While many of us have ultimately watched too much television since the pandemic began in March, here is a list of shows for you to indulge in, from someone who is not a Boomer.
My list is comprised of strictly HBO original series and miniseries. Since I was a freshman in high school in 2010, I have always enjoyed watching the premium channel’s new releases, often which have interesting storylines, authentic dialogue, along with premier actors and directors.
The list will span several genres from drama, comedy, suspense, crime and fantasy. And no, I will not be including some of the networks’ most popular and successful shows, such as Game of Thrones, The Sopranos and The Wire. While I love those shows and always will, HBO has so much more to offer besides “The Big 3.”
(List is in alphabetical order, not ranked)
“Barry” – This dark comedy crime series has to be one of the more interesting plots that I’ve ever watched unfold. Often times, you wonder how it will all fit together, as it seems like it’s two or three different shows wrapped up in one. Bill Hader stars as Barry Berkman, a hitman from Cleveland who travels to Los Angeles to do one of his deeds but finds himself joining an acting class taught by a teacher played by Henry Winkler. Through the class, he ends up meeting an aspiring actress played by Sarah Goldberg. The series follows Berkman as he tries to balance these two opposing lifestyles while questioning his path in life, all while he continues dealing with criminal associates.
“Band of Brothers” – Being only 25 years old, I didn’t watch this until about 15 years after it came out. The American war drama miniseries — executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks — was one of HBO’s first hits. The series dramatizes the history of “Easy” Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, starting with jump training in the U.S. through its participation in major actions in Europe, up until Japan’s capitulation and the end of World War II. The long list of cast members includes many notable actors such as Donnie Wahlberg and David Schwimmer.
“Big Little Lies” – If you are a proponent of mega-star casts, this is right up your alley. The two-season drama series, starring big names like Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and the almighty Meryl Streep, is based on a novel of the same name. The plot tells the story of five women in Monterey, California, who become involved in a murder investigation.
“Boardwalk Empire” – This is arguably my all-time favorite show, a classic period crime drama set in Atlantic City during the Prohibition era of the 1920s. The series stars Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson, a protagonist loosely based on former New Jersey political figure Enoch Lewis “Nucky” Johnson. Also in the show are characters based on gangsters and racketeers of that era, such as Al Capone and Charles “Lucky” Luciano, who are involved with Thompson by bootlegging liquor and other illegal activities.
“Chernobyl” – This was definitely the best and most important miniseries I’ve seen in some time. It actually taught me more about the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 and the cleanup efforts that followed than I previously knew. The visuals are quite stunning. The disaster was caused by a nuclear accident in a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Pripyat in the north of the Ukrainian SSR. The show delves into how the disaster occurred, who was at fault and the lack of crisis management that led to long-term health effects in the area, leading to many deaths.
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” – I’ll probably catch a lot of heat for saying this, but I like this show better than “Seinfeld.” Probably because it’s on HBO and allows for a little more inappropriate content. Created by Seinfeld creator Larry David, he plays a fictionalized version of himself in the show. The series follows his life as a semi-retired television writer and producer in Los Angeles. Like Seinfeld, the episodes often fixate on David’s displeasure or annoyance with the little things in life, a lot like George Costanza from “Seinfeld.”
“The Night Of” – This eight-part crime drama miniseries has you hooked from the very first scene and will have you guessing about how the story will unfold. After the first few episodes, you will have a better understanding of where the plot is headed. The story involves a Pakistani-American college student living in Queens, New York, who is falsely accused of murder and sent to prison, a place where he needs to adapt quickly and take sides with the right people in order to avoid the terrors of his fellow inmates. With the help of his lawyer (John Turturro), the kid is ultimately freed, but the things he was forced to learn while locked up sticks with him as he returns home.
“The Outsider” – Continuing with the miniseries theme, this one is a horror crime drama based on the 2018 novel of the same name by Stephen King. The plot involves a police detective (Ben Mendelsohn) investigating a rape and murder of a child, where the potential suspect seems to have been in two places at once, incorporating a little bit of science fiction and fantasy.
“Sharp Objects” – This psychological thriller of a miniseries will definitely freak you out. Starring Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson, the show follows Camile Preaker (Adams), an emotionally troubled reporter who returns to her hometown to cover the murder of two young girls. Clarkson is fantastic as the overbearing socialite mother who generates conflict upon Adams’ return and forces her to confront her personal demons. You’ll be thrown for a loop the last few episodes when it all ties together.
“Silicon Valley” – What a genius concept for a 21st-century show. Big-tech companies and nerdy humor are right up my alley. Although the series is a parody of Northern California tech culture, there are many valuable lessons that can be taken from this series, especially for those who work in the industry. The show was created by Mike Judge (Beavis and Butt-Head, King of the Hill), who worked in a Silicon Valley startup in 1987, disliking the company’s culture and his colleagues, before ultimately creating a hit series out of it.