The hype for Game of Thrones is immense. The amount of buzz, even prior to filming, has taken HBO completely by surprise. Many prominent TV critics have also picked up on the intense fan interest in the series. Time’s James Poniewozik has described the buzz as “possibly unprecedented” and the Chicago Tribune’s Maureen Ryan has called the fan base, “Whedon-esque.”
The hype has always been seen as a good thing, something to help boost the chances of the show being picked up. And certainly that is true. But if (when?) the show gets picked up and the hype escalates into the stratosphere, will that hurt the show in the long run? To put it another way, are we setting our expectations too high?
Over-hyping a project isn’t something new. Many fan bases have experienced the sting of their expectations reaching an impossible to achieve height (The Matrix sequels anyone?). The end result may not be that bad, but because of the high expectations, the overall legacy these projects leave are negative.
One thing that contributes to high expectations is a long wait. The longer the wait, the more the buzz can build. Video game giant Nintendo has noticed this trend and has adopted a new policy when marketing a new game. In the past they were announcing their franchise games, such as Zelda and Mario titles, years in advance. By the time the games released the expectations were so high that they were near impossible to match. Now Nintendo likes to announce their new games months in advance, lessening the wait and thereby decreasing the chance of unrealistic expectations.
Unfortunately HBO doesn’t have that luxury with Game of Thrones. The pilot has been in production for over a year now and it looks like we won’t see the end result for another year, at least. And like I said, the hype is already reaching ridiculous levels and it is only going to get higher.
So where does that leave us? The good news is, even when faced with high expectations, HBO usually delivers. All signs so far have been extremely positive. The reports from GRRM and others indicate that this show will be of the highest quality. Benioff and Weiss have been doing a wonderful job so far of appeasing the fans by remaining true to the source material but also working to produce something that works in the medium of television.
So, is the hype hurting or helping? Hype is a double-edged sword. Enough of it and you have a network pouring more and more money into a project to meet the high expectations. Too much though and you end up being disappointed in the end result, no matter how good. So far it seems that the hype for Thrones has accomplished the former, convincing HBO that the series can be a big hit. But there is always the chance that, by the time the show hits the air, the expectations for the series have reached an unattainable height.
So far, I think the hype and the buzz have been warranted and within reason. But at some point we will have to ask ourselves, are we setting our expectations too high?