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. (And that's despite the fact that the parent company can't decide what to call its streaming service, with the latest being simply "Max.")
Luckily, HBO's roster of original shows that started in 1977 continues to set the template that every network and studio 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
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, and all show stats are updated through June 2023.
29. 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.
28. Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty
Years: 2022-present (10 episodes)
Creators: Max Borenstein, Jim Hecht
Starring: John C. Reilly, Quincy Isaiah, Jason Clarke, Adrien Brody, Gaby Hoffmann, Jason Degel, Julianne Nicholson, Hadley Robinson, Solomon Hughes, DeVaughn Nixon, Rob Morgan, Brett Cullen, Sally Field
Best episode: Season 1, Episode 4, "Who The F**k is Jack McKinney?"
Bottom line: For basketball fans, it's hard to describe the sheer bliss that "Winning Time" brought to our televisions in 2022, with perhaps the most notable thing about it being the outcry from the real-life people portrayed in the show about its validity — as each essentially scrambled to get out their own projects to project their own truths.
Based on Jeff Pearlman's splendid non-fiction book "Showtime" this became a television sensation in the spring of 2022 thanks in large part to a cast mixed with proven stars like John C. Reilly, Jason Clarke and Adrien Brody along with new faces like Hadley Robinson, Solomon Hughes and the brilliant Quincy Isiah as Magic Johnson.
This was epic storytelling at its best and we can't wait to get our hands on the second season, which won't likely have quite as happy of an ending.
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
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.
26. 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
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
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.
24. Perry Mason
Years: 2020-present (16 episodes)
Creators: Rolin Jones, Ron Fitzgerald
Starring: Matthey Rhys, Juliet Rylance, Chris Chalk, Shea Whigham, Tatiana Maslanay, Justin Kirk, John Lithgow, Katherine Waterston
Best episode: Season 2, Episode 7, "Chapter Fifteen"
Bottom line: This remake of the classic television series from the 1950s and 1960s starring Raymond Burr — itself based on the detective novels of the eponymous character by Erie Stanley Gardner — felt kind of like putting on an old jacket that used to fit you perfectly and somehow stil does.
While Matthew Rhys is the star as embattled attorney Perry Mason, there is a murderer's row of supporting characters led by Chris Chalk as cop-turned-investigator Paul Drake and Juliet Rylance as Mason's business partner Della Street. It took three years between the first and second seasons — hopefully we don't have to wait that long again.
Years: 2018-23 (32 episodes)
Creators: Alec Berg and Bill Hader
Starring: Bill Hader, Henry Winkler, Stephen Root, Sarah Goldberg, Glenn Fieshler, Anthony Carrigan
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.
"Barry" ended its run quietly in 2023 after four critically-acclaimed seasons, and for some reason it released its series finale on the same day as "Succession" released its series finale. Bad planning for sure.
22. 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
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: 2016-21 (44 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
Best episode: Season 2, Episode 4, "Hella LA"
Bottom line: "Insecure" turned Issa Rae into a big-time television star. 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 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.
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
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.
18. True Detective
Years: 2014-present(24 episodes)
Creator: Nic Pizzolatto
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Rachel McAdams, Colin Farrell, Taylor Kitsch, Vince Vaughn, Mahershala Ali, Steven Dorff, Jodie Foster
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.
We will get a fourth season in 2023 with "True Detective: Night Country" starring two-time Academy Award winner Jodie Foster as an Alaskan cop trying to solve a string of disappearances.
Years: 2019-present (18 episodes)
Creator: Sam Levinson
Starring: Zendaya, Maude Apatow, Eric Dane, Jacob Elordi, Alexa Demie, Barbie Ferriera, Storm Reid, Sydney Sweeney, Colman Domingo
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 ... then did it again in 2022.
We've received two special, holiday episodes of "Euphoria" along with its two seasons, with another season likely to come out sometime in 2024.
16. 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
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.
15. 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
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.
14. The Last of Us
Years: 2023-present (9 episodes)
Creators: Craig Mazin, Neil Druckmann
Starring: Pedro Pascal, Belle Ramsey, Anna Torv, Gabriel Luna, Melanie Lynskey, Rutina Wesley, Graham Greene, Storm Reid
Best episode: Season 1, Episode 8, "When We Are In Need"
Bottom line: Here's a pretty simple concept you have to wonder why more producers, directors and talent involved with adapting video games never thought of — why not try and adapt the very best video games?
That's the case with "The Last of Us," which has been in the GOAT video game conversation since it was released in 2013, along with its sequels. And leave it to HBO to assemble the best talent for its adaptation, teaming up game creator Neil Druckmann with lauded showrunner Craig Mazin, who was behind HBO's award-winning limited series "Chernobyl" then added "Game of Thrones" alums Pedro Pascal and Belle Ramsey as the show's two leads.
That particular mix of talent ended up being magic — "The Last of Us" had the second-largest premiere audience for HBO since 2010 and was renewed for a second season within two weeks of its premiere date.
13. The White Lotus
Years: 2021-present (13 episodes)
Creator: Mike White
Starring (Season 1): Murray Bartlett, Connie Britton, Jennifer Coolidge, Alexandra Daddario, Fred Hechinger, Jake Lacy, Sydney Sweeney, Brittany O'Grady, Natasha Rothwell, Steve Zahn
Starring (Season 2): Jennifer Coolidge, Michael Imperioli, F. Murray Abraham, Aubrey Plaza, Theo James, Haley Lu Richardson, Tom Hollander, Jon Gries, Adam DiMarco, Meghann Fahy, Beatrice Granno, Sabrina Impacciatore, Will Sharpe, Leo Woodall
Best episode: Season 2, Episode 7, "Arrivederci"
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, then returned in the fall of 2022 with another season, this time set in Italy instead of Hawaii and with an almost completely new cast.
12. 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
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.
Years: 2019 (5 episodes)
Creator: Craig Mazin
Starring: Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, Paul Ritter, Jessie Buckley, Emily Watson
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.
10. House of the Dragon
Years: 2022-present (10 episodes)
Creators: Ryan Condal, George R.R. Martin
Starring: Matt Smith, Emma D'Arcy, Milly Alcock, Olivia Cooke, Emily Carey, Eve Best, Steve Toussaint, Fabien Frankel, Graham McTavish
Best episode: xxxx
Bottom line: HBO may have underestimated the public's desire for anything "Game of Thrones" related when the show went off the air in 2019 — when spin-off "House of the Dragon" premiered in Aug. 2019 it did so with the biggest premiere audience in HBO history.
Based on what was essentially an extended index to the main "Game of Thrones" story, "House of the Dragon" depicts the rise and fall of the Targaryen family and didn't waste time making its mark on the awards circuit — the first season won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series, Drama, in 2023.
Within five days of the premiere, "House of the Dragon" was renewed for a second season we likely won't get to see until the end of 2024.
Years: 2012-19 (65 episodes)
Creator: Armando Iannucci
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale, Anna Chlumsky, Gary Cole, Reid Scott, Kevin Dunn, Clea DuVall
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.
8. Mare of Easttown
Years: 2021 (7 episodes)
Creator: Brad Inglesby
Starring: Kate Winslet, Julianne Nicholson, Jean Smart, Guy Pearce, Evan Peters
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, no matter when it happens.
7. Curb Your Enthusiasm
Years: 2000-present (110 episodes)
Creator: Larry David
Starring: Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines, Susie Essman, J.B. Smoove
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 in 2017, then again in 2020 and is set for another season in 2023.
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.
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.
5. Sex and the City
Years: 1998-2004 (94 episodes)
Creator: Darren Star
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Peter Noth
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…" returned to HBO in 2022 and was quickly renewed for a second season.
Years: 2018-23 (39 episodes)
Creator: Jesse Armstrong
Starring: Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, Matthew Macfadyen, Nicholas Braun, J. Smith-Cameron, Alan Ruck, Dagmara Dominczyk, Alexander Skarsgard, Fisher Stevens
Best episodes: Season 2, Episode 4, "Safe Room"'; Sean 4, Episode 3, "Connor's Wedding"
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/entertainment companies in the world.
Logan Roy's four children are what makes the show really start to crackle — played by Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook and Alan Ruck. That said, "Succession" fans know the show's real stars were Nicholas Braun as Logan's great-nephew Greg and Matthew Macfadyen as Shiv Roy's upwardly ambitious husband Tom Wambgans.
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.
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
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
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 — television or film — with the late James Gandolfini's portrayal of New Jersey mob boss 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.
The series finale of "The Sopranos" was as divisive as anything that has ever been on television when it aired in 2007 but has seemed to gain esteem over time.