Did You Know?The HBO series The Sopranos was named by the Writers Guild of America as the best written TV series of all time, and by TV Guide as the best TV series of all time.
HBO is one of the most recognizable brands in the U.S. Their original programming has won several awards and acclaim from critics and fans alike. Some of their series, such as The Sopranos
and Band of Brothers
, are considered among the very best TV series ever made. Their shows are very important in shaping American pop culture, and many are considered landmark series in the timeline of television.
Here's a list of the greatest shows HBO has ever produced.
The series have not been 'ranked' in any way, and is a personal choice of the writer. Opinions will almost certainly differ.
Best HBO Series Ever
Game of Thrones
Original Run: 2011-present
Creator: David Benioff and D. B. Weiss
Starring: Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Maisie Williams, Charles Dance, Aidan Gillen, Stephen Dillane, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington
Based on George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire
series of books, Game of Thrones
is the latest fantasy series to take the world by storm. Game of Thrones
has enthralled its viewers with its complex storyline and interwoven political twists. The morally ambiguous tale of the various factions in the land of Westeros and Essos has taken hold over millions, aided by the countless gratuitous depictions of violence and (practically always female) nudity, looks set to continue to rule over the TV ratings in its coming seasons. The series has already beaten The Sopranos
to become the most watched HBO series ever, with the fourth season accumulating an average gross audience of 18.6 million, including reruns.
Original Run: 1999-2007
Creator: David Chase
Starring: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Steven van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Robert Iler, Jamie-Lynn Sigler
One of the most acclaimed and popular TV series of all time, The Sopranos
is one of HBO's best offerings. Set around the Italian-American Soprano family, it depicts the life of the New York mafia boss Tony Soprano, as he struggles with his life as the head of the Soprano household and an important cog in the city's underworld. This series is a vital part of the 2000's culture and was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series in every year in which it was eligible.
is one of the most important TV series, since it elevated television to the level of other more mature forms of entertainment. It was a crucial stepping stone that led to other darker, more mature serials. For instance, Bryan Cranston, who played Walter White in AMC's Breaking Bad
, credited the success of characters like Walter White to the groundwork laid by the success of The Sopranos
Sex and the City
Original Run: 1998-2004
Creator: Darren Star
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon
One of HBO's biggest hits, Sex and the City
is frequently mentioned as an important reason for the network's popularity. The story revolves around the lives of four middle-aged (three are in their 30s, one in her 40s) women who maintain their friendship through the rough and tumble of their own lives, and their sexual adventures.
It is considered as one of the best HBO series ever, but it received consistent criticism for its flimsy, stereotypical depiction of women. Even today, it is reviled for its pandering depiction of women, and Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker's character, is considered by many publications as one of the worst TV characters ever.
Original Run: 2002-2008
Creator: David Simon
Starring: Dominic West, Idris Elba, Frankie Faison, John Doman
is, without doubt, one of the greatest crime series ever. Set in Baltimore, the five seasons of the show presented five aspects of the city: the illegal drug trade in the first season, the seaport in the second, the local governance in the third, the school system in the fourth, and print news in the fifth. The title of the show comes from the surveillance technologies used by law enforcement to gain access into a hidden world: The show's intention for its audience.
The series was not appreciated at the time of its release, with average viewer ratings and rare appearances in TV award shows, but gained acclaim in retrospect for its realistic depiction of the city and the human themes explored in the show. Even the casting, which lacked big-name stars and was heavy on character actors, was praised for its natural feel.
Original Run: 1997-2003
Creator: Tom Fontana
Starring: Kirk Acevedo, Harold Perrineau Jr., Eamonn Walker, Ernie Hudson, Terry Kinney
One of the best prison dramas ever, Oz
shows the events at the fictional Oswald State Correctional Facility, nicknamed 'Oz'. Thus named to contradict with The Wizard of Oz
, the show's tagline, "It's no place like home" comes from the phrase "there's no place like home" from the 1939 movie. It depicts the efforts of unit manager Tim McManus to keep the prison's diverse population under control.
Its bleak setting, graphic violence, and sexual content made it divisive among critics, with only its status as a cable series allowing it to show some of the more extreme material. Set almost entirely within the 'Emerald City', a special section of the prison, its claustrophobic feel and grim depiction of extreme conditions helped build up the intended atmosphere. It is considered one of the most violent TV series, and one of the best prison dramas ever.
Original Run: 2005, 2014
Creator: Lisa Kudrow, Michael Patrick King
Starring: Lisa Kudrow
Underrated at the time of its release, The Comeback
is a mockumentary about a failed actress' efforts to get better professional opportunities. Lisa Kudrow stars as Valerie Cherish, a yesteryear actress hoping to make a titular comeback into the world of TV. Her struggles to earn respectable roles, contrasted against her own mistaken estimation of her own abilities and standing within the industry, form the crux of the story.
The show received low ratings during the first season, and was canceled after 13 episodes. However, it has been praised in retrospect, with Entertainemnt Weekly
placing Kudrow's performance in the series as the second best of her career. The satirical look into the workings of the television industry, ironically starring one of the biggest sitcom stars of the period (Kudrow's F.R.I.E.N.D.S.
role had only ended in 2004), was claimed to have been too far removed from the audience to be popular and a bit ahead of its time, but it became famous as a cult show. It was renewed for a second season in 2014, with a release expected in November.
Da Ali G Show
Original Run: 2003-04 (2000 on Channel 4)
Creator: Sacha Baron Cohen
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen
Baron Cohen's controversial, cringe-inducing, and rib-crackingly hilarious brand of comedy started on the UK's Channel 4, but came to HBO in 2003 with a few minor changes. His first comic character, Ali G, is a satirical stereotype of white men trying to act like how they think black men behave. Cohen interviewed various celebrities in his guise as Ali G, Brüno Gehard―a flamboyant gay Austrian fashion designer―and Borat Sagdiyev―a Kazakh reporter with little understanding of Western culture, with hilarious consequences. All three characters went on to star in their own movies.
Original Run: 2012-present
Creator: Lena Dunham
Starring: Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, Adam Driver
Lena Dunham's series is what Sex and the City
never set out to be. It is a mature, comprehensive look into a clique of women trying to make it on their own. It centers on Hannah Horvath, whose parents' refusal to financially support her sets off the events of the show. Girls
was praised for its depiction of modern life, but the characters were criticized for being too self-centered. The show was also criticized for its lack of non-white characters. Despite being praised by many media outlets as a more mature, more realistic version of Sex and the City
was also criticized by some for the lack of female characters of other races.
Real Time with Bill Maher
Original Run: 2003-present
Creator: Bill Maher
Starring: Bill Maher
Hard-hitting presenter Bill Maher switched from ABC to HBO with a change of series from Politically Incorrect
to Real Time
, and has carried on with the cable network ever since. Unlike Politically Incorrect
, Maher tends to incorporate much more intellectual, qualified guests on Real Time
, with celebrities making up the minority of show guests. Maher's blue humor and uninhibited political commentary has made Real Time
quite enjoyable, and not just if you agree with his views.
Band of Brothers
Original Run: 2001
Creator: Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Erik Jendresen
Starring: Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, Donnie Wahlberg, Frank John Hughes, Scott Grimes, Peter Youngblood Hills, Shane Taylor, Matthew Leitch
The inspiring story of the 'Easy' Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, right from their training through to their landing at Utah Beach, their participation in the Battle for Carentan, the Siege of Bastogne, etc., to their capture of Hitler's summer resort, was conceived by the Saving Private Ryan
duo of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Adding to its fame as a war documentary, it also incorporates video recordings of the actual soldiers from the Easy Company on whom it is based.
It shows us the values of having a brotherhood, respecting authority without mindlessly bowing down to its every whim, taking leadership, and standing up for yourself. Its portrayal of a generation completely alien to most modern viewers was a particularly noted aspect. Its success and critical acclaim led to it becoming the standard-bearer for WWII films and documentaries.
These were the greatest TV shows HBO has come up with. Considering the regularity with which HBO have produced stunning shows in recent decades, it's surely only a matter of time before they manage to dazzle us all yet again with another one of their gems. But until then, enjoy these 10 terrific series, which showed exactly why HBO is considered the king of cable television.