To say that this was a great year for HBO would be a redundant statement because, honestly, which year isn’t? HBO has been consistent with producing a bunch of great shows every year and there is a reason that it sweeps the Emmy nominations in a way that barely any other network can catch up with it. Netflix might come close, but there is still an important factor that separates them.
While Netflix releases a huge number of TV shows, HBO is more reserved about what story should have its name. This prudence assures quality, and you know that whatever the network puts its stamp on is definitely worth watching. To prove my point, here is the list of best HBO shows of 2019:
13. Catherine the Great (2019)
Russia was once one of the biggest empires in the world, and it was the work of its rulers that brought it there. However, with a kingdom like this comes the lust for power. Nothing is ever enough, especially if one believes that they would serve the crown better than their contemporaries.
When Catherine married the King, she found that she was more adept at being a ruler and hence, in a coup against her own husband, gained the power and became the Queen of Russia. She found that Russia could be so much more if only its kings could rise above their lavish and royal needs. Under her regime, some truly remarkable things happened for the country and she rightfully earned the title of Great. ‘Catherine the Great’ stars Helen Mirren as the titular queen, and explores her rise to power and the subsequent years of her reign.
12. Mrs Fletcher (2019)
A mother’s life isn’t simple. For years, she centres her world around her children, taking care of them, making sacrifices for them. And then, they grow up and move out, taking away one of the most important things from her life. In this comedy-drama, Kathryn Hahn plays the role of a woman going through similar ordeals.
Divorced and alone, Mrs Fletcher had been taking care of her son alone, but now he’s moved out to college. In such a time, a little bit of reflection allows her to reinvent her life and bring some excitement back to it. She tries to get back in the dating game, takes up a writing class and spends time with her friends. But above all, she begins to explore her sexuality and is left confused and amazed by the results. ‘Mrs Fletcher’ is based on the book of the same name by Tom Perrotta, who also serves as the executive producer for it.
11. The Righteous Gemstones (2019-)
People take religion very seriously, perhaps too seriously. Consequently, they also take the preachers very seriously too, or at least they did. ‘The Righteous Gemstones’ follows the story of a family who has the certified-profession of being a televangelist. All they do is in the name of the Lord. All their deeds, whether or not they are good, are justifiable in the name of their God.
This religious comedy-drama focuses on the lives and sins of the individual members of the Gemstones and how they eventually reflect on the whole family. It has been created by Danny McBride, who has previously created another well-received HBO show ‘Vice Principals’. It stars John Goodman, Adam DeVine, Edu Patterson and Walton Goggins in the main roles.
10. Los Espookys (2019)
Despite creating a huge number of quality shows over the years, HBO has kept itself to the English-speaking audience for a long time. Meanwhile, Netflix has expanded its dominions by focusing on the local shows of whatever country’s entertainment industry it means to infiltrate. But things are changing now.
‘Los Espookys’ is the second show in this list to fall into the non-English category, and hopefully, the number will rise in the following years. It focuses on a group of teenagers who decide to turn their hobbies into a profession. Renaldo is a horror nerd. He loves the slasher, horror films that use a lot of blood and gore to entertain their audience. When he realises that he shouldn’t be the only one to love a good scare, he comes up with a unique business proposition. He intends to serve tailor-made horror for his clients.
9. Gentleman Jack (2019)
It is a difficult thing to come out of the closet. It is tiresome to be who you are when the people around you aren’t willing to accept that. It is hard to not want to be what society expects you to be. Right? Not according to Anne Lister. Who cares what other people think as long as you accept yourself? Who cares what others expect of you, and why should you even try to please others while being unhappy yourself?
An industrialist and a traveller, among other things, Lister was the kind of person everyone aspires to be. And it wasn’t even in 2019 that she flaunted her formidable presence and exemplary genius. It was in the 1830s! So, yeah. If you feel like you need some inspiration, all you need to do is watch this show.
8. Euphoria (2019)
Whatever issues haunt us in our adult life, the root of it can be traced back to our childhood or adolescence. At least, that’s the idea. People always want answers to why you are a particular way, or why you have this or that problem or tendency, or worse, what did you do to get it? Rue was just a child when she had a panic attack, and she had a perfectly normal life. She was diagnosed with the possibility of a lot of disorders, and there wasn’t a moment in her life when her brain would be at rest. This is why, when she tried drugs for the first time, she found the nothingness she had been searching for her whole life. In a similar thread, there are other teens around her struggling with issues that may or may not be of their own making.
7. His Dark Materials (2019)
Fantasy is a very popular genre and if someone knows how to bind the viewers in the majestic worlds that are limited only by one’s imagination, it is HBO. Based on the book series of the same name by Sir Phillip Pullman, through ‘His Dark Materials’, the network tries to keep the audience, that had gravitated towards it all thanks to ‘Game of Thrones’, caught up in its magic, this time with a little help from BBC.
The book series is a trilogy so we know that they already have a ton of material, and also, reportedly, it has already been renewed for a second season. Now, let’s come to the names attached to it. Dafne Keen, whom we last saw as the daughter of Logan, plays the lead role, while actors like James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda appear as supporting characters. If you need any more reason to watch it, there are witches, daemons and armoured bears.
6. A Black Lady Sketch Show (2019)
Robin Thede leads the cast of this sketch comedy show which focuses on the issues plaguing our society. She previously created a record by being the first African-American woman to be the head writer for a late-night talk show. In 2015! So, if you thought that there is no need for causing such a debacle for representation in Hollywood, you might want to reconsider your opinions!
Speaking of records, ‘A Black Lady Sketch Show’ has actually earned its title by not only being the first show to have an all-black women writer’s room and the first black woman sketch director, but it is also the first one to have a cast composed entirely of black women. With such talent coming together for one platform, the show is a sure-fire fun time.
5. True Detective Season 3 (2019)
‘True Detective’ is definitely one of HBO’s best shows in recent years. With the fabulous first season that it had, we expected great things from the next casefile offered by Nic Pizzolatto. But the second season brought it down so much that had the third season not been so good, I would have lost all my faith in it.
Gladly, Pizzolatto found his footing with the third season and Mahershala Ali’s magic worked. It was almost like another new show had premiered, because the time period between the first and third season was five years, and no one really counts the second season, no matter what a brilliant star cast it had. So, yes. There were a number of reasons that tempted me to include it in the best shows list, the most important of them being that it was simply great.
4. Years and Years (2019)
“What does it matter?” Some people say this when it comes to politics. What does it matter if I vote or not? What does it matter if I have strong, or any, political views or not? What does it matter if this or that person is elected for office, if they are all the same? Apart from displaying their acute ignorance, these people just make fun of the politicians and wonder how such buffoons can ever win an election! Well, they don’t really need to look hard or far in order to understand how a certain type of person can become the leader of a nation. It is not a rare thing to happen, which is what makes shows like ‘Years and Years’ all the more important. If the world continues to be like this, where will it lead us? In six-episodes, you’ll find out.
3. Our Boys (2019)
For as long as we are ruled by the thought of “us vs them”, there will always be conflict in this world. You can take up any bad thing, anything that corrupts us or this world, and you’ll see that the origin of it lies in this very thing. Us or them. We have spent all of our time on Earth, holding on to this discord. We have destroyed ourselves over it, and yet, we seem nowhere close to overcoming this vain behaviour.
‘Our Boys’ focuses on one such true story, an incident which caused the clash of two communities, leaving both of them with blood on their hands and dead bodies by their sides. It begins with the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers by a militant group, which leads to tensions between the Jewish and Arab communities in Israel, and added to the body count.
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2. Watchmen (2019)
‘Watchmen’ is perhaps the most exciting project to come out of HBO’s box this year. We have seen the Zack Snyder film of the same name, which is based on the comics of the same name. There was so much more that could have been explored in that universe, but that ship sailed a long time ago. After trying to find a way to make things work with Snyder, HBO finally relented when he left the project. Fortunately for us, he was replaced by Damon Lindelof who had his own version of the story.
It is high-time that the world of the Watchmen was rediscovered and while the fans were a bit dubious about this, all of their doubts were laid to rest with the smashing pilot. Starring Regina King as Angela Abar, ‘Watchmen’ the series, takes place in an alternate universe where cops don masks to protect themselves, the vigilantes do it attack them.
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1. Chernobyl (2019)
It doesn’t take much to cause a disaster. A slight carelessness, trivialising a little problem, or completely ignoring it- all you need to do to turn things into a mess is simple flaws of humanity. Anyone can do that. But when it comes to cleaning it up, when it comes to actually walk into the den of danger because there is no other way, is the hardest and most courageous thing ever to do. To know that if you don’t do it, perhaps, no one else will. If there were an absence of such people, the world would have already ended, a thousand times over.
The Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 reminds us of this, and that’s what HBO’s Emmy winning miniseries is based on. It addresses the question of what happened that night, but more importantly, it covers the story of the people who saved the day, with most of them paying the price of it with their own lives.
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