The phrase “It’s not TV, it’s HBO” has turned from a simple marketing campaign into a symbol of what the pay cable and streaming network has truly become. If your show is on HBO, that usually means you’re the cream of the crop, critically and commercially.
While not all of HBO’s shows are huge ratings successes, the network has brought in a ton of Emmy awards. Manny HBO series, like The Sopranos, Sex and the City, and The Wire, are true TV classics and synonymous with the “Golden Age of Television.”
There’s no lack for quality options amongst HBO series, whether you’re looking for drama, comedy, or something in between. Here are the best HBO series right now.
Game of Thrones
Based on the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series of books by George RR Martin, Game of Thrones is essentially about various powerful families vying for control of the seven kingdoms in the fictional continent of Westeros. But that is a very simplistic description of a show that is chock full of family drama, intrigue, love, betrayal, politics, corruption, epic battles, dragons, and death. Lots and lots of death. Game of Thrones is easily one of the best HBO series in existence right now and one of the most popular TV shows around the globe.
There are currently seven seasons of the show available on HBO and HBO GO. The eighth and final season started filming last October, but it won’t be shown until early 2019. HBO is already developing as many as five Game of Thrones spin-off series expected to begin airing after the main original show ends its run.
Check out HBO’s official page for more on Game of Thrones.
Looking for an HBO series that isn’t all doom and gloom? Silicon Valley is a satirical look at the ultra-competitive startup culture in the Bay Area. It brings to the fore the unfortunate fact that the struggle is very real, and a dozen failures lie in the wake of every success story.
While some of these situations are exaggerated for comedy, anyone who has ever tried to get their tech company off the ground will easily relate to the trials and tribulations suffered by this group of engineers as they navigate world of tech forums, fundraising, and more, all in the face of intense competition.
There are currently four seasons of the show available on HBO and HBO GO, and season five is currently airing. While the departure of series star T.J. Miller left a question mark on later seasons, HBO has already announced a sixth season.
Check out HBO’s official page for more on Silicon Valley.
What happens when 2 percent of the world’s population, around 140 million people, mysteriously disappear? Chaos, of course. In this HBO series, the rest of the population struggles to figure out what happened to those who are gone. If you enjoyed the more mysterious elements of Lost, you will definitely enjoy The Leftovers. The show does a great job of rolling out the answers to secrets at the right time, while asking new questions that leave viewers asking for more.
The Leftovers recently completed its run of three seasons, but it’s still one of the best HBO series out there and worth a watch (or rewatch).
Check out HBO’s official page for more on The Leftovers.
Insecure has been a huge hit since premiering in 2016. The American Film Institute included it in its list of the 10 best TV programs of the year in 2017.
Created by Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore, Insecure is based on Rae’s popular web series Awkward Black Girl. The half-hour comedy series explores social and racial issues, and the American black experience from the perspective of best friends Issa (played by Rae, who earned two Golden Globe nominations for her work) and Molly.
Season two wrapped up in September shortly after Rae announced on Twitter that the show had been renewed for a third season. The third season will resume on August 12th.
Check out HBO’s official page for more on Insecure.
In Barry, SNL alum Bill Hader plays a depressed, low-rent hitman from the Midwest. The dark comedy follows Barry to L.A., where he has reluctantly agreed to take out an aspiring actor. Things take a turn when Barry follows his mark into an acting class, where he finds a community of supportive, like-minded people.
Barry’s criminal past obviously makes it tricky to jump into this new career, especially when he’s supposed to murder a member of his new cohort.
Barry has been another hit for HBO, with a 98 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was recently renewed for a second season.
Check out HBO’s official page for more on Barry.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is a weekly HBO series that focuses on news and current events. Host John Oliver was previously a correspondent and temporary host of the similar The Daily Show.
Apart from a satirical look at current events, politics, and news, Oliver spends a large chunk of the program on a single key, important issue that isn’t often tackled by other satirical or real news shows. LWT is incredibly funny, and you might just learn something new along the way as well. It’s not a drama or a sitcom, but it’s an excellent show that easily earns its spot in our roundup of best HBO series.
Only season four episodes are available on HBO NOW and HBO GO, and the fifth season of the show starts February 18. Of course, if you don’t subscribe to HBO or their apps, the nice thing is that the majority of the show’s long form segments are free to watch on its official YouTube channel, and are uploaded almost immediately after the episode airs.
Check out HBO’s official page for more on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
In this HBO series, two competing vice principals at a high school are forced to work together when an outsider gets the principal job instead of either of them. It’s a dark, obscene, and extremely witty show featuring co-creator and star Danny McBride at his best. The entire run of the show was shot in one go and split into two seasons of nine episodes each.
The entire show, two seasons, is currently available for viewing on HBO GO and HBO NOW. It’s too bad that we won’t see more seasons of Vice Principals as it is truly one of the best TV shows on HBO.
Check out HBO’s official page for more on Vice Principals.
Veep follows the inner workings of the office of Selina Meyer, a fictional Vice President, and eventual President, of the U.S. The show is a satirical look at the political maneuvering that is required to stay ahead in the game of politics in Washington DC without tripping up along the way.
There are six seasons available on HBO and HBO GO. Production will begin soon on the seventh and final season of Veep, but it has unfortunately been delayed until 2019. Still, it has brought in a ton of Emmy awards and is a must on any best TV shows on HBO list.
Check out HBO’s official page for more on Veep.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Curb Your Enthusiasm features Seinfeld co-creator Larry David who plays himself. Anyone familiar with Larry David’s humor will instantly be at home with this tongue-in-cheek HBO series. There are tons of celebrity cameos where they play exaggerated versions of themselves, and one of the highlights of the show is the fact that the actors improvise the lines for the most part, based only an an outline created by David.
All seasons of the show are available on HBO NOW and HBO GO. The show returned for its ninth season last year after a six-year hiatus. The great news is that Curb has been renewed for a tenth season as well, and is set to premiere next spring. It definitely belongs on any best HBO series list.
Check out HBO’s official page for more on Curb your Enthusiasm.
True Detective is an anthology crime drama, with each season telling its own stand-alone story, with a new cast, characters, and settings appearing every season. The first season of the show received rave reviews and high viewership, but I, like many others, found the second season to be a mixed bag, even if it did have its moments.
Both seasons of True Detective are available on HBO NOW and HBO GO. While the second season may not be as good as the first, both are still excellent TV shows and need to be on your best TV shows on HBO list.
The network has announced that a third season of True Detective is in the works, with yet another all new cast, and the news so far is cause for exciting. Season three will be set in the Ozarks and will star Oscar winner Mahershala Ali as a state police detective from Northwest Arkansas. HBO hasn’t announced a release date yet, though we know it’s not coming until sometime in 2019.
Check out HBO’s official page for more on True Detective.
Big Little Lies
Big Little Lies looked to be (and was marketed as) a miniseries when it premiered in 2017 on HBO, but the enormously successful show has been picked up for a second season.
Based on the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies follows three mothers in the idyllic beachfront town of Monterey, California, who discover that “perfect” lives are rarely what they seem when you scratch the surface.
The series boasted an all-star cast, including Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz, and Alexander Skarsgård. It was produced by David E. Kelly, and all seven episodes were directed by Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée, best known for The Dallas Buyers Club.
Having already won multiple prestigious awards, Big Little Lies is likely to keep up its momentum, with Meryl Streep joining the cast in season two. For fans, you’ll have to wait until some time in 2019 to see it, however.
Check out HBO’s official page for more on Big Little Lies.
Westworld is a science fiction, western, and thriller show set in a technologically-advanced wild west-themed amusement park. The catch: the park workers are all androids.
Westworld caters to rich guests who are allowed to indulge in anything without fear of repercussions. Of course, everything goes horribly wrong, which makes for excellent TV. There is a host of big names behind the show, including Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrams, and unsurprisingly, Westworld is one of the most watched HBO shows around, behind only Game of Thrones.
The first season is available now on HBO and HBO GO, and the second season is well under way. This show continues to be a fun watch and a worthy addition to our best HBO series list.
Check out HBO’s official page for more on Westworld.
This semi-autobiographical show follows Pete (Pete Holmes) as he attempts to get his stand-up career going after finding himself homeless and alone after his wife cheats on him. Of course, things don’t always go as planned, and he has to rely on a bunch of famous comedians to show him how things work.
Pete Holmes’ comedy isn’t for everyone, but the show has been very well received with as many laugh-out-loud moments as it has heart-warming ones. Plus, a slew of guest appearances by famous comedians playing exaggerated, fictional versions of their already larger-than-life selves is hilarious.
The first season of Crashing can be watched on HBO NOW and HBO GO. The second season just wrapped up on HBO, and you can also catch the first four episodes on the HBO apps. A third season is in the works.
Check out HBO’s official page for more on Crashing.
Based in 1970s New York and centered around Times Square, this show offers a gritty portrayal of the prostitution business that was so prevalent at that time. A police crack down results in the characters being forced to more discreet avenues, eventually leading to the rise of the billion-dollar porn industry.
From the creative minds behind other huge HBO shows like The Wire and Treme, and featuring a stellar cast that includes James Franco (in two roles) and Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Deuce really captures the essence of the 70s and the highs and pitfalls of a burgeoning industry. The first season admittedly has its ups and downs, and the story does drag sometimes. That said, the cast absolutely shines, and it’s definitely worth a watch.
The first season is currently available on HBO GO and HBO NOW. And despite allegations of sexual harassment against Franco, The Deuce has been picked up for a second season, expected to air later this year.
Check out HBO’s official page for more on The Deuce.
One of the most recent HBO shows is this limited series crime drama, based on the best-selling novel from Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn. Five-time Academy Award nominated actor Amy Adams stars in this series, which is her first major TV role. She plays Camille Preake, a crime reporter who has her own demons to deal with, even as she goes back to her home town to investigate and report on the murders of two local girls. As she navigates through the town to find out what happened to these women, Preake has to also deal with her mother and other people she knows in the town.
This is an eight-episode series that is dark and filled with lots of mature themes and images. Adams, who also is an executive producer of Sharp Objects, gives a deep and nuanced performance of an already troubled woman who encounters even more dark issues. While there won’t likely be a second season of this series, it’s still well worth checking out.
Check out HBO’s official page for more of Sharp Objects.
Want to check out one of the best TV westerns of all time? Then Deadwood should be a must on your list. This classic HBO show only lasted for three seasons, but it remains one of the most revered television shows in recent memory. Set in the town of Deadwood, South Dakota in the 1870s, the show is more historically accurate than most westerns, as the people of the town live out on the true frontier.
Deadwood had fictional characters during its run, but it also used real historical figures. One of them was the owner of the local saloon Al Swearengen, who used lots of “colorful language”, and was brought to life on the show brillantly by actor Ian McShane. While the series ended abruptly after three seasons, HBO just announced that it would produce a Deadwood movie for a 2019 launch, so there’s plenty of time to catch up on this show before its long awaited movie finale.
Check out HBO’s official page for more on Deadwood.
You cannot talk about HBO without leaving out The Sopranos. Launched back by the network in 1999, this organized crime drama is truly one of the best, if not THE best, TV shows ever made. The show, which lasted for six seasons, centered on mobster Tony Soprano, who had to deal with not only running an organized crime ring in New Jersey, but also had to deal with his wife and children at home. Much of the show focused on Tony’s therapy sessions, as we learned just how this man ticked.
The Sopranos may have ended over 10 years ago, but its influence on modern TV drama continues to this day. The show’s creator, David Chase, is also planning to revisit this universe with an upcoming movie, The Many Saints of Newark, that will be set in the 1960s and serve as a prequel to the TV series.
Check out HBO’s official page for more on The Sopranos.
Believe it or not, this list is not complete; there are a bunch of other original shows, along with many exclusive movies, that could be added to our best HBO series list — but we had to draw the line somewhere. Which current show on the network is your favorite and why? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!