HBO Max, as we currently know it, is not long for this world. In 2023, the app will merge with Discovery Plus, and that’ll become its own thing. But that’s later. Now is the time to catch up on all the shows from the past year before the inevitably messy transition begins.
The premium network has a little bit of everything for everyone. There are stripped-down stand-up specials, screwball dramedies, irreverent animated series, CGI dragons, and everything in between. It’s a lot to take in at once. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a handy list of shows to get you started.
HBO Max will merge with Discovery Plus in 2023, so now is the time to catch up on all the shows from the past year before the transition begins. Annual rates save you a bit: $99.99 a year with ads, $149.99 a year without ads.
Hacks is a series about an unlikely pair of comediennes — a legendary stand-up diva in need of a new act and a young, disgraced TV writer trying to salvage her reputation. Season 1 focuses on how the two are thrown together after major career setbacks, while season 2 explores how the duo fares while touring on the road. Much of the laughs come from the two squabbling over their different approaches to comedy, but the show also surprises you with quiet, heartfelt moments, too.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
The world is on fire, but comedian John Oliver is pretty great at making the news cycle a teeny bit less horrible. While current event shows don’t have a long shelf life, Oliver keeps things fresh with evergreen deep dives into society’s problems. Plus, half the fun of tuning in is seeing what ridiculous stunt Oliver will troll the world with using HBO’s money.
How To with John Wilson
Few shows capture the randomness of everyday life like the comedic docuseries How To with John Wilson. Each season is a series of how-to tutorials narrated by Wilson as he navigates his own personal problems, set to hours of painstakingly edited candid footage. While the topics might seem mundane, they often lead Wilson down poignant and unpredictable rabbit holes.
Every generation has its own show about naughty teens up to no good. Euphoria is that show for Gen Z, but you don’t have to be a teen to relate to the show’s themes of addiction, redemption, and struggling to be comfortable in your own skin. In season 2, Zendaya delivers some of the best performances of her career, and while the plot lines can get a bit melodramatic, that’s what makes Euphoria fun.
Peacemaker is a spinoff of 2021’s The Suicide Squad. If you need a break from Marvel’s cinematic universe, Peacemaker offers a raunchier take on the superhero genre. Director James Gunn infuses the show with his signature offbeat humor, while John Cena is hilarious as the jingoistic yet inept titular character. Also, never skip the opening credits.
Comedian Nathan Fielder is the king of cringe. In The Rehearsal, Fielder constructs elaborate sets and hires actors to help strangers “rehearse” important life moments before they happen. It’s hard to explain how off the rails this docuseries gets without spoilers, but there isn’t anything else like it on TV — at least not since Fielder’s last show, Nathan for You (which is also on HBO).
Succession is a dramedy that asks the question, “Who will get a kiss from daddy?” In all seriousness, the show follows the exploits of the wealthy Roy family, which owns a media empire. As its patriarch’s health declines, his four children squabble over who will take over the reins of the company. There’s witty banter, a lot of backstabbing, and psychological power plays with donuts. What more can you ask for?
Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel
Rothaniel is technically comedian Jerrod Carmichael’s third stand-up special, but it’s more like an intimate confessional. Directed by Bo Burnham, the special explores Carmichael’s relationship with his family and his emotions after revealing a personal secret on stage before a live audience. It’s not as raucous as other comedy specials, but it is a performance that sticks in your brain long after the credits roll.
The Righteous Gemstones
If you were to set Succession in a megachurch, you’d get The Righteous Gemstones. The show follows a dysfunctional family of televangelists as they lead extravagant lives on the Church’s dime. The characters are larger-than-life, the plot is bananas, and you probably won’t look at creator and actor Danny McBride the same way ever again. Both seasons are a fun time, and good luck getting the songs out of your head.
House of the Dragon
HBO returned to Westeros this year with its Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon. Regardless of how you felt about the Game of Thrones finale, there’s plenty of the same intrigue, incest, and CGI dragons that made the original series a success. Even if you didn’t like Game of Thrones, it’s fun to hate-watch for the bad wigs. Just make sure to calibrate your TV before watching.