20 Best HBO TV Shows Ever Made

HBO has long been recognized as a pioneer in delivering sprawling, large-scale stories on the small screen. From the late 1990s to the present, the network’s original series have tackled universal narratives that span continents and decades. While HBO has faced some controversies and challenges, its commitment to collaborating with talented filmmakers and creators has earned them creative success. Even in the age of prestige TV, HBO’s newest shows continue to captivate and compel audiences. Here are 20 of the best TV shows HBO has ever produced, excluding Max Originals.

20. “Los Espookys”

“Los Espookys” is a fantastically funny comedy series about a group of friends with a fondness for horror. Created by Julio Torres, Ana Fabrega, and Fred Armisen, the show stars its creators as well as Bernardo Velasco, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Carol Kane, and José Pablo Minor. The first season of the show consists of six episodes that move swiftly, provide attention to detail, and deliver laughs at every turn.

19. “Mr. Show with Bob and David”

“Mr. Show with Bob and David” holds a special place in the hearts of comedy nerds. The sketch show, led by David Cross and Bob Odenkirk, challenged the standard format by bending time, nesting narratives, and embracing the absurdities of everyday life. Sketches like “The Story of Everest,” rival mayo and mustard commercials, and “The Audition” showcased the comedic range of Cross and Odenkirk while establishing new comedic shorthand.

18. “Insecure”

As a TV landmark in two ways, “Insecure” paved the way for Black stories at HBO and solidified creator Issa Rae’s reputation as a 21st-century auteur. The series follows the friendship of two Black women living in Southern California across five impeccable seasons. The show’s cast, including Yvonne Orji, Lisa Joyce, Natasha Rothwell, Jay Ellis, Dominique Perry, and more, brings life to the vibrant and authentic storytelling of “Insecure.”

17. “Deadwood”

“Deadwood,” created by David Milch, is a 36-episode opus set in a South Dakota outpost in the 1870s. The series delves into themes of civilization, capitalism, and features a colorful and profanity-laden script. Ian McShane delivers a standout performance as saloon owner Al Swearengen. Although “Deadwood” is often lamented as one of the most tragic TV cancellations, it received a much-anticipated movie in 2019.

16. “Curb Your Enthusiasm”

Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is a masterful blend of improvisation and scripted outlines. The show, which premiered in 2000, established David as a star in his own right, showcasing his cantankerous character’s social faux pas and quick-tempered take on everyday inconveniences. The long-awaited revival of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in 2017 and 2020 further delighted fans with its cringe-worthy and iconic moments.

15. “Angels in America”

After overcoming several obstacles, “Angels in America” became a six-hour miniseries directed by Mike Nichols and split into two parts: “Millennium Approaches” and “Perestroika.” Based on the Tony Kushner play, the series features a star-studded cast including Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Patrick Wilson, Emma Thompson, Mary-Louise Parker, James Cromwell, Jeffrey Wright, and Justin Kirk. “Angels in America” earned critical acclaim, winning multiple Emmys and the Outstanding Miniseries award in 2004.

14. “Girls”

Lena Dunham’s “Girls” left an indelible mark on TV with its captivating exploration of ambition, isolation, and mental health. The series follows the life of Hannah, a twenty-something grappling with the challenges of adulthood in New York City. The ensemble cast, including Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, Andrew Rannells, Adam Driver, and Alex Karpovsky, brings raw energy and passion to the complex characters. “Girls” won the Golden Globe for Best TV Comedy in 2013 and became a regular contender at the Emmys.

13. “The Righteous Gemstones”

“The Righteous Gemstones” is a dark comedy about a family of fabulously wealthy televangelists. Created by Danny McBride, the series stars John Goodman as the patriarch, with McBride, Edi Patterson, and Adam Devine portraying his adult children. The ensemble cast, including Tony Cavalero, Dermot Mulroney, Gregory Alan Williams, Cassidy Freeman, Syler Gisondo, Tim Baltz, and Walton Goggins, adds depth and hilarity to the show’s themes.

12. “Veep”

After seven sensational seasons, “Veep” stands as TV’s greatest tribute to failing upwards. The show follows the journey of Selina Meyer, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a former Vice President navigating the treacherous world of politics alongside her dysfunctional staff. The series, created by Armando Iannucci and later supervised by David Mandel, is renowned for its biting insults and a cast that includes Timothy Simons, Kevin Dunn, and Dan Bakkedahl.

11. “Room 104”

“Room 104” is a low-budget anthology series that defies categorization, often likened to “The Twilight Zone” but with its own unique flavor. Set in the same motel room across 48 episodes, the show showcases a genre-blending experiment. With each episode, a different filmmaker transports audiences into a new story world, all within the confines of the room. The series, executive produced by Mark and Jay Duplass, features a breathtaking score and original songs from Julian Wass.

10. “The Leftovers”

“The Leftovers” is a love story set in a bleak time, exploring themes of loss, grief, and existential questions. The series, based on the novel by Tom Perrotta, follows the lives of individuals coping with the sudden disappearance of 2% of the world’s population. With intense performances and unconventional storytelling, “The Leftovers” captures the universal human experience of dealing with profound loss.

9. “Watchmen”

Damon Lindelof’s “Watchmen” is a groundbreaking adaptation of the iconic Alan Moore comic. The series takes a new and terrifying approach to the familiar universe, exploring themes of race, power, and vigilantism. With Regina King, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Louis Gosset Jr., and an outstanding cast, “Watchmen” won Best Limited Series at the 2020 Emmy Awards.

8. “Band of Brothers”

“Band of Brothers” is a war drama that authentically captures the experiences of Easy Company’s Paratrooper division during World War II. The series incorporates interviews with veterans, lending it a sense of realism and honoring the sacrifices made during the war. With an ensemble cast that includes Damian Lewis and David Schwimmer, the show portrays ordinary men called upon to do extraordinary things.

7. “I May Destroy You”

“I May Destroy You,” created by and starring Michaela Coel, expertly explores sexuality, dating, consent, and trauma. The series follows the story of a viral writer recovering from assault, tackling difficult subject matter with searing specificity. Coel’s fearless commitment to portraying these themes earned the show critical acclaim and multiple Emmy nominations.

6. “Barry”

“Barry,” created by Bill Hader and Alec Berg, tells the story of a hitman who decides he wants to become an actor. The series evolves from a seemingly simple premise into an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. With a compelling lead performance by Hader and a strong ensemble cast, including Henry Winkler and Stephen Root, “Barry” has garnered critical acclaim and Emmy recognition.

5. “The Larry Sanders Show”

“The Larry Sanders Show,” created by Garry Shandling, stands as one of the most biting and realistic Hollywood parodies. The series captures the ego, self-hate, insecurity, and fear that drive the entertainment industry. Shandling’s portrayal of a fictional late-night talk show host, along with an ensemble cast that includes Jeffrey Tambor and Rip Torn, delivers a scathing critique of showbiz culture.

4. “Succession”

“Succession,” created by Jesse Armstrong, delves into the dark and dysfunctional world of media mogul Logan Roy and his power-hungry family. Anchored by Brian Cox’s terrifying performance as Logan, the show satirizes the pursuit of power and legacy. The exceptional ensemble cast, including Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, and Kieran Culkin, has earned critical acclaim and numerous accolades.

3. “Chernobyl”

“Chernobyl” is a gripping and realistic dramatization of the 1986 Ukrainian nuclear disaster. With its meticulous attention to detail and powerful storytelling, the miniseries immerses viewers in the devastating events and their aftermath. Stellan Skarsgård, Jared Harris, and Emily Watson deliver standout performances in this Emmy-winning series.

2. “The Sopranos”

“The Sopranos” revolutionized television with its groundbreaking storytelling, compelling characters, and complex exploration of the mafia world. James Gandolfini’s performance as Tony Soprano captivated audiences and established the show as a cultural phenomenon. David Chase’s creation paved the way for the golden age of television, influencing countless series that followed.

1. “The Wire”

David Simon’s “The Wire” is an unparalleled masterpiece that offers a thorough and detailed look at American life. The series demonstrated that TV could be more than just a handful of sets and established stars, pushing the boundaries of storytelling. With its journalistic approach, novelistic writing, and authentic portrayal of Baltimore, “The Wire” set a blueprint for future shows and remains a benchmark in television history.

These 20 HBO TV shows represent the network’s commitment to delivering exceptional storytelling and captivating audiences with their unique perspectives and groundbreaking narratives.

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Lee Clarke
Lee Clarke
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