Ranking the Greatest HBO Shows of All Time
We are in the era of peak television. Never in viewing history have we had so many options of shows to watch along with the ability to watch them whenever we want.
Of all the networks and streaming services with skin in the game, and with the Big Four networks (NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX) falling woefully behind, HBO has made the transition to the current era of television programming as well as anyone. That's thanks to a roster of original shows that started in 1977 and created the template every network and studio now tries to emulate.
From "The Sopranos" to "Succession," these are the greatest HBO shows of all time.
30. The Newsroom
Years: 2012-14 (25 episodes)
Creator: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Olivia Munn, Dev Patel, Sam Waterston, Alison Pill
Awards: Emmy Award, Best Actor Drama, Jeff Daniels (2013), Critics Choice Television Award, Most Exciting New Series (2012)
Best episode: Season 3, Episode 2, "Run"
Bottom line: Few shows became as buzzworthy right off the bat as "The Newsroom" in 2012. The whole production took advantage of social media with a scene featuring a red-hot "America is not the greatest country in the world" scene featuring series lead Jeff Daniels.
And it was Daniels who brought home an Emmy Award for his role as news anchor Will McAvoy in 2013. The series also was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series - Drama.
It's tough to beat series creator Aaron Sorkin just getting the room to run free when it comes to dialogue, which this show gave him.
Note: Only scripted shows that premiered on HBO were eligible for the list.
29. The White Lotus
Years: 2021-present (6 episodes)
Creator: Mike White
Starring: Murray Bartlett, Connie Britton, Jennifer Coolidge, Alexandra Daddario, Fred Hechinger, Jake Lacy, Sydney Sweeney, Brittany O'Grady, Natasha Rothwell, Steve Zahn
Awards: N/A (Released summer 2021)
Best episode: Season 1, Episode 4, "Recentering"
Bottom line: You're going to be uncomfortable watching "The White Lotus," but don't worry. That's kind of the point.
Mike White's second shot at creating a show for HBO — he also made the critically acclaimed "Enlightened" — managed to wedge itself into pop culture in the summer of 2021 with this dark comedy.
The show focuses on the lives of staff and guests at an exclusive Hawaiian resort over the course of a week, and it walked away after six episodes as one of the most popular HBO debuts in the last few years.
28. Tales From the Crypt
Years: 1989-96 (93 episodes)
Creators: William Gaines and Steven Dodd
Starring: The Cryptkeeper
Awards: Emmy Award - Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, William Hickey (1990) and Tim Curry (1994)
Best episode: Season 5, Episode 1, "Death of Some Salesmen"
Bottom line: Based on the EC Comics series from the 1950s, "Tales from the Crypt" was one of HBO's signature shows from the 1990s, and at one point, it was as popular as any original programming on the network.
The thing about "Crypt" that kept viewers coming back was it was actually terrifying in spots. Being able to produce R-rated content helped, and many episodes were directed by top Hollywood talent or starred top Hollywood talent.
Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis helmed an episode, and Oscar-winning actors Brad Pitt, Benicio del Toro, Joe Pesci, Tom Hanks, Patricia Arquette and Kirk Douglas all starred in episodes.
27. Eastbound & Down
Years: 2009-13 (29 episodes)
Creators: Jody Hill, Danny McBride and Ben Best
Starring: Danny McBride, Katy Mixon, John Hawkes, Andre Daly, Steve Little, Jennifer Irwin, Will Ferrell, Adam Scott, Ana de la Reguera
Best episode: Season 1, Episode 2, "Chapter 2"
Bottom line: One of the greatest comedies in HBO history is based on the premise of a washed-up, drugged-out MLB pitcher who returns to his North Carolina hometown, broke, and takes a job as a substitute teacher.
The saga of Kenny Powers isn't for everybody — it can be pretty dark — but there is brilliance in Danny McBride's portrayal of Powers, who was based on a mix of several former MLB pitchers and his own return from Hollywood to his hometown in North Carolina as a failed actor.
One thing Powers and McBride have in common? They didn't stay down for long.
26. True Blood
Years: 2008-14 (80 episodes)
Creator: Alan Ball
Starring: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Chris Bauer, Nelsan Ellis, Lynn Collins, Adina Porter, Joe Manganiello
Awards: Golden Globe Award - Best Actress in a Television Series Drama, Anna Paquin (2009), Emmy Award - Outstanding Casting in a Drama Series (2009)
Best episode: Season 2, Episode 9, "I Will Rise Up"
Bottom line: Based on "The Southern Vampire Mysteries" series of novels by Charlaine Harris, "True Blood" found a perfect actress to play protagonist Sookie Stackhouse in Anna Paquin.
Like a few other shows on this list, "True Blood" probably went a few years too long, but its first five seasons were as lauded as any that HBO has ever had, and in a pre-streaming era, the first two seasons really were a must-watch.
Years: 1997-2003 (56 episodes)
Creator: Tom Fontana
Starring: Ernie Hudson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kirk Acevedo, Terry Kinney, Christopher Meloni, Harold Perrineau, J.K. Simmons, Eamonn Walker, Rita Moreno
Awards: ALMA Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Rita Moreno (1998-2000, 2002)
Best episode: Season 1, Episode 8, "A Game of Checkers"
Bottom line: Few shows in the history of television have been as brutal and unsparing as HBO's prison drama "Oz," which ran for six seasons.
You cannot watch "Oz" and come away unscathed. It's a study in claustrophia within its high-tech prison and glassed-in cells, and the utter shock of what the inmates do to each other over the course of the show will leave you shook.
But you also can't say it's not totally gripping.
24. Silicon Valley
Years: 2014-19 (53 episodes)
Creators: MIke Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky
Starring: Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, Jimmy O. Yang
Awards: Emmy Award nominee Outstanding Comedy Series (2014-18)
Best episode: Season 1, Episode 8, "Optimum Tip-to-Tip Efficiency"
Bottom line: "Silicon Valley" entered the pantheon as one of HBO's most acclaimed comedy series of all time from the jump, thanks in large part to the electric chemistry of its lead players, led by Thomas Middleditch and T.J. Miller.
In that mode, the first season finale is one of the funniest episodes of television of all time, with a side-splitting last 10 minutes that segues into some kind of triumph.
"Silicon Valley" was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Comedy Series five years in a row, but went 0-for-5 in that stretch, losing to fellow HBO comedy "Veep" three years in a row.
Years: 2005-07 (22 episodes)
Creators: John Milius, William J. MacDonald and Bruno Heller
Starring: Kevin McKidd, Ray Stevenson, Ciaran Hinds, Polly Walker, Tobias Menzies, Kerry Condon, Indira Varma, Simon Woods
Awards: Golden Globe Award nominee Best Series Drama (2005)
Best episode: Season 1, Episode 2, "How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic"
Bottom line: From a technical standpoint, "Rome" truly set the stage for what HBO understood it could do a few years later when it began production on "Game of Thrones" – a massive budget on a massive scale.
It was no surprise that HBO used many of the behind-the-scenes figures from "Rome" in "GOT." "Rome" won seven Emmy Awards in mostly technical categories in just two seasons.
The show moves quickly once we get into the epic story of two men, Kevin McKidd as Lucius Vorenus and Ray Stevenson as Titus Pullo. The two former Roman soldiers who returned home from war are what make the show tick.
Years: 2016-present (28 episodes)
Creators: Jonathan Noland and Lisa Joy
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden, Ed Harris, Rodrigo Santoro, Anthony Hopkins, Jimmi Simpson, Tessa Thompson, Vincent Cassel
Awards: IGN Award - Best TV Drama Series (2016), Emmy Award - Outstanding Drama Series (2017, 2018)
Best episode: Season 1, Episode 8, "Trace Decay"
Bottom line: Based on the 1973 film of the same name by "Jurassic Park" author Michael Crichton, HBO broke the bank to make "Westworld," and it paid off with massive ratings — the biggest audience to watch a premiere since "True Detective" in 2014 and reportedly the most-watched first season of any series in HBO history.
One thing "Westworld" did on a really basic level was to craft a mystery. The first season's question of who is the Man in Black really gets the story cooking, and that continues into the second season.
Years: 2018-present (16 episodes)
Creators: Alec Berg and Bill Hader
Starring: Bill Hader, Henry Winkler, Stephen Root, Sarah Goldberg, Glenn Fieshler, Anthony Carrigan
Awards: Emmy Award - Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, Bill Hader (2018, 2019)
Best episode: Season 2, Episode 5, "Ronny/Lilly"
Bottom line: When comedian Bill Hader left "Saturday Night Live" in 2013 after eight standout seasons, some thought it was career suicide. Little did they know Hader had an ace in the hole about ex-Marine and Cleveland native Barry Berkman, a top-level assassin who finds a home within a troupe of theater actors in Los Angeles while on "assignment" and decides to stay.
Hader is a revelation as Barry and pairs perfectly with Henry Winkler as his acting coach. They both won Emmy Awards for their performances in 2018 while Hader went back-to-back as Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 2019.
20. Big Little Lies
Years: 2017-19 (14 episodes)
Creator: David E. Kelley
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz, Alexander Skarsgard, Adam Scott, James Tupper, Meryl Streep
Awards: Golden Globe Award - Best Miniseries or TV Film (2017), Golden Globe Awards - Best Actress, Miniseries or TV Film, Nicole Kidman (2017), Emmy Award - Outstanding Limited Series (2017), Emmy Award - Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special, Jean Marc Valee (2017), Emmy Award - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie, Nicole Kidman (2017)
Best episode: Season 1, Episode 3, "Living the Dream"
Bottom line: Say what you want about the second season of "Big Little Lies." The first season is unassailable. It works on so many different levels as a thriller/murder mystery and social drama, dark comedy that you can't help but enjoy it.
Pound-for-pound, it's hard to say that the combination of Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley isn't one of the best casting trios in HBO history and works on a really cool level as far as representing three different generations of actresses.
As far as villains go, Alexander Skarsgard was as evil as they come and swept Supporting Actor awards for the Golden Globe Awards and Emmy Awards in 2017.
Years: 2019-present (10 episodes)
Creator: Sam Levinson
Starring: Zendaya, Maude Apatow, Eric Dane, Jacob Elordi, Alexa Demie, Barbie Ferriera, Storm Reid, Sydney Sweeney, Colman Domingo
Awards: Emmy Award - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Zendaya (2020), People's Choice Awards - Favorite Drama TV Star, Zendaya (2019), Satellite Awards - Best Television Actress Drama, Zendaya (2019)
Best episode: Season 1, Episode 4, "Shook Ones Pt. II"
Bottom line: Viewers were shocked in 2019 when HBO debuted the teen drama series "Euphoria" — not just for its unflinching view into the lives of teenagers but by the bravura performance of Zendaya in the lead role as Rue.
The singular quality of Zendaya's work in the role was seen to the rest of the entertainment world when she became the youngest winner of the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2020, at just 24 years old.
We've received two special, holiday episodes of "Euphoria" since its debut, and a second full season is on the way in late 2021 or early 2022.
18. Boardwalk Empire
Years: 2010-14 (56 episodes)
Creator: Terence Winter
Starring: Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham, Stephen Graham, Jack Huston, Gretchen Mol, Bobby Cannavale, Ron Livingston, Jeffrey Wright
Awards: Golden Globe Award - Best Television Series Drama (2011), Golden Globe Award - Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series Drama, Steve Buscemi (2011), Emmy Award - Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series, Martin Scorsese (2011), Emmy Award - Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series, Tim Van Patten (2012)
Best episode: Season 3, Episode 12, "Margate Sands"
Bottom line: Your bona fides as a show are pretty much set in stone when Martin Scorsese directs your pilot, which happened with "Boardwalk Empire" and brought home an Emmy Award for directing for Scorsese.
Steve Buscemi is brilliant in the lead role as Enoch "Nucky" Thompson — a politician/gangster who controls Atlantic City, New Jersey, during Prohibition.
"Boardwalk Empire" ran into some struggles down the stretch as its budget got a massive cut, but its mix of gangster movie and historical fiction was always a delight.
Years: 2016-present (34 episodes)
Creators: Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore
Starring: Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji, Jay Ellis, Lisa Joyce, Natasha Rothwell, Amanada Seales, Y'ian Noel, Alexander Hodge, Kendrick Sampson
Awards: NAACP Image Award - Outstanding Comedy Series (2021), NAACP Image Award - Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series, Issa Rae (2021)
Best episode: Season 2, Episode 4, "Hella LA"
Bottom line: "Insecure" has turned Issa Rae into a household name. The 36-year-old Los Angeles native is a two-time Emmy Award nominee and two-time Golden Globe Award nominee for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy in the series she created alongside Larry Wilmore.
"Insecure" took Rae's web series "Awkward Black Girl" and turned it into something much bigger by taking shots and giving insight into the life of a Black woman in her late 20s living in Los Angeles.
All good things must come to an end, however, and in January 2021, HBO announced that the fifth season of "Insecure" would be its last. Hopefully, the network keeps her in the fold for another series.
Years: 2004-06 (36 episodes)
Creator: David Milch
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Brad Dourif, John Hawkes, Dayton Callie, Powers Boothe, Anna Gunn
Awards: Golden Globe Award nominee - Best Drama Series (2005), Emmy Award nominee - Outstanding Drama Series (2005), Golden Globe Award - Best Actor in a Drama Series, Ian McShane (2005)
Best episode: Season 1, Episode 4, "Here Was a Man"
Bottom line: "Deadwood" is another casualty of the era right before streaming services truly began to rock our world — let's say about 2004 to 2010.
It's silly to think now that shows were being judged solely on their Nielsen ratings — either you had HBO or you didn't — even though a good chunk of viewers was discovering shows like "Deadwood" on DVD or on-demand services through their cable provider.
To understand why "Deadwood" endeared itself to fans like it did is to understand the genius of its creator, David Milch, the co-creator of "NYPD Blue" and two other HBO shows with "John From Cincinnati" and the doomed horse-racing drama "Luck" starring Dustin Hoffman. "Deadwood" fans got their wish when HBO produced a two-hour movie that came out in May 2019 to tie up the show's loose ends.
Years: 2004-11 (96 episodes)
Creator: Doug Ellin
Starring: Jeremy Piven, Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillion, Jerry Ferrara, Perrey Reeves, Rex Lee, Rhys Coiro
Awards: BAFTA Award - Best International TV Series (2006), Emmy Award nominee - Outstanding Comedy Series (2007-09), Golden Globe Award nominee - Best Musical or Comedy Series (2004-07, 2009)
Best episode: Season 3 (Part 2), Episode 18, "The Resurrection"
Bottom line: There's no way around it. "Entourage" ran two seasons too long, and if it had ended after five seasons, we are probably talking about it as one of the greatest comedies of the last 20 years.
Even though it didn't, we still got quite a bit of primo television, and there's something comforting about going on the ride with Vincent Chase, his three best friends and his agent, Ari Gold, that will put you in total binge mode no matter where you start.
14. True Detective
Years: 2014-19 (24 episodes)
Creator: Nic Pizzolatto
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Rachel McAdams, Colin Farrell, Taylor Kitsch, Vince Vaughn, Mahershala Ali, Steven Dorff
Awards: Emmy Award - Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series, Cari Jo Fukanaga (2014), Writers Guild of America Awards - Best TV Dramatic Series (2015)
Best episode: Season 1, Episode 4, "Who Goes There"
Bottom line: This anthology series features three different casts over three seasons but without any connection between the plot arcs, other than all three seasons are about detectives.
The first season is hands down the best, featuring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey in three different timelines. The second season was rushed out and fell flat, but the third season came back with a big swing and connected, thanks in no small part to the addition of two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali.
13. Six Feet Under
Years: 2001-05 (63 episodes)
Creator: Alan Ball
Starring: Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, Freddy Rodriguez, Mathew St. Patrick, Jeremy Sisto, Rachel Griffiths, James Cromwell
Awards: Emmy Award nominee - Outstanding Drama Series (2002, 2003, 2005)
Best episode: Season 5, Episode 12, "Everyone's Waiting"
Bottom line: This wasn't the only time Alan Ball hit a home run as a showrunner for HBO. He's also the creative mind behind "True Blood," which was a massive critical and commercial hit as well.
"Six Feet Under" is a family drama about the inner workings of the Fisher family, who run a funeral home in Los Angeles, and the lives of their friends and loved ones. As far as series finales go, few have touched the greatness of what "Six Feet Under" did in its final episode, which some think is the best of all time and, if you want to get a little deeper into it, is more of a coda on life and death and love.
12. The Larry Sanders Show
Years: 1992-98 (96 episodes)
Creators: Garry Shandling and Dennis Klein
Starring: Garry Shandling, Jeffrey Tambor, Rip Torn, Jeremy Piven, Janeane Garofalo, Mary Lynn Rajskub
Awards: Emmy Award - Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, Rip Torn (1996)
Best episode: Season 2, Episode 3, "The List"
Bottom line: "The Larry Sanders Show" set the tone for all of the great HBO comedies to come in the early 1990s. In fact, the show was nominated for 56 Emmy Awards over its run but only won three times.
One interesting aspect of the show was its star, the late Garry Shandling, consistently breaking the fourth wall. True fans of television comedy take note: This is a show to be studied.
Years: 2019 (5 episodes)
Creator: Craig Mazin
Starring: Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, Paul Ritter, Jessie Buckley, Emily Watson
Awards: Golden Globe Award - Best Limited Series or TV Film (2020), Emmy Award - Outstanding Limited Series (2020), BAFTA TV Awards - Best Mini-Series (2020), BAFTA TV Awards - Best Leading Actor, Jard Harris (2020),
Best episode: Season 1, Episode 2, "Please Remain Calm"
Bottom line: The sheer horror of the Chernobyl disaster is brought to life by HBO in stunning fashion, with a cast led by Jared Harris. What the show brings to life so vividly from the beginning is how utterly unprepared the Russians were for what happened.
Not too many shows sweep both the Emmy and Golden Globe Awards for Best Limited Series. "Chernobyl" seemed to do it without breaking a sweat.
Years: 2012-19 (65 episodes)
Creator: Armando Iannucci
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale, Anna Chlumsky, Gary Cole, Reid Scott, Kevin Dunn, Clea DuVall
Awards: Emmy Award - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (2012-17), Emmy Award - Outstanding Comedy Series (2015-17)
Best episode: Season 4, Episode 10, "Election Night"
Bottom line: "Veep" is based on the British series "The Thick of It," also created by Armando Iannucci. The U.S. version follows Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, a fictional vice president of the United States.
"Veep" ended its run as one of the most critically acclaimed comedies of all time, regardless of the network. The show had seven consecutive Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series with three consecutive wins and six consecutive Emmy Award wins for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for Louis-Dreyfus.
Years: 2018-present (20-30 episodes)
Creator: Jesse Armstrong
Starring: Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin, Jeremy Strong, ADD MORE
Awards: Emmy Awards - Best TV Series Drama (2020), Emmy Award - Outstanding TV Actor Drama, Jeremy Strong (2020), Golden Globe Award - Best Television Series Drama (2020), Golden Globe Award - Best Actor in a Television Series Drama, Brian Cox (2020), Critics Choice Award - Best Drama Series (2020), Critics Choice Award - Best Actor in a Drama, Jeremy Strong (2020), Writers Guild of America Awards - Best TV Series Drama (2020)
Best episode: Season 2, Episode 5, "Tern Haven"
Bottom line: "Succession" has captured the public's imagination over the last few years. That's thanks to the wonderfully twisted Roy family, with the brilliant Brian Cox leading the way as the family's patriarch and head of one of the biggest media companies in the world.
Logan Roy's four children are what makes the show really start to crackle — Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Alan Ruck and Sarah Snook. True "Succession" fans know the show's real star was Nicholas Braun as Logan's great-nephew Greg.
8. Mare of Easttown
Years: 2021 (7 episodes)
Creator: Brad Inglesby
Starring: Kate Winslet, Julianne Nicholson, Jean Smart, Guy Pearce, Evan Peters
Awards: Emmy Award - Outstanding Limited Series (2021), Emmy Award - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series, Kate Winslet (2021)
Best episode: Season 1, Episode 5, "Illusions"
Bottom line: "Mare of Easttown" tells the story of Detective Sergeant Mare Sheehan, played brilliantly by Kate Winslet, who is trying to solve the murder of a teenage girl along with the disappearance of another local girl while her own personal life starts to unwind.
Winslet is essentially the Michael Jordan of actresses in that she lifts up everyone around her. Evan Peters, Julianne Nicholson and Jean Smart all turn it up a notch alongside Winslet.
The show earned a stunning 16 nominations at the 2021 Emmy Awards, including nominations for Outstanding Limited Series and acting nominations for Winslet, Nicholson, Smart and Peters. We're holding out hope for a second season, which all involved seem to be on board for as well.
7. The Leftovers
Years: 2014-17 (28 episodes)
Creators: Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta
Starring: Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston, Margaret Qualley, Liv Tyler, Chris Zylka, Ann Dowd, Regina King, Jovan Adepo, Scott Glenn
Awards: Critics Choice Television Awards - Most Exciting New Series (2014), Critics Choice Television Awards - Best Actress in a Drama Series, Carrie Coon (2016), Television Critics Choice Award - Individual Achievement in Drama, Carrie Coon (2017)
Best episode: Season 2, Episode 10, "I Live Here Now"
Bottom line: We're not sure what the more incredible achievement is when it comes to "The Leftovers" — that Damon Lindelof was able to take Tom Perrotta's relatively thin novel and stretch it over three seasons or that the show got better once it got outside the parameters of Perrotta's book.
That being said, the first season of "The Leftovers" wasn't great. It was OK. But we will take the final two seasons and put them up against anything HBO ever made, with the series finale displaying all the intricacy and nuance that was missing from Lindelof's previous effort in the highly derided series finale for "Lost" on ABC.
6. Curb Your Enthusiasm
Years: 2000-present (101 episodes)
Creator: Larry David
Starring: Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines, Susie Essman, J.B. Smoove
Awards: Golden Globe Award - Best Series Musical or Comedy (2002), Writers Guild of America - Best Writing, Comedy Series (2005)
Best episode: Season 3, Episode 8, "Krazee-Eyez Killa"
Bottom line: It's hard to think of a show that's taken as big of a break and come back with such force as "Curb Your Enthusiasm" after it ran for eight seasons from 2000 to 2011, took a six-year break and came back with two more seasons in 2017 and 2020.
The genius behind it all is Larry David, playing himself and leaning into his personality as the acerbic, tactless, co-creator of "Seinfeld." His interactions with his wife, who then becomes his ex-wife, and his group of famous and non-famous friends provide nonstop comedy.
Years: 2019 (9 episodes)
Creator: Damon Lindelof
Starring: Regina King, Yahya Abdul-Mateen, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Jean Smart, Louis Gosset Jr.
Awards: Emmy Award - Outstanding Limited Series (2020), Emmy Award - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series, Regina King (2020),
Best episode: Season 1, Episode 6, "This Extraordinary Being"
Bottom line: Just like with "The Leftovers," the combination of showrunner Damon Lindelof and a literary adaptation turned into gold for HBO. This time, it was creating a sequel to the 1985 graphic novel "Watchmen" and bringing it into modern times.
At the heart of the show is actress Regina King, who plays Angela Abar/Sister Night — a former Tulsa detective turned superhero.
HBO has made a lot of great television episodes over the years, but only a handful (maybe none) can match up to the greatness of "This Extraordinary Being," and we can only hope and pray Lindelof and Co. come together for a second season, whenever that may be.
4. Sex and the City
Years: 1998-2004 (94 episodes)
Creator: Darren Star
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Peter Noth
Awards: Emmy Award - Outstanding Comedy Series (2000), Emmy Award - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, Sarah Jessica Parker (2004), Golden Globe Award - Best Television Series Musical or Comedy (1999-2001, 2003), Golden Globe Award - Best Actress TV Series Musical or Comedy (1999-2001, 2004)
Best episode: Season 2, Episode 1 "Take Me Out To The Ballgame"
Bottom line: Sarah Jessica Parker brought one of the more iconic characters in television history to life with her portrayal of writer Carrie Bradshaw, for which she won four Golden Globe Awards and one Emmy Award for lead actress in a comedy.
Carrie was nothing without her crew — Kim Cattrall as Samatha, Cynthia Nixon as Miranda and Kristin Davis as Charlotte. The show was so popular it led to not one but two feature films. The "Sex and the City" film made almost $420 milion at the box office in 2008 against a $65 milliion budget.
Another season that brings back Parker, Davis and Nixon's characters entitled "And Just Like That…" filmed in 2021 with 10 episodes scheduled to premiere on HBO Max.
3. The Wire
Years: 2002-08 (60 episodes)
Creator: David Simon
Starring: Dominic West, Idris Elba, Wood Harris, Wendell Pierce, Lance Reddick, Andre Royo, Sonja Sohn, Amy Ryan, Aidan Gillen, Michael K. Williams, Glynn Turman, Isiah Whitlock Jr.
Awards: American Film Institute Television Series of the Year (2003, 2006, 2008), Writers Guild of America Best Television Series Drama (2008)
Best episode: Season 3, Episode 11, "Middle Ground"
Bottom line: "The Wire" was light years ahead of its time in regards to television. If its five seasons had been put in some sort of time capsule and held there, then released in 2021, it would have been able to run for five more seasons.
But we didn't appreciate "The Wire." Not by a longshot. We didn't appreciate its writing and its greatness at the time it came out. Its complex, Shakespearean tale of the inner workings of cops and gangs and longshoremen in Baltimore is the stuff of legend.
We also didn't appreciate Omar Little. The character played by Michael K. Williams was a revelation like few we have seen in television history.
2. Game of Thrones
Years: 2011-19 (73 episodes)
Creators: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss and George R.R. Martin
Starring: Kit Harington, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Iain Glenn, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Alfie Allen, Peter Dinklage, Conleth Hill
Awards: Emmy Award - Outstanding Drama Series (2015, 2016, 2018, 2019)
Best episode: Season 6, Episode 10, "The Winds of Winter"
Bottom line: No show in the history of the Emmy Awards has been honored more than HBO's "Game of Thrones," which won a record 59 times.
The sprawling cast, crew and locations for the show might be something we never see again in the history of television. It was shot across the United Kingdom, Croatia, Iceland, Malta, Morocco, Spain and Canada for the entirety of its run.
The reason this show was so successful was that the overriding themes of tragedy and betrayal hit home with viewers more than the fantasy aspects, which were amazing.
The criticism of the show's final season seemed to fall squarely on the shoulders of co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss somewhat unfairly. It was "Game of Thrones" author George R.R. Martin's inability to complete another book in the series despite a five-year head start that was its true undoing.
1. The Sopranos
Years: 1999-2007 (86 episodes)
Creator: David Chase
Starring: James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Lorraine Bracco, Dominic Chianese, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Robert Iler, Jamie-Lynn Sigler
Awards: Emmy Award - Outstanding Drama Series (2004, 2007), Emmy Award - Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, James Gandolfini (2000, 2001), Emmy Award, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Edie Falco (1999, 2001, 2003), Golden Globe Award - Best Television Series Drama (2000), Golden Globe Award - Best Actor in a Television Series Drama, James Gandolfini (2000), Golden Globe Award - Best Actress in a Television Series Drama, Edie Falco (2000, 2003)
Best episode: Season 3, Episode 11, "Pine Barrens"
Bottom line: "The Sopranos" is not just the greatest HBO series of all time. It's the greatest television series of all time. And it features the single greatest role across all mediums — the late James Gandolfini as Anthony "Tony" Soprano.
What endeared "The Sopranos" to audiences so much wasn't the gangster aspect of the series. It was the idea of a family coming apart at the seams and one person trying to keep it together, sometimes in spite of himself.
As criticized (hated?) as the series finale was, you can't say it didn't stay on brand with one of the show's central themes — a feeling of being not totally complete.