Game of Thrones: The Last of Its Kind

Game Of Thrones 1Television is almost as American as apple pie.

It’s been a hallmark of the average household since the end of the 1950’s and has woven its way into the world’s culture.

Unlike film, TV is a more intimate medium; we invite these stories and characters into our homes and invest time out of our day to immerse ourselves with them.

Every once in a while, a show transcends the comfort of our homes and launches into a countrywide phenomenon.

Game of Thrones launched their final season last Sunday, sparking a mass conversation on social media platforms and pretty much every major news outlet in the world.

It is, without a doubt, the biggest cultural show to air in the past decade.

The show returned after a near two-year hiatus and will air its remaining episodes within the coming weeks.

Thrones isn’t the first show of its kind.

Yes, it’s budget and literal size is probably the first of its kind, but the way it fits into pop culture is not anything new.

Massive television events becoming standard water cooler talk have been a thing since M.A.S.H. aired its record breaking final episode all the way back in the 1980’s.

Other shows would follow in popularity like Seinfeld, and Friends, both becoming synonymous with American pop culture, that even the most obscure reference from either show would be recognized by the average viewer.

It wasn’t until The Sopranos came along that critics and viewers gilded the current era of TV, “The Golden Age of Television.”

Game Of Thrones 2Shows began to increase in quality, in terms of production, writing and acting.

The gap between film and TV was closing. Episodes became more serialized, the subject material became darker, and people began to grow attached to the premise and characters of the show.

The fate of Tony Soprano was a national conversation and the finale is still revered to this day.

The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men all followed suit in controlling the attention of the public and were appointment television shows at the height of their popularity.

Now, with the dusk of Thrones just a few weeks away, it begs the question: is this the end of the Golden Age? 

Shows like this come along every decade or so, and over the past few years, there has been a clear shift in how we consume TV.

Streaming allows the viewer to binge each episode at their leisure; it’s no longer a week-to-week process.

Entertainment giants like Netflix, Amazon, and now both Apple and Disney are all now part of the streaming game.

That doesn’t bode well for the future of weekly, episodic TV.

Appointment television viewing is a social experience unlike anything else.

Each week, it’s like a major sporting event happening at the same time, with everyone waiting for the next day to debrief with one another. That emotion you feel, desperately waiting for each new episode every week, will vanish with the age of streaming.

The most notable show that comes close to the global appeal of Thrones is Stranger Things.

The Netflix show has a massive appeal to a large audience, but differs from Thrones because it releases all its episodes at once.

There’s no way to dictate who has seen what, it’s very much up to the viewer to decide how much to watch at once.

Stranger Things tends to dominate the culture for about a week or so after its premiere.

Game Of Thrones 3It doesn’t have the legs of a weekly show to keep the conversation brewing.

Streaming will all, but kill the nature of a “water cooler show” and because of the success of streaming, it is likely that other media companies will follow the same formula.

Both Amazon and Disney are currently in an arms race to create their own versions of Game of Thrones.

Amazon has invested $1 billion into making a Lord of the Rings television adaptation, while Disney is creating its own set of shows featuring both Star Wars and Marvel properties.

These streaming companies are chasing after what Thrones has: a rabid fan base that will discuss and theorize about the outcome of the show with one another.

The problem seems to be that they may not realize, that while Thrones isn’t the first show of its kind, it could potentially be the last, with the dawn of the streaming era upon us, the way we view television is certain to change forever.

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