Last Updated: August 10th
We’ve filtered through HBO Max’s massive movie queue already, so it’s only right that we take a look at some of the best TV shows the platform has to offer. Of course, HBO originals like Game of Thrones and Succession belong on this list, but we’ve already given them a shoutout on our rankings of the best HBO shows, so go there if you’re looking for network staples. Here? Well, here we’re giving the original series and old favorites the shoutouts they deserve.
Here are the best shows streaming on HBO Max right now.
1 season, 13 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
Every few years a show rises through the appointment-viewing ranks to prove that network sitcoms aren’t dead yet. Abbott Elementary is one such show. Creator Quinta Brunson takes the beloved mockumentary format of predecessors like The Office and Parks and Rec and turns the lens on a group of dedicated Philadelphia school teachers trying their best despite budget cuts, angry parents, and a truly incompetent principal (a hilarious Janelle James). Everyone shines in their respective roles but Brunson’s eager and optimistic Janine is the show’s heart and Sheryl Lee Ralph’s no-nonsense veteran educator Barbara Howard is the stand-out here.
1 season, 8 episodes | IMDb: 7.5/10
The true-crime boom has given us plenty of documentary adaptations but this whodunnit stands out amongst the crowd thanks to a capable cast and a truly bizarre criminal trial. Colin Firth plays an eccentric author named Michael Peterson who lives in relative comfort thanks to his constantly-working wife (Toni Collette). The two have a blended family full of teenagers and a seemingly perfect marriage until she winds up dead at the bottom of the stairs and Michael’s murderous, adulterous past comes back to haunt him.
1 season, 10 episodes | IMDb: 7.7/10
The crown of TV’s Favorite Boyfriend rests firmly atop Jake Johnson’s perfectly-coiffed head, especially after his turn in this comedy loosely based on a true story. Johnson plays Doug, a low-rent publisher who offers ambitious journalist/feminist Joyce (Ophelia Lovibond) the chance to head up her own magazine. The only catch? It needs to be an erotic publication.
Our Flag Means Death
1 season, 10 episodes | IMDb: 7.6/10
Taika Waititi and Rhys Darby reunite for this bromance on the high seas. The show tasks Darby with playing a real-life aristocrat whose mid-life crisis sparked a desire to become a pirate. Stede Bonnet is the kind of sensitive, well-read captain that just might clean his ship of its toxic masculinity problem and introduce Waititi’s rugged, ready-to-retire Blackbeard to the finer things in life.
2 seasons, 12 episodes | IMDb: 7.6/10
Rose Matafeo steals absolutely every scene she’s in, in this comedy series she also created about a young woman who accidentally hooks up with a celebrity. Matafeo’s Jessie is broke, juggling two jobs, and navigating London’s sketchy dating scene when she meets Tom (Nikesh Patel) who seems like the perfect guy. The only problem is, millions of women around the world think that too.
3 seasons, 57 episodes | IMDb: 7.7/10
When we talk about shows that ended too soon, Happy Endings always ranks high on the list. A comedy about a group of friends doing the whole “adulting” thing while living in Chicago doesn’t sound too revolutionary, but it’s the performances that make this show as fantastic as it is. Eliza Coupe, Elisha Cuthbert, Damon Wayans Jr., Casey Wilson, and Adam Pally deliver some ridiculously funny turns as emotionally-stunted thirtysomethings just trying to get by.
3 seasons, 31 episodes | IMDb: 7.9/10
If weird, wild, inventive takes on the superhero genre are your brand, you need to catch up on this DC property that recently made the move over to HBO Max. It’s got a terrific cast — like Matt Bomer, Alan Tudyk, Brendan Fraser, Diane Guerrero terrific — and it follows another group of superpowered misfits reluctantly saving the world.
The Other Two
2 seasons, 20 episodes | IMDb: 7.6/10
Helene Yorke and Drew Tarver lead this ridiculously good comedy show about an aspiring actor and his sister, a professional dancer, who are forced to deal with the unexpected fame of certain family members. The first season sees the pair reeling from the news that their younger brother has rocketed through the popularity ranks, thanks to a viral video. The second sees Molly Shannon play their mom, a wildly successful daytime talk show host who casts a large shadow.
The Flight Attendant
2 seasons, 16 episodes | IMDb: 7.1/10
Kaley Cuoco surprised everyone, especially fans from her Big Bang Theory days, when she delivered this jet-setting mystery on HBO Max. In it, Cuoco plays Cassie, a flight attendant who masks her many troubles with alcohol and avoids forming meaningful relationships by way of her job. When she hooks up with a passenger and wakes to find him dead, the downward spiral she’s been putting off arrives with a force. Cuoco is brilliant in this, as are Zosia Mamet and Rosie Perez.
5 seasons, 50 episodes | IMDb: 7.7/10
This genre-bending comedy hid its greatness over on TBS for its first two seasons, which is why we’re thrilled HBO Max decided to shuffle it over to their new streaming platform. More people need to be watching this show, mainly because it manages to distill the millennial experiences into darkly comedic subplots about murder, missing person cases, and conservative talk shows, but also because the cast is terrific.
The West Wing
7 seasons, 155 episodes | IMDb: 8.7/10
Aaron Sorkin’s iconic political drama receives more than its fair share of praise. It’s got a boatload of Emmys to its name, an enviable cast, and a team of polished writers — it’s not the dark horse of this list by any means — but greatness is greatness, and we must recognize it. The show, which stars Martin Sheen, Allison Janney, Rob Lowe, and a slew of other A-list names too many to list, follows the inner-workings of the president’s inner circle. It’s a who’s-who of political masterminds, manipulating events behind the scenes, managing the damage of bad decisions, controlling the press, and trying to lead the free world while fighting their own personal battles. In short: it’s the gold standard of television.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
6 seasons, 148 episodes | IMDb: 7.9/10
Besides introducing the masses to the undeniable talent of Will Smith, and giving us the dopest theme song to ever exist on television, this classic family sitcom managed to put in some real work with all those laugh tracks. Smith plays a version of himself, a kid from Philly who move to Bel-Air to live with his rich relatives. He teaches them some street smarts, they try to class up his act, and the comedy comes from that disconnect, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t get emotional from time to time while bingeing this thing.
11 seasons, 851 episodes | IMDb: 8.7/10
Doctor Who is a long-running British series that follows the adventures of a Time Lord and his companion as they travel throughout space and time in the TARDIS. Doctor Who can be a little cheesy, but it is nevertheless one of those shows that’s difficult not to become completely invested in once you begin. Viewers who may not even consider themselves sci-fi geeks should give it a shot because this may be the show that converts them. It isn’t just a sci-fi show, it is a series about love and heartbreak and loneliness, about coming of age, about humanity and about loss. Maybe even more than that, watching Doctor Who is not just a television experience, it’s a cultural one, one of the rare shows capable of connecting people across the globe.
10 seasons, 236 episodes | IMDb: 8.9/10
There are some who argue that Friends was an overrated sitcom, with protagonists as unrealistic as they were lily-white. But like a big bowl of mac ‘n cheese, Friends is TV comfort food: not exactly great for you, but sometimes exactly what’s needed. From classic episodes like “The One With the Embryos” and “The One Where Everybody Finds Out” to its sprawling cast of eccentric supporting characters, the enduringly funny Friends will be there for you when you need to kick back and forget about the real world for a while.
4 seasons, 92 episodes | IMDb: 7.5/10
Another fish-out-of-water type tale, this one skews a bit heavier on the side of melodrama as it follows a troubled kid named Ryan (Ben McKenzie), who’s taken in by a wealthy public defender, his socialite wife, and their nerdy teenage son, Seth (Adam Brody). The two become quick friends, navigating the f*cked-up, elitist world of Orange County, California, falling for society girls, heading South of the Border, confronting criminals who surf. You know, normal West Coast shenanigans.
Rick and Morty
Many wondered how Dan Harmon would follow up the perfection that was Community at its peak, and he certainly delivered with Rick and Morty. Like a demented version of Back to the Future, Rick and Morty follows a super scientist and his less-than-genius grandson on a variety of adventures. It’s part cartoon, part “cosmic horror.” Who knew that following a vomiting scientist and his dimwitted grandson could be so brilliant? Rick and Morty is a demented work of escapism for adults that’s not to be missed. It’s also a still relatively underground show that’s waiting to burst forth into a broader audience. Get in on the goodness now.
2 seasons, 10 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
Jean Smart is dominating the content over on HBO and HBO Max but her best work is undoubtedly this dramedy adventure. Smart plays Deborah Vance, a legendary stand-up comedian on her last leg whose Vegas show needs some help. Enter Ava (Hannah Einbinder), a young, up-and-coming comic in need of an image makeover. Their odd-couple dynamic is the draw here as their personalities and generational divides clash backstage. Einbinder more than holds her own, which is high praise because Smart’s never been better.
2 seasons, 20 episodes | IMDb: 7.2/10
One of the better original offerings available at the launch of HBO Max is this Paul Feig created, Anna Kendrick-starring anthology series about finding love in all the wrong (and right) places. Kendrick plays a young woman named Darby who reminisces on her past relationships. We follow her over the course of a decade as men flit in and out of her life, but what sets this show apart, aside from Kendrick’s undeniable comedic talent, is that its heroine shows real growth in the romance department. Novel, we know.
United Shades of America
5 seasons, 40 episodes | IMDb: 6.6/10
Comedian W. Kamau Bell brings a sharp, humorous take on some admittedly difficult subjects that are plaguing our country with this docuseries, which sees him traveling the U.S. to interact with a variety of communities — think everyone from the KKK to commune lovers and doomsday preppers. It’s eye-opening comedic commentary, and it’ll definitely make you view the melting pot in a different light.
4 seasons, 56 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
Watchmen‘s Regina King leads the voice cast of this adult animated sitcom that first aired on Cartoon Network. The show tells the story of the Freemans, a Black family moving from the streets of Chicago to the suburbs. This culture clash fuels much of the plot, with both the parents and the kids struggling to adapt to mostly-white neighborhoods, blatant prejudice, class inequality and more.