to revisit

5 Forgotten fantasy classics to revisit

If you're enjoying high fantasy season and don't want it to end, venture back to these forgotten—but still classic—fantasy films and TV shows

It would be pretty difficult to miss the fantasy takeover currently happening on TV. More so than ever, the genre is making a major impact.

Netflix’s The Witcher (2019-) and The Sandman (2022-), Amazon Prime Video’s The Rings of Power (2022-) and The Wheel of Time (2021-), HBO’s House of the Dragon and the BBC’s His Dark Materials (2019-) are just a few notable examples of fantasy in full-force. 

But throughout history, the genre has surfaced in unusual ways. Some releases might have been massive at the time, but have since been forgotten, that set the stage for modern series.

They are notable for their casting, unique take on famous myths, reinvention of the tropes, or perhaps for their fantastical visuals. These relics of bygone eras are well worth checking out. 

Bewitched (1964-1972)

Sitcom fans might be relatively aware of the scale of Bewitched, which aired across eight seasons on ABC.

The show tracked the life of witch Samantha Stephens (Elizabeth Montgomery), who marries the ordinary, mortal Darrin Stephens (Dick York and Dick Sargent) and tries to make suburban life work.

It’s a family feature which was consistently thrown into disarray with Samantha turning to her magical craft to solve the most mundane of problems, to hilarious and chaotic results. 

"WandaVision actually owes a large part of its aesthetic and concept to Bewitched"

The strength of the premise is undeniable, with the popular format gaining two movie adaptations, one in 2005 starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell and one that’s currently in development.

But for those paying attention to recent hits, WandaVision (2021) actually owes a large part of its aesthetic and concept to Bewitched, with the series paying homage as it did to so many other classic sitcoms.

With such a strong legacy to draw from, it’s a surprise that so many, especially in the UK, have forgotten about the charm of the original. 

Dark Shadows (1966-1971)

Scene of a teenage bedroom in Dark Shadows, Johnny Depp sits on a chair while teen sits on bedCredit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Dark Shadows got a Tim Burton refresh in 2012

Dark Shadows has resurfaced since its original incarnation. The first variation of the show took the fantasy genre in a spectacularly spooky direction, as ABC produced a soap opera with a difference.

Laughably over-the-top and wonderfully dated, this gem of a show featured the ludicrously wealthy Collins family, who would interact with zombies, ghosts, ghouls, werewolves and, of course most notably, vampires. 

Drawing some of its success from gothic hits like The Munsters (1964-1966) and The Addams Family (1964-1966), the appeal of the classic supernatural setting, alongside the monstrous guest stars, continues to be just as enthralling today.

The combination of horror and fantasy in this whimsical manner has woven itself into the fabric of the genre.

Dark Shadows would be revived in 1991 as a limited series, in 2004 as a failed TV pilot, and in 2012 as a Warner Bros and Tim Burton film starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green and Michelle Pfeiffer. 

Beauty and the Beast (1987-1990)

It’s a tale as old as time. Beauty and the Beast might be a fable perfected by Disney in 1991, but believe it or not, it debuted as a beloved TV show from CBS prior.

Set in New York, some of the fantastical elements were stripped back, with District Attorney Catherine Chandler (Linda Hamilton) falling in love with the beastly Vincent (Ron Pearlman).

"District Attorney Catherine Chandler falls in love with the beastly Vincent"

Perhaps courtroom dramas were left out of Disney’s edit, but this series, which didn’t shy away from its law-based premise, enjoyed three seasons. 

Its use of prosthetics, reinvention of the fairy tale and perfect use of gothic imagery certainly allows this iteration of Beauty and the Beast to stand out from the crowd.

While its stars might have gone on to do bigger and better things, the show’s promise to break new ground shouldn’t be overlooked, especially in the current era that sees familiar storybook tales carbon copied far too often. 

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995-1999)

Whether it’s Thor and Loki or Set and Horus, mythological characters are currently dominating the fantasy genre.

Hollywood was no stranger to the sword and sandal epic which would boast fantastical adventures, but Hercules: The Legendary Journeys was an attempt to take the format to TV.

The show appeared on British channels like Channel 5 and Sky One during its heyday, and ran across six seasons. 

Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) was joined by his companion Iolaus (Michael Hurst) on his escapades, with the duo completing complex quests in the name of heroism.

The show was not only given multiple spin-off movies, but also spawned series like Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001).

While it may be overshadowed by the legacy it has left, without Hercules, shows like Conan the Adventurer (1997), or Tarzan: The Epic Adventures (1996-2000) would never have been produced. It defined a golden age for fantasy adventure series. 

The 10th Kingdom (2000)

The combination of the real world and fairy tale characters might remind many of ABC’s Once Upon a Time (2011-2018), but NBC’s The 10th Kingdom mastered the balance of the two worlds first.

Virginia Lewis (Kimberly Williams) and her father Anthony Lewis (John Larroquette) are transported into a parallel dimension from Manhattan and are determined to find a way home.

This mystical landscape is inhabited by monsters, evil queens, and familiar fables from Cinderella to Snow White. 

"Although its title sequence won an Emmy, the series is the definition of forgotten"

Although its title sequence won an Emmy, the series is the definition of forgotten, despite what it brings to the table.

It’s a hidden hit with a great narrative, gorgeous visuals, and a range of thematic threads that feel just as relevant to the genre today as they did when this was first released.

If there was ever to be a show that garnered an unexpected reboot for a new audience, The 10th Kingdom might be the perfect candidate for a limited series. 

There are sure to be modern fantasy hits that attempt to reinvent the genre, like Merlin (2008-2012) or Constantine (2014), that may one day be forgotten by audiences. But as the streaming revolution continues and imaginative worlds are conjured up, it’s vital to look back on the hidden gems that inspired them.

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