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‘Game of Thrones’ is the only appointment TV I still watch

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And I watch it even before HBO thinks I want to watch it. Here’s why.

If I turn on the TV at 9:00 pm tonight, I will be able to see the Season 7 finale of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

But unless something goes horribly awry, I will have devoured all 79 minutes of “The Dragon and the Wolf” well before then.

Most of the video programming in my life I only watch on my schedule, plucked out of a Netflix queue or a YouTube “Watch Later” playlist. As an obnoxious #millennial, all screens are pretty much the same to me, and if I only have time to watch 15 minutes of a show, so be it. Maybe I’ll finish it later. Maybe not.

“Game of Thrones,” a unique pop culture phenomenon for plenty of other reasons, breaks all of those rules and habits.

Sunday evenings are completely different during “Thrones” weeks. 6:00 pm PT hits and it’s run, don’t walk to the nearest screen with access to the HBO Go app. 6:00 my time is 9:00 pm on the east coast, which is when new episodes become available to all U.S. HBO subscribers through the app. The gates are open.

And at that all-important hour, another highly unusual thing happens: My phone goes away, ideally quarantined in another room.

Twitter fundamentally exists for three purposes: Confirming that yes, that was an earthquake that just woke you up; massaging our president’s fragile ego; and spoiling “Game of Thrones.”

Last year, I lost track of time and accidentally opened Twitter around 8:15 pm PT, before I had seen that week’s new episode — and before it was technically “on” in California. A major character’s death was spoiled for me by a BuzzFeed reporter, whose name I repeat ominously under my breath every night before I go to sleep.

After tonight, there will be only one season of “Game of Thrones” left in the series and I can’t imagine what would replace it: Even HBO’s enjoyable market-tested “Thrones” heir apparent, “Westworld,” didn’t feel as essential or unavoidable on social media on the nights it aired. “Thrones” is a perfect storm of cultural relevance, social media peer pressure and pure creativity; for its fans, every week is an event, something everyone in TV would love to have but very few do.

And I swear to the old gods and the new, you’d better not spoil tonight’s episode for me. If you do, then I wish you good fortune in the wars to come.


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