HBO has continued to deliver fantastic original programming ever since it was founded in 1972. With gripping and intense dramas, and hilarious laugh-out-loud comedies, HBO is one of the most successful and well-known television networks around the world. So which of these original programmes – past and present – should you be watching?
5. Boardwalk Empire (2010-present)
One of HBO’s finest period dramas, Boardwalk Empire is a crime series focusing on corrupt treasurer Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi) during the prohibition period of the 1920s. The series is beautifully shot with underexposed lighting reminiscent of previous HBO series The Sopranos (1999-2007). Boardwalk Empire is an excellent noir crime drama, with an exceptional performance from Steve Buscemi. Buscemi shines as Nucky Thompson – a man with great wealth, power and respect in Atlantic City. If you’re looking for a fast-paced crime thriller, then Boardwalk isn’t the show for you. Instead, it moves at a wonderfully slow and steady pace with just enough action sequences to keep you hooked.
4. Flight of the Conchords (2007-2009)
In this comedy series, actors Jermaine Clement and Bret McKenzie play fictionalised versions of themselves as they try to become famous musicians in New York City. Clement and McKenzie created the show with the help of James Bobin, who directed nine episodes of the series and has also directed two feature films including The Muppets (2011) and Muppets Most Wanted (2014). A quirky indie comedy, Flight of the Conchords includes brilliant song sequences that often serve as inner monologues to express the feelings of Bret and Jermaine as they struggle to adapt to life away from New Zealand. The team have created a wonderful character in band manager Murray Hewitt (Rhys Darby) – a man whose incompetence is reminiscent of Darren Lamb from the BBC comedy series, Extras. It’s worth a watch for him alone.
3. Deadwood (2004-2006)
Third on the list is David Milch’s western T.V series, Deadwood. Set in Deadwood, South Dakota, the show looks at former sheriff Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant), as he travels to Deadwood with his friend and business partner, Sol Star (John Hawkes). Bullock and Star travel to Deadwood, a town with no laws, to start a hardware business. Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), the owner of the Gem Saloon, rules the town as he watches over its every move. David Milch has created several shows for HBO including John from Cincinnati (2007) and Luck (2012), but Deadwood is definitely his best work. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled after just three seasons, which could’ve been down to poor ratings, or the fact that the series includes 2980 uses of the f word. However, Deadwood has since been included in countless features about shows that were cancelled too early, showing its popularity.
2. The Ricky Gervais Show (2010-2012)
The Ricky Gervais Show features unedited and unscripted conversations between Ricky Gervais, Steven Merchant and their former producer at XFM, Karl Pilkington. While many people will know Ricky and Steve from The Office and Extras, Karl Pilkington is a previously unknown and enigmatic figure from Manchester with strong and often rather dim-witted views on different aspects of the world. Discussions about turning the radio podcasts into an animated series began in 2008 and HBO picked up the show for 3 series. However, the show ended in 2012 due to Ricky and Steve’s ‘no more than three series policy’. Many want to see a return of the trio with these uplifting and delightful conversations.
1. Game of Thrones (2011-present)
At number one it’s Game of Thrones, the immensely popular fantasy drama created for HBO by David Benioff and D.B Weiss. Set in the fictional land of Westeros, the series follows a group of characters who all have the same ambition – to sit on the Iron Throne and rule the Seven Kingdoms. Game of Thrones has a fantastic cast, most of which are British. The star performers are the surprisingly lovable dwarf, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), and his beautiful but evil older sister, Cersei Lannister, played by Lena Headey. In April 2014, HBO announced that they had renewed Game of Thrones for a fifth and sixth season. Some people shy away from the series because it belongs to the fantasy genre, but with its ability to create a false sense of dramatic irony, its surprising plot twists and great ensemble cast, Game of Thrones is an exceptional drama that just so happens to include mythical creatures. If you’re not watching it, you should be.