Recently, I contemplated cutting the chord. Y’know, ditching costly cable and substituting it with a Hulu-Netflix-HD antennae mashup? It seemed like the rational choice, until I remembered HBO. I need HBO. Not HBO GO schemed with my Dad’s account info, not some bullshit iTunes season available months after the original broadcast. I need high-quality programming from the people who do it best. When I think back on my favorite shows of all time, 80% are franchises of the premium cable network. I love HBO. I love HBO so much that I refuse to check out Homeland out of loyalty. Fuck the Superbowl, I’m watching "GIRLS." And if "GIRLS" isn’t on, I’m watching my DVR of last weeks’ "GIRLS."
In honor of the greatest television network of all time, here are my TOP 7 HBO SHOWS OF ALL TIME (SPOILER ALERT: sorry Bros, "Sex and the City" didn’t make the cut)
7. "The Larry Sanders Show"
Arguably HBO’s first hit. Garry Shandling and Co. lampooned show business way before "30 Rock," perhaps more effectively. Furthermore, Larry’s constant conflicts with real-life celebrities paved the way for shows like "Entourage" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm." "The Larry Sanders Show" makes the list on trailblazing merits alone. Innovation notwithstanding, it’s really freaking funny. Hey Now!!!
6. "Boardwalk Empire"
Boardwalk helped us recover from the tremendous loss that was "The Sopranos" (more on that later). The Prohibition Era is one of the more fascinating periods in recent history, rife with colorful characters and devastating violence. Seeing history through the eyes of Nucky Thompson has made it that much more compelling. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good gangster flick, but Boardwalk is as rich and engrossing as anything Scorsese had done in years.
5. Random HBO Late Night Programming
Strictly for nostalgia purposes. Before the availability of abundant Internet porn, we had to make due. I’ll never forget stumbling upon my first episode of "Real Sex." If you were lucky, there’d be an exposé on strippers. However, most of the time you were subject to old people at creepy nudist colonies. Still, I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for "Cathouse."
I’ll be honest; I hated "Entourage." The storylines were lame, the characters were douchey and the whole show appeared to be a commercial for the latest smart phones. However, I can’t deny the influence "Entourage" had on my generation. Every college dorm had the poster. Every group of friends assigned themselves as particular characters (Bro, you’re so Drama). Every mini-feed had at least one Ari Gold quotable. Alright, let’s all do it once and move on- “Llyod!!!”
3. "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
Seinfeld is considered the greatest sitcom of all time. A major reason for its success was the show’s ability to capture the minutiae of daily life. Larry David upped the ante with Curb, creating a censorship-free, celebrity-filled Seinfeld 2.0 for the new millennium. If there’s one television character I identify with the most, its Larry. I’m still not sure if that’s good or bad. I do know that Curb is the funniest sitcom since Seinfeld, and that’s pretty, pretty good.
2. "The Wire"
Universal law: no matter where you are or what you’re doing, someone you know is making their way through DVDs or iTunes episodes of "The Wire." The show has perpetually been growing in popularity since it ended, and that certainly says something about David Simon’s masterpiece. An engrossing portrayal of the American city, "The Wire" gave us a look at Baltimore from all angles: the dealers, the cops, the politicians, even the journalists. As daunting a task as it was, he managed to connect them all through painstaking authenticity. Sometimes you didn’t know if you were watching a show or a documentary. Omar still haunts my dreams.
1. "The Sopranos"
"The Sopranos" wasn’t about crime or gangsters or violence. It was about modern America. It was about personal relationships, either forging bonds or breaking them apart. It was about balancing the pressures of work and family. It was about our inability to change. The mafia aspect of the show was merely a backdrop. The psychology of "The Sopranos" extended way beyond what was discussed by Tony and Dr. Melfi. Even now, I learn something new about people and behavior every re-run. "The Sopranos" solidified HBO as the number one destination for quality programming and is the greatest drama ever written. If you don’t think I drive home every day with the theme song blasting, you’re out of your mind.
Think I got it right? Think I left out something necessary (Go ahead, Game of Thrones nerds)? Leave your responses in the Comments section. Best one gets a response from yours truly.
Krum is an NYC based comedian. Follow him on Twitter @KrumLifeDotCom