The most buzzed-about show on TV in 2012 isn’t a police procedural or military drama. There are no sharply dressed lawyers spitting out pithy one-liners or supermodel surgeons saving children’s lives without breaking a sweat.
Instead, Americans gather around the water cooler Monday morning to breathlessly discuss dragons, beheadings and warring medieval kingdoms on “Game of Thrones.”
“Desperate Housewives,” it ain’t.
In fact, HBO’s fantasy epic is unlike anything else on TV. It is a violent, sexually explicit tale of political jousting with a fictional twist on feudal Europe. “Thrones” takes the dark complexity of George R.R. Martin’s beloved literary saga “A Song of Ice and Fire” and runs with it.
The result is one of the most compelling TV experiences in recent memory. Every Sunday, millions of well-adjusted adults enter the sprawling world of Westeros to visit dozens of colorful characters, all of whom have an axe to grind with each other — figuratively and sometimes literally.
The magic and mythical beasts associated with fantasy are largely absent, replaced with political intrigue and tense family relationships. Imagine “The Sopranos” in Middle-Earth, as the producers reportedly described it at the pitch meeting.
Still, while “Game of Thrones” may not be traditional fantasy — incestuous relationships and infanticide aren’t exactly staples of Tolkien’s writing — it belongs to the genre as much as Frodo and his ring.
Once upon a time, that label would’ve been enough for the show to be dismissed by critics as childish tripe — not anymore. “Thrones” received an Emmy nomination for best series, and the second season recently premiered to rave reviews and incredible ratings.
It’s exciting to watch a seemingly niche property like “Game of Thrones” enter the mainstream market, but the show’s success is only surprising if you’ve been in a Rip Van Winkle slumber this past decade.
Geek culture, once banished to basements and convention halls, has taken over the entertainment industry like one of the power-hungry kings of Westeros. Move over John McClane and Dirty Harry; in 2012, Batman and Bilbo Baggins call the shots.
It’s the ultimate revenge of the nerds, and no one is more thrilled than my inner 8-year-old.
This may come as somewhat of a shock to anyone who has met the suave, sophisticated college version of me, but I was once a bit of a geek. If you grew up in the ’90s, it’s likely you had a kid in one of your classes with raging ADHD, questionable social skills and an obsession with “Star Wars” bordering on unhealthy.
I was that kid.
Admittedly, it’s fashionable in this strange hipster era to proclaim nerdiness, but I have the credentials and repressed childhood memories to prove it. My geek resume can stand with the best of them. It spans long — intense debates about the narrative complexities of “Star Wars: Episode One” to the literal weeks of my life spent playing various “Zelda” and “Half-Life” video games.
Don’t forget the tiny plastic Warhammer 40K battle figurines littering my basement or the spring break I spent reading the classic graphic novel “Watchmen,” then reading it twice more for good measure.
As you can imagine, it was a long, virginal slog to social normalcy. Luckily, high school beat a lot of the weird out of me, leaving the sleek, lady-killing love machine you know today. Somewhere along my path to becoming a socially adequate adult, though, something funny happened — nerdiness became en vogue.
“The Matrix” and “The X-Files” may have gotten the ball rolling in the late ’90s, but “The Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy was the tipping point in the “nerdification” of pop culture.