HBO is synonymous with top-tier original entertainment. Its new streaming service, HBO Max, offers the best of the best. Skipping obvious hits like The Wire, Watchmen, and Game of Thrones, here are the best original HBO shows, new and old.
The Righteous Gemstones
Starring, written, and created by Danny McBride of other HBO hits like Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals, The Righteous Gemstones is the kind of smart but raunchy comedy that’s very intentionally not for everyone. You’ll either love the show, or don’t, after watching its first cold open where a 24-hour baptism marathon in Chengdu goes horribly wrong under the guidance of a family of American megachurch televangelists played by McBride, Adam Devine, and the inimitable John Goodman.
The first season of nine episodes premiered in late 2019, with hopeful plans to extend the show long past its confirmed second season.
A Black Lady Sketch Show
It’s met universal acclaim and features some of the most talented comedians and writers working today, including Quinta Brunson, Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis, Amber Ruffin, and more. A Black Lady Sketch Show is giving us the content no one else can like the Basic Ball fashion show that celebrates depressed women (“Eeyore in Dior”) at their finest. Its sketches are full of surprises that reach way beyond the initials jokes, providing miles of glorious shade for bad and okay bitches alike.
Created by Robin Thede and executive produced by Issa Rae, the only disappointment is having just six episodes until the second season is released around at some point in the future.
Flight of the Conchords
Part musical, part sketch comedy, part story of two folk musicians from New Zealand trying to make it in New York City, the Emmy-winning Flight of the Conchords is a two-season comedy that ran from 2007 to 2009. It chronicles the miserably wonderful adventures of fictionalized versions of the real-life Conchords, played by real-life Kiwis, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie.
Because there are no plans for a Conchords tour any time soon, make sure you don’t miss their 2018 reunion show on HBO Max, Flight of the Conchords: Live in London.
Hold on to your lashes, lads and lasses, because HBO Max is putting on an unapologetically fabulous show that may come to rival the queen of queer entertainment, Ru Paul’s Drag Race. The new reality competition show Legendary groups performers into houses that compete in dance, fashion, and voguing.
The show focuses less on drama and conflict and more on craft and culture, but unfortunately only two episodes have been released so far at the time of writing.
Brutal yet poetic, deliberate but delicate, Oz is a classic prison drama that ran from 1997 to 2003 and comprises of a talented ensemble cast that includes Harold Perrineau, Ernie Hudson, Rita Morena, and the spine-chilling J. K. Simmons. Oz, short for Oswald State Correctional Facility, is a maximum-security prison where an experimental unit is created to focus on rehabilitation.
Its six seasons of hour-long episodes makes Oz absolutely binge-worthy for those who can endure its claustrophobic life-shattering storylines.
An award-winning dark comedy starring Bill Hader, Barry tells the story of a modern hitman who becomes disenchanted with his current profession when he discovers a new love for acting. Hader himself was the first to doubt his ability the play a former Marine, but his performance and the fantastic writing behind the show blend comedic genius with poignant intimate moments.
Band of Brothers
Based on the experiences of the 101st Airborne during World War II, Band of Brothers is still one of the most searing and impactful war dramas of all time nearly two decades after its initial release. After collaborating on Saving Private Ryan, producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg worked closely with the survivors of “Easy” Company to make sure what liberties they did take with the source material were in line with the horrors witnessed across Europe.
Don’t miss The Pacific, the 2010 follow-up that covers the horrific experiences of the Pacific Theater of World War II.
This seven-episode mini-series from 2008 focuses on the life of the second U.S. President while providing an authentic look at the political circumstances that led to the American Revolution. John Adams is not necessarily the most historically accurate show, but it excels in capturing the isolated aesthetics and hard-working spirit of colonial America.
Set in the midst of the American gold rush in a lawless South Dakota settlement that eventually grows into a town, Deadwood uses historical figures and resources to create one of the most engrossing looks into the very narrow period of history that was the Old West. The ensemble cast is led by the great Ian McShane in a career-defining performance as the real-life Deadwood brothel owner, Al Swearengen.
Accurately hailed as one of the greatest television shows of all time, its ending was tragically cut short when HBO unexpectedly canceled the fourth season in the midst of the production of the third season. This forced the writers to hastily wrap up some very loose ends in just one short finale. Fortunately, the cast and crew were reassembled in 2019 to properly end the show with Deadwood: The Movie, which is also available on HBO Max.
Todd McFarlane’s Spawn
It’s one of the most critically acclaimed but least popular superhero cartoons from the 1990s. Spawn is an former assassin, voiced by the one-and-only Keith David, who was betrayed and sent to hell where he made a deal with the devil in exchange for the chance to reunite with his wife.
At a time when superhero movies were about to be a thing of the past in Hollywood, HBO created three short but beautifully drawn seasons of grim hellbound action.
In terms of original content alone, you might find HBO Max to be well worth the price tag of $14.99 a month, especially if you want to binge all the good stuff now and then rotate your subscription.