Caroline Malaby works in Reston, Va., for Carahsoft, an IT company. Many of her co-workers are die-hard Redskins fans and often talk about the team at the office. But that doesn’t bother Malaby — she follows the Redskins religiously herself. What she can’t stand is the nonstop chatter about a certain fantasy show.
“Every Monday morning they come in and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, did you see whatever?’ ‘She’s come back.’ ‘I can’t believe he died,’ ” Malaby says. “I just smile and nod.”
“Game of Thrones” has become the office obsession. Some of her colleagues watch the show when it airs Sunday night and again Monday, to make sure they haven’t missed any plot points. During slow meetings, they send emails scheduling watch parties. Some of Malaby’s officemates even go to the “Game of Thrones”-themed pop-up bar in Shaw after work. She always passes on those happy hours.
“I think I watched the opening credits and I saw a dragon and I was like, ‘Nope,’ ” she says.
Many workers have long felt excluded when office chatter turns to sports they don’t follow. But now it’s the competition for the Iron Throne, not the Super Bowl or the World Series, that enthralls your average water-cooler denizen. While popular TV shows are often topics of conversation in the workplace, “Game of Thrones” seems to hit a sweet spot: It has high ratings, the past two Emmys for best drama and a complex plot that inspires endless conspiracy theories, plus it airs in the summer, when there’s not much else on. So with every conversation revolving around the goings-on of Westeros, those who don’t watch “Game of Thrones” are left out of the loop.
Modupeh Jahamaliah wears headphones Monday mornings, when her colleagues at the D.C. public relations firm Kglobal rehash the previous night’s plot twists. Her office, too, has plans for a company pop-up bar outing. One of her co-workers, Joe Malunda, has gone viral on Twitter with GoT-themed memes.
Jahamaliah stopped watching the show after a few episodes: too much bloodshed. As far as she knows, the show’s something like “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” with various vaguely medieval tribes vying for power. “I have no idea what they’re talking about, ever,” Jahamaliah says of her co-workers. “I think last episode something happened where a guy had no testicles? That was a huge office discussion.”
HBO’s blockbuster series has shattered records — with 16.1 million viewers across platforms, this season’s first episode was the most-watched season premiere in HBO history. Employees of the Washington real estate agency West, Lane & Schlager are so dedicated to the show that the office has a 24-hour moratorium on episode recaps, to give the DVR-watchers time to catch up. But Jonathan Danziger, the company’s vice president, just doesn’t understand what all the hype is about.
“All I know is that there’s some weird science fiction stuff and a girl named Khaleesi who’s pretty,” he says. “I’m like, ‘Just go play Dungeons and Dragons, you nerds.’ ”
Meanwhile, Danziger’s wife, Diana Eisner, an associate at the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, struggles to decode the “Game of Thrones”-related inside jokes her colleagues trade via work emails. “I usually only even realize it’s a Game of Thrones reference because I put it into Google,” Eisner says. “I know who Khaleesi is, because a friend of mine from college named her dog after her.”
One advantage the non-watchers might have: more time to get work done. All the rehashing and theorizing and speculating can eat up hours of the day. In Malaby’s office, some hardcore fans leave work early to get a good spot in line at the Shaw pop-up bar. Eisner has a friend of a friend who once called in sick to catch up on the show.
Trenton Kennedy, for one, would rather save his time and mental energy for his job at the Washington-based start-up Quorum Analytics. Not only do his “Game of Thrones”-obsessed co-workers spend hours analyzing each episode, but they also scheme and strategize all week to secure good seats at the watch parties at the start-up’s group house. Hardcore fans might arrive at 9 a.m., 12 hours before the episode airs, to secure their territory.
But especially after a busy workweek, Kennedy prefers TV that’s a little less taxing. “I think everyone can agree that ‘House Hunters’ is a decent show to watch,” he says. “You can put it on in the background. You can skip 10 minutes and jump right in.”
But “Game of Thrones” fans insist that the show has something to offer to the modern workplace. Kennedy’s colleague at Quorum, Kevin King, once was a naysayer, too. But then, while interning in a GoT-obsessed office in Austin, he realized that the fantasy would help him connect to his co-workers.
“Your starting point is: ‘Who do you think is going to win the throne?’ ” he says. “Then everyone brings in their own theories and predictions.” Anyone — from the lowliest intern to the CEO — can contribute. The Seven Kingdoms may be monarchies, but they make the workplace democratic. King started binge-watching the show, three or four episodes a night, so that he could catch up.
Malunda, the Twitter-famous fan at Kglobal, also sees the show as a way to promote company bonding. In Washington, he believes, the show has a special appeal because fans love talking about the political machinations that underlie much of the plot. But unlike discussions about real politics, conversations about “Game of Thrones” don’t get too emotional, he says. “At the end of the day, you don’t have to go home and worry about what’s going on in Westeros.”