HBO Max has officially arrived, bringing with it a slate of original series and movies spanning every genre. HBO’s latest streaming service — which is now available alongside HBO Now — also offers up an abundance of legacy content, including full seasons of popular series from yesteryear as well as feature films. HBO intends to launch a ton of content throughout 2020, including popular network series, movies, and original programming. But what are the best shows you can watch right now?
Here’s what to look out for.
Binge all 10 seasons of this iconic sitcom that has become part of pop culture history. Relive the hilarious moments and one-liners from the six 20-somethings living in New York City and navigating dating, careers, and life. The show originally aired from 1994 to 2004, long before social media, smartphones, and dating apps would have markedly changed its course. Despite the technological differences, Chandler’s frequent sarcastic remarks, the search for an adult identity, and the on-again, off-again nature of relationships are still totally relatable today.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus won six consecutive Emmy Awards for playing Selina Meyer, the fictional vice president (later president) of the United States in this political satire comedy that wrapped in 2019. The series itself also received critical acclaim throughout its seven-season run. Fans couldn’t get enough of watching Meyer and her team as they engaged in political games. The show calls out and exaggerates the absurdity of politics in a way that makes it universally funny.
Fans waited two years for the third season of this fabulous sci-fi Western and dystopian series that portrays a futuristic Wild West-themed amusement park called Westworld. Despite looking and acting convincingly human, the people who work there are actually hosts programmed to have specific personalities and skills, and cater to every visitor’s desires, whether that’s to meet and bed a beautiful woman or get caught up in a gunfight. The first season and overall story are inspired by the 1973 Michael Crichton film of the same name. The second, and especially the third, seasons, however, are very different from the first. Each is equally captivating and fast-paced, keeping the story continually refreshing. With season three having just wrapped up, you have plenty of time to catch up as we wait for season four to begin production.
Though it ended in 2008, this crime drama is still widely considered to be one of the best TV series of its generation. Created and written by former police reporter David Simon, it takes an authentic look at various institutions and their sometimes twisted and controversial relationships to law enforcement. A different story is introduced every season, tackling topics from the illegal drug trade to schools and education. With Dominic West and Idris Elba among the top-billed cast, it’s no surprise the series lasted a successful five seasons and appears on many “must-watch” lists.
While Ruby Rose, who played the title character, has exited the superhero series after just one season, the show has already been renewed for a second. But you can catch the first season of this CW show on HBO Max as you prepare for season two, which is set to debut in January 2021 (though that may be delayed). As part of the DC Comics world, the series, which includes 20 episodes to date in season one, examines the story of Batwoman as a local vigilante in Gotham City.
Sex and the City
Live vicariously through four 30- and 40-something single friends in New York City navigating their hectic careers and dating lives. The romantic comedy-drama, which debuted in 1998, is credited with helping put HBO on the map, and for good reason. Throughout its six seasons from 1998 to 2004, the show received 54 Emmy nominations (seven wins) and 24 Golden Globe nominations (eight wins) and spawned two feature films and even a prequel series. It remains a pop culture phenomenon that presents life, love, sex, and relationships in a raw, emotional, and honest way from the eyes of four very different adult women.
Rick and Morty
Rick Sanchez is a mad scientist who reappears after having gone missing for 20 years. He now lives with his daughter and her family, including his grandson Morty Smith. And together, he and Morty navigate regular daily life along with inter-dimensional adventures. The adult animated sci-fi sitcom has aired for four seasons on Adult Swim and has been lauded by critics and audiences alike, who have called it kooky and described the storylines as “densely plotted science fiction escapades” and “intricately hilarious misadventures.”
Game of Thrones
Chances are you’ve already watched this fantasy series, which was HBO’s anchor for eight seasons from 2011 through 2019. Based on the George R.R. Martin series of fantasy novels, it was rich in scenery, costumes, and storylines depicting the fight for the Iron Throne among the various houses and individuals within the fictional world of Westeros. It broke viewership records for HBO, and it’s not uncommon for fans to watch this series from beginning to end again and again, picking up on new details each time.
Produced by the BBC since 1963, this long-running British sci-fi series has found a streaming home on HBO Max. It follows the stories of a Time Lord called The Doctor who travels through time in the TARDIS spaceship to help civilization. Since The Doctor is an extraterrestrial being that can appear human, the role has been handled by 13 different actors to date. The most recent version of The Doctor is played by Jodie Whittaker, who has held the role since 2018. Currently, only the revival series (which began in 2005) is available on HBO Max.
When it comes to crime dramas about mobster families, it doesn’t get much better than The Sopranos, which has been named on many lists as being one of the greatest TV series of all time. For six seasons, we followed the Soprano family led by Tony (the late James Gandolfini) as he attempted to balance his life in New Jersey as a father and husband and his position as the leader of an Italian-American criminal organization. It launched in 1999 and was among the first series to bring shocking main character deaths to the small screen, continuing the cliffhanger endings and cringeworthy moments through to its ending in 2007 with an iconic diner closing scene.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
If you want to know the story about how Will Smith became the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, tune into this classic ’90s sitcom starring the now A-list Hollywood actor. Smith stars as Will, a young man who, as the popular theme song says, is sent to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle after he gets into a fight on the basketball court. His mom, worried about her son growing up in a rough Philadelphia neighborhood, decides this is the only way for him to have a better life. Naturally, the dichotomy between Will from Philly and Uncle Phil with his mansion, butler, and stuck-up kids leads to plenty of clashes between family members. It’s six seasons of pure fun along with those signature moral lessons at the end of every episode that defined sitcoms of the ’90s.
With two seasons under its belt, Succession has already become one of HBO’s most popular new series. Waystar Royco is a global media and hospitality empire headed up by the cutthroat, cruel Logan Roy. As he reaches retirement age and suffers a health setback, he must look to his rich and entitled children to find a successor. But who of his four children, from the arrogant playboy to the power-hungry and visionary addict, is really ready and deserving? The question of who will take over hovers above every episode as the company, Logan, and the Roy family engage in dirty tactics, flaunt their wealth, and find themselves constantly embroiled in controversy. The series won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series and a Golden Globe for Best Television Series – Drama.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Witty, funny, and engaging, this comedy series was so popular that it returned for a ninth and tenth season after a six-year hiatus. Filmed in a cinéma vérité style, Larry David plays a fictional and exaggerated version of himself, a semi-retired television writer and producer. As he interacts with friends and family, it’s clear David is easily annoyed with social conventions and expectations. Known for its largely improvised dialogue and constant stream of guest stars, all playing fictional versions of themselves, it’s the perfect series to binge when you need a good laugh.
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
Gone far too soon, Anthony Bourdain left behind a legacy in the culinary world. And that legacy included this sensational TV series that saw him travel the world to discover different cultures, cuisines, and local delicacies. For 12 seasons, Bourdain took viewers everywhere from the hidden gems in Los Angeles to Myanmar, Congo, Copenhagen, and Beirut, sampling all kinds of food and teaching viewers more about culture and travel than even the best travel shows could accomplish. Not surprisingly, the series was nominated for 31 Primetime Emmy Awards during its run and won a dozen. It’s the perfect show for foodies and those with serious wanderlust.
The Big Bang Theory
This sitcom wrapped up after 12 successful seasons in 2019, and HBO reportedly spent $425 million to snag exclusive rights to the CBS show. You can catch every season and revisit the social growth of four nerdy friends after they befriend the attractive waitress and aspiring actor next door and expand their insulated group. The ensemble cast was among the highest-paid television actors in the show’s later years, each making $1 million per episode at one point. The scientific jargon that dominated much of the complex dialogue didn’t impact the series’ popularity; you didn’t have to be an astrophysicist or engineer to understand the witty humor and appreciate the amazing chemistry among the cast members.
The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo
HBO Max is bringing the talk show world to kids with this new Sesame Street spinoff starring none other than the beloved, tickle-friendly furry puppet as host. In each of the 13 episodes, Elmo talks about bedtime routines, helping kids get ready to turn in for the night. There are guest stars in every episode, starting with Kacey Musgraves and including others like Batman, the Jonas Brothers, John Oliver, and more in season one. It’ll be a must-watch for any family with toddler-aged children. This series is getting rave reviews from its preschool audience.
Flight of the Conchords
For two seasons, Flight of the Conchords turned failure into joyful fun. The HBO show followed two New Zealand musicians — Jemaine (Jemaine Clement) and Bret (Bret McKenzie) — as they tried to make it in big, bad New York City. They would spontaneously break into song multiple times an episode, sometimes revealing their innermost thoughts to the audience and breaking the fourth wall in hilarious fashion. Some of the show’s songs continue to stand the test of time, such as Robots and Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros, though, some of the best scenes were the meetings the band held with their manager, Murray Hewitt (Rhys Darby).
In addition to Friends, one of HBO Max’s big streaming snags was the entirety of the South Park catalog. The controversial animated show following four friends growing up in South Park, Colorado, has now aired for 23 seasons on Comedy Central, spanning more than 300 episodes. The show has frequently received criticism — and it often takes aim at taboo subjects in a way that can make viewers uncomfortable — but it also remains one of the smartest satires on television, its fearlessness often serving as a tremendous asset in comparison to safer shows on the airwaves.
A new version of Watchmen could’ve easily been met with skepticism, especially after the poor reception for the 2009 film of the same name. HBO’s limited, nine-episode limited series made an instant impact in 2019, but it’s importance didn’t start rising until 2020. From the complexity of its characters to its incredible acting performances — particularly that of Regina King — to its highlighting of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Watchmen was never afraid to reflect the worst of society back to its audience, making it a valuable media prism through which to view the racial reckoning of the times.
Transitioning into an acting career can be a challenge for anyone. It’s especially challenging if your old career beckons often, which it apparently does if your old career is being a hitman. Barry finds its laughs in the awkward exploration of its lead character, played by two-time Emmy winner Bill Hader. The show can also take on a more serious tone, as the trauma Barry suffers from merges with his inability to turn the page on his old life and escape the black-and-white world of contract killing. Its best episodes are the ones that transcend the screen altogether, however.