At ease, soldier. No spoilers here. Scout’s honor.
In the ten or so months since season three of Game of Thrones ended it’s been hard to remember that it’s just a television show. HBO’s adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels hasn’t just captured the zeitgeist, it’s locked it away in a Swiss safe deposit box and destroyed the key.
From June to March Game of Thrones was less a show than a full-fledged cultural phenomenon comprised of hashtags and logos flavored with the occasional offhanded mention of that ever-elusive sixth book. I love Game of Thrones. But I’d be lying if I said its cultural presence hadn’t gotten exhausting.
Then I sat down last night to watch the premiere of the show’s fourth season and all of that exhaustion dissipated by the end of the theme song. All of the speculation and casting news and early reviews and interviews and reaction videos disappeared to reveal Game of Thrones at its molten core: interesting people having interesting conversations while wearing interesting clothing in interesting places. Sometimes naked. Sometimes murder.
It’s great and exciting and I love watching the show so much that year after year it trumps the ever escalating heights of the hype surrounding it. For the majority of the year, when Game of Thrones isn’t actually on air, you probably wouldn’t even know it. The show has such a presence in pop culture that there’s no real break from it and at times it seems Game of Thrones, through no real fault of its own, oversaturates the market place. Despite that sensation I was ready to go from the first frame of the fourth season premiere. Game of Thrones is that rare entity that not only meets, but exceeds the hype, but last night’s premiere left me wondering what other shows or movies I’ve left behind because they were eclipsed by the hype surrounding them.
I’ve made no secret of my reservations regarding The Walking Dead, which I’ve now fallen far behind on. But is it really the show that I’m so adverse to, or is it the property’s complete saturation of pop culture? The fact that despite having no idea what “Terminus” is, I’m well aware of the fact that “Terminus” has something to do with The Walking Dead? Do the qualms I have with The Walking Dead really run rampant through the show or do I just have less tolerance for The Walking Dead’s fumbles because I’ve grown sick of hearing about it?
There’s clearly a hype to quality ratio and a threshold entertainment has to meet in regards to those two variables from person to person. It’s a threshold that, in my eyes, Game of Thrones consistently meets and The Walking Dead seems to miss more and more every year.
But how does that ratio work? Can it be quantified? If Game of Thrones took even a slight dip in quality would I no longer be able to tolerate it and its all-consuming media presence? If I heard just a little bit less about The Walking Dead in my day to day life would I be more willing to overlook my problems with it?
And then I got to thinking.
Have I ever generated hype for a show enough to turn someone else off from it altogether? Am I part of the problem? Is this blog post about Game of Thrones the blog post that finally trumps some poor readers’ tolerance for hype?
And, most horrifically: Have I ever, to the detriment of a potential viewer, overhyped Everybody Loves Raymond?
Sure, I probably don’t need to sing the Barone family’s praises. Sure, everybody probably knows Brad Garrett is a national treasure. Sure, everybody probably knows Peter Boyle was also in an excellent season three episode of The X-Files entitled “Clyde Buckman’s Final Response.” Sure, everybody probably knows ELR won 14 Emmys over the course of its nine year run. Sure, everybody probably knows how funny it was when Debra let Ray do the shopping and then Ray bought weird tissues and a hose that was too short and then he set the kitchen on fire.
Sure, everybody probably loves Raymond.
But what if they don’t?
That’s always been my thought process when shoving the gospel of ELR down the throat of everyone everywhere. After all, shouldn’t I, the fan, inform the masses if something makes me happy? Shouldn’t I share my happiness? And if something makes a lot of people happy, shouldn’t they all share it? And if something makes a lot of people really happy, can I really get that annoyed with it? Should I really let a resounding chorus of fanaticism pervert my opinion of a massive source of happiness and entertainment? Can I really ever even know if it’s hype or quality that influences my opinion of something?
Shit’s Kafkaesque, yo.
1. What is pop culture?
2. What are we doing here?
3. Do you think we’ll see Jaime’s dick this season?
For more on Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead: