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'Game of Thrones' renewed for two more seasons

It's not a surprise, but still good to hear: HBO has picked up "Game of Thrones" for two additional years.

The lavish and brutal fantasy series returned to a record audience for its fourth season premiere Sunday night, drawing 6.6 million viewers. That was up more than 50% from the show's third season premiere. The show's combined three showings on Sunday drew a gross audience of 8.2 million. It was also the most-watched HBO program since the finale of "The Sopranos" in 2007.

HBO had been renewing the series one season at a time, but clearly with an audience like this, it knows the crowds aren't going away anytime soon. Michael Lombardo, president, HBO Programming, said in a statement: " 'Game of Thrones' is a phenomenon like no other. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, along with their talented collaborators, continue to surpass themselves, and we look forward to more of their dazzling storytelling."

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The two new seasons will be the fifth and sixth and will tackle events in the fourth and fifth books in author George R.R. Martin's series "A Song of Ice and Fire." The series, set in the fictional Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, is loosely inspired by the real life Wars of the Roses in 15th century England. We say loosely, because the British crown never had to deal with dragons and ice zombies.

"A Feast for Crows" and "A Dance With Dragons" are notable in the series for following different sets of characters in the same time frame. While the show's producers, Benioff and Weiss, have not said how they will handle the events of those books on screen, it's likely the character stories will be reconfigured to keep all the characters (at least those still alive) in every season.

Meanwhile, fans eagerly await word on when Martin will finish the sixth book in the series, "The Winds of Winter." The TV series adapted from his books is steadily bearing down on the writer, who has been very tight-lipped about his progress on the story and when he anticipates its publication.

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