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TV Squad Ten: My favorite HBO shows

by Jane Boursaw, posted Sep 29th 2009 11:11AM
True Blood - Anna Paquin and Stephen MoyerHBO has slowly become my favorite network over the past few years. I don't know if it's because the mainstream networks have turned to lots of reality programming or what, but HBO just seems to get better and better. Just about every show on the premium channel is feature film quality (if not better), and I've got some favorites listed below.

I know I'm missing a few biggies, like Rome, Deadwood, Flight of the Conchords, and Extras, but it's only because I either haven't watched these shows or have only watched a few episodes -- not enough to make an informed opinion. I'm sure they'll make my Jane After Dark column at some point in the future. So I hope you'll tell me your favorites in the comments below.

1. True Blood. This vampire series is one of my favorite new shows of the past few years. Not only does it pack just about every emotion into every episode -- love, lust, joy, sadness, and terror, to name a few -- but the characters are fun and unpredictable. Alan Ball is a master at setting the bar high, and he continues to do that with True Blood. While I liked season one a little better than season two (didn't really go for the Maryann storyline), I can't wait to see what happens in season three. Read my interviews with Alan Ball and Stephen Moyer, who plays vampire Bill Compton.

The Sopranos2. The Sopranos. Feeling like a character on The Sopranos myself, once I started watching this show, I couldn't get out. The violence and affairs and killing and -- oh, Big Pussy! -- got caught in my head and even when I decided I couldn't have all of that swirling around in my head all the time, I simply couldn't stop watching it. I guess it didn't help that I watched the entire series one episode after the next, waiting impatiently by the mailbox for each new Netflix disc to arrive, and then propping my eyes open into the wee hours to see what happened next to Tony, Carmela, and the rest of the dysfunctional mob families. Still, I wouldn't mind sitting down and doing it all again right now. One of the best shows to ever grace our TV screens.

3. Entourage. I finally discovered this show a few years ago and watched the entire series in the span of about two weeks. The guys are just so fun, the stories compelling, and Ari Gold so manic. And I love Lloyd and hope he does well, having finally escaped from Ari and now working as an agent himself in season six.

4.Sex and the City. It's fun to catch the occasional Sex and the City episode while surfing around at night, but as with every other HBO show, I wouldn't mind sitting down and watching the entire series again. Mostly because I'm a Midwestern girl who rarely gets dressed up or goes anywhere fancy, so I like to live out my New York fantasies by watching Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte live out theirs. A second movie is on tap and scheduled for a May 2010 release. I've heard there's going to be more babies.

5. The Wire. Much of last winter's Jane After Dark columns were devoted to this brilliant show starring Lance Reddick, Deirdre Lovejoy, and Dominic West, among others. The real impact of The Wire isn't felt until after you've let it settle in for a while. It's really like no other TV show I've ever seen, telling a compelling story of cops, gang members, dock workers, teachers, and others in the inner bowels of Baltimore. I still have season five to watch, which I plan on doing as soon as I clear out the stack of fall show DVDs here in my office. I'm sure I'll need to watch the entire series a few times to catch all the little intricacies I missed the first time around.

6. Big Love. Sex! Wives! Murder! Kids! It's all covered in this series about polygamist Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) juggling three wives and lots of kids in his suburban neighborhood. The topic itself is fascinating, but the actors are what really make this show, including wives Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin. But the character of prophet Roman Grant (Harry Dean Stanton) really elevates the creep-factor of Big Love.

7. Six Feet UnderSix Feet Under. I wept my way through this Alan Ball series about grief and death and all those heavy hitters in life. It takes place in a funeral home, after all, so don't expect it to be light-hearted, although it certainly has its moments. Awesome cast includes Michael C. Hall, Peter Krause, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, and Rachel Griffiths.

8. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. This little Batswana-based show washed over me like a bright Sunday morning, fresh and fun and lovely and tragic. I love that Jill Scott, who plays cub detective Precious Ramotswe, has the ability to tell it like it is, but still feel compassion for the victims of the crimes she investigates. And her ability to mine small details out of crime scenes and witnesses, with help from assistant Mma Makutsi (Anika Noni Rose) is second to none.

9. In Treatment. When I'm feeling blue, I like to watch In Treatment, because all the people on this show are much more miserable than I -- including therapist Paul Weston, played by Gabriel Byrne. With a steady stream of clients played by Hope Davis, John Mahoney, Allison Pill and others shedding tears on his couch, it's no wonder he's so somber. Still, if I needed a therapist and had to choose between him and Dianne Wiest, who plays HIS therapist on the show, it would be a tough choice.

10. Curb Your Enthusiasm. Sometimes I really want to strangle Larry David, but he also makes me laugh because I feel like him a lot of times. Even though he lives in LaLa Land, the stuff Larry goes through can be mundane and simple. Most of us can relate to the dreaded "double goodbye" (having to say goodbye to a group of people you've already said it to once), forgetting your wedding vows / car keys / where you put the plane tickets, or accidentally offending someone. Also love the trail of celebrities playing themselves, including Ben Stiller, Richard Lewis, Ted Danson, and Jerry Seinfeld (Larry David's partner on that other little show).

What are your favorite HBO shows? Tell me about some of the ones I haven't seen yet, and I'll be sure to cover them in Jane After Dark.

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Henning Hansen

I was about to rip your head off (verbally!) when Rome wasn't on the list, but since you haven't watched it yet I'll give you a break. Just make sure you watch it soon!

Seriously Rome is the best show ever - love True Blood, but nothing beats Rome!

HBO rules, world's best TV station and it's not even close.

October 12 2009 at 9:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I can't believe how few of you really watched and loved Carnivale....at the time it was the most fascinating stories of all time.....and then poof....they are gone..never to be seen again...what a shame....

October 09 2009 at 3:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

People ridicule your list, but what they don't realize is that everyones list is going to be different. People just like to complain.

I like your list, but I'd probably add Rome back in there! And while it's new, Bored to Death is freakin awesome.

A couple of things to point out/look forward to:




October 01 2009 at 1:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Deadwood - one of the greatest shows ever.

Biggest crime - David Milch ditching Deadwood to do John from Cincinnati.

September 30 2009 at 9:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm not going to be much help, because I'm mostly old school when it comes to HBO.

Fraggle Rock
Flight of the Conchords
Tenacious D
Kids In The Hall
Dream On
Not Necessarily The News

September 30 2009 at 4:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott K

Yep, you forgot HBO's (or any other network's) best show ever: Carnivale.

September 30 2009 at 12:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Mind of a Married Man (1 season only)

TV at its best...
The Wire

September 29 2009 at 7:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kel's comment

Sorry, it was 2 seasons

September 29 2009 at 7:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

HBO's good, but Showtime is my favorite. And USA is quite consistently good even if it isn't near the quality of HBO. FX still has a long way to go, they still tend to cancel shows at an alarming rate.
Here's my HBO list:
1 Rome
2 Carnivale
3 True Blood
4 Bored to Death
5 Flight of the Conchords
6 In Treatment
7 Extras
8 Da Ali G Show
9 Hung
10 Curb Your Enthusiasm

September 29 2009 at 6:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to izikavazo's comment

Oh thank God! As I went through the comments I was becoming increasingly worried that I had awoken in a world where Flight of the Conchords didn't exist!

September 29 2009 at 7:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

No Carnivale? Dream On? Fragile Rock!? C'mon!

September 29 2009 at 5:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Charlie Conner

wow...anybody remember that Kids in the Hall started in America on HBO? or that little gem called Mr. Show??? this list is sorely lacking in sketch comedy...

September 29 2009 at 5:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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