When it comes to hyped shows and miniseries, HBO is kind of like Pixar: the production is always of the highest quality and it’s bound to be at least pretty good. On special occasions (WALL-E, Ratatouille), it’s phenomenally good, and when that happens, every person with a television and a little spare change should make sure he/she has HBO.

There’s been only one episode of the much-anticipated Game of Thrones, but so far we have every indication that this is one of those EXTRAORDINARY series – the kind where you watch each episode multiple times and count the days with measles-itch impatience.

Game of Thrones is the kind of show that inspires you to say, in unison with everyone else who has given it a taste: “It’s not TV. It’s HBO!”

Production: The sets have been magnificent, as if out of a sweeping, big-picture epic. In the north we have Winterfell, which oozes snow and frost amid a feudalist castle. Most of the Episode 1 focus is in that outpost, but we also experience the land where the king hails from and other places, all equally dazzling to the eye.

Acting: First-rate all around. Sean Bean is his normal self – which is to say excellent – but it is hard to pick fault with any performance. HBO seems to round up stellar actors every single time and cast them perfectly, with Game of Thrones being no exception. The children were especially good, something you can’t always count on in these productions. One actress to keep an eye on: Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen with a solitary beauty. I was particularly captivated by the way she hid her emotions, expressing herself internally behind silver hair and solemn eyes (think Naomi Watts at the beginning of King Kong. Beauty and resigned sadness can be a spellbinding combination).

Script: Never too forced or overdone, creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss allow the suspenseful stories to play out without inserting too much DNA. Think of The Lord of the Rings’ soft touch, with sprinkles of great dialogue mixed about in small doses.

Plot: Absolutely riveting. It’s hard to pinpoint why the story has been so suspenseful, but perhaps that can be attributed to the great skill displayed by the writers and creators. I never felt bored or overly wound, and yet the 60+ minutes passed so fleetingly. Simply a great viewing experience.

Whether Game of Thrones can keep it up remains to be seen, but unlike the royal chair that seems so capricious in the lives of the Seven Kingdoms, I think HBO is sitting quite comfortably for a long reign.

Adam Spunberg is a senior writer at Picktainment and founder of the Austen Twitter Project. Email him at adam@picktainment.com or tweet @AdamSpunberg.