Culture Crash 19-16: The End of Game of Thrones

Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine what’s new and old in entertainment.

You’ve probably heard some rumblings over the last few weeks that Game of Thrones is back. Last Sunday, the HBO epic kicked off its eighth and final season, airing the first of just six episodes set to conclude the story.

While this may seem like just another final season of a beloved television show, it’s actually something a bit more notable. Author George R.R. Martin published the first novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series back in 1996. That book titled “A Game of Thrones” is what truly began the saga of Westeros which would be adapted into the HBO series so many of us know and love. After that publication in ‘96, Martin released three more installations in the next decade. Then, the pace slowed as the fifth book in the series took an additional six years to be completed and published back in 2011. Since then, readers of the books have been playing the waiting game. The sixth and penultimate installation, set to be titled “The Winds of Winter” has been delayed multiple times and was once expected to be released in 2016. If “The Winds of Winter” ever is published, then the plan is for it to be followed up by a final installment titled “A Dream of Spring.” There’s just no telling how long that novel may take.

Because of the delays, fans have begun to openly question whether either of those books will ever be completed at all.

And with no definitive proof that the saga Martin began publishing in 1996 will truly resolve itself, fans have turned to HBO’s Game of Thrones adaptation to give them closure. The TV series has jumped ahead of where the books left off, and their stories have grown to vary significantly but the bare bones remain intact.

Many book readers don’t consider this final television season to be “the” ending to the story of the Starks, Lannisters, and Targaryans, but rather “one possible” ending. Still, it is possible it could be the only ending fans ever get, so the hype around this final season comes with an awful lot of baggage. No pressure.

Game of Thrones airs Sundays on HBO and is available to stream on HBO Go and HBO Now.

I’m Evan Rook. 

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Culture Crash 19-02: True Detective


Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine what’s new and old in entertainment.

Tonight marks the long-awaited, sometimes excitedly and sometimes with dread, but long-awaited, return of True Detective. The TV phenomenon of 2014 and possibly the biggest letdown of 2015 is back for its third season, and the early reviews suggest this should be more like the incredible first season and not like the dud of a season two.

Still gone is season one directing wonder Cary Fukanaga, but back is writer and creator Nic Pizzolatto, who has been attached to the show all along. This time he’s sharing the directorial duties with Jeremy Saulnier, the acclaimed director of Blue Ruin and Green Room, and Daniel Sackheim, an Emmy nominee with credits on Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul, Ozark, and many other shows and movies. Even in his writing, Pizzolatto has sought some help from Graham Gordy and TV legend David Milch, who both co-write separate episodes of season 3.

Back on season 2, Pizzolatto faced a tough turnaround time, scrambling to make a second season that debuted just over a year after the first season finished. The end product seemed rushed, poorly plotted, and was generally hard to follow, even compared to the labyrinth first season. This time, Pizzolatto and co. have had more than three years to write a new season, that can hopefully recapture the old magic.

This go-around will be headed by Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali and takes place over three time periods in the Ozarks. The details are being mostly withheld, but it appears it will once again delve into a complex investigation of deeply macabre and disturbing crimes.

True Detective was a marquee hit for HBO back in 2014, and despite its stumble in 2015, it still represents a huge name-brand show for a network that will see its biggest hit, Game of Thrones, come to an end this summer. This is a show that matters for a network that still carries weight. For tonight, and the next seven Sunday’s, all eyes will be on HBO and True Detective. Let’s hope it rights this ship and enthralls us once again.

I’m Evan Rook. 

Stay in the loop! Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook! Subscribe and review on iTunes!

Culture Crash 18-05: TV Theme Songs

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

Our senses can trigger all kinds of nostalgia. Maybe the smell of your mother’s cooking reminds you of childhood or the sight of your high school brings back memories of the awkward years. But most things pale in comparison to the sound of an old TV show’s opening credits song.

For you, it may be Full House. If you’re like my dad, it’s the whistling from The Andy Griffith Show, but all of us have some show’s song that got lodged in our heads and stayed there for life.

More recently, the Mad Men opening song had the strange ability to drop us into the 1950s world of Don Draper and HBO’s Game of Thrones takes audiences on an epic journey throughout Westeros at the start of each episode. But have you ever stopped to think about the evolution of opening credits?

They used to be set to cheesy made-for-TV music, feature silly yellow fonts and exist just to credit the cast. Each character would turn, face the camera and smile while their name appeared on the bottom of the screen. Then, shows went mainstream. Who could ever forget the iconic Friends sequence where the characters danced in a fountain to the tune of “I’ll Be There For You” by The Rembrandts? The Friends credits were such a hit that the song, which was written for the show, ended up on the top 20 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

As TV grew more serialized and darker, these sequences grew up with them. They became more artsy and cinematic in shows like Six Feet Under or The Wire. And now shows may not even include opening credits, opting instead for a simple title card. But many shows, especially on Netflix and HBO, have learned to set the tone for their show with beautiful opening credits.

The internet went crazy for Stranger Things‘ simple credits which featured spooky music and a closeup of the retro font coming together to spell out the show’s title. And who hasn’t sang along to Orange in the New Black‘s Regina Spektor opening as picture of inmates fly by?

Whether you fast-forward through them or find something new to enjoy every time, opening credits occupy a lot of time for any TV watcher. I particularly loved the 11-second opening to NBC’s short-lived The Black Donnellys and the various versions Boy Meets World ran through over its run.

TV credits are so simply but have somehow come to mean so much.

I’m Evan Rook.