ABR Ian Potter Foundation Fellowship: 'The Golden Age of Television?' by James McNamara

In 2013, US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich asked Australians to stop pirating Game of Thrones. A single episode of HBO’s gritty fantasy drama had been illegally downloaded over four million times, equalling the legitimate viewership of the program. ‘As the Ambassador here in Australia,’ Mr Bleich wrote, ‘it was especially troubling to find out that Australian fans were some of the worst offenders with among the highest piracy rates of Game of Thrones in the world.’

Sniggers about our penal heritage aside, this illustrates a wider cultural phenomenon: the rise of US television drama. Over the past decade and a half – since HBO’s The Sopranos débuted in 1999 – America has produced cable shows that elevated television to an art. Television moved from ‘fast-food entertainment’, ‘mind candy’ (in producer Aaron Spelling’s words) to a medium reviewed in highbrow literary journals and discussed with a passion and currency that literary fiction can only envy.

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Published in April 2015, no. 370
James McNamara

James McNamara

James McNamara was born in Western Australia in 1982. He holds degrees in English and Law from the University of Western Australia, a doctorate in English from Oxford, and graduated in screenwriting from AFTRS. He is the recipient ABR's third Ian Potter Foundation Fellowship for his essay 'The Golden Age of Television?'. He currently works in television.