It’s the network largely known for its association with Game of Thrones. Some Australians love it, some are indecisive, and some may not have even heard of it. Of course, we’re talking about HBO – the American cable network full with gripping, hilarious and original television shows. For the ones who love HBO – agreed. For the ones who have yet to dip their toes – what are you waiting for? And for the ones who are indecisive – give us five minutes.
It’s understandable that Aussies are a bit wary about HBO; it certainly isn’t spoken about as much as some of its competitors, and the fact that HBO isn’t directly available to purchase or download Down Under is a bit of a hard pill to swallow. To access HBO’s content, users will need to go through Foxtel and the ‘Fox Showcase’ channel to watch on-demand shows. But hey, a little bump in the HBO road shouldn’t get you down – so we’ve decided to list some of the best shows (in our opinion) currently on HBO to prove it’s worth your while in 2019.
Best shows on HBO
- Game of Thrones
- Big Little Lies
- Silicon Valley
- True Detective
- Sex and the City
- Band of Brothers
Game of Thrones
This one goes without saying. Game of Thrones has successfully claimed the HBO crown and served as its long-time reigning King. With its eighth and final season wrapped up, fans of the worldwide phenomenon may be wondering what on earth they are supposed to do now. We propose A) Game of Thrones: The Last Watch, a two-hour documentary that goes behind-the-scenes during the final season, B) calm down and wait for the GoT prequel set to be released next year and C) maybe just re-watch all 73 episodes again from the start? For those who haven’t seen the series, we guess you sort of missed the hype train, but now you have 73 reasons to purchase a ticket and hop on.
Big Little Lies
If Game of Thrones is the King of HBO, then Big Little Lies is the Queen. First released back in February 2017, the mummy murder show quickly gained a cult following. Based on Liane Moriarty’s best-selling novel of the same title, Big Little Lies is told through the eyes of three mothers – the beautiful and envied Celeste (Nicole Kidman), her witty and fast-mouthed best friend Madeline Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon), and new-in-town single mother Jane (Shailene Woodley) – living and raising their children in the tranquil and wealthy town of Monterey Bay, California. When a mysterious death occurs at their children’s preppy school, the three mothers are forced to looked twice at the place they call home, because underneath the breathtaking beachfront homes, gorgeous women and perfect husbands lies a community fuelled with (big) little lies, jealousy, scandals, fractured relationships and apparently, murderers. For fans of the first season, you’ll be pleased to hear that season two will be dropping on HBO in June.
HBO was looking for a replacement for Lena Dunham’s Girls the moment it finished – and found it in Insecure. Based partially on Issa Rae’s acclaimed web series Awkward Black Girl, the comedy-drama was written and created by co-star Rae alongside writer/comic Larry Wilmore. Insecure explores the old stereotype that modern-day black women must all be ‘strong and confident’, yet sometimes are anything but – and this is successfully done through the perspective of two women in their late 20s, Issa (Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Oriji). They have been best friends since college, and as they approach their 30s, are forced to face their insecurities head on, while navigating an awkward, uncomfortable (and relatable) everyday life. Season three was a roaring success and we should expect season four to premiere sometime early 2020.
You don’t need to be a tech whiz to feel right at home with this gang of misfits. A parody of the tech hub of Silicon Valley, this comedy is an over-the-top exploration into the personalities that live there. There’s the shy – but brilliant – developer, the old white men desperate for money, and the VC firms determined to remain on top. Inspired partially by writer and creator Mike Judge’s own experiences as a Silicon Valley engineer in the late 1980s, the show centres around timid computer programmer Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) and his geeky but loyal friends. Whilst living together in the Bay area in a share house owned by millionaire Erlich Bachman (T.J. Miller), who lets them live for free in exchange for stakes in their successful projects developed, Richard stumbles upon a winning algorithm for his app ‘Pied Piper’. Season five is currently available, however you shouldn’t expect season six until 2020.
Another widely acclaimed show that is regularly associated with the words ‘HBO’ is True Detective. The anthology crime drama series has faced its fair share of ups and downs – season one was adored by all and saw Emmy and Golden Globe nominations roll in. It features Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as Louisiana State Police homicide detectives Rustin “Rust” Cohle and Martin “Marty” Hart who are investigating the murder of a prostitute in 1995. This season is known for its huge time jumps in every episode between 1995 and 2012, when the two detectives are forced to revisit the investigation (despite not speaking to each other for over a decade). We don’t talk about the flop that was season two, but season three was the redemption the show desperately needed, staring Mahershala Ali (Green Book, Moonlight) and (wisely) revisiting time travel, jumping between 1980, 1990 and 2015. With each season featuring an entirely new cast, it was always going to be difficult to remain at the top of the podium – but nonetheless True Detective is worth investigating.
Can you afford to purchase a ticket? If yes, welcome to Westworld – an exclusive amusement park where those wealthy enough can live in indulgence and without any limits. The American science-fiction show takes place in Westworld, a futuristic and ‘wild-west-themed’ park which is home to “hosts”. These hosts are lifelike robots who pass for humans, allowing human guests to live out their wildest fantasies, even the messed-up ones. The show follows Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) who is a host living obliviously in her 19th century role, until she discovers her entire existence is an elaborate and planned lie, and begins to lead her gang against the Westworld staff and human guests. At the end of season two, Westworld teased something that could possibly be massive – but we won’t spoil it for you in case you are yet to jump on the bandwagon. The trailer for season three has just been released, but the full series won’t be released until 2020.
She may be manipulative and slightly unqualified, but Julia Louis-Drefus’s (Seinfeld) Vice President of The United States of America Selina Meyer is the hilarious antihero politician we all kind of want to back. Veep follows Meyer throughout her political career and personal life as she accepts the call to serve as Vice President – a job that is nothing like she expected, but just as cutthroat as she was warned. The VP, along with her political team – chief of staff Amy (Anna Chlumsky), spokesperson Mike (Matt Walsh), secretary Sue (Sufe Bradshaw) right-hand man Gary (Tony Hale) do everything in their power to plough their way through the murky waters of American politics. They put on a shiny show, hide messes behind closed doors, attempt to create and live out a legacy – but most of all, they chase after the presidency. The seventh and final season has just wrapped up (sad face) but you can stream all seven seasons on HBO, which definitely gets our vote.
Sex and the City
“I couldn’t help but wonder…” did Sex and the City pave the way for Game of Thrones’ success? Way back in 1998 when the show was released, no one would have any idea what a pop culture phenomenon ‘SATC’ would become, launching HBO onto centre stage. But, the show was the modern-women’s bible we’d all been waiting for. Cosmo’s became the hottest drink, Jimmy Choo’s were on everyone’s shopping list, and we all wanted a Mr. Big. For those of you who aren’t really following (stop right here and get back to us when you’ve watch the full series), Sarah Jessica Parker stars as narrator Carrie Bradshaw, a 30-something gal living in the Big Apple, whose relationships and antics with men and her friends serve as material for her weekly column, ‘Sex and the City’. Her three best friends never leave her side – the uptight, preppy and #woke Charlotte (Kirstin Davis), the forward and confident men-crazed Samantha (Kim Cattrall) and the career-driven-lawyer (but make it fashion) Miranda (Cynthia Nixon). Together they trot down the streets of Manhattan, navigating a grim world of dating, all whilst in their to-die-for trench coats, midriffs, and matching fluffy kitten heels.
Actor, or hitman? We know which one we’d rather be. This is the predicament our friend Barry finds himself in after he is forced to re-locate to Los Angeles for a job, and gets caught up in the city’s theatre scene. Starring funny-man Bill Hader (SNL), Barry is a depressed, low-level hitman who is looking for a way out of his ‘day job’. When a target takes him to the City of Angels and straight into an acting class, Barry instantly falls in love with the theatre, and one of his new classmates, Sally (played by Sarah Holdberg). Barry is torn; is he a hitman with an acting side hustle, or is he an actor with a hitman side hustle? So many questions, and Barry is questioning them all. Season two is currently underway, so take a shot on Barry.
Band of Brothers
We haven’t touched on any true stories yet, so we’re throwing in one of the best. Band of Brothers is an American war drama miniseries, which is a dramatised account of the E “Easy” Company, the 2nd Battalion, 506th Regiment, of the 101st Airborne Division in the U.S. Army. Based on Stephen E. Ambrose’s 1992 non-fiction book of the same name, the show follows Easy Company from their initial training in 1942 to the end of World War II. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who worked together for Saving Private Ryan, the show follows Ambrose’s research and recorded interviews with survivors of Easy Company, along with the soldier’s letters and journals. The 10-part series is a heartbreaking insight into a group of “ordinary men, who did extraordinary things”, and is considered one of the greatest war series of all time.
Is HBO worth getting?
Streaming is a competitive market, with Aussies offered plenty of options for that lazy day on the couch. With big names such as Netflix and Stan dominating the market, it can be hard for overseas services to break into the market, even if they come stacked with shows.
Whether or not you decide if HBO is worth it will come down to your preferences when it comes to turning on the TV, as well as how much you’re willing to fork out every month to stay on top of your favourite shows. While getting HBO may be a bit more work than other streaming services, and more expensive, if any of the above shows piqued your interest, it may be worth looking into for your next binge session. Check out our guide on how to stream HBO in Australia, and settle in for some box office blockbusters.
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