“Game of Thrones” has become such a cultural phenomenon — posting record ratings for HBO and winning scores of awards — that it’s easy to forget that not everybody warmed to the epic fantasy series from the start.
Take the New York Times, which published a scathing review by Ginia Bellafante when the show debuted back in 2011.
“‘Game of Thrones’ is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half,” TV critic Ginia Bellafante sniffed in her review, dismissing the adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s series of novels as unworthy of the premium cable network that “distinguished itself” with loftier fare like “The Sopranos,” “Deadwood” and “The Wire.”
Never mind that “Game of Thrones” has gone on to win more Emmy Awards than those three classic dramas combined — 38 trophies (out of 128 nominations), second only to the 54-time winner “Saturday Night Live” during its four-decade run. (“The Sopranos” earned 21 Emmys.)
Bellafante complained about the subtitles for the made-up language of the Dothraki and the glut of characters and locales: “Keeping track of the principals alone feels as though it requires the focused memory of someone who can play bridge at a Warren Buffett level of adeptness.”
She reserved special antipathy for what she called the “Playboy-TV-style plot points” and the “costume-drama sexual hopscotch,” including an allusion to the incestuous relationship of Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and her brother Jaime (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau). “The true perversion, though, is the sense you get that all of this illicitness has been tossed in as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise,” she wrote.
It’s unclear just how many episodes Bellafante watched of the first season before writing her pan, but she was clearly unimpressed with what she saw. “‘Game of Thrones’ serves up a lot of confusion in the name of no larger or really relevant idea beyond sketchily fleshed-out notions that war is ugly, families are insidious and power is hot,” she concluded.
Needless to say, millions of fans would beg to differ.