The 40 Best HBO Series, Ranked

It's not TV, it's HBO

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The 40 Best HBO Series, Ranked

“It’s not TV. It’s HBO.” The premium cable network’s famed slogan, from an era predating streaming and “Peak TV,” projected an air of authority, of class, that defied the medium’s reputation as a lowbrow form. Many of the top shows in our list of the best HBO series of all time echo much the same sentiment: It’s no coincidence that their most common points of comparison, at least among critics, have been cinema and literature rather than the “prestige” programming of an earlier age. But dig deeper into the titles listed below, and it’s the range of artistic expression that becomes apparent. From Enlightened’s search for bliss to Veep’s devilish satire, HBO’s best series (along with some key miniseries) are not all dark, complex dramas. But some of the dark, complex dramas are also some of the best TV shows of all time (or at the very least, of the last decade).

Of note, we have decided to stick to a list of comedies and dramas for this ranking, so you won’t find any docuseries, sketch comedy, or talk shows—although HBO has great lineups for these as well, no surprise! These are also strictly shows that aired on HBO, so there aren’t any Max (née HBO Max) originals, but you can check out a list of everything else you can watch on Max.

For now, whether you’re in the mood for a re-watch or still need to see The Sopranos for the first time, you’re sure to find something to stir your interest on Paste’s ranked list of the best HBO series. (And be sure to check out our lists of the best TV shows on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime while you’re at it.)

Honorable Mention: How To with John Wilson, Extras, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, The Deuce, Eastbound & Down, Years and Years, Vice Principals, Euphoria

40. House of the Dragon

Created by: Ryan Condal, George R.R. Martin
Stars: Paddy Considine, Emma D’Arcy, Olivia Cooke, Matt Smith, Eve Best, Rhys Ifans, Steve Toussaint, Fabien Frankel, Matthew Needham, Tom Glynn-Carney

The big question facing House of the Dragon, HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel, was what version of its predecessor it would take after. Would it be the brilliant first seasons, with great characters and even better plot, or the woeful supernova implosion of the end? The good news is, they chose the right path here in letting George R.R. Martin’s gripping story of the Targaryen dynasty carry the heaviest weight. The ambition is in all the right places, with a terrific cast (led by Paddy Considine as King Viserys I Targaryen and Emma D’Arcy as his daughter and heir Rhaenyra) who are allowed to put their efforts into selling the political intrigue at King’s Landing. Matching the breathless plot of early Game of Thrones is an impossibly high bar, and one this show doesn’t quite clear, but it’s nevertheless a very good effort, full of tension, heartbreak, and those rare moments of pure triumph, that will delight fans of the Song of Ice and Fire universe and fare nicely even among those who just appreciate a great story. That word, “story,” is essential here, and it’s a massive sigh of relief that the creators know it. —Shane Ryan


39. Gentleman Jack

Created by: Sally Wainwright
Stars: Suranne Jones, Sophie Rundle

Gentleman Jack is drawn from the extensive (some 4 million pages) journals of Anne Lister, a landed class Yorkshire woman widely considered to be the first “modern lesbian” known to history. Those diaries exhaustively detail her rather audacious life as a world traveler, coal magnate, landlord, mountaineer, and “Parisian,” which seems to be a common shorthand in 19th-century Halifax for “avid seducer of other women.” The series focuses on a timeframe in the 1830s dominated by Lister (Suranne Jones) returning to her family home in Yorkshire and setting her sights on nervous heiress Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) as a companion.

Watch it for an interesting depiction of 19th-century Yorkshire society with sleek, colorful production and a lot of beautiful high-contrast scenery; rolling green fields and hedgerows starting to sprout factory smokestacks, or Lister’s frock coat and men’s hat and frank stare amid all those blonde ringlets and pastel silk gowns and sunlit yellow drawing room walls. Watch it for Jones’ forceful, vivacious, smart-as-hell portrayal of a defiant iconoclast who chose to value her own integrity over whatever it was society needed her to value. Though all the performances are relatively strong, Jones instantly becomes the center of gravity in every frame she’s in. Perhaps most of all, though, watch it for what it suggests about why it nearly always makes sense to be yourself. Even if it sometimes hurts, because of course it will, whoever you are. —Amy Glynn


38. Los Espookys

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Created by: Julio Torres, Ana Fabrega, Fred Armisen
Stars: Bernardo Velasco, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Ana Fabrega, Julio Torres, Fred Armisen

Los Espookys is a bilingual, magical realism-infused comedy from the minds of Julio Torres, Ana Fabrega, and Fred Armisen. Fabrega stars as the hilariously, helplessly naive Tati, while Torres plays the spoiled and spiritually gifted Andrés, who can casually call upon the Moon (Yalitza Aparicio of Roma fame) for favors. With Tati’s sarcastic sister Úrsula (Cassandra Ciangherotti) and the puppy dog-like yet horror-obsessed Renaldo (Bernardo Velasco), they make up the titular Espookys. The four of them engineer supernatural events for their clients, but also stumble into all sorts of fantastic phenomena, sometimes accompanied by Renaldo’s bumbling uncle, Tico (Armisen).

Nothing is too strange for Los Espookys; the second (and final) season alone includes a manufactured eclipse, a gravedigger too lazy to bury people in their actual plots, and a demon-turned-political intern. Despite the gap in production between seasons (Ciangherotti had a child in the meantime), everything about the show manages to feel both consistent and magnificently strange. —Clare Martin


37. Silicon Valley

Created by: Mike Judge
Stars: Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Josh Brener, Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr

While the rest of Mike Judge’s television shows have had a certain fondness for the subjects they lampoon, it’s the sheer anger of Silicon Valley towards the tech industry and its investors that infuses the show with life. This places Silicon Valley more in the style of Judge’s movies, which tend towards a caustic loathing of the entirety of broken systems. That isn’t to say that the show isn’t funny, but that its humor, even the wacky slapstick bits, is more cutting than any traditional sitcom. Silicon Valley isn’t cringe comedy, but it has the same level of antipathy towards much of its cast, which makes the show feel real in a way that sets it apart from other sitcoms. Above all, though, Silicon Valley simply finds its world absurd and hilarious, a counterfeit utopia so out of control that there’s always something entertaining going on. This isn’t just good satire, it’s good comedy, and the show’s success at both of these levels is what makes it one of the best sitcoms on TV. —Sean Gandert


36. The Comeback

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Created by: Michael Patrick King and Lisa Kudrow
Stars: Lisa Kudrow, Lance Barber, Robert Michael Morris, Damian Young, Malin Akerman

The Comeback was way ahead of its time. Who could have predicted back in 2005 how utterly inane reality TV would become? Valerie Cherish (Lisa Kudrow), that’s who. As the once-popular TV actress desperately trying to make a (you guessed it) comeback, Kudrow is utter perfection. Cast as the (unfortunately named) Aunt Sassy in the comedy Room and Bored, Valerie allows the cameras to follow her every move as she re-launches her career. It doesn’t go well. Valerie is ridiculous and cringe-inducing, but she’s never a flat out caricature. We feel a great deal of empathy for her as she deals with a dismissive and cruel showrunner and a world that has left her behind. The show is a scathing look at how Hollywood operates, how TV shows get made, and how actresses not in their twenties are treated by the youth-obsessed entertainment industry. The best thing is that in 2014, The Comeback made a (yeah, you guessed it again) comeback and we got eight more episodes to delight in all things Valerie Cherish. You do need to see that. —Amy Amatangelo


35. The Leftovers

Created by: Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta
Stars: Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston, Carrie Coon, Ann Dowd, Regina King

No, this is not a show for everyone. And it’s true that the first few episodes so consistently furrowed one’s brow, that, for many, it didn’t even seem worth it to finish the season. Watching those early episodes felt a bit like trudging your way through all of the “So-and-so begat so-and-so”s in the Bible, just to get to those beautiful Psalms, or the book of Isaiah, or perhaps, more accurately, the book of Ecclesiastes, or Revelation. But few shows have ever achieved such intoxicating sensations of pure hopefulness and near-simultaneous hopelessness in its plots and themes. The Leftovers played like an epic poem of rapture (or non-rapture), and, indeed, there was a hero… we think. The hero shifted with each scene in a way that we rarely see in TV, or even film. Justin Theroux’s Kevin Garvey was the good guy, turned bad, turned pitiable, turned very bad, turned good—often all in one episode. And Liv Tyler’s turn as Meg Abbot, along with Carrie Coon’s incredible performance as Nora Durst, made the series a terrifying, twisted, beautiful experience. Don’t even get me started on Ann Dowd’s Patti. Patti! These characters are so flawed and human, in a story that both challenges and embraces themes in organized religion, all while being exciting, violent, sexy, smart, and difficult. To borrow from another excellent show (The Good Wife), “This is Kafka in action,” (or even Derrida in action). So perhaps, this is a show for everyone. —Shannon M. Houston


34. The Pacific

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Created by: Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman
Stars: James Badge Dale, Jon Seda, Joseph Mazzello, Rami Malek

Two scenes in The Pacific best sum up the entire 10-part series. After days of trudging through mud and bodies as Americans invade Okinawa during the last stages of World War II, the young, devout, Bible-reading Marine Eugene Sledge (Joseph Mazzello) is shooting a Japanese soldier—again and again. After ignoring his captain’s order to ceasefire he angrily replies, “We’re here to kill Japs, aren’t we?! I’d use my goddamn hands if I had to.” But later, upon finding a mortally wounded Japanese woman who pulls the barrel of Sledge’s gun to her own head, he compassionately cradles her as she dies in his arms. Such is the strength of The Pacific: the witnessing of both brutality and humanity on an almost incomprehensible scale.

Executive producers Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Gary Goetzman also produced 2001’s HBO series Band of Brothers, but the extreme differences between the European campaign and the Pacific campaign make for two very distinct series. Though statistically more brutal than the battles in Europe, the American public generally knows less about the Pacific War. The back-home stories and psychological toll on the combatants are much more prevalent in The Pacific than in Band of Brothers, but there is a more-than-sufficient amount of action with the Battle of Iwo Jima containing the best-filmed battle sequence since Saving Private Ryan. The choreography of tanks, mortars, men and machine guns overwhelm the senses. Ultimately, both series are excellent bookends for a realistic dramatization of the war. —Tim Basham


33. Oz

Oz 75.jpeg

Created by: Tom Fontana
Stars: Kirk Acevedo, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ernie Hudson, Terry Kinney, Christopher Meloni, George Morfogen, Rita Moreno, Harold Perrineau, J. K. Simmons, Lee Tergesen, Eamonn Walker, Dean Winters

Certainly a “water cooler show” if there ever was one, Oz made waves with its violence and sexual content early on and its equally deep and disturbing storytelling once people got over the fact that it was set in a maximum security prison. It’s probably safe to say that there’s an entire subset of viewers out there who think of every prison and prison caricature in terms of what they saw on Oz, from the racial gangs to the unpredictable violence and stress of daily living. A true ensemble cast was one of the selling points for the large and ambitious HBO series, which showed that an adult-content drama could still turn great ratings. The fact that it was on a premium network was essential, allowing a much deeper (and more realistic) depiction of the horrors of incarceration in the United States. —Jim Vorel


32. Luck


Created by: David Milch
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Farina, John Ortiz, Kerry Condon, Nick Nolte

Unfortunately for David Milch’s unique and layered series, Luck is mostly known for being cancelled after several horses died on the set. The series’ story largely takes place at the Santa Anita racetrack, which in real life has also continued to see an enormous number of horses die. But, er, if you’re able to give the series any kind of chance beyond that, you’ll find a deeply personal character study of not just the owners, trainers, and jockeys of the tracks, but of the gamblers, drunks, and hangers-on. Watching Luck transports you into a world deeply known by Milch, one that is gritty and tough but also resilient and beautiful. —Allison Keene

31. Watchmen

Created by: Damon Lindelof
Stars: Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Louis Gossett Jr., Jeremy Irons, Jean Smart

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel Watchmen, like Fight Club and Starship Troopers, has a knack for getting itself misunderstood. Frankly, that’s mostly because white guys in the demographic that usually watches this kind of thing are used to a certain kind of messaging and a certain status quo interpretation. Action heroes kill stuff. It’s awesome. Rah, rah, violence. Move along, see the sequel in a year. Past behavior is hard to escape; it’s also hard to criticize without accidentally dipping back into old habits. Watchmen’s HBO series from Damon Lindelof isn’t perfect in this regard, but it’s easy to watch, tough to pin down, and well worth working through.

The show becomes more and more about the traumas suffered by our progenitors, how they’ve lived on through us, and how we respond to their effects. It susses out the ways the government would attempt reparations for Black Americans robbed of historical wealth—including the racist backlash against and cringe-inducing videos used to inform those receiving them. This applies to oppression and inequality, sure, but an entire episode digs into the 9/11-like aftershocks resonating into the American psyche from Ozymandias’ space squid drop on NYC. The past comes for everyone in the show.

Unlike some other prestige TV with muddled messaging, Watchmen doesn’t leave you feeling empty. The thematic throughline of the past’s haunting echoes and tangible consequences can get hammy at times, but it’s still a fascinating concept for a sequel series that nobody asked for. Clever, mean, blood-in-the-mouth humor meshes with politics warped and wild in this alt-present where Robert Redford is president and peace was forced upon the world by a murderous genius. Coping with this reality, moving on from the sins of the past, and figuring out how to find a just future—that’s a journey riddled with pitfalls, but one Watchmen makes irresistible.—Jacob Oller

30. Enlightened

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Created by:Laura Dern and Mike White
Stars: Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, Sarah Burns, Luke Wilson

Amy Jellicoe (an unforgettable Laura Dern), once enraged by circumstance, sets out in Mike White’s Enlightened to remake herself, rebuild her relationships, and reinvent the world. Buffeted by moments of bitterness, suffused with the conviction that change (personal, corporate, social) is possible, the result is a series that resembles a collection of short stories—18 episodes that contain life’s full complement of disappointment and failure, satisfaction and hope. By the time Enlightened reaches Todd Haynes’ unspeakably beautiful Season 2 entry, “All I’ve Ever Wanted,” Amy’s journey comes to reflect her repeated statement of purpose, “You can be wise, and almost whole.” It was gone too soon perhaps, but in its smallness, its grace, Enlightened approached perfection, at once spiky and sunny, incisive and richly emotional. It is, in short, one of TV’s finest series, an “agent of change” in a medium often lashed to tradition. —Matt Brennan

29. The Rehearsal

Created by: Nathan Fielder
Stars: Nathan Fielder

Nathan Fielder’s work is often categorized as improvisational reality-comedy, similar to the likes of Sacha Baron Cohen and John Wilson (sure enough, he produced Who Is America? and How To with John Wilson). What’s mind-blowing about The Rehearsal is how it makes it clear Fielder’s actions on-screen aren’t so much improvised as they are thoroughly scripted before he even meets the real people he’s messing with. HBO’s generous budget has gone to recreating houses and businesses down to the most minute detail for Fielder to rehearse in… and then for the real people involved to rehearse for their big social situations.

This set-up inevitably draws comparisons to Charlie Kaufman’s infamously confusing movie Synecdoche, New York, about a director making a play that simulates an entire city in real time. There are so many different levels of real world interactions, rehearsals for said interactions, rehearsals FOR rehearsals, and generally unnecessarily convoluted planning that much of the laughter comes from how much it will make your head spin. —Reuben Baron

28. Looking

Created by: Andrew Haigh, Sarah Condon and Michael Lannan
Stars: Jonathan Groff, Frankie Alvarez, Murray Barlett, Russell Tovey, Lauren Weedman

Michael Lannon and Andrew Haigh’s meditative chronicle of gay men in modern-day San Francisco ran too cool for some tastes, but few TV series of recent vintage have married form and function with such unshakable confidence. On rooftops and in basements, in Golden Gate Park and the East Bay, Looking found a finely crafted realism perfect for its subdued storytelling, underlining its characters’ halting adventures in adulthood with intricate compositions and fluent camerawork. As Patrick (Jonathan Groff), Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez), Dom (Murray Bartlett) and Doris (Lauren Weedman, the series’ unsung MVP) forged a makeshift family, separated from parents and siblings by geographical and cultural gulfs, Looking emerged as a moving, gorgeous coming-of-age tale, alive to the notion that we never really stop “growing up.” —Matt Brennan

27. The White Lotus

The White Lotus Is Getting a Season 2

Created by: Mike White
Stars: Murray Bartlett, Connie Britton, Jennifer Coolidge, Alexandra Daddario, Jake Lacy, Brittany O’Grady, Steve Zahn

The White Lotus, from Enlightened creator Mike White, tracks the intertwined relationships between groups of wealthy vacationers at the titular resort. With spectacular production design and a magnificent ensemble cast, The White Lotus is a pleasure to watch—even as the miniseries-turned-full-on-drama gets progressively darker as the weeks go on and seemingly idyllic vacations begin falling apart. Also attempting to cultivate a conversation on class and privilege, The White Lotus explores the often horrific ways ultra-rich patrons treat the working-class staff members they so deeply rely on. —Kristen Reid

26. The Righteous Gemstones

Created by: Danny McBride
Stars: Danny McBride, Adam DeVine, Edi Patterson, Walton Goggins, John Goodman, Jennifer Nettles

In The Righteous Gemstones, Danny McBride plays Jesse, the oldest son of the Gemstone clan of showbiz preachers, the flamboyant heir apparent to his legendary father Eli, who’s played with equal parts solemnity and menace by John Goodman. Eli turned the gospel into a chain store, opening up churches throughout the Southeast, and bringing his whole family into the business. In addition to the permed Jesse, there’s Adam DeVine’s Kelvin, who has the fauxhawk and designer jeans of a Christian pop star, and daughter Judy, who chafes at her family’s unwillingness to treat her as an equal, and who’s played by Vice Principals’ breakout star Edi Patterson. Jennifer Nettles of the band Sugarland cameos in flashbacks as the family’s now-dead (and very Tammy Faye-esque) matriarch, whose passing weighs especially heavy on Eli.

It’s not saying much to call a TV family dysfunctional, but the Gemstone children are immediately introduced as being uniquely fractious. They present a united front on TV or in front of their parishioners, who they openly treat as marks behind the scenes, but don’t try to hide their contempt for and disappointment with one another when the cameras are off. Much of what makes the show so enjoyable is the way these three gifted comic actors play off one another as their entire world threatens to unravel. As with McBride’s previous HBO shows, Gemstones delicately balances the ridiculous and extreme with surprisingly subtle character moments that keeps the show from drifting too far away from legitimate emotion and humanity. Even McBride’s Jesse, who is largely a hateful blowhard who deserves every bad thing that happens to him, has moments of levity and regret that humanize him; his relationship with his children might be terrible, but he earnestly seems to want their love and respect, even as he blows everything up again. It’s a worthy addition to McBride’s HBO oeuvre—another messy, honest, exaggerated and realistic look at Southern charlatans desperate for fame, power, and success in a modern South that can too easily fall prey to their schemes. Praise the Lord and pass the loot, indeed. —Garrett Martin

25. Big Love


Created by: Mark V. Olsen, Will Scheffer
Stars: Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloë Sevigny, Ginnifer Goodwin, Shawn Doyle

The thing about Big Love is that the actual plot never really mattered as much as the relationships among its characters. One man with three wives living in a modern Utah suburb is certainly an interesting premise, but from the start, the show made it about more than just salacious intrigued at polygamy. It’s about family, and about women supporting each other through difficult times. Bill Hendrickson’s fraught relationship with the fundamentalist compound where he was raised (with its powerful and dangerous prophet) was always a fascinating dynamic, even when those plotlines became increasingly insane as the series wore on. (Bill Paxton was also at his most charming in this series, and he is missed.) But throughout it all, especially those very final scenes, Big Love’s extraordinary cast and casual storytelling style made it essential to watch anything and everything this family did. It introduced a strange and often difficult world, but managed to make it feel like home. —Allison Keene

24. Rome


Created by: John Milius, William J. MacDonald, Bruno Heller
Stars: Kevin McKidd, Ray Stevenson, Ciarán Hinds, Kenneth Cranham, Lindsay Duncan, Tobias Menzies, Polly Walker

Soon after starting Rome, it will have you shouting: “The 13th!!!!” in solidarity with its lead centurions Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo. The duo have a kind of Odd Couple dynamic that is bonded in blood and brotherhood, as the series tracks the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. An ambitious and enthralling series, Rome was also expensive, and an ill-advised sprint through the timeline in Season 2 botched things enough for that to be that. But going from the story of these simple but compelling soldiers through the betrayal of Caesar and the increasing excess of the Roman elites leading up to Antony and Cleopatra is all incredibly entertaining. A kind of proto-Game of Thrones in many ways, Rome boasts an outstanding cast, bloody battles, and plenty of political machinations to keep you pressing “Play Next” until its epic tale comes to an end. —Allison Keene

23. I May Destroy You

Created by: Michaela Coel
Stars: Michaela Coel, Weruche Opia, Paapa Essiedu

There may be few series as difficult but as important as Michaela Coel’s 12-episode HBO show I May Destroy You. The Ghanaian-British creator and star explores the pain, confusion, and eventual road to healing regarding the rape experienced by her London-based lead, Arabella. Playing out as a series of vignettes, the season is tied together by a close-knit group of friends who must confront everything from their own biases to sexual crimes perpetrated against them.

Coel is taking on a lot here, and while the journey of these friends trying to make it can feel familiar, it’s coming to audiences from a new perspective—instead of young white adults in New York, we have young black adults in London. That distinction is important in a number of ways, and Coel also leans in to the Millennial nature of it all by showing Arabella’s obsession with her social media influence and ways she seeks to monetize without being exploited (which feels impossible). There’s also an early scene in which a white casting director asks Terry if she’s wearing a wig, if she can wash it, and to please take it off to show them her “real” hair. The way Terry responds (hesitant, uncomfortable, and ultimately rebuffing) mirrors in some ways the moments of assault shown in the series. It upsets her but she tries to brush it off, much like everyone else responding to controlling or aggressive behavior.

All of this adds up to a weighty, ambitious attempt to wade through incredibly difficult subject matter, but one that also seeks to balance with earnest optimism and a desire for healing. There are many, many scenes of the friends just having fun, of getting annoyed with one another, of professing their undying love. That movement back and forth, to the past and present (to an imagined future), between feelings and experiences and traumas and desires, covers some of the series’ other uncertainties in ways that are both compelling and true. But more than anything, it’s a thought-provoking work that should make us consider our own relationship to trauma, experienced by ourselves or others, as well as hopefully this new cultural awakening to the many, many different kinds of sexual assault. —Allison Keene

22. True Detective


Created by: Nic Pizzolatto
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch, Mahershala Ali, Carmen Ejogo, Stephen Dorff

There’s always a caveat when recommending True Detective, and that is in recognition of its anthology setup. Its first season is hypnotic, deep, disturbing, and obsession-worthy, while its second is boring, scattered, and forgettable. Season 3 turns things around, not quite to Season 1 levels, but it’s elevated by some outstanding performances that make it a worthwhile watch. And then there is Season 4, which was created by Issa López and not original series creator Nic Pizzolatto. Known as True Detective: Night Country, the series launches a new arm of the franchise, and completely revitalizes the drama in the process. For crime show fans, Season 1 and its search for the Yellow King is a must; the collaboration between writer Pizzolatto and director Cary Fukunaga is exceptional, as are its lead performances. But Season 4 is also must-see TV. If you want to skip from Season 1 right to Night Country, you honestly probably can. But for all of its faults (even in that season with some of the writing regarding its female characters, of which there are not many), True Detective still remains a stalwart HBO series. —Allison Keene

21. Mare of Easttown


Created by: Brad Ingelsby
Stars: Kate Winslet, Julianne Nicholson, Jean Smart, Evan Peters

Is there such a thing as a sober, carefully considered obsession? If so, that’s what we encounter in the HBO limited series Mare of Easttown, a show that is ostensibly about a series of deaths in a hardscrabble Pennsylvania town, but is, in reality, about the heavy pain of being alive. The plights of our time are all on display in the series—poverty, depression, drug addiction, suicide—and the debilitating effects are handled with masterful subtlety. This is a Kate Winslet vehicle through and through, and for an actor once described as having the “soul and attitude of a jobbing actress, trapped in the body of a movie star,” here again we see her embodying a pained, difficult character who is not always sympathetic. As Mare Sheehan, police detective and former high school basketball star, she has suffered, and suffered, and suffered some more in ways that leave her defiant, sarcastic, and cynical, but too tough to be broken. It’s not an easy psychological space to occupy, but Winslet, looking appropriately haggard except in the rare cases when she decides to be beautiful—moments of hope that are almost more painful than the perpetual fatigue of reality—is more than equal to the task, carrying the show with all the brilliance you’d expect from somebody so talented. If you come to Mare for Kate Winslet, as many will, you won’t be disappointed.

There can be a nagging tendency, when depicting “strong women,” to atone for years of under-representation on the screen by turning them into invulnerable super women, conflating the two genres—drama and comic book—that should be kept separate. Mare stands out for its realistic depictions of this strength, highlighting not just the impressive resilience of its women, but the ways in which the need for this resilience takes its toll, both over time and in harsh, shattering moments. When those characters falter, or even break, it only serves to highlight that underlying strength; these are portraits written and directed by human beings with a deep understanding of how life works on the psychological margins. —Shane Ryan

20. Sex and the City

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Created by: Darren Star
Stars: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon

Okay, bad news first: Darren Star’s Sex and the City was not a perfect show. Most of us who watched could not relate to the very specific demographic of women who were showcased. And, for a series whose beating heart was NYC, the show did not do well in its presentation of gay characters or characters of color (whenever they showed up). Hell, even the main character was problematic and difficult to root for at times. Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) was the not-so-eloquent writer who was better at choosing a pair of Manolo Blahniks than making decisions in her love life (Team Aidan?). This was an infuriating show to experience sometimes, and that’s partly why we loved it. It remains a phenomenon, and as cliché as it may sound, it opened the door for more complex narratives about women and sex, and it did so unapologetically thanks in large part to Kim Cattrall’s role as Samantha Jones. And if Samantha was too much for you, Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) and Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) offered up their own unique perspectives, giving the foursome an original, entertaining, and important balance of personalities and feminist (or anti-feminist) outlooks. So when we talk about the impact of HBO, Sex and the City has to be a big part of the discussion. This is especially true in a time when shows like True Detective are being accused of putting their women characters in lazy, typical plot positions, without agency. Whatever class issues, or race issues, or gender and sexuality issues Sex and the City might have swept under the rug (or addressed in a problematic way), it still functioned as a loud, oft-obscene call for agency among the marginalized. And it did all of this with some of the funniest dialogue and sex talk we’d ever heard. “My man has funky tasting spunk!” will go down in history as one of the most horrifying, incredible TV moments of all time, and that’s just the tip (ahem) of the legendary SATC iceberg. —Shannon M. Houston

19. Somebody Somewhere


Created by: Hannah Bos, Paul Thureen
Stars: Bridget Everett, Jeff Hiller, Mary Catherine Garrison, Danny McCarthy, Mike Hagerty, Murray Hill, Jane Drake Brody, Jon Hudson Odom, Heidi Johanningmeier

It took a little while for us to find and catch up with the marvelous Somebody Somewhere, but Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen’s quiet, funny, emotional show absolutely deserves a spot on this list (and on your watch queue). The half-hour series follows Sam (the exceptional Bridget Everett), who is in the throes of a midlife crisis after returning home to Manhattan, Kansas, to take care of her sister Holly. After Holly’s death, Sam finds herself adrift until she befriends Joel (Jeff Hiller), an old high school acquaintance, which revives her. From the many domestic dramas that swirl around Sam with the rest of her family, as well as Joel’s own path towards self-understanding, to an exploration of a rural America queer scene, the show simply radiates casual authenticity. It wants to invite you in, to feel seen and heard, and introduces you to an incredible cast of characters along the way. Somebody Somewhere also pushes back against the notion of returning home as an act of failure; here, we see it as a kind of rebirth. It’s not about settling, but finding yourself. It’s beautiful. —Allison Keene

18. Insecure

Created by:Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore
Stars: Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji, Jay Ellis, Lisa Joyce

While there’s still a long way to go before TV truly reflects our multi-cultural present, the arrival of series like this marvelous half-hour comedy are hopefully harbingers of the medium’s more diverse future. Built from the skeleton of co-creator Issa Rae’s YouTube series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, HBO’s comedy tackles an array of issues, from old chestnuts like boredom and woe in a long-term relationship to much broader concerns, like reckoning with institutional racism and individual biases in the modern workplace. (There’s also room left over for some cutting satire of the commodification and absorption of African-American culture by white people.) While her onscreen proxy is barely holding it together, Rae bears the burden of running Insecure with ease, finding a fresh perspective and flawlessly expanding upon the world of her Internet series with wit and refinement to spare. —Robert Ham

17. Treme

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Created by: David Simon and Eric Overmyer
Stars: Khandi Alexander, Clarke Peters, Wendell Pierce, Kim Dickens, Rob Brown, Melissa Leo

When it debuted in 2010, David Simon’s portrait of post-Katrina New Orleans disappointed expectations: It was not, as it turned out, The Wire: Crescent City. It was, rather, a subtle, searching appreciation for The City That Care Forgot, mournful and merry in equal measure; its characters were professors (John Goodman), chefs (Kim Dickens), and musicians (Wendell Pierce), not politicians or police officers, and as such its drama hewed to the more quotidian rhythms of “recovery.” In this, though, it managed to capture the place, and its peculiar position in the American imagination, with unmatched precision and unconditional love, attuned to the grief and joy of an epochal moment in the city’s history. If I ever leave, I will watch Treme to remind me what it was like to live here at a time of profound transformation, and to feel anew the series’ clarion call: “Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?” I’m not sure there’s higher praise for a work of art than that. —Matt Brennan

16. John Adams


Created by: Kirk Ellis
Stars: Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney, Stephen Dillane, David Morse, Tom Wilkinson, Danny Huston, Rufus Sewell

Long before Hamilton captured the cultural consciousness, this eight-part miniseries tackled the same subject matter of the founding of the U.S., but through the eyes of future President John Adams (Paul Giamatti). Based on a best-selling biography by David McCullough, the show went deep into this fractious period of our history, covering a lot of ground starting with the Boston Massacre in 1770, and ending with the deaths of Adams and Thomas Jefferson 56 years later. The breadth of the story is astounding enough, bringing to richly detailed life the key moments that built this messy democracy that we find ourselves in today. But it’s the powerhouse acting by the entire, huge ensemble that drives this sprawling narrative home, and might make you proud to be an American.—Robert Ham

15. Carnivàle


Created by: Daniel Knauf
Stars: Michael J. Anderson, Clancy Brown, Tim DeKay, Clea DuVall, Toby Huss, Nick Stahl

One of the strangest, deepest, and most beautiful series ever on television, Carnivàle takes place in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression of the 1930s and follows a young gifted man who seems to be able to manipulate the forces of life and death. A superhero story this is not, although there is a lot of spiritually-tinged lore that becomes more prominent in the show’s second (and final) season. This outstanding series explores life in a sideshow caravan full of societal outcasts who have created their own makeshift family, but there are so many interesting, heartbreaking, and even spooky stories that are also broached along the way. Carnivàle is a puzzle box show that is about so much more than that, as its mysteries and connections run deep. The attention to production design and care taken in telling the stories of these forgotten people is truly something special, if you dare to take a peek behind the curtain. —Allison Keene

14. Curb Your Enthusiasm

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Created by: Larry David
Stars: Larry David, Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman

Set aside the show’s return for a moment: Larry David pulled off the rare successful second act in television comedy. Curb Your Enthusiasm was Seinfeld-ian in its rhythms, with David basically playing the George Costanza version of himself as an eternally perturbed and self-defeating schlemiel who just happens to be fantastically wealthy after creating a show called Seinfeld. A lot of cringe comedy forgets to actually be funny, but that was never a problem for Curb, which remained as funny (and cringeworthy) as ever over the eight seasons of its original run. And it’s not just the increasingly uncomfortable situations or David’s masterful escalation from annoyance to rage to embarrassment that made the show work so well. David surrounded himself with a fantastic cast, from regulars like Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin, JB Smoove and Susie Essman, to such recurring guest stars as Wanda Sykes, Richard Lewis, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen and Bob “Super Dave” Osborne. Oh, and also there’s an entire season about a Seinfeld reunion, guest starring the original cast. Curb can be hard to watch at times, but it is always hilarious, and was HBO’s trademark comedy throughout the last decade. —Garrett Martin

13. Game of Thrones

Created by: David Benioff, D. B. Weiss
Stars: Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Maisie Williams, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Aidan Gillen

The geopolitical drama that unfolds in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire book series is so epic in scope that it made the Lord of the Rings feel like Cliff’s Notes. Even after it’s been pared down for television, the hourlong episodes can only cover a portion of the stories from key characters. Highlighting its fantasy elements only sparingly, each of these are very human tales, as inhabitants of Westeros and Essos try to survive in a very cruel world and often, very often, fail. Heroes meet their end as often as villains; children as often as warriors. The show garnered its fair share of criticism for its gratuitous nudity and its depiction of a couple of brutal rape scenes, but it also has featured some of the strongest female characters on TV. And it’s the characters, the quick wit of Tyrion and Varys, the master conniving of Littlefinger, the defiant spunk of Arya, the quick nobility of Jon Snow, the heartless villainy of Tywin Lannister, the complicated redemption of Jaime, that made this show an epic cultural juggernaut (even in its arguably faltering final seasons). —Josh Jackson

12. Boardwalk Empire

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Created by: Terence Winter
Stars: Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon

Easily dismissed as just a Sopranos clone set in the 1920s (although gorgeously so), Boardwalk Empire wisely took many of the best elements of its predecessor and expanded its scope. It’s this wide-ranging spotlight, drifting from the highest levels of political office down to lowly bootleggers and prostitutes, that makes the show something special, offering up morality plays that hold the lives of millions at stake while putting an actual face on those being affected. The show’s political commentary is apt without seeming preachy, while characters maintained the balance between being archetypal ciphers and real people. Boardwalk Empire isn’t as energetic as other dramas but its meticulous slow-burn has a depth and beauty to it that’s rarely been matched on the little screen. And it only improved over time as it became less concerned with the minutiae of New Jersey politics in favor of featuring a much more compelling national landscape. As a result, both its characters and its stories became grander, more operatic, and expressionistic. —Sean Gandert

11. Veep


Created by: Armando Iannucci
Stars: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, Reid Scott, Timothy Simons, Matt Walsh, Kevin Dunn, Gary Cole

Veep satirizes the political world by distilling it down to what the public likes to watch most: the screw-ups. From foot-in-mouth moments and mis-sent documents to squeaky shoes, everything Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) does is scrutinized, turned into an offense, and spit back at her through the distorted prism of Twitter and never-ending public opinion polling. They never specify Meyer’s political party, and it’s no surprise that its fans span the political spectrum. Because the main thing Veep stays true to is shining a light on the people more desperate to be near power than to make any real social impact.

Louis-Dreyfus remains one of TV’s funniest actors; she’ll truly commit to a bit, and she has a habit of taking them beyond surface level cute into the truly disastrous and unflattering. Selina Meyer doesn’t walk into glass doors, she shatters them and stands in a pile of glass with bleeding cuts all over her face. She takes bad advice, wears terrible hats, gets a Dustin Hoffman haircut, and can’t go abroad without committing a terrible international faux pas. And Selina is at her best as a character when she’s at her most terrible, full of ego, more concerned with being liked than passing legislation, and blaming her staff for her mistakes. Selina’s bag man Gary (Tony Hale) is a glorious sad sack, and Dan Egan (Reid Scott) is so coldly ambitious his every misstep feels like a victory. But for every unknowingly selfish thing each person says, Veep’s ace-in-the-hole is Anna Chlumsky’s Amy, whose Olympic-level reaction faces land everyone else’s jokes. Smaller recurring roles also offer cameos from some of America’s best improvisers. Through and through, it’s a comedy nerd’s dream team. —Erica Lies

10. Barry

Created by: Bill Hader, Alec Berg
Stars Bill Hader, Stephen Root, Sarah Goldberg, Anthony Carrigan, Henry Winkler

One of the strangest and most fascinating comedy/drama hybrids to date, creator and star Bill Hader’s excellent series plays with questions of identity and self-expression that explore the dual lives our troubled protagonist Barry (Hader) leads. Amateur dramatist by day, assassin by night, Barry works to shed his darker self and become the man he wants to be, but he can’t escape the choices that led him down that dark path to begin with. Denying that being a killer is part of who he really is only leads to a repressed rage that comes out in exceptionally tense and violent scenes, ones that Hader expertly juxtaposes with Barry’s sweet and earnest side through unexpected comedy (and occasionally, wistful daydreams). He’s a man who wants to do good, but can’t reconcile the two parts of himself, something the series also explores throughout the series. Who we are versus how we want others to see us is at the core of Barry’s character exploration, and Hader manages to somehow make the series both hilarious and deeply affecting, taking us on a rollercoaster of emotions that ends in an extraordinary difficult place of truth and self-understanding.—Allison Keene

9. The Last of Us

Created by: Craig Mazin, Neil Druckmann
Stars: Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey

You wouldn’t think puns would work as connective tissue between characters in any television series, let alone a brutal post-apocalyptic drama, but it does just that whenever 14-year-old Ellie (Bella Ramsey) throws them at 50-something Joel (Pedro Pascal) throughout the first season of The Last of Us. In a world as dark and dangerous as the one viewers see onscreen, measured humor goes a long way. It is one of the many tools that series creators/writers Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and Neil Druckmann (designer of the videogame the series is based on) use to build layered characters to tell a heartbreaking, yet inspiring story filled with loss, hope, determination, and redemption. And it all revolves around Ellie and Joel.

Pascal positively shines as Joel, perfectly balancing the physical aspects of the role with an emotional heft that’s hard to pull off in a character who is a man of action and few words. But the breakout star of The Last of Us is Ramsey. The actor, who was a scene stealer as Lady Mormont in Game of Thrones, is a wisecracking badass and certain to be a fan favorite. Together, the duo make a team that’s easy to root for and more importantly, care about. Complex characters combined with stellar acting, a wonderfully paced story, and an emotionally engaging plot make The Last of Us a brilliant series that is now the template all other videogame-to-TV adaptations should follow. —Terry Terrones

8. Succession

Created by: Jesse Armstrong
Stars: Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin, Jeremy Strong, Matthew Macfadyen, Alan Ruck, Sarah Snook

HBO’s Succession, from creator Jesse Armstrong (Peep Show, The Thick of It) is dressed up as a prestige drama, but it’s actually one of TV’s most acid comedies. Once you embrace that, Succession unlocks as a never-ending battle of power and prestige with medieval royal overtones that is also wonderfully aware of how absurd that kind of story is. The show’s grown children jockey for power and favor with their bully of a father (a kind of Rupert Murdoch baron-type) in a constant cycle of cringe-worthy acts and abject humiliation. As one observer of the Roy family comments, “watching you people melt down is the most deeply satisfying activity on planet Earth.” Succession is not made to be binge-watched. It’s engrossing, as a world that’s easy to immerse oneself in, but there is a kind of shadowy, icky feeling that follows you when you’ve consumed too much. That’s not the show’s fault; it’s easy to laugh at Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) getting upset that he’s “not in the right panic room!” when he discovers Shiv (Sarah Snook) is in a more posh stronghold, but seeing Waystar encourage a dotcom to not unionize before gutting them, or how even a supposedly ethical organization might well sell out to partisan interests when there’s enough money is just depressingly real. Succession is a combination of Tom’s exclamation “what a weird family!” and Logan’s “Money wins. Here’s to us.” And it has us fully in its thrall. —Allison Keene

7. Chernobyl

Created by: Craig Mazin
Stars: Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, Jessie Buckley, Emily Watson

Maybe this is a good time for a drama about Chernobyl. I mean, as it becomes increasingly tempting to give in to apocalyptic ideation, I guess it’s useful to remember that the apocalypse already happened, and not even that long ago. And we apparently survived it.

In April 1986, the reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in present-day Ukraine, exploded, leaving a large number of first-responder widows and a legacy of environmental annihilation. The incident and its aftermath are the subject of this five-part miniseries. Let me start by saying that people with mood disorders should weigh the pros and cons carefully before tuning in: It’s possibly the worst thing I have ever seen on TV. And I don’t mean poorly done (it’s unfortunately brilliant.) I mean Chernobyl is devastatingly realistic and really, really painful, so be prepared for graphic depictions of what it’s like to die of radiation poisoning. Or what it’s like to be recruited to the task force that has to destroy radioactive house cats, milk cows and puppies.

The outstanding cast is led by Stellan Skarsgård as Boris Scherbina, a Kremlin apparatchik, and Jared Harris as Valery Legasov, the nuclear physicist who makes the government understand they cannot lie and obfuscate their way out of a nuclear disaster. Emily Watson rounds it out as Ulana Komyuk, a Byelorussian scientist determined to find out what really happened in order to keep it from ever happening again. The production is HBO-grade excellent. The soundtrack is a testament to the terrifying sound of a chattering Geiger counter. Writer and producer Craig Mazin is relentless in his depiction of human corruption and environmental breakdown, and director Johan Renck gives Lars von Trier a run for his melancholic money. It is an anatomy of fear and incompetence and hopelessness and baseness and self-destructiveness. It is desolate and desperate and excruciating and horrible. Horrible. Horrible. And it should be. —Amy Glynn

6. Deadwood

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Created by: David Milch
Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, John Hawkes, Jim Beaver, Brad Dourif, Paula Malcomson, William Sanderson, Kim Dickens, Keith Carradine

Few shows sound as profanely inspired as Deadwood, which has also been referred to as “Shakespeare in the mud.” It deserves every kudos. The extraordinarily compelling Western is ultimately less concerned with its setting and historical accuracy (though it has plenty to spare) than it is about accurately portraying humans. Why do societies and allegiances form, why are close friends betrayed, and why does humanity’s best seem to always just barely edge out its worst? These are the real concerns that make Deadwood a masterpiece. David Milch created a sprawling, fastidiously detailed world in which to stage his gritty morality plays and with it has come as close as anyone to creating a novel on-screen. With assistance from some truly memorable acting by Ian McShane, Brad Dourif and Paula Malcomson, Deadwood’s sometimes over-the-top representations never veer far enough from reality for its inhabitants to become just characters. (A follow-up movie on HBO also helps sew things up in a satisfying way after the original series’ sudden ending.) —Sean Gandert and Allison Keene

5. Generation Kill

Created by: David Simon, Ed Burns, Evan Wright
Stars: Alexander Skarsgård, James Ransone, Lee Tergesen, Jon Huertas, Stark Sands

“Get out of the hole.”

It’s a quiet line in HBO’s seven-part miniseries Generation Kill, but it is writer David Simon’s only personal commentary on the United States’ 40-day push into Iraq in the spring of 2003, and the subsequent military quagmire. Based on Evan Wright’s nonfiction book of the same name, the series follows an embedded journalist (played by Lee Tergesen) with the U.S. Marine Corps’ 1st Reconnaissance Battalion Bravo Company, and deftly explores the confusion during the invasion, the dehumanizing cost of modern warfare, and the very real people at the center of it all with expertly crafted balance. You come to love, and hate, various members of Bravo Company and their superiors, most of whom are just trying their best to do a job and not get killed.

Crucially, Generation Kill is neither a hoo-rah piece of jingoist propaganda nor a takedown of the American military. Like David Simon’s other series, most notably The Wire (which he also wrote with Ed Burns), it’s about investigating institutions and broken systems by introducing us to those on the ground affected by them, allowing us to draw our own conclusions. With an outstanding cast, exceptional production design, thoughtfully intimate direction, and haunting real-world implications, Generation Kill is one of HBO’s most underrated miniseries, and an absolute must-see. —Allison Keene

4. Six Feet Under

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Created by: Alan Ball
Stars: Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose

Six Feet Under is a television show that attempts to find reason and order in death, but then every episode totally fails. Through the eyes of the Fisher family’s proprietors and operators of a funeral home in Los Angeles, death is an inevitability stripped of all romance, and yet the series—as it follows the lives of eldest brother Nate Fisher and his loved ones—can never escape the fear at the core of even the most jaded people’s relationship with mortality. Opaquely funny, tender, heartrending and sometimes deeply uncomfortable, Six Feet Under balks, down to the marrow of its bones, at the idea that there is reason in death. And in turn, every episode begins with a functionally freak fatality, so much so that it’s nearly impossible to binge the series without concluding that death will find us when we least expect it, no matter what we do or no matter how we hide. Somehow, though, Six Feet Under is never morbid, instead concerned with celebrating the lives of its ensemble however they happen to play out, sensitive to the fact that though they run a funeral home, they have as little insight into the meaning of life as anyone else navigating modernity at the turn of the century. Pretty much the polar opposite of creator Alan Ball’s True Blood, Six Feet Under is a TV show about life, all of it, and if you aren’t drenched with tears by the time it all ends, you should probably have someone check your pulse. —Dom Sinacola

3. Band of Brothers


Created by: Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg
Stars: Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, Scott Grimes, Donnie Wahlberg, Kirk Acevedo, Eion Bailey, Michael Cudlitz

Many years ago there was a blog called “Pop Culture Torture,” and one of the challenges was for a writer to watch all of Band of Brothers in one day and document it. By the fourth hour he was an emotional wreck, and by the fifth he was starting to sob just at the opening theme. Such is the immense power of this World War II epic, which fictionalizes the experiences of “Easy” Company from the 1992 book of the same name. The series also features some of the real heroes talking about their experiences before and after episodes, and when you learn which characters are based off of them it just brings everything together in overwhelming ways. The careful attention to detail and weaving in of historical moments will ultimately make this series your definitive understanding of the European theater of the war and everything surrounding it. So don’t binge it, but do watch—it is one of the all-time greats. (One that happens to star a massive cast of recognizable young male actors in small roles who almost all became A-list movie stars.) —Allison Keene

2. The Sopranos

Created by: David Chase
Stars: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Robert Iler

For eight years, James Gandolfini crawled deep inside the complexities of Tony Soprano—loving father, son and husband, goodhearted friend, master of sardonic one-liners (“How do you vandalize a pool?”), troubled psych patient, serial adulterer, mob boss and brutal, remorseless killer—inspiring as much dumbfounded loathing and shuddering sympathy as any character in TV history. Murderers aren’t one-dimensional; they have feelings, aspirations, justifications, families. The Sopranos brilliantly and believably explored this dynamic, turning the crime drama on its head and taking dysfunction to the extreme in the process. As unfathomable as their world was, the characters of this tragic, beautifully arcing modern epic were so real that they became like family to us, too. —Steve LaBate

1. The Wire


Created by: David Simon
Stars: Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn, Idris Elba, Domenick Lombardozzi, Ellis Carver, Andre Royo, Wendell Pierce, Rhonda Pearlman

Series mastermind David Simon conceived of The Wire as a modern Greek tragedy, a morality play set in a drug-infested urban war zone where conventional good guys and bad guys barely exist. Everyone is conflicted and compromised. We didn’t need The Wire to remind us that the system—the criminal justice system, the political system, the education system—is broken. But no other cultural enterprise (and certainly no television show) has shown us precisely how the infrastructure has collapsed, forcing us to consider the impossible decisions required for repair. Amidst the rubble of a failed city, Simon created an engrossing human drama with unforgettable characters about the eternal struggle between aspiration and desperation, ambition and resignation. In other words, the fight for the American Dream. —Nick Marino

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