It’s hard to fathom now, but there was a time when creating a big budget fantasy series involving dragons, White Walkers and Three Eyed Ravens was considered a big risk.
HBO's Game of Thrones might have become the biggest TV event of the decade, but when the show launched in 2011 the TV landscape looked very different.
Not only has the show captured the imaginations of millions of viewers around the world, it has pushed the boundaries of what TV makers can do and what TV fans expect.
HBO classics such as The Sopranos and The Wire raised the bar when it came to quality, but Game of Thrones didn’t just continue that tradition, it also blew up the TV rulebook in the process.
Game of Thrones was supposed to be impossible to adapt for TV – the scale and complexity of George R.R Martin’s novels made it almost unthinkable. But across 8 seasons, the show has redefined what’s possible and changed TV is forever.
Here are five ways Game of Thrones has changed TV forever:
1. Fantasy TV goes mainstream
Politics, corruption, families at war, revenge, lovers, villains, stacks of dead bodies – the themes and central premise of Game of Thrones sounds like a no-brainer for a TV hit. However, it was the setting and genre of the series that many originally believed would make it impossible to crossover into the mainstream.
How wrong could they be?
The out-of-date and misleading stereotype that viewers wouldn’t engage in a TV show involving dragons, kingdoms and a war between the living and dead has now been thankfully erased forever.
Fantasy is no longer a dirty word, leaving viewers with images of teenage boys playing Dungeons and Dragons. Instead it inspires excitement as viewers go on the hunt the 'next Game of Thrones'.
2. TV shows get super-sized
Why should a TV show be any less epic, visually stunning or lavish than a film?
Game of Thrones doesn’t just match anything you’ve ever seen on screen before, it smashes the glass ceiling and sets a new bar for cinematic experiences on the small screen.
Whether it comes to the ground-breaking CGI, the battle sequences that pile layer upon layer of detail (and corpse upon corpse) or the breadth of incredible filming locations that bring to life the Seven Kingdoms, this isn’t any ordinary TV show.
3. Making your own mythology
George RR Martin’s novels already had a passionate fanbase. They devoured the depth of the Thrones universe, its breadth of colourful characters and the complex history of the Seven Kingdoms.
The step into TV has escalated the fan fiction, expanded the fan theories and generated even more deep dives into possible endings, twists or connections between characters.
Game of Thrones has become a huge industry, which is talked about all year round. The filming locations are tourist hot spots, the most minor characters are turned into cult heroes and Reddit is nearly always on fire with a new idea for who will end up on the Iron Throne.
Game of Thrones has embraced the social media age and rather than fearing the expectation its fandom brings, has embraced the warmth, dedication and insightfulness of the community.
(HBO's Game of Thrones: The Final Season - Available to buy now in the BT TV Store)
4. Don't sugarcoat it
The age of black and white good guys and bad guys, honourable heroes and dastardly villains in TV shows are long gone. The most honourable characters can commit an act of betrayal. Even the most despicable characters can elicit our sympathy.
Game of Thrones doesn’t treat its audience like children, offering happy endings and heroes saving the day.
Beloved characters can be brutally hacked to pieces in the blink of an eye, storylines can suddenly explode with a single sword swish and no subject matter is considered off limits or too dark.
5. Anyone can die
The death of Ned Stark in season one, wasn’t just huge plot point for the show, it readjusted viewers expectations of what sort of show Game of Thrones was going to be.
Sean Bean has been front and centre of all the publicity and advertisements for the show and was the most recognisable face in the cast, which was filled with a large amount of newcomers and young talent.
Those who had read the books knew what was coming, but for the millions following the story on TV, the character they had expected to be front and centre of the series for many years was abruptly and brutally killed off.
It ripped up the TV rulebook, dispensed with tradition and the new lack of certainty meant we’ve been on the edge of our seats ever since.