Can “Game of Thrones” Save This Lackluster TV Year?

By | April 24, 2016

First off, let me say that I’m not in general one of those people that says “There’s nothing good on TV.” I find those people to be incredibly boring and really spoiled. There are now more than 100 basic cable channels each with their own handful of original series; plus great premium networks like HBO, Starz, Cinemax, Showtime; and choices on streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and whatever the hell Crackle is, all with at least one great series of their own too. If anything, there is waaaay too much on TV rather than too little. In short: if you can’t find something you like on television, it says more about you than what is on.

So what gives with this article’s headline? It just happens to be that this particular year isn’t yet great for a combination of factors: 1. You had a slew of last year’s best series (like “Parenthood” and “Justified”) that retired, were cancelled (“Hannibal”), or in the case of HBO’s “Show Me a Hero” were just miniseries. 2. Most of the rest of the best took 2016 off (like “Fargo” and Cinemax’s great “The Knick”) and won’t be back until next year. 3. It’s been a particularly weak year for those once-great series that have returned like “Better Call Saul” or “The Good Wife.” 4. The solid, usual-Winter series like “The Americans” and Cinemax’s (sadly retiring) “Banshee” didn’t debut until late-March/April. 5. A decent amount of the new quality crop (like HBO’s “Vinyl”) are just not that great.

Now none of this is to say that we won’t get great TV this year. After all, in just a two week period, we’ve seen “Banshee,” “Outlander,” “Turn,” “Silicon Valley,” “Veep,” and “Game of Thrones” debut. And it’s that last one that might start officially turning the corner on 2016 TV. Because as much as I love “Silicon Valley” and “Veep” there are certain things that only a great drama can do.

The only two 2016 series I’ve really loved have been the fourth season of “House of Cards” (a series I had nearly written off as finished) and the debut season of “American Crime Story: The People Vs. OJ” (a series I had no initial interest in but am glad I gave a chance). Both were dramas re-writing the rules of what they can get away with, and “Game of Thrones” sixth season—the first one where we have no idea what will happen since the series has passed the books—looks poised to do the same.

People have been wildly debating whether Jon Snow is alive or dead since last year, and either way it goes down, they’ll probably be surprised. There’s also brand new directions and adventures for all the main characters, and each episode will (for the first time) be full of the unexpected. Even if it’s completely disappointing—and there’s no reason to suspect it will be, since the TV series is usually stronger when it departs from the books—it’ll be “new” and that’s something that TV this year desperately needs.

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