I’m sure I wasn’t the only one sitting glued to the box by the return of Tyrion Lannister, Bron, John Snow, Danerys et al last night. I am sure of it because my wife and son were sitting right there with me. Which in itself is an unusual thing these days– normally our group television experience centres around watching a couple of episodes from a DVD box set like The Wire or Big Bang Theory. Watching a live (you know what I mean– it sounds better than non-time-shifted) broadcast at the same time as a whole lot of other people – I honestly can’t remember when I last did that.It might have been the last World Cup and probably not even then. For any sort of drama—I really can’t remember but it was most likely back in the 80s.
OK– my situation is unusual– I am a long-term expat and not a big TV watcher– but still I am sure this sort of water-cooler TV experience is much less common than it used to be when I was a lad. There are so many more channels and so many more things– like the Internet– competing for attention these days. When I was a kid, the big family gathering around the box was the way to watch TV and probably the central entertainment event of an evening as well.
What’s rather boggling is that GoT is the sort of series that has built the kind of fanbase and word of mouth that has made this experience possible again, and it’s not just among fantasy fans– I’ve lost count of the number of people who have said or written I/my partner am/is not the sort of person who likes fantasy but I/he/she can’t wait for the next season of GoT.
If anybody had told me a decade ago that a fantasy series might get the sort of fanbase/critical adulation reserved for The Sopranos, I would have considered the possibility. At the time Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings trilogy was doing gangbusters box-office and I really thought there was the chance of the golden age of fantasy movies beginning. Well, we all know how that turned out. Then suddenly out of nowhere we have GoT. I’m not expecting the golden age of fantasy TV series any time soon but I am glad we have it.
And honestly I am not surprised GoT is popular in the way The Sopranos was popular. It has a similar mixture of sex, violence, intrigue, power fantasy, great acting and great scripting. It has a wonderful cast doing a great job– from last night I must single out Charles Dance, a chilling and plausibly nasty Tywin Lannister during his confrontation with his less-than-beloved son Tyrion. The sets and special effects are astounding for a TV series– loved the giant and the wildling camp last night. The fantasy elements are downplayed but present in a grittily realistic setting that is convincing.
A lot of credit must be given to the original books but it’s been a lovely adaptation so far. If lovely is the right word to describe a series which, to paraphrase George Orwell, succeeds in the difficult business of making the Middle Ages look worse than they were.
I am very much looking forward to the new series. No doubt many other people are too.