I watched the first season before reading the series (and now I've read it thrice) and I can tell you that I was drawn in right away. Mind you, I have a lot of patience for these types of epic shows with a lot of characters and a lot going on, but besides not getting every little detail/name right away, I found I could follow it pretty closely, and I really dug it. I loved the first scene with The Others/White Walkers, I loved the introduction of The Starks, I loved the royal family, I loved the Direwolves, I loved the scenes in Essos. I remembered posting on my facebook, "Is it bad that merely the opening credits of Game of Thrones is enough to get me hooked?" That said, I can see why people say that noobs (or people who are not already pre-disposed to fantasy/court-intrigue/epics) there might not have been a lot to draw people in. I watched the first episode with a good friend of mine, and he was pretty underwhelmed... That is, up until Bran got thrown out the window. That made him go "whoa..." as in, this show does not fuck around!