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Posted at 11:51 AM ET, 04/19/2011

HBO orders next season of “Game of Thrones”

After just one episode, hit-hungry HBO has renewed “Game of Thrones” for a second season.

That’s because, the pay cable network indicated in its announcement, the first episode grossed 4.2 million viewers over multiple plays, and TV critics gave it a lot of thumbs up.

Sean Bean portrays Lord Eddard "Ned" Stark in a scene from the HBO series "Game of Thrones." (Nick Briggs - AP)
Breaking that down: “Thrones’s” unveiling attracted an average of 2.2 million viewers at 9 o’clock Sunday – about the same number of people as watched the the same number of people as watched John Travolta and the cast of “Welcome Back Kotter,” Michael J. Fox and the cast of “Family Ties,” and Bill Cosby and the cast of “The Cosby Show” on TV Land’s trophy show in the same hour. (TV Land says it was its most watched edition of the trophy show ever.)

Getting back to “Game o’ Thrones” and its unveiling on HBO:

For comparison sake, nearly 5 million people caught the unveiling of Martin Scorsese’s mobster drama “Boardwalk Empire” on HBO last September, but HBO’s vampire drama “True Blood” only coughed up 1.44 million viewers when it premiered in September of ’08.

After making its debut, HBO immediately re-ran “GoT” at 10 p.m.-ish and it averaged another 1.2 million viewers. We’re now up to 3.4 million. Throw in the 800,000 who watched the re-re-run at 11 p.m.-ish Sunday, and you have your 4.2 mil.

Overall, HBO presented the first episode of “GoT” 12 times by the end of Monday.

Based on the bestselling fantasy book series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” by George R.R. Martin, “Game of Thrones” is about kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars and noblemen, who live in a world in which summers can span decades, but where the winters, HBO admits can last a lifetime. On the other hand, based on the mortality rate of the first episode, “lifetime” and “decades” may be the same thing.

The residents of “GoT” live in towns that look like something something held over from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” sets – though this is unlikely, given that the show is, reportedly, the most expensive in TV history, costing $50 million over 10 episodes. JJ Abrams is gnashing his teeth about having his record stomped on as we write.

And while the residents of the season-challenged “GoT” have mastered the art of the very sophisticated “keep ye eye peeled for yon mean olde hippogriffs” medieval-speak, the middle-aged men in particular all look like they’ve neglected to wash behind the ears for quite some time.

Michael Lombardo, president, HBO Programming, said in Tuesday’s announcement that they are “thrilled by the support of the media and our viewers.”

HBO noted TV Guide thinks “GoT” is a “a crowning triumph,” while the Los Angeles Times argued that it’s “a great and thundering series,” that’s “wild and bewitching.”

HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’: A lot to sword out

By  |  11:51 AM ET, 04/19/2011

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