'Game Of Thrones' And 'Veep' Anchor HBO's Killer Sunday Lineup

'Game Of Thrones' And 'Veep' Anchor HBO's Killer Sunday Lineup

8:26pm Apr 10, 2015
As the new season of Game of Thrones begins, Tyrion Lannister (played by Peter Dinklage) is on the run after killing his manipulative father.
As the new season of Game of Thrones begins, Tyrion Lannister (played by Peter Dinklage) is on the run after killing his manipulative father.
HBO

(Spoiler alert: Details from the new seasons of several shows follow below.)

HBO's hit fantasy drama Game of Thrones ended last year with the most shocking death of the season: Tywin Lannister's.

Lannister, the most influential power broker in the fictional, medieval-style continent of Westeros, was killed by his son, the tortured alcoholic dwarf Tyrion.

When the show returns with a new episode Sunday night, Tyrion is on the run. The man who is helping him, a scheming spymaster named Varys, wants Tyrion's help.

But Tyrion isn't having it.

"[I'm] done with Westeros and Westeros is done with me," sighs Tyrion, lifting a goblet of wine.

"You have many admirable qualities," Varys counters. "Self-pity is not one of them. You have your father's instincts for politics. And you have compassion."

"Compassion?" Tyrion sneers. ""I killed my lover with my bare hands. I shot my own father with a crossbow."

"I never said you were perfect," Varys answers.

This is more than a perfect moment between two great characters. It's an example of the well-crafted TV shows HBO often airs to dominate high-quality programming on Sunday nights.

HBO's hit mob drama The Sopranos turned Sundays into a night for quality TV back in 1999, training fans of serious television to expect landmark shows in that time slot.

The strategy made sense. Unveiling a powerful show at the week's start gives fans lots of time to tell friends and workmates around the watercooler about episodes that HBO may air many more times in days to come.

And come Sunday, HBO will debut three shows that might just be the best lineup of quality programs this spring.

Game of Thrones kicks it off with a debut expected to be among the channel's biggest premieres of the year. It unveils a season in which Tywin's death emboldens his enemies, leaving his calculating, grief-stricken daughter Cersei scrambling for power.

In one scene, she castigates her other brother, Jaime, for helping the dwarf escape.

"Our father is dead, and that little monster is out there somewhere drawing breath," says Cersei, standing over her father's corpse at his funeral. "Tyrion may be a monster, but at least he killed our father on purpose. You killed him by mistake; with stupidity."

What follows is kinda like House of Cards with swords, dragons and religious zealots. No wonder HBO scheduled the start of its stand-alone HBO Now streaming service to coincide with the beginning of the show's fifth season.

Also returning Sunday: a show that may be the most underrated political satire now on TV — Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

This season, her hapless Vice President Selina Meyer becomes an even more dysfunctional commander-in-chief.

And while shaking hands with applauding legislators before addressing a joint session of Congress, she reveals what politicians might actually be saying during that long walk to the podium.

"I'm going to get that Philip Roth book back to you," she tells one admirer. "God, I can't even hear myself! Am I talking? It's hard for me to hear me!"

Think House of Cards meets The Three Stooges ... or, maybe just one stooge.

It's easy to mistake this show for a workplace comedy, as Meyer's knuckleheaded staff stumbles into misadventures that make her look like a genius.

But even as Meyer gains the presidency, her struggle to navigate congressional politics — and a mysteriously blank teleprompter — help constitute the perfect parody of Washington.

Sandwiched between Game of Thrones and Veep on HBO Sunday nights is Silicon Valley, a pitch-perfect satire of tech culture from the creator of Office Space and Beavis and Butt-head.

And let's not forget John Oliver's late-night news comedy, Last Week Tonight, which last Sunday aired an interview with NSA leaker Edward Snowden that produced this moment.

"How much do you miss America?" Oliver asks Snowden, in an interview conducted in Russia.

"You know, my country is something that travels with me ..." Snowden begins, only to have the host cut him off.

"Well that's already a way too complicated answer," Oliver says. "The answer is: I miss it a lot. It's the greatest country in the world."

A satirist with smarts, Oliver delivered an interview both Meet the Press and Saturday Night Live could have been proud of.

HBO's competitors, especially at the broadcast networks, will note it is easier to stack up a night of great original shows when you have only a few evenings to fill with programming. And the extra charge for HBO means consumers are paying a significant price for the quality they enjoy.

Still, Sunday's debut of Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and Veep brings the best lineup on television this spring — helping ensure Sunday's status as ground zero for TV's new golden age.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

(SOUNDBITE OF "GAME OF THRONES" THEME MUSIC)

CORNISH: If you know that music, you probably already know that HBO's "Game Of Thrones" returns Sunday night for another epic season. It kicks off a big night for HBO. It's comedy "Veep" will be back, too. By the way, if you're not caught up on past seasons, there's a bit of a spoiler on the way. Our TV critic Eric Deggans says the two shows are part of the week's best night of television.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: "Game Of Thrones" ended last year with the most shocking death of all, Tywin Lannister, the most powerful ruler in Westeros, was killed by his own son, the tortured alcoholic dwarf, Tyrion. In Sunday's episode, Tyrion is on the run. The man who's helping him, a scheming spymaster named Varys, is now trying to convince Tyrion to help him save the kingdom. Tyrion isn't having it.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GAME OF THRONES")

PETER DINKLAGE: (As Tyrion Lannister) Done with Westeros, and Westeros is done with me.

CONLETH HILL: (As Lord Varys) You have many admirable qualities. Self-pity is not one of them. You have your father's instincts for politics, and you have compassion.

DINKLAGE: (As Tyrion Lannister) Compassion - I killed my lover with my bare hands. I shot my own father with a crossbow.

HILL: (As Lord Varys) I never said you were perfect.

DEGGANS: This is more than a perfect moment between two great characters. It's an example of the high-quality shows HBO airs on Sunday nights, a signature night for the channel. HBO's hit mob drama "The Sopranos" turned Sundays into quality TV night back in 1999, and "Game Of Thrones" continues that tradition with scenes like this one featuring Cersei Lannister, daughter of the dead ruler Tywin, criticizing her other brother for helping his dwarf sibling escape.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GAME OF THRONES")

LENA HEADEY: (As Cersei Lannister) Our father is dead, and that little monster is out there somewhere drawing breath. Did you set him free? Tyrion may be a monster, but at least he killed our father on purpose.

DEGGANS: There's more intrigue coming as Cersei scrambles for power. No wonder HBO scheduled the start of its stand-alone HBO Now streaming service this week, just before the show's fifth season. Also returning Sunday, a show that may be the most underrated political satire now on TV.

(SOUNDBITE OF "VEEP" THEME MUSIC)

DEGGANS: "Veep" features Julia Louis-Dreyfus as hapless Vice President Selina Meyer who lucks into this position.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "VEEP")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) The president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS: (As Selina Meyer) To making history. We're the first woman president, right? Well, I am. You're not, Michael. I am. Ow - you're hurting my hand.

DEGGANS: And while shaking hands before addressing a joint session of Congress, she reveals what politicians might actually say during that long walk to the podium.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "VEEP")

LOUIS-DREYFUS: (As Selina Meyer) Oh, I see you. Thank you. Well, I'm getting jiggy with it. I'm going to get that Philip Roth book back to you. I haven't forgotten about it. God, I can't even hear myself. Am I talking? It's hard for me to hear me.

DEGGANS: Think "House Of Cards" meets "The Three Stooges," or maybe just one stooge. But even as Meyer gains the presidency, her struggle to navigate congressional politics and a teleprompter help constitute the perfect parody of Washington. Sandwiched between "Game Of Thrones" and "Veep" on HBO Sunday nights is "Silicon Valley," a pitch-perfect satire of tech culture from the creator of "Office Space" and "Beavis And Butthead." And let's not forget John Oliver's news comedy, "Last Week Tonight," which last Sunday aired an interview with NSA leaker Edward Snowden which produced this moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER")

JOHN OLIVER: How much do you Miss America?

EDWARD SNOWDEN: You know, my country is something that travels with me, you know? It's not just a geography...

OLIVER: Well, that's already a way too complicated answer. The answer is, I miss it a lot. It's the greatest country in the world.

DEGGANS: A satirist with smarts, Oliver delivered an interview that both "Meet The Press" and "Saturday Night Live" could have been proud of. HBO's competitors, especially at the broadcast networks, will note it's easier to stack up a night of great original shows when you only have a few evenings to fill with programming. Still, Sunday's debut of "Game Of Thrones," "Silicon Valley" and "Veep" bring the best lineup on television this spring, helping insure Sunday's status as ground zero for TV's new golden age. I'm Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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