HBO is one of my favorite networks, responsible for some of the greatest shows including: The Sopranos, The Wire, Game Of Thrones and Rome to name a few. They are known for having ridiculous budgets but the network contains many original series but also motion pictures, television movies, documentaries and box matches. HBO shit gold. Compared to the other American networks, HBO is a fossil, having been in operation since November 8 1972. Here, I am going to talk about some of the HBO shows that I’ve watched and loved. Due to my young age of nineteen, HBO have only been growing strong since 1999 with The Sopranos. The more mature audience may disagree.
The Newsroom (2012-2014)
Aaron Sorkin created a drama that centres around a news team that aims to deliver news in an ethical way. This is a great show because it’s so relevant in today’s society. They have taken current events such as NSA spying and the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. The team report on issues as if they were a proper news station that had morals but this show is constantly criticising our popular news outlets in a way that is witty and amusing but outright honest. The brutal honesty is portrayed through the shows main protagonist, Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels). The show also stars Oliva Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse), Emily Mortimer (Hugo), Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) and Chris Chalk (Homeland). A great show that was killed before it’s time. Is America the greatest country in the world?
The Wire (2002-2008)
The Wire is one of the most cult followed shows of the 21st century. It’s basically a story of the Baltimore drug scene told through the eyes of drug dealers and law enforcement. A truly brutal crime drama that is written by former Baltimore police reporter David Simon and former homicide detective, Ed Burns. This series is very complicated and many of the plot twists are in the fine print. It’s all in the details. A show riddled with law, politics and criminality. Renowned names such as Idris Elba (Luther), Tray Chaney (Streets), Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle), Seth Gillam (The Walking Dead) and J.D. Williams (The Good Wife).
True Blood (2008-2014)
True Blood follows Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a barmaid in Louisiana who has the power of telepathy. Her life is changed forever when a vampire, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), walks into her workplace two years after vampires came out of the dark on television. Many supernatural dramas are Twilight-esque teen flicks and so is this, to a certain degree. I only really watched this show for the blood, gore and sheer brutality. Unlike, Twilight, this show’s main moral wasn’t that you must have a boyfriend. Vampires hadn’t really been done in such a way before. My main reason for watching this show is for Kristin Bauer van Straten’s performance as Pam De Beaufort (Once Upon A Time). It’s a sight to behold. I also loved Alexander Skarsgård’s performance as Eric. True Blood was good until around season six and season seven was poor in comparison to seasons one to five. This series also stars one of my favorite television actresses, Deborah Ann Woll (Daredevil) as Bill’s progeny, Jessica. I was TRUE until the end.
Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014)
Set on the docks of Atlantic City, this is a show about the going-ons of the mafia in the prohibition era in the 1920s. This is the story of Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson (Steve Buscemi), the treasurer of Atlantic County, Atlantic City in New Jersey. Due to his relationships with gangsters as well as his contacts in politics, agencies like the F.B.I start to take an interest in him and his ilk. He openly displays his wealth and this contradicts his position. This is a highly addictive mafia drama and had me on the edge of my seat. It stars Michael Pitt (Seven Psychopaths), Stephen Graham as Al Capone (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), Michael Shannon (Mud), Charlie Cox (Daredevil), Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire) and Michael Stuhlbarg (Hitchcock). The main reason why I fell in love with this show is not because of my vulnerability to any works of mafia but Stephen Graham’s performance as Al Capone. I was scarred for life by his portrayal but in the best way possible. It will stay with me forever. I’d even go as far as to say that it rivals DeNiro’s portrayal of Scarface in The Untouchables.
The Sopranos (1999-2007)
The Sopranos is the mother of all television shows. Even with Game Of Thrones in the mix, I still believe The Sopranos is the best HBO has done and is unmatched and unrivaled by any other show, even if one of the characters is called Big Pussy (Vincent Pastore). It follows Tony ‘Anthony’ Soprano (James Gandolfini). This show is mainly in the first person but an additional perspective is with his psychotherapist, Dr Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). This is a mafia crime drama with epic moments of people getting whacked, profane language and copious amounts of sex and extreme violence. I also love that some of the actors from Goodfellas that appear in this series too. Lorraine Bracco (Karen), Michael Imperioli (Spider), Tony Sirico (Tony Stacks), Frank Vincent (Billy Batts) and Vincent Pastore (Coatrack Man). The Sopranos is my favorite television series to this day. Great acting, great plot devices and HBO do not hold back. They show the blood, the gore and the violence. I wouldn’t have the mafia genre depicted in any other way. The Sopranos really gets you going and your blood racing. You’re constantly on the edge of your seat.
Game Of Thrones (Between Seasons)
This is HBO’s most watched series and is based on George R.R Martin’s epic fantasy series called ‘A Song Of Ice & Fire. Nobody is safe. Not even Sean Bean. Ethics, morals and having a conscience are prohibited. In this game you must take no prisoners and have no weaknesses. If you don’t like the rules, you change the rules. Many characters have done this, using any means necessary to get what they want. You must be ruthless and cunning. It is survival of the fittest. The only way to survive is through ruthless pragmatism. You must kill or be killed; hunt or be hunted. Prey on the weak using them to your own advantage. In this series there are around ten to fifteen main characters at any one time (living).
Having a favorite character is ill-advised because if you do, they will likely die and you will be crying for weeks after their death and then some. This series is full of great acting performances from the cast but the standout performances for me are the Lannisters (Lena Headey, Charles Dance, Jack Gleeson, Peter Dinklage and Nickolaj Coster Waldau), Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) and Alfie Allen as Reek (not Theon). Also the sheer beauty of sets is mind-blowing and there have been unforgettable scenes that will stay with us forever. In the episode titled, The Laws Of Gods & Men, Tyrion gives his epic speech (Season 4) Also The Battle Of Blackwater Bay (Season 2), The Red Wedding (Season 3) and Hardhome (Season 5). Politics, power, blood, guts, incest, ice zombies and dragons. There we have it, Game Of Thrones.
True Detective (Between Seasons)
This is an anthology series where police investigations unravel the private and professional secrets of those involved, on both sides of the law. In season one, Louisiana State Police Detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harelleson) are forced in to returning to a homicide case they solved in 1995. As the inquiry unfolds in modern-day, the two men tell their story, adding salt to their wounds, and now questioning their own morality in their said actions. Watching this series show us that there is immorality on both sides of the law. The law isn’t as white and pure as it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes you’ve got to do what needs to be done. Sometimes, you’ve got to break the law to uphold it. The same principle goes for the second season but I won’t dwell on that too much as I will talk about that in another post.
True Detective tests our own morality as human beings and it’s quite scary. I liked Rust. He’s not a bad guy and he hates it when people avoid hard truths like one would avoid the plague. He has a lower moral compass than the vast majority but he gets the job done. He is willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish the task at hand where others are will do whatever it takes within the many restrictions of the law. Good or bad? Evil or villain? This is the major contrast between Rust and Marty. One thinking he’s morally superior above the other, though Marty sees that Rust does what needs to be done. Marty just doesn’t want to get his hands dirty and he he’s in denial about how black and white the law is. Not everyone sees the sharp line. Only the blur. They see what they want to see.
I really liked this series but it took me the second attempt to get into it. It’s a slow burner that takes time but it’s truly spectacular. The show’s first season gets a lot hype with good reason. It’s worth ever ounce of praise that it recieves and McConaughey deserved his Emmy. His performance was legendary. HBO are open for a third season and I truly hope it receives one.
HBO allocated a $100m season budget to Rome. This speaks volumes. Rome depicts the transition from a republic to an aristocratic empire which changed world history though civil war and conquest. This centres around one of the main characters, Julius Ceaser (Ciáran Hinds), and his family. Then, there is his named successor Octavian Augustus (Max Pirkis), their political allies and enemies with even the naive characters as well amongst the political jungle. Think Game Of Thrones meets The Borgias.
You may have noticed that I have not mentioned some of HBO’s works such as: Deadwood, The Leftovers, Oz, The Pacific, Band Of Brothers or Six Feet Under. This because I’m working my way up to watching these but HBO are a force to be reckoned with in terms of quality television. I think the only other network that rivals them are Netflix.