Movies & TV / Columns

What’s The Greatest HBO Series of All-Time?

July 1, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Sopranos Game of Thrones

HBO has been around since 1972 and has earned its reputation of putting out some of the finest programming in TV history.

Fun fact: The first program/movie distributed on HBO was Sometimes a Great Notion starring Paul Newman and Henry Fonda. It went out to its 325 subscribers in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

I originally sat down to do a Top 5 list of the Best HBO Series of All-Time. After that proved to be impossible I opened it to my Top 10 Best HBO Series of All-Time.

Again. Impossible.

Now I’m opening it up to you, dear reader, to go over some of our favorite HBO series of all-time.

Pick just one of a few is near impossible. You get yourself a solid list and then you remember a slew of others that should be included.

I want to say that Oz was the first series that caught my attention. Some friends had mentioned it and I checked it out and couldn’t believe what I was watching on television. Once I adjusted to the tone, I was drawn into the drama and weight of the series.

Since then we’ve been treated to some of the best dramas ever. How can any list be complete without The Sopranos or The Wire? Both groundbreaking and both epitomize superior writing and acting. They set the bar, each in their own way, for what writing should be.

When it comes to comedy, Curb Your Enthusiasm immediately comes to mind. Never has there been a Larry David and never will there be another. Funny enough, Veep, even with all its accolades, is still a very underrated show that gets even funnier when watched again. Somehow Julia Louis-Dreyfus has gotten even funnier, showing comedic nuances that are sorely missed.

I know some of you might judge me but I have to admit that I watched the adventures of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte. Sex in the City had a huge impact on pop culture and is still influencing shows today. One of the best examples is the more recent Insecure, which hooked me in from episode one. Issa Rae’s talent is incredible and her writing is raw, which when you add a great cast, becomes must-watch TV.

Another recent heavyweight is Game of Thrones. While its last season caused plenty of uproar, the show injected a new angle on high-end options with the sword and fantasy crowd. Then you have a show like Westworld, which is so subtly brilliant that you have to watch it a couple times to fully appreciate it.

If you’ve seen the recent Deadwood movie then it reminded you just how incredible the series was. I started re-watching the series and it holds up well. Even better than I remembered.

Which is true of just about any HBO series. Quality television can stand the test of time. Look at Boardwalk Empire. Steve Buscemi, New Jersey, prohibition. Excellence.

Or Six Feet Under. With a cast like that, you got magic every episode. It’s one of those series that usually sits just outside the Top 5 of Best HBO series and if you haven’t seen it, you’re really missing out.

Same with Big Love. I was lucky enough to work on a few episodes when they filmed in DC and can say that Bill Paxton was just as awesome off-camera as he was on-camera. Anyone who chooses to eat with the crew and extras instead of his comfy trailer, answering questions and telling funny stories is a good guy in my book. Plus, that day gave me a Chloë Sevigny story that still cracks up my friends. The series itself was a fascinating set up that runs the gauntlet of emotions.

How can I not mention the ground-breaking Larry Sanders Show? Or the wish fulfillment Entourage? Or the absolute stunning Rome? Or Carnivale, which I’m still sad that never got the love it deserved from audiences.

I could talk about How to Make it in America, which was another show cancelled too soon. Or Enlightened. Or True Detective…Season 1, of course.

Maybe that’s the point. HBO’s output is almost list-proof. Instead of debating number one, we should enjoy the vast selection we have and talk about our favorites.

What makes your list?