The excitement in our home and within our circle of friends is palpable. On Sunday, July 16th, season seven of Game of Thrones will premier.
Just for the record, this excitement does not extend to me in the same way it does to my girlfriend (Amy), her best friend (Cleo), and the rest. They are all true GOT fans and have watched every season several times over. I, on the other hand, have not been so dogged in my desire to understand the acclaimed HBO series. I have been completely honest with Amy about this.
We moved in together last October, so this will be our first GOT season as cohabitants. In preparation for the premier, Amy thought it might be a good idea for us to go back to season one and watch what has aired so far. ALL…SIX…SEASONS! This, she believed, would be the best way to get back into the flow of the series…a necessity because Cleo and her wife, GoGo, host a screening party each Sunday in their home to ring in every new episode.
Anywhere between 25 and 30 Game of Thrones enthusiasts gather. They often don GOT costumes, prepare GOT themed food and make a delicious and potent GOT drink, soaking berries in vodka for a week prior to each screening. “Dragon’s Blood” they call it. Like I said…true fans.
I plan on joining the festivities this spring and I am looking forward to it…I really am. But I am also extremely concerned. I have watched Game of Thrones intermittently since it first premiered in April of 2011, but I have always treated the show as a series of one-hour movies because, if I’m being completely honest, I just can’t keep up. There are too many characters, too many storylines and too many episodic gaps between said storylines. It’s beautiful to watch, brilliantly acted and just about everyone I know watches it.
I, however, see it in the same way my former mother-in-law saw me. She loved me…well, liked me…but she just didn’t understand me.
Still, I promised to give it a shot, so Amy and I began our epic screening of Game of Thrones. But this entire exercise felt like practice to me. I never liked practicing when I was a kid…band, sports, hand writing. And I don’t like practicing now. Practice sucks. And even though I make television for a living, as I sat there watching all the betrothals, begettings and beheadings, it dawned on me…television is supposed to be an escape, not a chore.
Finally, as we were watching episode four…or maybe it was five…this-or-that Lord told this-or-that Queen that there was a new Ruler in this-or-that part of the realm, and the Queen replied in exactly the way I was feeling: “Another King? Really? How many is that now? Five?!!!”
So I gave up, vowing to attend the party on the 16th, but not ready to watch five and a half more seasons to prepare for it.
Sitting around the dinner table last week with Amy, Cleo and GoGo, the subject of the July premier date came up and I was forced to admit my shame: “I’m just too stupid to watch Game of Thrones.” Cleo reacted deadpan and matter-of-factly, “You just need to put in the time. Watch and re-watch episodes…read the books!”
For the record, Cleo is the ultimate Game of Thrones expert. Her episodic knowledge is as vast and detailed as the series itself. If I mention a scene that I somehow vaguely remember, she is quick to determine: “That was Seasons 3, Episode 6,” followed by a flurry of character names and dramatic motivations…culminating in the episode title. And her expertise makes as much sense as my lack of it does in this matter.
Cleo is British. She holds a doctorate in cognitive and developmental psychology. She is smart as hell and of course she can follow this stuff. I am a California born, Mid-West raised jock, who somehow wound up with a Masters Degree in Theatre and stumbled his way into producing reality TV. So telling me I have to put in the time to understand this epic television not-so-mini-series is like Payton Manning telling me I have to practice hard and give 110% if I want to make it to the NFL.
I’m sure Manning practiced his ass off, gave 120% and swore his firstborn to Satan in return for the hall of fame induction he is certain to receive. But come on. Manning had the skills. He was born into a football dynasty, shooting out of the womb, dissecting defenses and effortlessly throwing 80-yard bombs. And when it comes to Game of Thrones, I’m pretty sure Cleo came into this world in the same way.
So back to the original thesis of this article: I am looking forward to going to Cleo and GoGo’s house with Amy on July 16th. I love a good party, and I am a sucker for the gratuitous nudity and equally gratuitous violence that Game of Thrones has to offer. I know the food will be delicious, the dragon’s blood will be flowing and the company will be amazing. And I will watch on, completely engaged in the same way I still watch professional football…on a Sunday, drinking with friends and cheering at the brutality that will ensue.
I will thoroughly enjoy Game of Thrones, for I now know that it’s not that I’m too stupid to watch Game of Thrones…I’m just too stupid to PLAY Game of Thrones…and I’m ok with that.