"Game of Thrones" season 4 premiere: early 2014. You heard it here first (well... probably not). But it's true. Pre-production on "Game of Thrones" season 4 is already well underway, borderline complete. Before the ink dries on the "Game of Thrones" season 3 finale, production and shooting on season 4 will start (with all the joyous horrors that brings). And by this time next year, season 4 will not just be starting ... it will be ending. That's right, folks: more "Game of Thrones," season 4 style, is coming your way soon (but obviously not soon enough).

The number one factor determining when the "Game of Thrones" season 4 premiere happens is the actual production of the season. It's pretty hard to air something that isn't made yet -- except for broadcast comedies, of course. Thankfully, although we obviously don't have anything like an official air date at this time, we do know a lot about "Game of Thrones" season 4's production schedule.

Here's the low down on the "Game of Thrones" season 4 production schedule. Scripts are already basically done -- compare to "House of Cards," whose team hadn't even started writing the season 2 scripts by the time the first season dropped (but is still expected to drop its second season before the end of the year).

Casting is under way for the new characters (notably Mace Tyrell, Oberyn Martell, and the Magnar of Thenn). It's safe to say that set design, costuming and all that other fun stuff is in progress too.



Here's the kicker, and it's good news for the "Game of Thrones" season 4 premiere. Actual production starts on July 8, 2013. The show shoots across Europe and the Mediterranean, and it will for this season too. In the past, principal photography has taken about three months, with a few pickups taking place until the end of the year. If that pattern holds -- and there's no reason to think it won't; season 4 is no larger than the other seasons -- post-production should be able to start as soon as the fall.

If post-production starts in the fall, we should be in good shape to get the "Game of Thrones" season 4 premiere sometime around the end of the first quarter of 2014. And that's what we've had for the last few seasons as well. Season 2 and season 3 both premiered around March, had their seminal episode on Memorial Day or the weekend after, and then ended. There's no reason to think this season will be any different.

It certainly won't come any faster -- unfortunately, there's no way the "Game of Thrones" season 4 premiere will happen in 2013. That's obvious, because of the sheer amount of post-production work if for no other reason, but it bears repeating anyway just in case you get your hopes up. Don't.

At least there are options if you can't bear to wait for the "Game of Thrones" season 4 premiere. You could play the games (board or video or computer or card, your choice). You could rewatch old seasons. You could even read the books.

Crazy talk, I know! But at least we have a firm idea of when the "Game of Thrones" season 4 premiere will actually be. "The Winds of Winter" is a whole other matter, unfortunately.