When it comes to TV series, the majority of my favorite shows have been produced by HBO. From multiseason sagas to one-season hits that I wish had continued, HBO's content ranks among the most well-written and well-produced in television history.
Lucky for us, HBO has unlocked roughly 500 hours of content for free during the coronavirus pandemic. If you're looking for new shows to binge, here are seven of my favorites from HBO. Note that only some of the following series are streamable for free.
"The Sopranos." It's the quintessential series that gave birth to the anti-hero genre and permanently changed the trajectory of American television. You owe it to yourself to give it a watch. Buckle up for a love-hate relationship with Tony Soprano, a boorish New Jersey mob boss trying to balance his professional and family lives.
"Game of Thrones." Are you the one person in your friend group who hasn't seen GOT yet because it's "too much of a time commitment?" Well, guess what? There has never been a better excuse to watch eight hours of dragons, warfare and gallivanting every day. (At that rate, it will only take you a week or so to finish.) "Game of Thrones" took the country by storm and for good reason; the immaculate cinematography, elaborate plot and range of characters will have you rapt before the first episode is over.
"The Young Pope"/"The New Pope." "The Young Pope" offers a glimpse at the inner-workings of the fictional contemporary papacy of Lenny Belardo aka Pope Pius XIII, the first American pope in history. As his conservative views clash with the reforming Catholic Church, mysterious forces within the Vatican attempt to remove Pius XIII, but he falls into a coma before they can do so. Season two, "The New Pope," picks up with the election of the more liberal John Paul III as pope. But when Pius XIII wakes up from his coma, a battle of wits between the two patriarchs entails deciding who deserves the papacy.
"Rome." Who knew history could be so fun? "Rome" offers a dramatic, sexy and scandalous look at Julius Caesar's rise to power and the impending demise of the Roman empire following his death. The show travels between Egypt, Rome and Greece, exposing the intricate web of political scandals and backstabbing characters create hoping to secure their role as emperor of Rome.
"High Maintenance." Tag along as "The Guy" bikes around Brooklyn selling New Yorkers of all personalities weed and magic mushrooms. The show isn't really about its beloved drug dealer, he's just the vehicle to move each episode's plot along. The camera stays in his customers' apartments and focuses on their unique, sometimes mundane struggles living in the city. Unlike other shows set in New York, "High Maintenance" doesn't glamorize city life; it shows the unfiltered stresses of trying to stay afloat (with a little bit of partying thrown in the mix).
"Curb Your Enthusiasm." The misadventures of Hollywood's favorite anti-mensch Larry David are a good place to lose yourself during quarantine. David's cantankerous in-show character finds creative ways to tick people off while complaining about the minutiae of everyday life; you either love him or hate him for it. Start from the beginning, pick random episodes or watch the recently released season 10 and laugh away your coronavirus stress.
"Barry." Bill Hader shines as Barry Berkman, a depressed ex-Marine-turned-hitman who travels to Los Angeles to whack an amateur actor but is unexpectedly intrigued with an acting class taught by Henry Winkler's character Gene Cousineau. Now questioning the atrocities he's committed in the past, Barry sees Los Angeles as a new killing-free phase of his life. But his fixer disagrees. "Barry" is hysterically dark and the perfect mix of comedy and action.