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How HBO was able to thrive in its post-Game of Thrones era

  • "At the onset of 2019, the end of Game of Thrones, and specifically how HBO would carry on without it, was deemed to be the defining story of the year," explains Alison Herman in The Ringer, which counts HBO as one of its investors. She adds: "For years, the premium cable network had triumphed—critically and commercially—on the wings of Thrones’ dragons, as the show turned into a sun around which everything else revolved. So industry watchers assumed that the galaxy would collapse in on itself without its center of gravity. In retrospect, the Thrones finale is when HBO’s 2019 fortunes turned, at least in terms of narrative. The controversial end of Game of Thrones brought the beginning of Chernobyl, Craig Mazin’s miniseries that found a surprisingly sizable audience and went on to garner 19 Emmy nominations. Meryl Streep arrived, crucifix sitting on her bottom lip, along with the second season of Big Little Lies, which eclipsed the first installment’s commercial success to the tune of 10 million viewers per episode. As summer progressed, Sam Levinson’s Euphoria, the first HBO show to focus so heavily on young adults, wrested control of the cultural conversation, one onscreen penis at a time. Then came the second installment of Succession, arguably the best season of TV in 2019; at the same time, Danny McBride returned to HBO with The Righteous Gemstones, connecting more than he had with Vice Principals or even Eastbound & Down. And as the calendar turned toward fall, HBO released its first stab at a superhero show: Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen, a feat of complex storytelling and creative worldbuilding that has seemingly pulled off the impossible by successfully adapting Alan Moore’s legendary comic. Where there was one behemoth show, soon there were critically acclaimed series for every type of audience. And if Game of Thrones was the last vestige of monoculture, then HBO, it turned out, was perhaps the last brand-name network in TV."

    TOPICS: Succession, Chernobyl, Euphoria, Game of Thrones, The Righteous Gemstones, Watchmen