At a certain point of last night’s Game of Thrones finale, I expected a character to break the fourth wall and say the show’s title to the camera. And dammit if they came close. The much-anticipated coda was a microcosm of the last season. Stunning visual elements and satisfying payoffs derailed by distractingly faulty pacing and conversations doubling as Wikipedia entries for future generations.
Endings are difficult because viewers must accept the show’s conclusions, which are different than the ones they’ve spent years honing and clinging to dearly. Thrones was the subject of intense hype and therefore scrutiny so it faced a tall task. Throw in serious logistical issues and 18 months of buildup, and the recipe for disappointment has been simmering for awhile, even predating the serious cracks in the foundation that have worsen this spring.
Reaction has been overwhelmingly negative so far, though time has a way of papering over the very end and perspective allows the entire body of work to be appreciated. But still, the leaky final 15 episodes or so of this series should rightly ding it and keep it from elevating to any all-time lists.
What Game of Thrones‘ lasting legacy may be is the last truly communal, real-time scripted television experience. Think about it. What offering in our fractured and segmented entertainment ecosystem enjoys even half the engagement GOT garnered? Social media following the finale was singularly focused in a way that surpassed even a Super Bowl.
This won’t happen again. At least not any time soon. Thrones was grandfathered in to a world that largely went out with Lost, something to be discussed in the moment by everyone. There is no logical successor to that particular iron throne of culture and one isn’t on the horizon.
And you know what?
I’ll miss it. Yes, sports is always there to fill that void, which is why networks will pay boffo money for live rights. But for those in my generation, who grew up on these big gathering-place television moments, it’s striking to realize they don’t exist or may not exist at all anymore.
Turn-ing the page
Jim Nantz, who celebrated his 60th birthday on Friday complete with a shoutout from the Goodyear Blimp, offered a classy thank you to his Turner Sports colleagues at the end of a 28-year run covering the PGA Championship. ESPN will share the event with CBS beginning next year. Nantz spoke of the genesis of the partnership, which began in 1991, while mentioning several figures from the Turner side who were instrumental along the way, including Ernie Johnson, who began hosting in 1995 and David Levy, who exited as the AT&T playbook plays out.
This is far from the crown jewel AT&T inherited from Turner, but the network handled it with ease and competency. Brian Anderson, in his fourth year, was once again excellent, which brings us to another uncertainty going forward. The broadcaster is rumored to be on the short list, along with Kevin Harlan, to replace Marv Albert in the No. 1 basketball job as the 77-year-old winds down his contract. CNN’s Jeff Zucker, tasked with the decision, must pick the right time to pull the trigger on such a change. Public perception on Albert is mixed and for my money he’s been energetic and engaged during the Eastern Conference Finals, perhaps pushing back on the idea he’s lost his fastball.
Dear Leader Reader
CNN’s Chris Cillizza was widely ridiculed for posting a piece titled Donald Trump Had The Best Round of His Life Last Week after news emerged the president had reported a score of 68 to the United States Golf Association. The editor at-large updated his story to reflect that this — obviously — wasn’t a thing and that someone erroneously inputted the scores as part of a hack.
Cillizza struck a curious and mildly skeptical tone in his original wording but stopped short of stating what we all understand: that there in no way in hell Trump posted such a fantastic score. It was perhaps too subtle for many to grasp.
And while the choice of topic is spurious and somewhat tone-deaf considering his position and weighty import of any number of stories he could cover, it did feel like the pile-on was driven large in part by people who didn’t click through to read the actual story. Imagine that.
Mainstream cable news, for all the right’s complaints, has actually embarrassed itself more these past few years by contorting itself into pretzels to avoid calling a lie a lie. It would be nice to see some stronger wording when we get the stateside version of Kim Jong Un golf exploits, but the bigger problem is a citizenry full of people who would actually believe even the most absurd Dear Leader fanfic.
Rumors have it
Far be it for me to disagree with wise young scribe Bobby Burack, but his decree that the NBA rumor industrial complex will lose any steam should Kevin Durant go somewhere other than the New York Knicks feels slightly naive. Or perhaps I’m just a cynic. The version of the world where these are seen as specious and non-binding already exists. Discerning viewers and readers already know full well that they are drinking at the conjecture cafe when it comes to all the tea leaf-reading. Inaccurate reports are quickly forgotten and already watered-down so much that they feel non-binding. Moreover, most in the public either don’t have the time or don’t care to keep a ledger on whose information turned out to be correct and whose died on the vine.
The click-to-risk ratio is still in and remain in the favor of floating juicy stuff even if it isn’t grounded in reality. The Big Lead’s metrics back this up. Major outlets understand the payoff as well and will gladly continue to float along the Lazy Rumor River wherever it bends.
Saturday Night Live‘s 44th season came to a merciful end this weekend but not before Alec Baldwin did one more Trump impression in a cold opener that can only be described as they tried. This will surely go down as one of the worst years in the venerable show’s history thanks large in part to the inability to address real-world and political issues. It’s been said that the president watches 90 minutes of sketch comedy out of habit and an odd sense of duty every Saturday, doesn’t laugh, and goes to bed. He and I have that in common.
SNL has become the living embodiment of a covefe joke tailored for wine moms who fancy themselves part of The Resistance. Tired game show bits pop up like a persistent rash. Sketches go on for far too long. Weekend Update is like the 45th best version of current-event sendup available. And if you criticize it, Michael Che may accuse you of bestiality.
Getting older and complaining that this cultural staple isn’t funny anymore is a rite of passage. All the previous Saturday Night Dead proclamations have proven premature. Eventually one will be right. Or perhaps the critical moment already passed and not enough people truly care.
NOTEBOOK: John Skipper‘s second act is a high-stakes one … NBC is airing the Indianapolis 500 for the first time …. Jimmy Pitaro says ABC could be part of Disney’s new NFL deal … Brock Huard is joining Fox and will work in the No. 2 booth with Joe Davis … Mike Francesa speaking about his dinners with famous people is plus content.