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In these earliest days of 2020, the TV landscape looks completely different than it did a year ago, in large part because nothing as monolithic as Game of Thrones' final season is around to take hold of the pop culture zeitgeist. That doesn't mean people have already forgotten about Game of Thrones' final season, which took over Google for the year. The public's awareness is something that current HBO president of programming Casey Bloys knows all too well, even if he didn't ring in the finale's airing with everyone else in the fandom.
While millions and millions of fans – as well as detractors, no doubt – watched what would be one of the most polarizing Game of Thrones episodes of the eight-season run, Casey Bloys wasn't part of that crowd, and doesn't quite remember what he got into on the evening of May 19. In his words:
I didn’t watch it. You could see the debate starting. And the debate has subsided. But it’ll probably go on for ages.
Which isn't to say that Casey Bloys, who took over the enviable position at HBO in 2016, was completely tuned out of Game of Thrones' final episodes. As the president of programming, Bloys had access to things as they were coming together and watched installments many times over. To that end, he's stated he never watched Thrones episodes live on Sunday nights.
Of course, there might have been another motivation or two keeping Bloys from experiencing Game of Thrones live. Considering he brought up "the debate," the HBO exec likely wanted to stay as far away as possible from the tumultuous reactions that the fantasy series' final season inspired fans to share as loudly as possible. It was almost impossible to go online during Thrones Sundays without getting inundated by opinions large and small, deep and shallow, complimentary and loathing-fueled.
So as an exec partly responsible for getting the out there the past few years, Casey Bloys probably doesn't have an inert need to read long lines of fan gripes, or long lines of fan praises, for that matter. So long as the viewers kept tuning in, at least the bottom line was covered. If the audience is big enough that "the debate" has millions and millions of people involved, it's probably seen as just as much of a success story as a show with an audience of 500,000 people that agree 100% on every creative decision made.
In speaking with The Ringer, Casey Bloys didn't exactly seemed overjoyed that Game of Thrones viewers will likely be debating the show's worth and choices for years to come. Of course, that also means the show will keep drawing in new generations of viewers as the years go by, especially if there are multiple follow-up series building up the live-action franchise.
HBO may never get anything quite as big as Game of Thrones on the air again, but Casey Bloys says that so much of his strategy in recent years was setting up for the show's exit. In his words:
Sometimes, when there’s a show that big, it can confine you to an extent. You start to get afraid: What if this isn’t the next Game of Thrones? That can paralyze you. So one of the things I wanted to do was be prepared for when Game of Thrones ended … and so ’19 was a very deliberate plan that had been in place for several years. A very deliberate attempt to replenish the slate.
That slate became HBO's recent and future lineup of talent-filled shows, which include The Righteous Gemstones, Watchmen, Succession, Euphoria, The Outsider, Avenue 5 and more. It's arguably a stronger pack than many that went directly against Game of Thrones seasons (though Veep's absence still hurts). So maybe the Game of Thrones debates will completely subside one day, but even if not, there will be a lot of other HBO content to talk about in the meantime.