'Game of Thrones' Was Always Destined to Air on Sunday Nights, Here's Why
It's not a coincidence that every good show airs on a Sunday.
Game of Thrones Season 8 is upon us. HBO’s most popular show ever is ending, and with it, the “Golden Age of Television” the network helped kick off with The Sopranos may be ending as well. A lot has changed since *Game of Thrones first premiered on Sunday, April 17, 2011 — back then the iPhone 4 was the pinnacle of modern technology — but one thing remained consistent throughout the decade: Sunday nights are still the premiere night for television.
Watch our video essay (above) on why Sunday became the best night to not only watch Game of Thrones — but every great television show of this century so far.
It’s no coincidence that all of your favorite shows air on Sundays, but it hasn’t always been like this.. For decades, Sunday was family night. Disney owned the air space with their Wonderful World of Color, or maybe you would tune in to watch the Sunday night movie. By 9 o’clock, it was time for bed.
The Sundays we know today began in 1999, when HBO executives had to decide when to air their new crime show, a little pilot called The Sopranos. Due to the lack of competition, they chose Sunday.
This choice drastically affected the television landscape for the next 20 years. After The Sopranos incredible success, all of the game-changing shows that came after would follow suit and pick Sunday night too. It became a matter of prestige, a badge of honor, in a way. It was a way to let fans and critics know that this show means business. Breaking Bad. The Good Wife. The Walking Dead. Homeland. Mad Men. Game of Thrones. The list goes on.
But the prevalence of intense, twist-filled dramas on Sundays also has a psychological explanation. It turns out, our emotions are far more vulnerable on Sunday nights. “The Sunday Scaries” aren’t a myth. The anxiety and anticipation of the coming work week prime your brain to react strongly to plot devices commonly found in these Sunday dramas.
Binge and streaming culture is definitely going to keep changing how we watch television. Netflix releases entire seasons of a show on Friday, and audiences don’t seem to mind. A fair number of people will also watch new episodes of Game of Thrones on Monday or Tuesday thanks to HBO GO. Eventually, when you watch a show might not matter as much, but that doesn’t mean that its air date won’t become irrelevant. Just knowing that it had aired on a Sunday stills hold some weight.
At the very least, it puts that series among ranks of some pretty iconic shows. Shows that demanded to be watched live.
Game of Thrones Season 8 debuts on Sunday, April 14 on HBO.