The Game of Thrones Effect
I love TV. Always have. It’s that end-of-the-day time that lets you put your brain on cruise control and let a few other people’s imaginations take over for an hour or two before you go off to slumber. I used to watch a lot more. Before we had our son we sat the usual 2-3 hours a night in front of the television with the standard array of sitcoms and dramas spilling out before us. After he was born it decreased greatly to the couple of hours after he went to sleep, and now that he isn’t in bed until 8:30 I’m lucky to have sixty minutes to take in something.
As the amount of time I had to watch decreased, so did the number of shows. I had to become a bit more picky about my 30 and 60 minute time slots. We watch everything streaming now from Apple TV/Hulu/Netflix/Amazon Prime, having cut the cable cord four years ago, so we can fill our time slots with exactly what we want, not just what the networks say you will watch at 9:00pm on a Thursday.
The hour long shows disappeared first from my must-watch lists. They were harder to fit into unpredictable time slots. Then the sitcoms fell away one by one.
About a week ago I was scanning through my ‘shows you watch’ on Hulu and Netflix and realized that it had been months since I’d kept up with a lot of shows and I wasn’t missing them. Talking to good friends over drinks the other night I put into words what was happening.
I called it the Game of Thrones Effect. After watching the first five seasons over the course of two weeks recently at the urging of a friend, it is hard to go watch The Middle or The Arrow. GoT is production value at its best, writing at the top of its game and a plot so convoluted you can’t explain it but you know exactly what is going on. With shows like GoT and House of Cards, normal television is just too… normal.
Looking through my history of viewing, the weight has definitely pushed over into the non-network programming. I haven’t watched Modern Family or even Grimm since before Christmas. The only network sitcom I regularly catch up on is Brooklyn 99. You see, shows like Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Justified and Orange is the New Black have redefined television. No longer does it have to be a single plot line in each episode that involves a beginning, middle and end within a 22 or 46 minute show. The wonderful Seattle set police detective show The Killing only covers one case over each season, not one episode. House of Cards’ 13 episode seasons cover months on the campaign trail. And Game of Thrones, well, who knows what will happen each episode. They’ve totally rewritten the traditional hero role of a show, killing of favorite characters with no notice on almost a weekly basis.
Television has just gotten great, if you look in the right places. There’s only so many hours in the day, so watch what really gets you thinking, laughing or crying.
My all-time favorite TV shows:
- House of Cards
- The Americans
- Orange is the New Black
- The X-Files
- Game of Thrones
- 30 Rock
- Parks & Recreation
What’s fallen off/not on that list:
WKRP in Cincinnati: A great show has to be timeless. I went back and rewatched most of the original series and it just didn’t hold up, for me at least.
Seinfeld: Maybe it should be. It is indeed one of the greatest of all time. I just don’t go back and rewatch them much anymore.
Friends: Loved it when it was on, rarely missed an episode when it was new. Wanted to punch Ross in the face by the end. I mean hard.
Breaking Bad: If I ever find the time to start over from episode 1 and watch the entire thing (stopped at the end of season 3 for some reason) I think it would hit the top 10.
The Killing: Love this show. There’s just only room for 10 up there.
Sherlock: I think this just feels like 3 movies a year rather than a tv series to me. Always incredible, but just not enough episodes to put on the list.