HBO has been broadcasting original content and successful series for more than 30 years. In that time, the network has provided some very memorable offerings, and more or less set the standard for quality programming viewers want to see. If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to upgrade your current cable package, maybe looking back through some of the best HBO series will help you decide.
Also, you should be aware that when you do subscribe to HBO, you’ll get access to HBO GO, where you can watch all of these shows online and on your tablets or smartphones.
13 Best HBO Series Ever … Blast From the Past
13. The Kids in the Hall (1989)
This innovative sketch comedy from “our friends in the North” introduced us to Dave Foley, Mark McKinney and all the comic genius they and their colleagues brought with them. Even if you don’t remember their names, you always recognize “that guy from Kids in the Hall.” It was produced by SNL’s Lorne Michaels, too.
12. The Larry Sanders Show (1992)
Gary Shandling’s comedy about the titular fictional talk show that really put HBO on the map as a producer of quality original programming.
11. Fraggle Rock (1983)
Just hearing the theme music can still turn any frown upside down. The Henson company’s take on how we see the world and our place in it, and just how connected everything is, ties in perfectly with Henson’s lifelong work of emphasizing the concepts of diversity, acceptance, compassion and self-esteem. Also, there is the adorable Sprocket the dog.
10. Deadwood (2004)
Not your father’s western. In this grittier, more “adult” version of Gunsmoke, showrunner David Milch explored the raising of a community from the ground up and what it takes to keep it together. Short-lived, but powerful for its strong performances and unique style.
9. Oz (1997)
The gritty, raw, graphically violent prison-set drama was another groundbreaker, and is still seen as one of the best HBO series ever produced. It also elevated the career paths of several actors, including Harold Perrineau, JK Simmons and Dean Winter.
8. Sex and the City (1998)
The aspirational fantasy inspired by Candice Bushnell and produced by Darren Starr that spawned two feature films (and ostensibly an “anti-variation” in the form of Girls) was the first of HBO’s major productions to be targeted specifically at a female audience. It did not disappoint.
7. The Sopranos (1999)
David Chase’s epic “Family” drama that did disappoint with its ambiguous ending that people still talk about. Up to then the series had given us much more to talk about, with its unprecedented access and insight into the mind of a mob boss.
6. Big Love (2006)
Plural marriage is a mystery to most people outside the state of Utah, but this unique take on the family drama gave us a great deal of insight into the struggles this sort of family faces. There was also plenty of intrigue and back room dealing to keep us tuning in.
5. The Wire (2002)
Life on the streets as it’s really lived, seen through the eyes of law enforcement, the media and the denizens themselves. It’s not always pretty and there’s not always a way out.
4. Six Feet Under (2001)
The complexities of human relationships were thoroughly explored through the motif of death and dying. An unusual premise that was mutually appealing to critics and audiences. It also introduced us to the chameleonic Michael C. Hall.
3. Rome (2005)
HBO produced this short-lived series in collaboration with the BBC that was an enormous critical and popular success for the network. Set at the turn of the first century, the story is anchored by two centurions and their roles in the events leading up to and after Julius Caesar’s assassination.
Authentically graphic in its depiction of life in the era, the show also boasts some extraordinary production value which is what ultimately led to its cancellation.
2. Flight of the Conchords (2007)
This charming, dry comedy follows New Zealand’s fourth-most popular folk duo, as they try to make it in the Big Apple. Unfortunately, their manager, Murray, isn’t very knowledgeable about how the music industry works, which leads to some very awkward moments for Bret and Jemaine.
Great songs were always incorporated into each episode and shot in such innovative ways this show quickly became “appointment TV.”
1. Band of Brothers (2001)
The timeless miniseries that follows Easy Company through D-Day and the European Campaign was extraordinary in scope, scale and production value. Its historical accuracy, thanks to input and sign-off from the real veterans who were there and based on Stephen Ambrose’s book, is among the highest ever put on film.
3 Best HBO Series … Still Playing
Here are my three favorite HBO series that are still currently running on HBO.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000)
Larry David’s masterpiece of improvisation that finally gave us the Seinfeld reunion we’d been hoping for, is still going strong.
Game of Thrones (2011)
The complex, multi-faceted epic is referred to by showrunner David Benihoff as “The Sopranos in Middle Earth.” It has been one of the most popular and successful series HBO has ever produced.
Life at the office of the VPOTUS, with its spin machine constantly churning, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Selina Meyer works to stay in the White House loop and keep her own name out of the mud. Shot in handheld verité style, with a lot of improvisation from the actors, the series is fast-paced, intimate and insightful.
Did your favorites make the list? Let us know!
Upgrading to a premium channel like HBO can be a tough decision, but shows like these, that give cinema-quality production value, are still less expensive than a night at the movies. By also checking prices for Cable or Satellite TV in your area, you can often find that you’ll get the HBO series for free for at least three months. If you choose to watch some of these old shows on HBO Go, you will want quality High Speed Internet service, also.