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  • All HBO Shows Ranked – Another TV Whore’s Opinion

    June 22nd, 2015

    By Danny Manus @Dannymanus

    Last week, a reviewer on Thrillist ranked all 54 HBO shows from worst to greatest. Upon reading this list, quite a number of things rushed into my mind. First – wow, HBO has had that many shows? Second – wow, I watch a lot of TV. Like, way too much TV. Though to be fair there were a few I had not seen and perhaps 2 I hadn’t even heard of. And third – wow, this guy who ranked these shows is kinda wrong on a bunch of ‘em. In my opinion.

    Here’s a link to the original post –

    So, I did what any self-respecting TV Whore with an extra 4 hours would do… I’ve made my own rebuttal list of the Top 51 HBO Shows of All Time. There were three shows – Generation Kill, The Pacific and John Adams – that the original poster included that I have discounted because they were mini-series and shouldn’t really count because that opens up a whole other can of worms. But other than that…here’s my list…

    51. The High Life – Yeah, I never heard of it either.

    50. Angry Boys – Didn’t remember this one either but it only lasted one season in 2011 apparently.

    49. Family Tree – Not even Chris O’Dowd could save this boring comedy with uninteresting low stakes.

    48. Doll and Em – Apparently Emily Mortimer did an HBO series before The Newsroom and this was it. For 8 episodes.

    47. Summer Heights High – Chris Lilley as a girl in a private school. Mockingly humorous at times, but I’d rather watch Amy Sedaris.

    46. John From Cincinnati – Ed O’Neill, Luke Perry, Rebecca De Mornay in an existential show with surfing. It lasted a season. I lasted the pilot.

    45. Tell Me You Love Me – Great cast, but the three couples were so whiny it quickly became the whitest show on HBO at a time when they were ALL white. It was In Treatment without the actual issues.

    44. Mind of the Married Man – Mike Binder doing his best Paul Reiser/Brian BenBen impression. Was amusing and introduced us to the ridiculously gorgeous Ivana Milicevic and likable Sonya Walger, but it turns out we already know what’s in the mind of married men…tits and sadness.

    43. How to Make It in America – 20 somethings in NY. Hmmm…where have I heard this before? I feel bad that Lake Bell has to keep this on her resume.

    42. Life’s Too Short – A mockumentary with Ricky Gervais and Warwick Davis, the original Leprechaun. Had some memorable, virally funny scenes but not enough for the show to rank higher.

    41. Hello Ladies – There’s something wonderfully, painfully awkward watching Stephen Merchant do anything – especially try to get laid in LA. Again, some great stand out scenes but a limited concept that went nowhere.

    40. In Treatment – I remember liking the first season or two, and then it all going to shit. Was perhaps the first drama to keep the concept and just trade its cast in every season save Gabriel Byrne, but it got too melodramatic. And made me hate my own therapist.

    39. Looking – Despite the last 4 episodes of Season 2 finally getting good, this show was boring, unsexy, and confused from the start with characters I never cared about. It was Queer as Folk if the whole cast had just been that one unsexy, white, boring, hipster dude who didn’t have a storyline or arc. When the straight woman is the BEST character…there’s some problems with your gay guy show.

    38. Enlightened – I get that Mike White is a genius, and created a great role for Laura Dern, but I couldn’t even make it to the end of Season 1. As the original post stated – I never felt compelled to watch the next episode.

    37. K Street – Political junkies like me and people who enjoy watching Carville and Matalin fight, loved it. But it wasn’t enough to save this slightly fictionalized show about real politics.

    36. Dream On – It was a trailblazer in many ways. So much so that I forgot it was on HBO. It was also one of the first shows I saw that had nudity, which was big for me at the time. Brian BenBen and that yappy blonde chick were a nice combo and it was a visually interesting show that did cutaways before they were popular.

    35. Flight of the Conchords – I realize my placement of this show is one that will anger many, but I truly just disliked it. I appreciate a couple of the songs, but I just didn’t enjoy the style of comedy or its cast.

    34. Luck – It’s a shame what happened to this show because it had great potential. But hey, ya kill a few horses and your luck runs out.

    33. Lucky Louie – A show ahead of its time, but it was my first experience with Louis CK, Pamela Adlon and Jim Norton and I loved every low-budget, white trash, overly sexualized, awkward moment.

    32. No 1. Ladies Detective Agency – Honestly, I watched the pilot and didn’t get much further because it wasn’t a show for my demographic (read: white male under 30 at the time), but it was original and had some much needed diversity and solid performances from people you didn’t think were actors.

    31. Bored to Death – It takes a certain type to truly “get” Jason Schwartzman and what this show tried to do, and I think there were a couple brilliant episodes but the show gets lost in the mix.

    30. Rome – It wasn’t my type of show, but it was grand and as the original article poster described it – X-Rated Masterpiece Theater. I’m not gonna try to do better.

    29. Carnivale – Much like the original article writer, I appreciate this show for its production design, deep messages and originality, but I never made it to the end of the first season. It gets placement at #29 because I know many other people really liked it and it was a cult hit.

    28. Getting On – This show took a while to find its groove and to find the funny in old people dying and the purposeful unlikableness of the characters, but Laurie Metcalf, Alex Borstein and the cast were so good and as it built to its conclusion, much like Grandma, I wanted it to stay around a bit longer.

    27. Hung – A one-note show about a one-note character. I like Thomas Jane and Jane Adams, who stole most of the show, and it had its funny moments with the pimps. But it just never hung in there. See what I did there?

    26. Eastbound and Down – This is the OTHER show whose placement I know people will argue. I like Danny McBride. I just never enjoyed Kenny Powers. I will say there are some hilarious episodes and lines in this show, and it had about one season of brilliance but the story went too over the top for me.

    25. The Leftovers – This show has room to grow still, and the powerful performances by Justin Theroux, the wonderful Carrie Coon and the powerhouse Ann Dowd highlighted a magnificent and compelling CONCEPT, but the backstory episode which came about 10 Episodes in should have been episode 2 and then the series would’ve made much more sense. Its dark nature wasn’t the problem – the problem was that every time we thought it was finally getting somewhere, it didn’t. It got way better in the last 3 episodes, but man it was a chore getting there. But those 3 actor’s performances made it easier. And I’m curious about Season 2.

    24. Arli$$ – Another show just slightly before its time which probably paved the way for Entourage, plus it gave us a young Sandra Oh. Sure, it probably wouldn’t hold up now and I haven’t seen it in 15+ years, but I remember it fondly. Arliss was the original Ari.

    23. Togetherness – I love this show. But it’s so new I couldn’t really rank it any higher. I’ll watch anything the Duplass Brothers do, and Melanie Lynskey and Amanda Peet are pretty fearless. Steve Zissis redefines the shlubby best friend role and almost feels like the lead at times as his love story with Peet’s character was far more interesting than the married couple. If you didn’t see season 1, go watch it.

    22. The Newsroom – My love/hate relationship with this show runs deep. I bow at the altar of Aaron Sorkin, but found myself tweeting all the regurgitated lines from West Wing, Sports Night, and Studio 60 after each episode of the first season. The pilot was brilliant…then it wasn’t. It was flawed structurally, and in its timeline of real news events. The second season got better, sort of. Watching Sam Waterston and Jane Fonda fight was fun, though Olivia Munn might have been my favorite character on the show. There were episodes I loved but I guess my expectations were too high because of his previous shows and this one just fell short of them. I still love you, Aaron…

    21. Big Love – No one does psycho Mormons like HBO. Except for Utah. I loved this show for the first few seasons, but it just went off the rails in a crazy way. I never saw the last 2 seasons (I cancelled my HBO for about 2 years), but this was a groundbreaking show in many ways and it made Ginnifer Goodwin a bigger star and somehow made Chloe Sevigny less insane, which is hard to do.

    20. Girls – The only HBO show that I look forward to hate-watching. It’s not really groundbreaking, it’s not really interesting, it’s not really sexy. It has moments of insightful brilliance in the writing, it is somewhat relatable for middle class, artistic, lost, white, Generation Y-ers in New York City, and Adam Driver is the biggest TV revelation of the decade in my opinion. But this show would be way more interesting if it was called BOYS and if someone lit the female supporting cast on fire. Yet, I still watch.

    19. The Comeback – I don’t think I fully appreciated the intelligence and comedy of the first run of this show, and it took a few episodes of the rebooted season for me to care, but it got there. Kudrow does seem stuck playing the same type of character with the same nasal annoying voice over and over, but Valerie Cherish’s arc this season was something so enjoyable and satisfying to watch.

    18. Treme – Brilliant look at a city that’s sometimes hard to watch. Great performances, inspired music, a great feel and setting, though it always seemed too preachy for me and is not in the top 2 of David Simon’s best shows.

    17. True Detective – This is a show that might be in some people’s Top 5. It was for the Thrillist writer. But I didn’t get what was so great about it. Yes, it had wonderful performances by two top notch actors. Yes, it had sharp and powerful writing from a new voice (despite the plagiarism scandal). And it introduced us to Alexandra Daddario’s unexpectedly perfect body for which I’ll always be thankful. But, the story was pretty boring and anti-climactic. It was well-shot, well-produced, well-written and well-performed. And yet, it didn’t seem as interesting as it should have been. I hope the new season is good.

    16. Silicon Valley – To be fair, I’m still in the first season of this show and I think it’s great, but it’s not the funniest show that HBO has ever had, which the original article stated. It’s smart, it’s timely, it’s well-acted, and I look forward to seeing more. But there have been funnier shows on the network.

    15. Band of Brothers – I know I discounted the other 2 war mini-series, but this was the one that started it all and it’s still the best. It deserved to be mentioned. It’s a masterpiece.

    14. Extras – Ricky Gervais. Movie Stars. British hilarity. The episode with Kate Winslet was everything.

    13. Entourage – Was it the best show on HBO? No. But it was iconic. Plus, it gave us the line “APA? Who the fuck invited you?” which was used for at least 2 weeks at every desk in Hollywood. Through its “star” Adrian Grenier, it ironically proved that good looks IS all you need in Hollywood to get work. And it gave those in the business a chance to look at themselves in a comedic and exaggerated way. And gave those outside the business even more reason to hate us. It was never a Middle America show, but it wasn’t supposed to be. However, it was entertaining, had memorable cameos, and I’ll be damned if Ari didn’t always make me laugh.

    12. True Blood – When it was good, it was f’ing great. It was Twilight before Jacob and Edward ever existed. But when it was bad…it was unwatchable. And I’d say the show balanced out at about 60/40. The faerie world lost me, and I’m still pissed about what happened to Tara. But this show was one of the first that reached new demographics for HBO, and made people excited for each season. It was sexy, gory and totally fucked up, but it launched a ton of careers and at least one marriage. And while it was definitely time for it to go, I still miss Eric and Pam just a little…

    11. Boardwalk Empire – Strangely, this has the same placement on my list as the original list. Coincidence. It’s not my type of show to be honest, and I haven’t watch the whole series, but I can appreciate what it was. Plus… Buscemi.

    10. Larry Sanders Show – Again, a match with the original article. This show was so before its time and so hilarious. I want to go watch it again right now. If there is ever an HBO show that needs to be rebooted – it’s this one. Plus, what would people say when they called Howard Stern without HEY NOW!

    9. Deadwood – This was the #1 show in the original article. And I feel like if I watched this again now, it might rank slightly higher – but never #1. Or even Top 5. David Milch has a specific, stylistic, powerful approach to words that either goes horribly wrong (like Rick Schroeder’s first season of NYPD Blue), or horribly perfect. And this show was one expletive-laden c*nt-fest of a script. In the best way. The gritty look and feel was so Western and yet not. If this show were on now, they would never let it end after 3 seasons, but the upside is it’s perfect for binge-watching.

    8. Sex and the City – It is the cornerstone comedy for HBO. It made them a household name network and made execs realize women watched cable too. It’s still used in everyday vernacular. Are YOU a Samantha or a Charlotte? Oh, and its first movie made $415 MILLION! It tackled superficial comedy, and also cancer. It made us – and I include men in this – actually give a shit if a barely employed, barely attractive shoe-fetishist wound up with Aiden or Mr. Big. AND DAMMIT WHY WASN’T IT AIDEN!!?? My point being, this show is too important to the TV landscape and the HBO landscape to rank less than 10.

    7. Curb Your Enthusiasm – Much like many HBO shows, when it’s at its best it IS the best. And when it’s not so good…well, Susie Essman is still pretty fucking funny. Larry David is a genius. I connect with him personally for many reasons. Mostly for his general hatred of small talk, bullshit, and people. I could have lived without much of the JB Smoove storyline but the fact this show is improvised and is still this funny is something I have to admire.

    6. VEEP – This show is easily one of the funniest on TV. There has never been an episode that didn’t make me LOL. And hard. Its cast and writing is second to none. You can argue that Silicon Valley is smarter, but it is not easy to keep the Jonah and Dan insults and the precisely perfect Gary moments that hilarious and fresh. And this season, watching Tony Hale finally fight with Julia Louis-Dreyfus was pure gold. Not to mention the molestation of Jonah. That’s why this is my highest ranked comedy.

    5. Oz – Again, before its time and utterly engrossing with rich characters you love, hate, root for and root against in the same breath. It was HBO’s first dramatic series, it launched many careers including JK Simmons, Eamonn Walker and Edie Falco. It was the first series of its kind and went where no other would go. It didn’t glorify anything, didn’t condescend, and didn’t pull punches. If you’ve never seen it…it’s worth a trip to Oz.

    4. Six Feet Under – A simple concept with a well-balanced tone of darkness and light, clever episode structure and a family most couldn’t really relate to but always connected with. Even in its most morbid moments, the levity made us love it. And let’s face it – the series finale is still one of the best episodes of television ever and will make you sob like a baby.

    3. Game of Thrones – This series just keeps upping the ante in every way. This season made the Red Wedding episode look tame, and while it may have lost some of its female viewership this season for various reasons, I think the last few episodes of this season were some of the strongest episodes of the whole show. The scale and scope of this show is so hard to comprehend that often I don’t even try to follow it, I just simply enjoy it. It makes me want a dragon. And if I can’t have one, I’ll gladly take a Dinklage instead!

    2. The Sopranos – Yep, it’s #2. I had a personal connection to this show early on, but that wasn’t what kept me watching. Sure, it had its failed storylines. And sure, that whole fade to black in the last episode is STILL being fought over in some Jersey strip clubs. But this show changed the landscape of TV – and the quality of it. Watching James Gandolfini and Edie Falco was a masterclass. Watching Pauly and Big Pussy, Silvio and Bobby, and of course poor Adriana…it was appointment TV every week, every season. It changed the language of water-cooler talk from “Did you catch last night’s episode” to “Fuggedaboudit”.

    1. The Wire – I got to re-watch the whole series from the start this past December, since I had only watched the first 2 seasons when it was actually on. And I’m so happy I did. Masterfully crafted, powerfully written and acted, heart-breakingly executed. It is the ultimate lesson for writers in crafting an arc for a whole series. Omar, McNulty, Bunk, Daniels, Barksdale, Stringer Bell, and the kids. They’re unforgettable. David Simon wrote what he knew, and translated it beautifully. The fact that this show never won an Emmy is one of the Top 3 most shameful Emmy facts in history. But I’m making up for that now by making it my #1 show on HBO.

    Whew…made it! Did you agree? Disagree? I challenge you to make your own list!

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