"You either 'GoT' it, or you don't."
I thought that was a bit pretentious. Snobby, even. Or maybe my reaction to those words spoken to be by a random someone in a random group conversation a while back was a tad harsh. Was he simply implying that I either watch Game of Thrones (aka "GoT") or I do not? Or were my initial thoughts more on track? That he was somehow indicating that if I didn't watch Game of Thrones I was somehow inferior and not a member of some select club?
It's crazy, this show. And maybe it's not even the show itself as much as it is the climate that surrounds it: Those who watch it religiously and obsessively and repeatedly in one camp, and, occupying the other camp further down the trail, those who simply decide for whatever reason that they don't want to watch it, but also those who absolutely refuse to watch it with tremendous defiance.
It’s a television show. Can’t we all just get along?
Of course, TV certainly is capable of captivating us.
I can recall the M.A.S.H. series finale back in 1983. It garnered more than 100 million viewers and was the most-watched television show ever, until the ratings for a Super Bowl many years later finally eclipsed it.
I wasn't the puddle back then that I am today, whether I'm tearing up over some random insurance commercial or am an emotional wreck for a half-hour when Tiger Woods won The Masters a couple weeks back. But I remember the sentimentality on steroids in that M.A.S.H. finale, as it didn't just gently tug on viewers' heartstrings, but tore them to shreds.
TV can disappoint just as easily. When Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David decided to pull the plug after nine seasons of “Seinfeld,” the iconic weekly NBC show they'd created, the two-part finale kicked off with an hour-long retrospective featuring some of the shows most hilarious and memorable moments, and in the closing credits of that opening hour, even the show that proudly proclaimed to be "about nothing" became absolutely about something...four actors who played flippant, self-absorbed characters on the small screen, but loved each other off it.
But then the second hour of the Seinfeld finale served as a reminder as subtle as a hammer to the head that the show had run its course. Seemingly every character Jerry, Elaine, George or Kramer had somehow wronged over the previous nine years showed up in court, where the narcissistic quartet was on trial for not helping out a guy who they witnessed being mugged. It was painful to watch.
Sure, one could argue that Seinfeld had, and still has, devoted fans that try to articulate its priceless charm until they're blue in the face to the non-believers. But when it comes to Game of Thrones fans circling the wagons around fellow devotees who have guzzled the Kool-Aid and leaving the non-believers out in the cold, Seinfeld fandom is about as divisive as chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven and a glass of ice-cold milk.
My wife and I have been exposed to GoT devotees for years. Our sons. Our closest friends. Colleagues at work. A far cry from the old days when you had to wait a week to watch a new episode, many of them were GoT freaks on binge-benders. They didn't know where their kids were, nor were they overly concerned with their whereabouts. Their pets were gnawing on their own limbs to stay alive. Bills? Who had time to pay bills? It was all small potatoes compared to keeping up on Game of Thrones.
But we weren't smarmy about not watching it. We never even made a conscious decision to not watch it, we just didn’t.
But, this eighth and final season and accompanying hype of the millennium...damn it all to hell...
People were re-watching all seven seasons leading up to the eighth season. That's almost 70 hours of TV. And then some would even re-re-watch it all. I even read about one dude who re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-watched all seven seasons in time for the premiere of the eighth's season's first episode.
So there we were, one snowy weekend night not so long ago. We'd teamed up to clean the house from top to bottom. The cats were fed, our sons were safe and living their lives, and the bills were paid.
The Minnesota Wild had been eliminated from playoff contention. Sure, the NHL playoffs are exhilarating even without my favorite team in the mix, but it's not like I have to watch every game. Sure, Major League Baseball's 2019 season was freshly underway and the Twins were showing promise, but, come on, we're talking about 162 games here, a season that extends into the fall. I don't need to obsess over my hometown MLB team quite so early on.
I glanced over at my wife. "So, you wanna watch it?"
"You know," I replied.
She did know. “Let’s do it,” she said.
We’re currently halfway through season six, and we’ve been able to avoid the calamity of the rest of our suddenly untended-to lives collapsing around us. Even though Game of Thrones is much like a daytime TV soap opera from generations past, only with infinitely more death, sex, violence and gore, we get it. Or, should I say, we GoT it.