15 greatest HBO series of all time

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Image: HBO

7. The Sopranos

The Sopranos was more than just your average gangster HBO drama. It revolutionized the anti-hero and humanized the oft-caricatured mob-boss.

Tony Soprano wasn’t your typical gangster. He had weaknesses, even though he couldn’t afford to show them. He suffered from depression and saw a therapist, even though he struggled with the social stigma against mental illness.

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He had very human problems in a profession and position in which it was not safe to be perceived as human, as weak, as vulnerable. As sympathetic as he could be, Tony was a monster. He was undoubtedly a bad guy and even though the audience suffers for it, we sympathize with him anyway.

Without Tony Soprano we wouldn’t have anti-heroes like Dexter Morgan or Hannibal Lecter or Walter White. It set a precedent for the kind of stories you could tell on television — the darker more complicated kind — and proved that the audience would keep showing up.

Image: HBO

6. Boardwalk Empire

Speaking of The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire is another HBO series that probably wouldn’t exist without the show’s precedent, not least of all because it was created by Sopranos writer and executive producer Terence Winter.

The HBO series is based on the book Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City, about the exploits of Prohibition-era crime boss Enoch L. Johnson. Steve Buscemi plays the fictional Atlantic City criminal kingpin Nucky Thompson.

The pilot episode was directed by Martin Scorsese with a production cost of $18 million dollars. With Scorsese and Mark Wahlberg as producers, the series attracted top acting talents like Michael Shannon, Michael Kenneth Williams, Michael Pitt, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jeffrey Wright, and Patricia Arquette.

While its not exactly considered groundbreaking television, the HBO series ran for five highly successful seasons, won 20 Emmy Awards, and receives a 91% average on Rotten Tomatoes.

If nothing else, it’s high quality entertainment.