Past, Present And Future Reasons We’re Addicted To HBO

Above: James Gandolfini in The Sopranos, Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones and Matthew McConaughey in True Detective
Above: James Gandolfini in The Sopranos, Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones and Matthew McConaughey in True Detective

HBO has always been known for some of the best shows on television. They are controversial and not afraid to push the envelope. They attract top Hollywood celebs and win tons of awards (27 Emmy’s in 2013 alone!) Not only is their programming critically acclaimed, their ratings and the buzz around their shows is up there with other top networks like AMC and Showtime.

With the 2014 season fast approaching, we decided to take a look at HBO’s past and present programming, and give you a little a hint of what’s to come.

— PAST —

The Sopranos

Probably the most well-known mob show of all time, The Sopranos still tops HBO’s list in terms of ratings, even years after the finale aired. The show stars James Gandolfini as the head of a criminal enterprise and how he balances that with having a family. Spanning six seasons, it premiered in 1999 and ended in 2007, and was HBO’s second ever hour-long drama. The Sopranos was the first cable show to win the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series, so its safe to say it paved the way for the popularity of cable network shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and American Horror Story. Also, in 2013, the Writers Guild of America named it the best-written TV series of all time. Can’t argue with that, now can you?

OZ

This show, set in a maximum security prison in New York State, was HBO’s first ever hour long drama. The main focus was on a unit in the prison called Emerald City that worked on the prisoners taking responsibility for their actions and rehabilitating. The characters span a wide range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds and the show is recognized for its realistic portrayal of prison life. That being said, HBO took advantage of the freedom of being a cable network and often included graphically violent, racist, and sexual imagery. OZ has been included on many lists of the best TV shows of all time and won 11 awards, although never an Emmy or a Golden Globe.

Six Feet Under

Before Michael C. Hall was Dexter, he was one of the stars of HBO’s Six Feet Under. The show ran for five seasons from 2001 to 2005, and followed the Fisher family, the owners and operators of a funeral home. The shows dark humour and even darker themes made it different than anything else that was on TV at the time. Each episode would start with a death, and one of the characters would often be seen conversing with the deceased person at some point in the episode. The focus was on human mortality, and how it affects the people who have to acknowledge it every day. The show won the 2001 Golden Globe for Best Drama Series and it has been praised for having the best series finale of any show in history.

— PRESENT —

Game of Thrones

Based on the high fantasy book series by George R.R Martin, Game of Thrones has quickly become one of the most popular and talked about shows on television since debuting in 2011. The budget for the first season alone was close to $50 million, but it has paid off. The show has been nominated for numerous awards and Peter Dinklage (arguably the lead of the ensemble cast) has won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. If there is one show on HBO that fully takes advantage of the ability to show as much nudity and graphic violence as possible, it is Game of Thrones. A 2012 study rated the series at number 2 out of 40 recent TV series for number of deaths per episode, with an average of 14. Red Wedding, anybody? The fourth season is set to premiere in Spring 2014, and it’s sure to be even bloodier than the last three.

Hello Ladies

Having just completed its first season, Hello Ladies is pretty new to HBO, but it already has a cult following of people hoping for a second season. Starring Stephen Merchant (of the British Office fame), it follows a British guy who is looking for love in Los Angeles. There are some hilariously awkward moments that anyone in the modern day dating scene can relate to, and even though the main character might not be the most likable, he is entertaining to watch. His antics might just start inspiring internet debates like the ones that pop up after every episode of Girls. Don’t you want to be in on that?

Boardwalk Empire

If you liked The Sopranos, you are almost guaranteed to love Boardwalk Empire. Developed by one of the Emmy winning writer/producers of The Sopranos, and starring Steve Buscemi, it is yet another critically acclaimed series from HBO. The pilot was even directed by Academy Award winner Martin Scorsese. Set in the 1920’s during the prohibition era, it portrays the criminal network of people who sold alcohol when it was illegal to do so. Buscemi’s character is based on a real life gangster and there are versions of other famous criminals like Al Capone and Arnold Rothstein. Boardwalk Empire won the Golden Globe for Best Drama Series in 2011, and has been nominated for numerous other awards. The show’s fourth season just ended, so that means there is lots of time to catch up before the fifth season airs.

— FUTURE —

True Detective

Looking for a new crime drama? There are a lots to choose from, but HBO is adding another one to the schedule, with True Detective, which premieres on January 12th, 2014. The biggest draw to this show is definitely the cast. Starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as detectives tracking a dark and twisted murderer in Louisiana, the trailer is sufficiently creepy. The show is in an anthology format with a story than spans a 17 year search for the same killer. The first season is only eight episodes, which means every minute will be an important addition to the story, making for tense, exciting TV.

Looking

Set in San Francisco, Looking follows a group of gay friends as they navigate love, work, growing older, and having a life through it all. The trailer has a very Girls-esque vibe, but aimed towards a different (but kind of similar really) demographic. HBO seems to be looking to expand its repertoire of “dramedies” since the success of Girls. The show premieres January 19, 2014 and stars Jonathan Groff, who was also on Glee for a a few seasons. There have been comparisons to Showtime’s Queer as Folk which was popular in the UK, US, and Canada until 2005, so hopefully it lives up to the hype.

Entourage Movie

Entourage the TV show ended in 2011, but after 8 seasons, it was still one of HBOs most popular shows. The last episode left a lot for a movie to explore, such as E and Sloan’s baby, Ari’s new job, and Vince’s possible marriage. Of course, the Entourage movie won’t be airing on HBO, but it is still an HBO creation. Doug Ellin, the show’s creator is writing and directing, and Mark Wahlberg (who the show was loosely based on) will be producing and possibly making a cameo appearance. After the popularity of HBO’s Sex and the City films, the Entourage movie is sure to have a loyal following of fans who want to know what all the characters are up to.

Courtney Hardwick

Courtney Hardwick

Courtney Hardwick is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared on AmongMen.com, 29secrets.com, therichest.com, and ELLECanada.com.  When she isn’t writing about relationships, and the best TV shows and books you should really already know about, she is working on her novel. She hopes to have it published by 2025. You can follow her on Twitter @Courtooo.

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