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April 30, 2014

The Couch Potato: Premium viewing on HBO is A-OK — so far

NEW CASTLE — If you’re a regular reader, then hey, thanks!

But you might also remember that a few weeks back, I presented my problem of wanting to watch the currently airing fourth season of “Game of Thrones” right now, but not wanting to pay for HBO.

Well, I broke down and added the channel to my subscription. It may not seem like a big deal, but I never imagined that I would ever have HBO in my house. My parents didn’t even have basic cable until 1996, so HBO seemed like some otherworldly thing that I didn’t deserve or need. And maybe I don't.

But since I do have it, let’s go through some of the wonders that HBO provides.

•The most logical place to start is with the aforementioned “Game of Thrones.” Truthfully, I can’t believe I even like this show, because I’ve never been one for dragons and dungeons and Frodos and Middle Earth and … OK, I’ll just say it, I hate the “Lord of the Rings” movies. But I guess “Game of Thrones” is quite different from those movies in many aspects and the show really is unbelievably good. I will wait until season’s end to give my full take on the show, but so far, season four has not disappointed.

•I am four episodes into the third season of “Veep,” which I have mentioned in this space before as being quite good. To be honest, I have enjoyed this show more than “Game of Thrones” to this point, largely due to how funny it consistently is. It’s hard for me to pinpoint why a show is funny, and the comedies I like all seem very different. But I think that the reason that “Veep” is so good is because it’s about a group of people (the vice president’s entourage) that would never spend a single second together if they didn’t have to, and the interactions that invariably ensue from such a situation. Politics are cut-throat, no one likes anyone else and so they just go at each other for a half-hour each week in an oddball workplace comedy. That’s a pretty funny scenario.

•Last summer, Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” took a six-week leave to direct his first feature film. I was upset when I heard the news because I felt that it would leave a void too big to fill. Then out of nowhere, John Oliver, a correspondent on the show, took the lead chair and absolutely killed it as guest host. That de facto audition landed Oliver with a new show on HBO, which started this past Sunday, called “Last Week Tonight.” The basic premise closely mirrors “The Daily Show,” with Oliver sitting at a desk lambasting the hypocrisy of our politicians and news channels, with the distinction of covering a whole week instead of one day. The first episode was a little uneven, but this has the makings for a great weekly show and I’m excited to watch it grow.

•OK, I haven’t actually watched it yet because there are only so many hours in a day, but the new HBO comedy “Silicon Valley” is four episodes in and it looks hilarious. I have heard good things about the show, so I’ll let you know if its worth watching once I finally dive into the DVR-recorded episodes I have.

Well that’s all I’ve tackled on HBO so far, but I’m looking forward to even more over the next few months. Hopefully I don’t go broke trying.

(Question, comments, ideas? Email at:

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