Veep for Comedy. Game of Thrones for Drama. And most of all, HBO itself. Going in, traditional wisdom said Veep was too smart and political; a fantasy show like Game of Thrones had never and would never win; and the new distribution channels like Netflix and Amazon had taken over from HBO as the hottest networks in Hollywood. Traditional wisdom got it wrong. HBO crushed the competition because of its system of putting great writers in charge of its shows and giving them the freedom to do what they do best.

2. Why do you think those shows are so successful? What makes them so special?

All the best shows in the history of television transcend their genres, which means that they hit the special story beats of their form but also twist them in an original way we’ve never seen before. Veep and Game of Thrones both use this strategy to perfection.

In my opinion, Veep is unquestionably the best, and best written, comedy on television. It hits all the special story beats of the ½ hour comedy, but with much more depth and originality than the standard American sitcom. Unlike thestandard comedy that gives its lead a single identifiable flaw, Veep gives all of its characters multiple and serious flaws, and the comedy always comes out of these flaws. The show is also quite advanced in how it sets up the comicoppositions among the characters, which not only makes it very funny but gives it among the best plots in TV comedy.

Best of all the stories are always politically incorrect in the extreme. The comedy is probably the most aggressive in the history of American television, and that is only possible because it is on HBO.

Game of Thrones, like all the shows that were nominated for best drama this year, is a serial drama, which means that it weaves multiple characters with season long arcs. Right away this allows the show much more complexity of character and plot because it has an entire season to play these out.

Game of Thrones uses the fantasy and action genres, but it transcends these forms by borrowing techniques from Historical Drama, the most complex of all story forms in any medium.

In writing a Historical Drama, the writer has two central story challenges: 1. weave the desires and actions of a huge cast of characters within each episode and over the course of the season, and 2. connect the characters to the larger society and the historical forces that are strongly affecting, if not totally determining, the characters’ fates. Game of Thrones is extremely good at overcoming both of these challenges.