Both on the awards circuit and in the public consciousness, HBO is widely regarded as among the first Hollywood heavyweights to recognize that television, as a medium, had the power to deliver sprawling, large scale stories on a smaller screen. From HBO’s ascent in the late 1990s through its dragon-aided roar across the 2010s, the network’s original series tackled universal stories, stretching across continents and decades.

The network hasn’t been without controversy, though. HBO faced questions about its lack of diversity in flagship series, including “Game of Thrones” and “Girls,” throughout the 2010s. And, unshackled from the restrictions of broadcast TV, the various steps the network took to push the limit of what’s allowed on screen garnered a fair share of pearl-clutching headlines; see “The Sopranos” in the ’90s and “Euphoria” just a few years back. Now, there’s the HBO Max and Discovery+ merger: its own special flavor of entertainment hell.

But overall, the network’s commitment to collaborating with talented filmmakers and inventive creators has earned them creative success that few of their rivals have been able to equal. Even as the age of prestige TV has blanketed the marketplace with plenty of other options, HBO’s newest shows have been able to stand out. “Barry,” “I May Destroy You,” “The White Lotus,” and “Mare of Easttown” are among the Emmy-nominated series carrying on HBO’s storied tradition with TV that captivates and compels.

Excluding HBO Max Originals (which will appear on a separate list soon): Here are 36 of the best TV shows HBO has ever had to offer.

Michael Schneider contributed to this report.

36. “Fraggle Rock”

“Fraggle Rock”


The Jim Henson series might be considered the “HBO starter drug” for a generation of viewers, now in their 40s, who came of age in the 1980s. Fraggles are mostly carefree creatures with different personalities, led by the characters Gobo, Red, Wembley, Mokey and Boober. They sing, they play, they eat structures built by Doozers, they steal radishes from the Gorgs, and seek answers from the enlightened Marjory the Trash Heap. Out in the real world, Doc and Sprocket were the gateway for the Fraggles to “outer space.” The Fraggle world lived on with the Hulu animated series “The Doozers” from 2014 to 2018. —MS

35. “True Detective”

“True Detective”


Although “True Detective” is an anthology — rotating casts, settings, and plots each season — there’s an eerie familiarity to the nightmarish journeys the crime show has taken thus far. In the first season, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are Louisiana detectives investigating a series of killings seemingly related to the occult. Rachel McAdams, Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, and Taylor Kitsch lead the second season, as California cops looking into corrupt politicians. Finally, Mahershala Ali leads the third season as a detective in the Ozarks looking for two missing children. A fourth season starring Jodie Foster is expected in 2023. —AF

34. “Euphoria”



Based on the Israeli series of the same name, Sam Levinson’s “Euphoria” takes the more is more approach to twisted teen dramedy. Zendaya stars as a high school-aged drug addict named Rue, whose struggles with mental health and grief ground an otherwise chaotic kaleidoscope of social media-fueled coming-of-age angst. “Euphoria” is first and foremost celebrated for its moody soundtrack and arresting aesthetic, with its costuming and makeup honored by the Emmys and fashion world writ large. Despite a rocky second season, Zendaya and the rest of the “Euphoria” cast continue to earn top praise for their performances with special attention paid to series regulars Sydney Sweeney, Jacob Elordi, Angus Cloud, and Hunter Schafer. —AF

33. “Game of Thrones”

“Game of Thrones”


Even with a head start as rich as George R. R. Martin’s novels, translating the dense mythology of this fantasy behemoth to the world of TV was an unprecedented undertaking, creating entire cities and species from the ground up on a mammoth scale. In the process, that attention to detail and willingness to forge new directions for these characters kept the series grounded in ways that kept viewers in dragon-free zones hooked week after week. In a fractured entertainment environment, the mere existence of “Game of Thrones” as an all-consuming, quadrant-crossing hit was something of a minor miracle. Even as the show faltered in its home stretch (at least according to some), the impending spinoff series lets the Westeros legacy live on. —SG

32. “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”

“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”


Even before the never-ending news cycle became an apocalypse-focused monoculture, “Last Week Tonight” provided a valuable service by directing the late-night focus away from the front page. With segments on pressing issues as disparate as net neutrality, multi-level marketing schemes, mandatory minimum sentencing, gerrymandering, and infringement on LGBTQ rights, John Oliver and company have produced far more than the “evisceration” they often get headlines for (something Oliver himself has poked fun at). Using the show’s distinct viewpoint to punch up rather than tred on easy targets, it’s political-themed comedy that offers something constructive to our national discourse, all while managing to slip in dogs who look like Supreme Court justices for good measure. —SG

31. “Big Love”

“Big Love”


Bill Paxton plays a polygamist wrestling with the complications of married life in HBO’s “Big Love.” Set in a fundamentalist Mormon community in aughts Utah, the drama series ran for five seasons from 2006 to 2011 and was praised for its tight writing and emotional performances. Created by Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer, “Big Love” commingled the high-stakes intensity of religion and politics with the intimate family drama of three sister wives sharing a backyard and the household responsibilities therein. Played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloë Sevigny, and Ginnifer Goodwin, the three main wives grounded the series, which would earn nine Emmy nominations. —AF

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