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The 44 best HBO series streaming right now

Nick Perry
·33 min read

HBO’s meteoric rise to prominence in the realm of original series began more than 20 years ago when The Sopranos bada-binged its way to global acclaim in 1999. Since then the pay television network has produced some of the biggest series ever to hit the airwaves with Game of Thrones, The Wire, Six Feet Under, Sex and the City, Entourage, True Blood, and more. These days, HBO continues to produce successful original programming, from gritty crime dramas like True Detective and Perry Mason to intelligent comedies like Veep, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Silicon Valley, so it’s no wonder HBO remains the longest-running premium television service in the United States. Now, with HBO’s on-demand services, and the newly launched HBO Max, fans of the network have unfettered access to the company’s impressive (and robust) stable of programming. But there’s a boatload of it, so below we’ve dug through it all to provide you with our picks for the best HBO shows, so you can spend more time binge-watching and less time binge-searching.

Raised by Wolves on HBO
Raised by Wolves on HBO

Raised by Wolves

From director Ridley Scott, Raised By Wolves is a dark, mysterious foray into sci-fi for HBO Max. The story follows two androids tasked with raising human children on a brand new planet where religious differences threaten to tear apart a human colony. As the androids attempt to manage peace through logic, they soon learn that controlling and guiding the beliefs of humans is difficult and extremely treacherous.

Created by: Aaron Guzikowski
Cast: Travis Fimmel, Amanda Collin, Abubakar Salim
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Max

Lovecraft Country on HBO
Lovecraft Country on HBO

Lovecraft Country

History and supernatural horror merge in Lovecraft Country, which follows a Black soldier who returns home from World War II and then sets off on a journey through 1950s America to find his missing father. Jonathan Majors plays series protagonist Atticus Freeman, who’s joined on his rescue mission by childhood friend Letitia “Leti” Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) and his uncle, George Freeman (Courtney B. Vance). Series showrunner Misha Green expertly blends the real-world racial terrors of the Jim Crow era for Black people in the U.S. with the dark, eldritch horrors of H.P. Lovecraft in a story that continually surprises its audience with one shocking twist after another.

Created by: Misha Green
Cast: Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Courtney B. Vance
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Perry Mason

This limited series brings the world’s most renowned fictional lawyer back to the small screen. HBO’s series is an origin story of the criminal defense attorney set in 1932 Los Angeles. The series takes an edgy, noir-ish tone and gives Perry Mason a new spin, with Matthew Rhys portraying him as a low-rent private investigator digging into the influential and enormously powerful evangelical preacher Sister Alice.

Created by: Ron Fitzgerald, Rolin Jones
Cast: Matthew Rhys, Juliet Rylance, Chris Chalk
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

HBO's The Outsider
HBO's The Outsider

The Outsider

Based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel of the same name, this slow-burn series starts with a seemingly straightforward, cut-and-dried murder investigation. However, that investigation spirals out of control as investigators encounter an insidious supernatural force that makes everything look different than it seemed before. Soon, the investigators begin to question everything they thought they knew. Featuring a first-rate cast of Jason Bateman, Ben Mendelsohn, and Cynthia Erivo, The Outsider is a truly gripping, supernatural crime drama that measures up to King’s novel.

Created by: Richard Price
Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Bill Camp, Jeremy Bobb, Julianne Nicholson, Mare Winningham
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You
Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You

I May Destroy You

Michaela Coel’s co-production for BBC One and HBO has established her as one of the most innovative and thoughtful new creators in television. Coel created, writes, co-directs, executive produces, and stars as Arabella, a young London woman who must rebuild her life after being sexually assaulted in a nightclub. Publicly feted as a millennial icon after the success of her debut novel “Chronicles of a Fed-Up Millennial,” Arabella is struggling under the pressure of meeting the deadline for her second book. To de-stress, she meets up with friends for a night out in London, which becomes a complete blur. The next morning, she pieces together the events of the previous night, challenging social norms and the meaning of consent.

Created by: Michaela Coel
Cast: Michaela Coel, Weruche Opia, Paapa Essiedu
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

John Turturro as Charles Lindbergh
John Turturro as Charles Lindbergh

The Plot Against America

Based on Philip Roth’s 2004 novel about an alternative history in which Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin D. Roosevelt in the presidential election of 1940, The Plot Against America is a surprisingly timeless story when seen through a modern lens. The story follows a working-class Jewish family in New Jersey during Lindbergh’s reign. Lindbergh, a famous anti-Semite and isolationist, turns the nation toward fascism and tyranny, which the audience experiences at a personal level through the Jewish community in Newark. Creators David Simon and Ed Burns are no strangers to heavy subjects, and this one is no exception.

Created by: Ed Burns, David Simon
Cast: Winona Ryder, Anthony Boyle, Zoe Kazan, John Turturro
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Room 104 on HBO
Room 104 on HBO

Room 104

From Mark and Jay Duplass, Room 104 imagines what really happens at that corporate chain hotel right by the airport. This anthology series centers around a regular American motel and one particularly strange room. The stories that happen in Room 104 are funny, terrifying, heartbreaking, and everything in between. The characters and tone of the show change every week, making each episode feel like a mini-movie that brings out the interesting in the mundane. The show just aired its fourth and final season in 2020.

Created by: Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass
Cast: Jennifer Lafleur, Jon Bass, Jenny Leonhardt
Number of seasons: 4

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Watchmen on HBO
Watchmen on HBO

Watchmen

What could be more daunting than adapting Alan Moore’s iconic comic series Watchmen for TV? How about making a sequel? That’s what Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers) has done with Watchmen, which picks up decades after Moore’s story ended, following a new group of characters whose lives intertwine with the old cast. Set in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 34 years after the comic, Watchmen follows Angela Abar (Regina King), a cop who moonlights as a costumed vigilante called Sister Night. The Tulsa police have been decimated by a white supremacist group called the Seventh Kavalry, forcing the remainder to adopt superhero personae for safety. After the police chief is murdered, Angela searches for the killer, uncovering a sinister conspiracy. In its willingness to challenge expectations for a sequel, Lindelof’s Watchmen proves a worthy successor to the original.

Created by: Damon Lindelof
Cast: Regina King, Jean Smart, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Tom Mison, Jeremy Irons
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Zendaya in Euphoria on HBO
Zendaya in Euphoria on HBO

Euphoria

This teen drama is teen drama done by HBO. It’s steamier, darker, and deeply, deeply provocative. An adaptation of the Israeli show of the same name, Euphoria follows 17-year-old Rue (Zendaya), a drug addict fresh from rehab with no plans to stay clean and an upsetting amount of responsibility. Around her are Jules, Nate, Chris, Cassie, and Kat, each with their own identity crises and high school crosses to bear. As they struggle to make sense of their presents and their futures, the series takes a deep-dive into teenage substance abuse, sexual tension, and the anxiety-ridden life of modern high school. At times, Euphoria swings for the shock value fences but generally, it deals with serious issues with empathy and openness.

Created by: Sam Levinson
Cast: Zendaya, Sydney Sweeney, Maude Apatow
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

The Young Pope on HBO
The Young Pope on HBO

The Young Pope

Before it premiered on HBO, The Young Pope — which originally aired on Italy’s Sky Atlantic — was a subject of puzzlement or outright mockery in the media. Many thought the name implied an edgy show, one aimed at capturing the attention of young viewers. That’s a shame, as The Young Pope turned out to be one of the most bizarre, stylish dramas on television. The show follows Pope Pius XIII (Jude Law), born Lenny Belardo, an orphan from America. Pius reaches the throne thanks to puppet masters in the Vatican who hope that he will be a malleable figurehead and a young face for a modern world. Instead, he shocks the world as a zealous conservative, delivering furious invective against modernity and pushing the church back to an earlier, more arcane way of being. The show is the creation of Oscar-winning director Paolo Sorrentino, and as such, his bombastic vision — and quirky sense of humor — is on display throughout.

Created by: Paolo Sorrentino
Cast: Jude Law, Diane Keaton, Silvio Orlando
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies on HBO
Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies on HBO

Big Little Lies

Based on the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies is set in a small, affluent town where Madeline Martha Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon) and her friend Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman) live in seeming bliss with their families. When Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley) moves to town with her son, Ziggy, Madeline and Celeste take her under their wings, but an accusation against Ziggy — and a murder — threaten to upend their lives. Despite the mystery that opens the show, what really drives Big Little Lies is its portrayal of the lives — domestic and social — of women, the friendships they form, and the aggressions they endure. The central characters are complex, driven as much by competitiveness and arrogance as by friendship and family; Witherspoon is particularly great as the domineering Madeline.

Created by: David E. Kelley
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zöe Kravitz
Number of seasons: 2

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Evan Rachel Wood and Aaron Paul in Westworld, on HBO
Evan Rachel Wood and Aaron Paul in Westworld, on HBO

Westworld

HBO’s reimagining of Michael Crichton’s sci-fi thriller has taken center stage for the network, and for good reason. The first season of the show is centered on a futuristic theme park with some dirty secrets and a Western motif, where the wealthy can pay to experience adventure that real life could never provide. Guests — who can’t be killed inside the park — interact with robotic “hosts,” who are nearly indistinguishable from human beings. Over the following seasons — season 3 concluded last spring — the world broadens to include other theme parks and the real world. The show, produced in part by J.J. Abrams, shoots for the stars with a broad scope and a series of events that can only lead to catastrophe.

Created by: Lisa Joy, Jonathan Nolan
Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, Aaron Paul, Tessa Thompson
Number of seasons: 4

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Game of Thrones on hBO
Game of Thrones on hBO

Game of Thrones

George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice” series attracted its fair share of fans when it hit bookstore shelves in the early ’90s. However, it was D.B. Weiss and David Benioff’s TV adaptation on HBO that really got the fantasy juices flowing when it debuted in 2011. Often heralded as not only one of the best shows on HBO, but also one of the best series of all time, Game of Thrones is an epic tale of royal feuds, dynastic conflict, and the struggle for ultimate control in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Throughout the show’s eight seasons, and divisive conclusion, the creators have rarely shied away from egregious violence, sex, and massive bloodshed, making it one of the most controversial, yet wildly popular shows HBO has to offer.

Created by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, George R.R. Martin (based on books)
Cast: Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, Sophie Turner, Peter Dinklage, Lena Heady, Maisie Williams
Number of seasons: 8

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

The Night Of on HBO
The Night Of on HBO

The Night Of

Writer Steven Zaillian (Gangs of New York, Schindler’s List) delivers some of his most poignant material in this 2016 miniseries starring British actor and rapper Riz Ahmed, who portrays a Pakistani-American student who quickly finds himself in prison after a blurry one-night stand turns into a mysterious and brutal murder. The show chronicles his descent from innocent youth to hardened inmate, with the help of Michael K. Williams (The Wire). The latter plays prison kingpin Freddy, who’s more than willing to provide his young protégé with some protection from his violent neighbors — for a price. John Turturro also delivers an excellent performance as embattled defense lawyer John Stone. Turturro’s presence provides a small sense of levity to help balance the all-too-serious subject matter of the show.

Created by: Richard Price, Steven Zaillian
Cast: Riz Ahmed, John Turturro, Bill Camp
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Wendell Pierce in Treme, on HBO
Wendell Pierce in Treme, on HBO

Treme

David Simon is no stranger to the HBO network, having worked on The Wire, Generation Kill, The Corner, Show Me a Hero, and this New Orleans-themed drama, Treme. Set just three months after the events of Hurricane Katrina, Treme follows the eclectic mix of people living in New Orleans who attempt to repair and rebuild their lives after the catastrophic storm. Featuring some familiar faces from some of Simon’s other works on the network, the show received most of its critical praise for accurately portraying the storm-torn Louisiana city and for capturing the region’s unique culture. Like The Wire, the excellent narrative pulls the viewer in and makes it incredibly hard to look away.

Created by: Eric Ellis Overmyer, David Simon
Cast: Khandi Alexander, Rob Brown, Kim Dickens, Wendell Pierce, Clarke Peters, Melissa Leo
Number of seasons: 4

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Justin Theroux in The Leftovers
Justin Theroux in The Leftovers

The Leftovers

When Damon Lindelof announced he intended to adapt Tom Perrotta’s novel The Leftovers into an exclusive HBO series, fans of the 2011 science fiction novel rightfully went into a frenzy. Not only did the story potentially lend itself to a compelling retelling on television, but Lindelof’s impressive career up to that point assured Leftovers enthusiasts the franchise was in good hands. While the show received mostly positive critical praise, it wasn’t without its fair share of speed bumps. Once Lindelof and his crew perfected the way in which to tell this harrowing story, however, the show really took off and ranks among the very best the network has to offer.

Created by: Damon Lindelof, Tom Perrotta
Cast: Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston, Liv Tyler
Number of seasons: 3

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Avenue 5 on HBO
Avenue 5 on HBO

Avenue 5

What happens when space travel becomes a commodity? The answer, quite possibly, is the unforgiving comedy Avenue 5. Hugh Laurie stars as Ryan Clark, the faux captain of the titular spacefaring cruise ship. While he’s really an actor hired for passenger morale, after a malfunction puts the ship off course and extends what was supposed to be an eight-week cruise to a three-year nightmare, Clark has no choice but to try (and mostly fail) to rise to the challenge. The panicking passengers and crew make up a diverse ensemble of hysterically cruel bastards. Josh Gad plays the brainless billionaire who owns the ship and unleashes a constant stream of bad ideas, Rebecca Front’s character has the timely name of Karen and forces herself into the role of queen of passenger complaints, and — in a brilliant casting move — the Star Trek: Voyager veteran Ethan Phillips plays a has-been Canadian astronaut who faces impending doom by trying to get into the pants of anyone he can find. Avenue 5 comes in hysterical half-hour installments and will have your gut aching in the best ways.

Created by: Armando Iannucci
Cast: Josh Gad, Hugh Laurie, Zach Woods, Rebecca Front
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO MAX

Harley Quinn on HBO
Harley Quinn on HBO

Harley Quinn

There’s been a glut of Harley Quinn-related media over the past few years. Along with video games and comics, since 2016, Margot Robbie has played the ruthless Joker spin-off in two live-action films, and the character has made appearances in plenty of DC’s animated features. The animated Harley Quinn series is, believe it or not, the best of them. The series opens with a final, decisive break between her and the Joker, and what remains deals with her learning to be her own woman and villain in the aftermath. Supported by her best friend Poison Ivy, Harley forms a crew composed of the hopeless theater geek Clayface, the psychic Professor Psycho (who’s persona non-grata among DC’s villains for using the wrong sexist slur too often), and King Shark, who initially just wants to do tech support. As both an animated series and one free of content restrictions in terms of language or violence, Harley Quinn is the best send-up of the superhero world since The Tick. It’s hilarious, bloody, sometimes heartbreaking, and regularly features an alcoholic Commissioner Gordon who doesn’t understand why Batman won’t hang out socially.

Created by: Justin Halpern, Dean Lorey, Patrick Schumacker
Cast: Kaley Cuoco, Lake Bell, Alan Tudyk
Number of seasons: 2

Watch on HBO Max

Olive Kitterage on HBO
Olive Kitterage on HBO

Olive Kitteridge

Few people outside of diehard HBO fans knew what Olive Kitteridge was before it swept the 67th Primetime Emmy’s with eight awards. Taking place over the course of four hour-long episodes, this miniseries concerns the life of retired schoolteacher Olive Kitteridge (Frances McDormand) and her husband, Henry Kittredge (Richard Jenkins). As each episode of the show focuses on a different period of their lives, viewers get an up-close and personal look at the depression, jealousy, and family tension that comes to shape Olive and those around her. Fantastic acting from everyone billed, along with an incredibly tight narrative, make this one of the best four hours of TV available on all of HBO.

Created by: Jane Anderson (teleplay), Elizabeth Strout (based on the novel by)
Cast: Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, Bill Murray, John Gallagher Jr., Rosemarie DeWitt, Peter Mullan, Zoe Kazan
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

The Wire on HBO
The Wire on HBO

The Wire

Chances are incredibly high you’ve heard of the David Simon-produced crime drama The Wire and need little to sway you to watch an episode of what many call the greatest television show of all time. However, if you’ve yet to introduce yourself to the likes of Jimmy McNulty and Avon Barksdale, now is the perfect time. Set in Baltimore, The Wire is a fictionalized and highly realistic take on the relationship between the city’s drug culture, the law enforcement details tasked with cleaning it up, and everybody caught in the middle. Few shows feature such tight dialogue and storytelling as Simon’s opus, making The Wire must-watch television for anyone.

Created by: David Simon
Cast: Dominic West, Sonja Sohn, Lance Reddick, Wendell Pierce, Idris Elba, Wood Harris, Frankie R. Faison
Number of seasons: 5

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

True Detective on HBO
True Detective on HBO

True Detective

HBO’s crime anthology True Detective burst on the television scene in 2014, taking viewers on an especially dark and twisted ride with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as the leads. Throughout eight hourlong episodes, writer Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Fukunaga tell a harrowing tale of murder, deception, and the polarity of religion and logic. This certainly isn’t the first show to play with these thematic elements, but few programs consistently hit on all cylinders as True Detective did during its first season. Although subsequent seasons haven’t quite lived up to the first, Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) remains a tour de force in the third season.

Created by: Nic Pizzolatto
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Potts, Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, Mahershala Ali
Number of seasons: 3

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

The Sopranos on HBO
The Sopranos on HBO

The Sopranos

Few television series have garnered as much critical buzz as David Chase’s The Sopranos, which aired on HBO from 1999 to 2007. During its impressive six-season run, the show consistently saw stage time during award shows, bagging 21 Primetime Emmy Awards, five Golden Globes, and two Peabody Awards. Needless to say, Chase and his crew knew a thing or two about producing high-quality television. The late James Gandolfini stars as Tony Soprano, an underboss for a notorious New Jersey-based crime family who consistently battles managing his home life and his workload. Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, and Lorraine Bracco costar in this gritty series that somehow managed to humanize the mafia.

Created by: David Chase
Cast: James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Lorraine Bracco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Nancy Marchand
Number of seasons: 6

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire
Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire

Created and produced by Terence Winter (The Sopranos, The Wolf of Wall Street), Boardwalk Empire tells the story of Prohibition-era Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the crooks who came to power during this time. Starring Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson (based on real-life politician Enoch L. Johnson), the show depicts Thompson’s rise and his dealings with the city’s mobsters and criminal underbelly, as well as government agents and townsfolk. The show, based on the Nelson Johnson book of the same name, features several real-life historical figures during each of its five seasons (Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Arnold Rothstein, etc.), and paints a near-accurate portrait of what New Jersey was like in the 1920s and ’30s.

Created by: Terence Winter
Cast: Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Gretchen Mol, Shea Whigham, Bobby Cannavale
Number of seasons: 5

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Amy Adams in Sharp Objects
Amy Adams in Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects, a miniseries based on Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel of the same name, is the best kind of slow burn. The eight-episode drama stars Amy Adams (Arrival, Enchanted) as one Camille Parker, a distraught reporter who has recently been discharged from a psychiatric hospital and sent to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, to cover the murder of two young girls. She is welcomed back with less-than-open arms by her mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson), who forces her to confront some of her personal demons. As Camille searches for answers to these brutal murders, she uncovers things from her past that she had tried to forget, resulting in a narrative that’s as grim as it is mesmerizing.

Created by: Marti Noxon
Cast: Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, Chris Messina, Eliza Scanlen, Matt Craven
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Eastbound and Down on HBO
Eastbound and Down on HBO

Eastbound & Down

The first in what would become a string of HBO shows for Danny McBride, Eastbound & Down is probably the raunchiest baseball show you’ll ever see. McBride plays Kenny Powers, a former relief pitcher who was as renowned for his dominance as he is for his jerk attitude. But he loses all the money, fame, and admiration through hard-partying and complacency, burning every bridge as he founders out of the Majors. Now, he’s reduced to teaching physical education at the North Carolina school he once attended and living with his brother’s honest, blue-collar suburban family.

Created by: Ben Best, Jody Hill, Danny McBride
Cast: Danny McBride, Steve Little, Katy Mixon
Number of seasons: 4

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Random Acts of Flyness
Random Acts of Flyness

Random Acts of Flyness

Created by the daring Terence Nance, Random Acts of Flyness is a show that tackles issues of sexuality, white supremacy, and the patriarchy through short, thought-provoking sketches. Recent trailers have provided a taste of what the late-night series will offer, with short bursts of eye-opening clips. “We definitely try and not to have creative no-go zones,” said Nance. “What I’m most excited about in the show is how much we engage with the irresolute.” The series looks to be a visual and audio experience unlike anything before, which, given Nance’s avant-garde approach to Sundance hit An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, isn’t particularly surprising.

Created by: Terence Nance
Cast: Terence Nance, Tonya Pinkins, Robert Kirk, Orlagh Cassidy, Djore Nance, Eugenia Bess, Brianna Turner, Jamil O’Quinn
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Looking on HBO
Looking on HBO

Looking

Although it ran for only two seasons (there was also a subsequent movie), Looking burned brightly, garnering praise from critics and love from a small but enthusiastic audience. Looking is a slice-of-life series about three gay men living in San Francisco: Game designer Patrick (Jonathan Groff), artist’s assistant Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez), and waiter Dom (Murray Bartlett). Each of the protagonists — all of them in their late 20s or 30s — struggles with the fact that their lives haven’t turned out quite how they’ve expected. They’re disappointed with their sputtering careers and their love lives (or lack thereof), and that sense of millennial ennui runs through the show. That doesn’t mean Looking is dreary, however. As in real life, drama and laughter go hand in hand, and the characters have plenty of heartwarming moments to balance out the melancholy.

Created by: Michael Lannan
Cast: Jonathan Groff, Frankie J. Alvarez, Murray Bartlett, Lauren Weedman, Russell Tovey, Raul Castillo
Number of seasons: 2

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Kieran Culkin in Succession
Kieran Culkin in Succession

Succession

Succession is the story of the Roy family, a clan of wealthy, emotionally damaged scoundrels vying for power. Family patriarch Logan (Brian Cox) built one of the biggest media companies in the world, but now that he’s old and his health is failing, his children — Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Shiv (Sarah Snook) — all plot how best to advance their careers and maybe even secure the throne of their father’s empire. Succession bears a passing resemblance to King Lear, and like Shakespeare’s play, the show is rife with drama and backstabbing. Although the characters may seem loathsome at first glance (and maybe for a few glances after that), they are a complicated lot, which makes their squabbling all the more compelling.

Created by: Jesse Armstrong
Cast: Hiam Abbass, Nicholas Braun, Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin, Peter Friedman, Natalie Gold, Matthew Macfadyen
Number of seasons: 2

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

The Righteous Gemstones
The Righteous Gemstones

The Righteous Gemstones

Danny McBride is about as much of a staple at HBO as anyone can be, and it’s because of shows like The Righteous Gemstones. The creator and star of Eastbound and Down and Vice Principals returns to the premium network as Jesse Gemstone, the heir-apparent to Eli Gemstone’s (John Goodman) empire of megachurches. Jesse, however, is not quite so righteous as his father (who is not quite so righteous as his children believe), and when he becomes the victim of blackmail, the entitled Jesse goes off the rails to set things right, bringing his equally disappointing siblings (Adam Levine, Edi Patterson) into the mud with him. This deeply satirical, hilarious show takes aim at the hypocrisy of Southern megachurches while still finding the heart to humanize the flawed, self-destructive Gemstone family.

Created by: Danny McBride
Cast: Danny McBride, Adam Devine, Edi Patterson, Cassidy Freeman, John Goodman, Dermot Mulroney
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Cats in Animals
Cats in Animals

Animals.

One of HBO’s weirder shows, Animals. is also strangely one of its most brilliant. Created by New Yorkers Phil Matarese and Mike Luciano practically as a joke, Hollywood producers Jay and Mark Duplass got eyes on the amateur animators’ pilot about anthropomorphized rats living in New York City, dealing with many of the same problems human New Yorkers deal with, and signed on immediately. The series now spans three seasons, chronicling the lives of the downtrodden creatures native to Earth’s least habitable environment in an adult animated series that will make your jaw drop. The dark, irreverent comedy covers everything from rat dating and gender-questioning pigeons to bedbugs in the midst of a midlife crisis.

Created by: Mike Luciano, Phil Matarese
Cast: Phil Matarese, Mike Luciano, Jason Mantzoukas, Katie Aselton, Steve Zissis, Nathan Fielder
Number of seasons: 3

Watch on HBO Watch on HBO Max

Insecure on HBO Max
Insecure on HBO Max

Insecure

Daily Show veteran Larry Wilmore and Issa Rae — creator of the popular YouTube series Awkward Black Girl — partnered to create Insecure, a semi-autobiographical comedy that deftly explores the black experience in contemporary Los Angeles. Rae plays a version of herself who is trying to balance her professional life and personal life while working at a nonprofit organization that benefits children of color. Yvonne Orji and Jay Ellis provide convincing, relatable performances as Issa’s best friend and boyfriend, respectively, and the show is clever and sincere enough that anyone — regardless of color or gender — can enjoy it.

Created by: Issa Rae
Cast: Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji, Jay Ellis, Lisa Joyce, Catherine Curtin, Langston Kerman, Y’lan Noel
Number of seasons: 4

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Silicon Valley on HBO
Silicon Valley on HBO

Silicon Valley

From the brilliant mind of Mike Judge — of Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill fame — comes Silicon Valley, a comedic take on the startup culture taking place in the show’s namesake region. According to Judge, the series is pseudo-inspired by events that occurred in his own life during the late ’80s while he was an engineer in Silicon Valley. The show itself follows a motley crew of programmers and entrepreneurs struggling (albeit comically) to make it in the competitive world of tech startups. Perhaps most hilarious is just how unfit for success many of the main characters seem, which gives the show a rather humanizing angle not often achieved with modern sitcoms. Even though it ended its run at the end of 2019, Silicon Valley’s sharp writing still holds up, and the acting is witty and well-timed, making this not just one of HBO’s best comedies, but one of the best shows the network has to offer.

Created by: Mike Judge
Cast: Thomas Middleditch, Josh Brener, T.J. Miller, Zach Woods, Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr
Number of seasons: 6

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Flight of the Conchords on HBO
Flight of the Conchords on HBO

Flight of the Conchords

Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement’s comedy troupe first began when the duo roomed together in 1998 at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, but it didn’t officially burst onto the scene until the mid-2000s. After developing a bit of a following in their native country in the early aughts, Bret and Jemaine caught the attention of HBO, which signed them up to bring their comedy band schtick to premium cable. After creating Flight of the Conchords — Bret and Jemaine’s fictional folk band — the duo moves to New York City intent on finding fame and fortune. Much to their chagrin, fame, and fortune always seem just outside their reach despite their incessant attempts at stardom. The Conchords play original “folk” songs throughout each episode, which, in turn, incite some of the show’s best laughs. After watching these bumbling New Zealanders try to make it big, you can’t help but hum their tunes in your head.

Created by: James Bobin, Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie
Cast: Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, Rhys Darby, Kristen Schaal
Number of seasons: 2

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Girls on HBO
Girls on HBO

Girls

Girls, a dramedy created by and starring Lena Dunham, delves into the daily experiences of a group of twenty-something young women living in New York City. Culled from actual experiences in Dunham’s own life, the show often deals with humiliating and disastrous events centering on becoming an adult, relationships, and sexuality. In addition to Dunham, Girls features outstanding performances from Adam Driver, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirk, and Zosia Mamet, each of whom battle being young (and dumb) while trying to figure out just what the hell being an adult means. You’d be hard-pressed to find many other shows that provide as real — and funny — a portrayal of human interaction and emerging adulthood as Girls.

Created by: Lena Dunham, Judd Apatow
Cast: Lena Dunham, Jemima Kirke, Allison Williams, Zosia Mamet, Adam Driver, Alex Karpovsky
Number of seasons: 6

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High Maintenance on HBO
High Maintenance on HBO

High Maintenance

This free-form web series was so successful and hilarious that HBO picked it up in 2016 and ordered six episodes, while also adding the first six seasons to its streaming platforms. Co-creators (and married couple) Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair provide pre-episode commentary, often alongside guest actors who appeared in the episode. Sinclair stars as The Guy, a New York City-based bicycle messenger who delivers marijuana all over the boroughs. The real star of the show, though, is the rotating cast of customers who call The Guy looking for some pot. High Maintenance doesn’t always conform to the typical 30-minute episode format, either, though each story is crafted with a beginning, middle, and end, even if it takes as few as six minutes. The well-crafted set includes tons of little details that you might miss on the first watch, but you’ll notice more and more with each viewing. The show also takes an objective stance toward the drug that drives its storylines, avoiding stereotypes while simultaneously creating memorable characters that you can’t help but love (and hate).

Created by: Ben Sinclair, Katja Blichfeld
Cast: Ben Sinclair, Max Jenkins, Helene York, Keilyn Durrel Jones, Kevin Mambo, Marisol Miranda
Number of seasons: 4

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep
Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep

Veep

Seinfeld alum Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars in this political satire about a female vice president and her attempts to make a lasting impression on the United States without getting swept up by politics in D.C. Joining Louis-Dreyfus on screen is the hilarious Tony Hale, who plays the Veep’s ultra-obedient personal assistant, Gary. With sharp, witty writing, brilliant acting, and handfuls of laugh-out-loud moments during each episode, Veep is one of the best comedies HBO has to offer. We recommend hopping on board with this show sooner rather than later, as this is political comedy at its finest.

Created by: Armando Iannucci
Cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, Reid Scott, Timothy C. Simons, Matt Walsh
Number of seasons: 7

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Curb Your Enthusiasm Mary Joseph & Larry
Curb Your Enthusiasm Mary Joseph & Larry

Curb Your Enthusiasm

From the comedic brilliance of Larry David (who also stars in the show) comes Curb Your Enthusiasm, a somewhat fictionalized take on David’s actual life as a retired television writer and producer. What makes the show particularly funny is how nearly every scene is almost entirely improvised by the actors on screen. According to David, he writes a general outline of each episode, though the actual dialogue and conversation come right off the top of the head of the actors in each scene. If you liked the humor native to David’s Seinfeld, you’ll probably enjoy watching all 10 seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Created by: Larry David
Cast: Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines, Richard Lewis, Kathy Griffin, Sofia Milos, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen
Number of seasons: 10

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Bill Hader in Barry, on HBO
Bill Hader in Barry, on HBO

Barry

Iraq War veteran Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) is like many people in the 21st century: His work/life balance is out of whack. He travels for work, returns home, and kills time with video games before passing out. Barry is the portrait of Information Age ennui, with the one wrinkle being that his line of work is murder. As a hitman, Barry takes missions assigned to him by a man named Fuches (Stephen Root). It’s a career that makes use of Barry’s skills but doesn’t leave him satisfied. When he pursues his latest target to an acting class, however, Barry stumbles into a new world, one that ignites his passions. Pursuing the life of an actor, he encounters some problems in his day job and tension with his boss. Barry is a superb dark comedy, and Hader’s performance is full of subtle gestures that speak to his character’s inner turmoil.

Created by: Bill Hader, Alec Berg
Cast: Bill Hader, Stephen Root, Sarah Goldberg, Glenn Fleshler, Anthony Carrigan, Henry Winkler
Number of seasons: 2

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The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst on HBO
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst on HBO

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

For more than 30 years, real estate icon Robert Durst systematically dodged a series of murder allegations and pointed fingers for the disappearances of his wife, his best friend, and one of his neighbors. After seeing a Ryan Gosling-starring movie loosely based on his life reach the silver screen (All Good Things), the defiant Durst decided to reach out to the film’s director (Andrew Jarecki) and offer an exclusive interview. Over several sit-down interviews and multiple years of cooperation with Jarecki and HBO’s production crew, a six-episode miniseries was commissioned to tell Durst’s side of the story. For fans of the podcast Serial and murder mysteries in general, The Jinx is a terrific piece of storytelling and filmmaking that is sure to leave your jaw on the ground once the credits roll on its final episode.

Created by: Andrew Jarecki
Cast: Robert Durst
Number of seasons: 1

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McMillions
McMillions

McMillion$

For a decade, somebody had secretly rigged the McDonald’s Monopoly game promotion, siphoning off millions of dollars and building a vast network of co-conspirators across the United States. For the longest time, nobody noticed, until something strange stumbled across the desk of an FBI officer in the sleepy office of Jacksonville, Florida. This docuseries dives into the investigation into one of the greatest corporate heists in history and illustrates how a regular, unassuming person was able to create an enormous criminal conspiracy.

Created by: James Lee Hernandez, Brian Lazarte, Mark Wahlberg (executive producer)
Cast: Tim Adams, Mark Devereaux, Jan Garvin, Chris Graham, Rob Holm, Tom Kneir, Doug Mathews
Number of seasons: 1

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Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Though classified as a satirical news show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver airs some of the most honest and hard-hitting satirical journalism of any network television program. Each week, comedian and former The Daily Show correspondent John Oliver tackles the prior week’s most newsworthy or political happenings and deconstructs them with his signature wit (and British accent). Chock full of hilarious analogies, spot-on critique, and tight, fluid writing, Oliver’s weekly program consistently feels fresh and is, oftentimes, incredibly informative. Whether it’s the bribery scandal that rocked FIFA or the troubled system of standardized tests, there’s no topic Oliver won’t cover and subsequently shred to pieces.

Created by: NA
Cast: John Oliver
Number of seasons: 7

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Chernobyl on HBO
Chernobyl on HBO

Chernobyl

It’s commonplace to hear something along the lines of “the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging it exists.” To see this proven true on a scale that costs still untold numbers of lives, watch HBO’s Chernobyl. Three decades after the events that some say marked the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union, this chilling mini-series unveils not only the science behind the chain of events leading to the Chernobyl disaster but the lengths to which the USSR went to keep the accident a secret and the monstrous scope of the cost. With a worthy cast including Stellan Skarsgård and Jared Harris, Chernobyl is a revealing picture of hell on Earth and the criminal neglect that creates it.

Created by: Craig Mazin
Cast: Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Emily Watson, Jessie Buckley
Number of seasons: 1

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Doom Patrol on HBO
Doom Patrol on HBO

Doom Patrol

A terminally enraged robot with a human brain. A Hollywood beauty cursed to occasionally turn into a colossal blob. An experimental pilot burned beyond recognition and harboring an ethereal alien. A traumatized woman with dozens of splintered personalities — each with their own superpower. These self-styled freaks and more make up the cast of Doom Patrol. While their name comes from a Golden Age DC Comics superhero team, this show’s heroes aren’t crime-fighters so much as they are broken misfits desperately trying to find purpose in the world. Doom Patrol is infinitely bizarre and hilarious, yet no matter how weird things get or how many fourth walls are broken, it’s arguably the most relatable live-action superhero series you’re going to find.

Created by: Jeremy Carver
Cast: Diane Guerrero, April Bowlby, Matt Bomer
Number of seasons: 2

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Six Feet Under on HBO
Six Feet Under on HBO

Six Feet Under

One of HBO’s very first original series remains one of its best. Premiering in 2001, Six Feet Under opens with the death of the Fisher family patriarch, Nathaniel (Richard Jenkins), prompting the return of his wayward son Nate (Peter Krause). Running a funeral home, the Fisher family is both uniquely capable and incapable of weathering the death of Nathaniel, and he continues to appear throughout the series in visions. Often funny, sometimes sexy, and always confronting difficult truths, Six Feet Under is a brilliant drama dealing with the one place we’re all going, and simultaneously the one place we’re unwilling to talk about.

Created by: Alan Ball
Cast: Peter Krause, Frances Conroy, Michael C. Hall, Lauren Ambrose, Rachel Griffiths
Number of seasons: 5

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