A great number of TV shows are released each year. In fact, with Netflix and Amazon Prime becoming major players in the field, the count has shot exponentially and there is just so much that you can spend your days with. Every network and every production house wants to win the race and, hence, are producing as many new series as possible. On the other hand, there is HBO. Does it have a bunch of TV shows in the pipeline? Yes. But it doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. It is still choosy, it still takes time to scout a project worthy of its name, and as a result, delivers some of the best stories on television. From fantasy shows to miniseries based on real events, there is no genre that HBO has not mastered. Here is the list of the best HBO shows of this decade:
14. Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014)
Set in the 1920s, at the height of Prohibition, ‘Boardwalk Empire’ follows the story of a man named Nucky Thompson who slowly takes control of Atlantic City and becomes a prominent figure. But all this glory comes at a price. He is constantly surrounded by enemies that want him to make a mistake and bring it all down. His trusted men betray him from time to time, and he has a Prohibition Agent breathing down his neck, spending his days in the hopes of destroying his reputation and his empire. The show boasts a cast of actors like Steve Buscemi, Michael Shannon, Kelly Macdonald and Shea Whigham. Martin Scorsese is also associated with the show as its executive producer. You can watch the series here.
13. Silicon Valley (2014- 2019)
This show focuses on a group of young men who develop an app that creates a stir in Silicon Valley. Their start-up is the main plot device of the story and leads them to do all sorts of things in order to keep it running in a highly competitive market. Even if you have no interest in technology, ‘Silicon Valley’ is a must-watch. It is as funny as it is imaginative and reels you in the misadventures of its well-intentioned characters, trying to keep themselves afloat. The show stars Thomas Middleditch, T. J. Miller, Josh Brener, Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani in the lead roles. You can watch the series here.
12. Show Me A Hero (2015)
‘Show Me A Hero’ stars Oscar Isaac as Nick Wasicsko, a city council member who runs for mayor while a part of New York faces a legal battle against desegregation. It is based on a non-fiction book of the same name by Lisa Belkin. Academy Award winner Paul Haggis served as the directed for the show and delivered a socially engaging drama. You can watch the series here.
11. The Deuce (2017- )
‘The Deuce’ is created by David Simon in collaboration with George Pelecanos. Simon has previously worked with HBO for making series like ‘The Wire’ and ‘Treme’. Both of those shows have received great praise, and they perform a similar feat with ‘The Deuce’. Starring James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal, it is set in 1970s New York and follows the life of the characters who try to carve a place for themselves in the world by becoming a part of the rising and recently legalised porn industry. The series has received critical acclaim with the praise directed towards Gyllenhaal’s performance. You can watch the series here.
10. The Night Of (2016)
Based on the first season of UK series, ‘Criminal Justice’, ‘The Night Of’ stars Riz Ahmed as a young man named Nasir Khan who is arrested for murdering a girl he had met on the same night. They want him to confess and be over with it because there is an overwhelming amount of evidence, even if circumstantial, against him. There is no point in fighting. Nasir would agree with them if he himself was sure of the truth. He would have certainly confessed, but the thing is that he doesn’t remember last night with much clarity. As things get worse for his family outside, he learns to survive in prison. Meanwhile, his lawyer, John Stone, tries to uncover the truth of the night of the murder. You can watch the series here.
9. The Leftovers (2014-2017)
Created by Damon Lindelof, ‘The Leftovers’ stars Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston, Liv Tyler and Regina King. The series is set in a fictional town that is recuperating after an event that led to the disappearance of 2% of the global population. At the centre of the series is Kevin Garvey, the chief of police who is trying to keep a balance between the rising influence of the cults that surfaced after the event and the people of the town who are becomingly increasingly irritated with their intervention in their lives. ‘The Leftovers’ didn’t receive the attention it deserved while it aired, but since its conclusion has found a cult following. You can watch the series here.
8. Olive Kitteridge (2014)
By now, we know that whatever movie or TV show Frances McDormand finds worthy of her time and talent is a must-watch. She stars as the titular character in this miniseries, which is based on the Pulitzer winning novel of the same name by Elizabeth Strout. It focuses on various events in the life of a retired schoolteacher who can’t turn a blind eye to the shady things going on in her town. She is supported by her loving husband, Henry, who is also her rock in the difficult times of her life. The series received eight Emmys, with McDormand winning for Best Actress in a Limited Series. It also stars Richard Jenkins and Bill Murray, both of who also received Emmys for their performance. You can watch the series here.
7. True Detective (2014- )
Nic Pizzolatto’s crime drama is an anthology that tackles a different case in each season. The curve of its journey is an interesting one and is what makes us eagerly wait for its next run. The first season stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as homicide detectives looking into a series of ritualised murders. The story spans seventeen years and takes the audience back and forth in time to deepen the mystery. This season is great and is the epitome that the show hasn’t succeeded to surpass, or even touch, in the past two seasons. Even though the second season had Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams as its lead, the story didn’t exactly pan out as Pizzolatto wanted. Or perhaps, it was because the audience was expecting another murder mystery rather than a look into a corrupt system. Anyway, mistakes were corrected in the third season, which stars Mahershala Ali, and the series was back in action. You can watch ‘True Detective’ here.
6. Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
‘Game of Thrones’ wears the crown for being the most popular drama of all times. The craze that it generated defined fandoms, and is one of the important factors to bring about the Golden Age of Television. The anticipation generated by it was euphoric, and fans invested themselves unconditionally to it. And yet, I haven’t placed it on the top of this list. And I might receive some backlash for it, but you watch the shows placed above it and you’ll know why. For five seasons, the show stuck to GRRM’s storylines, only showing slight divergence. For five seasons, it was perfect. Then, in the sixth, with the direction of Martin gone, the show began to falter. With the seventh season, it was well below the expectations, and in the final, well, we know the reaction of the fans. If nothing, it left everyone divisive, with fans burning further in the hope of the author’s next novel in the series. Had ‘Game of Thrones’ stayed true to form and not allowed itself to fall from grace, I’d have loved to bump it to the top of the list. But alas, that’s not happening. You can watch the series here.
5. Barry (2018-)
Created by Bill Hader and Alec Berg, ‘Barry’ follows the story of its titular character as he tries to let go of his life as an assassin while discovering a love for acting. A target leads him to an acting class where he is mesmerised by the stage, the actors and their teacher who uses unorthodox methods to wring emotions out of them. Barry wishes to be a part of this world but finds himself even deeper in his murderous profession with the cops hot on his tail. ‘Barry’ is an absolute joy to watch. Bill Hader is excellent, and fully deserves the Emmys he received for it. The supporting characters, especially Anthony Carrigan’s NoHo Hank, are equally impressive, if not better. The show is hilarious and yet holds so much intensity in its eight-episode seasons that you feel out of breath by the end of it. You can watch the series here.
4. Westworld (2016- )
One of my current favourites, ‘Westworld’ isn’t for the faint of mind. Developed under the aegis of Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, it is set in a futuristic world where there is a theme park where the rides are offered in the form of the guest’s wildest fantasies brought to life by the android hosts. The show explores the themes of consciousness, sentience, the sense of right and wrong, and what it means to be human. The cast is led by Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton playing the most badass female characters in recent television. With each passing episode, the story becomes more convoluted. The level of complicated is hiked with every season. The show demands your rapt and undivided attention if you wish to completely understand it. You can watch the series here.
3. Veep (2012-2019)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ ‘Veep’ is one of the best political comedies of this time. The show focuses on Selina Meyer, the vice-President of the USA. Selina is clumsy and, at times, incompetent. Her team follows in her footsteps and they are often the ones responsible for the blunders Selina lands herself in. And yet, they are also steadfast about one thing. They will not be easily forgotten, and they most certainly won’t be ignored. The series is a sharp take on the current political situation. Louis-Dreyfus has received immense praise for her performance and has won six consecutive Primetime Emmy Awards in the Best Actress in a Comedy Series. You can watch the series here.
2. Chernobyl (2019)
There is no shortage of shows that are based on real-life events. Such shows have a number of factors working in their favour, most of important of them being the sentiment of the audience. Because it is not a work of fiction, we find it easier to connect with the characters and the tragedies in their lives. Because if it could happen to them, it could very well happen, or be happening to us. And no series captures this feeling, this horror, better than ‘Chernobyl’. It is visually stunning, it is utterly heart-wrenching; it makes us despise humanity, but then also reinstates our faith in it. It is so haunting at times that you become paranoid of the world around you, wondering how long will it take for your government to fuck up at such a massive scale and befall the same fate on you. Easily one of the best series of all time, it is an HBO gem that you can’t afford to miss. You can watch the series here.
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1. Sharp Objects (2018)
Gillian Flynn’s stories have a way of creeping under your skin and digging the darkness out of you. The characters of her novels are twisted and troubled, some because of their tragedy, others because of their psychopathy. And what better place to augment the bleakness of these stories and allow them to thoroughly plague the audience than HBO. Jean-Marc Vallée, who previously associated himself with the production house while adapting ‘Big Little Lies’, helmed this project and gathered a cast that is the best thing about the show. Starring Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, and the impressive new talent of Eliza Scanlen, it follows the story of a reporter who returns to her hometown when two young girls are murdered. She is embroiled in the drama of her family, maintaining a love-hate relationship with her controlling mother, while delving into the mystery of what could have happened to the victims. You can watch ‘Sharp Objects‘ here.
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