That being said, I find myself assigning the term to, of all things, a TV show. Weekly depictions of murder, torture, incest, orgies, and other reprehensible behavior put the show in a morally questionable category. Yet, even as I squirm during certain scenes, I find myself unable to look away. Why?
One strength of the show is the fact that all the characters are intelligent. The show, unlike many shows today, does not feature idiot droolers doing off-the-wall things just to do something to fill screen time. As an audience, we don't always like what the characters do, but their actions make sense and add to a well told story.
Additionally, I love the fact that the story, for those of us who haven't read George R. R. Martin's books, is completely unpredictable. Any character can die at any time. Main characters, who would have been presumed safe on other shows, have been killed without warning. This uncertainty keeps viewers on the edge of their proverbial seats by maintaining an air of constant danger.
Ultimately what keeps me tuning in is the chance to root for the underdog. Surrounded by an array of powerful morally bankrupt characters, we're given a handful of, seemingly powerless, noble characters who struggle to do what's right. Recently, we saw one such hero refuse to allow his servant to endanger himself in order to get the hero out of some pretty dire straights.
Like HBO's Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones is a smorgasbord of sex and violence for adult viewers. Other than the use of swords and magic though, the audience's ability to pull for someone other than a criminal sets Game of Thrones apart from its network alumni.
I give Game Of Throes 8.7 out 10 stars, only marking it down for a few sadomasochistic scenes, over the years, which really made me squirm.