Tuesday 15 October 2019

Pat Stacey: Game of Thrones' storm in a coffee cup is just one of many gaffes and anachronisms in TV and film

The coffee cup on the banquet table on Game of Thrones. PIC: HBO
The coffee cup on the banquet table on Game of Thrones. PIC: HBO

Pat Stacey

The rogue coffee cup that made an unwanted cameo in this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, where it could be seen on the table in front of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), gave the world a good laugh at a time when it could do with one.

The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gaffe, spotted by eagle-eyed viewers during the banquet scene, has already inspired numerous internet memes.

Even HBO joined in with the fun, tweeting: “News from Winterfell. The latte that appeared in the episode was a mistake. Daenerys ordered an herbal tea.”

So did GoT star Liam Cunningham, who brought the cup along to an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show.

Alas, the offending receptacle — which turned out not to be from Starbucks, as originally thought, but from a coffee shop in Banbridge in Northern Ireland, where GoT is filmed — won’t be showing up in future screenings of the episode. Once the mistake was discovered, HBO used a little digital wizardry to remove it from the shot overnight

It’s nowhere to be seen in the version of the episode showing on HBO Go, the broadcaster’s own streaming platform. Most people would agree that a little levity, however unintentional, will do no harm to a series that’s frequently taken far more seriously than it should be. Then again, hardcore Game of Thrones obsessives aren’t “most people”.

HARDCORE

In among the online jollity sparked by this tiny storm in a coffee cup was a sprinkling of sour, humourless manboy-fanboys shrieking their angry little heads off.

For them, this was no laughing matter. It was an outrage. A disgrace, a grievous insult to everything they hold dear.

It was a shocking demonstration of the appalling decline in the standard of Game of Thrones since the show ran out of sacred George RR Martin texts to adapt — which is hardly HBO’s fault, since the man writes even slower than a pair of stuffed animals copulate and still has another two books to complete.

How, they thundered, with the hundreds of people and millions of dollars involved in making the series, could something like this slip through the net?

Simple, really; it’s called human error, and it’s rife in TV and film production. Costume epics are particularly prone to it.

In Braveheart, a Ford Mondeo can be glimpsed during a horseback battle. It echoes the chariot race scene in the 1959 Ben-Hur when a car driving along in the far distance fleetingly spoils the illusion the story is taking place in the time of Christ. Chariots also figure in a famous Gladiator gaffe. When one of them flips on its side, a gas cylinder is visible underneath.

Similarly, when a truck ends up on its side during the market fight/chase scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, you can see the hydraulic cannon that made it flip. In The Untouchables, the top button of Sean Connery’s shirt is fastened and unfastened several times in a single scene.

In TV shows, anachronisms, rather than outright gaffes, tend to be the most frequent errors: Red Routemaster buses turning up on London streets in the wrong period, for instance; or characters in Downton Abbey using expressions that wouldn’t come into use until decades later (“As if” was one grating example).

Anachronisms in US shows can be harder to spot, though. Mad Men’s Don Draper watching Saturday night football on TV in 1964 seems normal to an Irish viewer. Americans, however, know football wasn’t shown on Saturdays until 1970.

The same goes for Radar O’Reilly, in the 1950s-set M*A*S*H, reading a Marvel Avengers comic that wasn’t published until 1963.

This is why the Game of Thrones coffee cup is so special. It’s universal, a cock-up we can all enjoy. It deserves to be celebrated, not erased.

HBO should licence a special line of cups to commemorate it, if only to give the manboy-fanboys something to splutter into.

Herald

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