#The Sopranos

James Hibberd

HBO has crowned a new ratings king. Fantasy hit Game of Thrones has officially surpassed mob drama The Sopranos to become the most-watched show in the premium cable network’s history, HBO confirmed for the first time Thursday.

With two episodes remaining in the fourth season, Thrones has an average gross audience of 18.4 million viewers across all platforms. That surpasses the previous record set by the 2002 peak season of The Sopranos, which had an average gross audience of 18.2 million viewers per episode. Last season of Thrones had an average gross audience of 14.4 million viewers per episode. The news comes as Thrones has set several recent ratings records for its own performance this season.

That was three weeks ago, I can only imagine what the ratings for the finale were (we should know in the next few days). 

Update: As expected, those ratings were massive. (Thanks @rjonesy)

I can’t fully argue this because I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of The Sopranos — shocking, I know. But I do agree with the basic premise that Sopranos, Mad Men, The Wire, and Breaking Bad are the four shows that most consider to be the “four horsemen” of this generation of television.

Removing The Sopranos for now, I’d personally rank them:

1) Mad Men

2) The Wire

3) Breaking Bad

I’d argue that Mad Men has seen a small amount of backlash in this discussion because it is the most mainstream-friendly of the shows. As Klosterman notes, it’s the only one what doesn’t regularly feature threats of death and/or violence. This may make it seem “soft”, though I’d argue that the subtlety in many episodes outweighs this. But, as the word implies, most overlook it. 

Also worth noting that Klosterman has argued that Lost is the best show on television before, but he rules it out here because it’s a network show, so in a different category. The others in this category that I think you could make an argument for are Deadwood and the first two seasons of Battlestar Galactica (the re-imagined SciFi version, obviously).