Pop Culture

'Game of Thrones' whacks 'Sopranos' as HBO's most popular series ever

Family. Violence. Revenge. Nudity. HBO watchers loved "The Sopranos" for a variety of reasons during that series' six-season run. With just two episodes left in the fourth season of "Game of Thrones," viewers appreciate those same elements even more now.

Helen Sloan / Today
Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister on "Game of Thrones."

With an average gross audience of 18.4 million viewers, "Game of Thrones" has become the most popular series in HBO history, the network announced on Thursday. The fantasy series — which jumped four million viewers since last season — surpassed the previous record of 18.2 million viewers, held by the 2002 season of the mob drama led by the late James Gandolfini and company.

Cast members of the "The Sopranos," from left, Tony Sirico, Michael Imperioli, James Gandolfini and Steven Van Zandt.

"The Sopranos" wrapped up in 2007 after 86 episodes and 21 Emmy Awards.

"Game of Thrones," based on the fantasy novel series "A Song of Ice and Fire," by George R.R. Martin, feels like it's just getting started. Swords and sex have transformed Sunday nights on HBO, as the brutally violent and multi-layered drama attracts with it an Internet audience thirsty for interaction and insight beyond the television screen.

The next episode of "Game of Thrones" airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO. The season finale is June 15.

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