Best Shows on HBO Max Right Now (October 2021)

From original programming to crowd favorites, here's what's worth your time

HBO's streaming service has a mix of original programming and long-running series exclusive to HBO Max. Like the now-discontinued HBO Go service, HBO Max gives users access to everything available on the premium channel plus other exclusive content. Here's what to watch on HBO Max this month.

01
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Gossip Girl (2021): Most Timely Reboot About the Always-Online Generation

The cast of Gossip Girl 2021

HBO Max

IMDb Rating: 5.3/10

Genre: Drama, Romance

Starring: Jordan Alexander, Whitney Peak, Tavi Gevinson

Created By: Joshua Safran, Stephanie Savage, Josh Schwartz

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 1

Although it's been less than a decade since the original series ended, the world of social media has changed so much that a Gossip Girl reboot makes sense. In this follow-up to the wildly popular CW television series, a new class of students gets pitted against one other by an anonymous online troll.

Kristen Bell returns as the narrator, but the rest of the cast is mostly comprised of fresh faces. The first part of season one is available now, and six more episodes are scheduled for release in November. The new Gossip Girl has already been picked up for a second season.

02
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The White Lotus (2021): Hottest New Comedy Anthology Series

The cast of The White Lotus

HBO Max

IMDb Rating: 7.7/10

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Starring: Murray Bartlett, Connie Britton, Jennifer Coolidge

Created By: Mike White

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 1

A resort in Hawaii seems like the perfect getaway, but behind all the palm trees and idyllic beaches, not everything is as it seems. Join the guests and staff of the White Lotus hotel for a darkly comedic trip into the wacky world of the hospitality industry.

Watching White Lotus might be the closest most of us get to Hawaii, so it's worth watching just for the beautiful scenery. Thanks to the success of the first season, it was announced that White Lotus will continue as an anthology series that focuses on a new group of guests at a different destination.

03
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Through Our Eyes (2021): Best Educational Docuseries for Kids

A little girl smiles in Through Our Eyes

HBO Max

IMDb Rating: 7.7/10

Genre: Docuseries

Starring: Talleah Bridges McMahon, Kristi Jacobson, Smriti Mundhra

Created By: Sesame Workshop

TV Rating: TV-G

Number of Seasons: 1

Through Our Eyes is a limited series from Sesame Workshop, the same group that produces Sesame Street. Each episode of this kid-centered docuseries focuses on a specific issue like parental incarceration, poverty, and climate change.

Recommended for children ages 9 and up, Through Our Eyes does an excellent job of analyzing difficult topics in a kid-friendly manner. It's best viewed with an adult in the room who can answer questions.

04
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Titans (2018): Most Action-Packed Superhero Sidekick Series

The cast of DC Titans

HBO Max

IMDb Rating: 7.7/10

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy

Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Anna Diop, Ryan Potter

Created By: Greg Berlanti, Akiva Goldsman, Geoff Johns

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 3

Titans mays be a spin-off of a spin-off, but it still manages to offer a fresh take on a classic franchise. All the stars of Teen Titans, led by Robin (Brenton Thwaites), are a little older and a lot grittier. This superhero show isn't for kids.

The episodic format makes Titans much easier to digest than the four-hour director's cut of Justice League. If you like this series, be sure to check out Doom Patrol on HBO Max, which takes place in the same universe and features many of the same actors.

05
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The Other Two (2019): Funniest Family Drama About Show Biz

The Other Two

HBO Max

IMDb Rating: 7.5/10

Genre: Comedy

Starring: Heléne Yorke, Drew Tarver, Case Walker

Created By: Chris Kelly, Sarah Schneider

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 2

Being a child star isn't easy, but imagine being their unfamous sibling. Cary (Drew Tarver) and Brooke (Heléne Yorke) have worked their whole lives to make it in the entertainment industry, only to be outshined by their 13-year-old little brother Chase (Case Walker) and his YouTube channel.

The Other Two is a hilarious critique of celebrity culture and our social media-obsessed society. Keep an eye for D-list guest stars like Kathie Lee Gifford, Mario Lopez, and Michael Che.

06
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Sweet Life: Los Angeles (2021): Best Reality TV Show With an All Black Cast

The cast of Sweet Life: Los Angeles

HBO Max

IMDb Rating: 5.9/10

Genre: Reality TV

Starring: Amanda Scott, Briana Jones, Cheryl Des Vignes

Created By: Jerrold Smith II

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 1

Reality TV is making a comeback on HBO Max with everything from competitive voguing (Legendary) to competitive dating (FBOY Island). Sweet Life: Los Angeles stands out thanks to its positive message and genuinely likable cast. The show follows a group of talented young black women in L.A. who have big-time aspirations.

Sweet Life: Los Angeles is produced by Issa Rae, best known for the YouTube series Awkward Black Girl. The actress and writer spent a lot of time studying reality TV shows, and she has seemingly mastered the art with this entertaining series.

07
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Nancy Drew (2019): Best New Young Adult Book Adaptation

The cast of Nancy Drew 2019

HBO Max

IMDb Rating: 6.3/10

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror

Starring: Kennedy McMann, Leah Lewis, Maddison Jaizani

Created By: Noga Landau, Stephanie Savage, Josh Schwartz

TV Rating: TV-14

Number of Seasons: 2

Nancy Drew's plans of going to college get derailed when she witnesses a crime and becomes a chief suspect. With the help of her friends, she tries to track down the real culprit to clear her name.

Nancy Drew's third TV outing features everything you'd expect out of the series: convoluted mysteries, outlandish situations, and supernatural twists. The show has a darker edge than the books, but fortunately, it remains appropriate for teens.

08
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A Black Lady Sketch Show (2019): Funniest Sketchy Comedy With an All-Female Cast

The cast of A Black Lady Sketch Show

HBO Max

IMDb Rating: 7.2/10

Genre: Comedy

Starring: Robin Thede, Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis

Created By: Robin Thede

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 2

Need a good laugh? We all do, and A Black Lady Sketch Show certainly delivers. The jokes resonate with everyone, and while skits occasionally get political, humor is prioritized above all else.

In just its first season, the show received multiple Emmy nominations and won a Television Critics Association award for Outstanding Achievement in Sketch/Variety Shows. Keep an eye out for guest stars like Kelly Rowland, Laverne Cox, and Angela Bassett.

09
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Three Busy Debras (2020): Best New Adult Swim Show

The cast of Three Busy Debras

HBO Max

IMDb Rating: 5.8/10

Genre: Comedy

Starring: Mitra Jouhari, Alyssa Stonoha, Catherine Cohen

Created By: Sandy Honig, Mitra Jouhari, Alyssa Stonoha

TV Rating: TV-14

Number of Seasons: 1

For decades now, Adult Swim has been a cornerstone of The Cartoon Network's late-night lineup. In this dreamlike series of shorts, three housewives who share the same name have bizarre adventures in a mundane American suburb.

Most of the classic Adult Swim catalog is on HBO Max including Robot Chicken, Squidbillies, and Children's Hospital. Three Busy Debras clearly draws inspiration from The Stepford Wives, but it's a lot funnier than the 2004 remake of that classic film.

10
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Euphoria (2019): Best Original High School Drama

Zendaya in Euphoria

HBO Max

IMDb Rating: 8.4/10

Genre: Drama

Starring: Zendaya, Hunter Schafer, Jacob Elordi

Created By: Sam Levinson

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 2

Inspired by an Israeli TV show, Euphoria is a teen drama that unflinchingly tackles controversial issues like drug abuse, teenage sexuality, and emotional trauma. It's not a show for kids, but every parent should watch it.

With all of the shows about how hard it is to be a teenager in today's modern world, why watch this one? For starters, it stars Zendaya, who has won multiple awards for her performance. Euphoria has even received international acclaim, winning the British Academy Television Award for Best International Programme.

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Betty (2021): Most Empowering Sports Sitcom for Teens

The cast of Betty (2020)

HBO Max

IMDb Rating: 6.8/10

Genre: Comedy

Starring: Dede Lovelace, Kabrina Adams, Nina Moran

Created By: Crystal Moselle

TV Rating: TV-14

Number of Seasons: 2

Skateboarding is often erroneously perceived as a boy's sport, but Betty proves otherwise. In this teen-appropriate sitcom, a group of girl skateboarders in New York strives to outcompete their peers.

Betty is inspired by the movie Skate Kitchen directed by Crystal Moselle, who also works on the show. Most of the characters and cast from the film make appearances in addition to many new faces. After a successful first season, the second season dropped in June 2021.

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Hacks (2021): Best Buddy Comedy About Show Business

Jean Smart in Hacks

HBO Max

IMDb Rating: 8.3/10

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Starring: Jean Smart, Hannah Einbinder, Carl Clemons-Hopkins

Created By: Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, Jen Statsky

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 1

Famous comedian Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) and her ambitious apprentice Ava (Hannah Einbinder) constantly butt heads in this hilarious critique of the show business. It begins like your typical odd-couple story, but as the series progresses, the characters are revealed to be more serious than they appear on the surface.

Hacks debuted to unanimous praise from critics for its strong performances and quick wit, all but guaranteeing a second season.

13
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Other Parents (2019): Best French Sitcom About Parenthood

The cast of Other PArents

HBO

IMDb Rating: 7.2/10

Genre: Comedy

Starring: Lavinia Wilson, Jasin Challah, Nadja Becker

Created By: Lutz Heineking

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 2

Known in France as Andere Eltern, Other Parents follows a crew of misfit parents who team up to open a daycare center in Cologne. Led by Nina (Lavinia Wilson), the group struggles to hold it together as different child-rearing styles clash and parental instincts kick into overdrive.

Other Parents is a mockumentary-style sitcom, a format that works exceptionally well for a show like this since viewers get to see how parents interact when they're face-to-face compared with what they "say behind the scenes."

14
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The Nevers (2021): Best Victorian Era Superhero Saga

The cast of The Nevers

HBO

IMDb Rating: 7.2/10

Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy

Starring: Laura Donnelly, Ann Skelly, James Norton

Created By: Joss Whedon

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 1

At the turn of the 20th century, Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) operates a haven for girls and women with supernatural powers like herself. Known to the world as “the Touched,” the residents of St. Romaulda's Orphanage learn to use their powers for good while the British government views them as a threat.

At its core, The Nevers is another X-Men-inspired superhero show like Doom Patrol and Umbrella Academy; however, it stands on its own thanks to the unique setting and strong female cast.

15
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Made for Love (2021): Most Comedically Dark Sci-Fi Family Drama

Cristin Milioti in Made for Love

IMDb Rating: 7.0/10

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi

Starring: Cristin Milioti, Billy Magnussen, Ray Romano

Created By: Alissa Nutting, Patrick Somerville

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 1

After walking away from her marriage, Hazel (Cristin Milioti) discovers that her tech bro ex-husband (Billy Magnussen) implanted a tracking device in her brain. This device doesn't just monitor Hazel's location; it can also read her thoughts. With nowhere to run, she turns to her estranged father (Ray Romano).

The premise sounds kind of horrifying, but the show's tone is surprisingly comedic, which prevents Made for Love from feeling like a knock-off of other dystopian sci-fi series like Westworld. Ray Romano of Everybody Loves Raymond fame shines as a believable father figure in this unique story.

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South Side (2019): Best Buddy Comedy About Surviving in Late Capitalism

Sultan Salahuddin and Kareme Young in South Side

HBO Max

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

Genre: Comedy

Starring: Sultan Salahuddin, Kareme Young, Quincy Young

Created By: Diallo Riddle, Bashir Salahuddin, Sultan Salahuddin

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 1

Fresh out of community college, Simon (Sultan Salahuddin) and Kareem (Kareme Young) have high aspirations for success. They begin their business empire in Chicago's South Side, where they sell everything from erectile dysfunction pills to cryptocurrency.

Created by people who grew up in Chicago, the show is a love letter to the city's working-class neighborhoods. South Side does a good job of showcasing the urban landscape, so if you've been to Chicago, you'll likely notice many of the locations. South Side originally aired on Comedy Central, but future seasons will be exclusive to HBO Max.

17
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Genera+ion (2021): Best Teen Dramedy About LGBT Youth

The cast of Genera+ion

HBO Max

IMDb Rating: 6.2/10

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Starring: Nathanya Alexander, Chloe East, Nava Mau

Created By: Daniel Barnz, Zelda Barnz

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 1

Genera+ion is perhaps the first high school drama to focus primarily on LGBT youth. Although the show somewhat flips the script on typical TV teen dramedies, its characters deal with the same kinds of experiences and concerns that should be familiar to anyone who survived high school.

Genera+ion is a show about teenagers aimed at older audiences. In other words, it's not for kids. The show might be a little informative to teachers and parents of LGBT teens; however, it's still a TV sitcom, so the situations often stretch the boundaries of reality.

18
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Westworld (2016): Best Dystopian Sci-Fi Western

Westworld on HBO

HBO

IMDb Rating: 8.6/10

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi

Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris

Created By: Lisa Joy, Jonathan Nolan

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 3

Welcome to Westworld, an artificial recreation of the American Wild West where wealthy visitors can do anything they want in a village of defenseless androids. It's a great place to indulge your basest desires until the robots become sentient and start fighting back.

Inspired by Michael Crichton's 1973 movie of the same title, Westworld is as thought-provoking as it is beautiful. Judging by the cast alone, it should be no surprise that the show has won nine Emmys and counting. That said, Westworld is also extremely violent, so stay away if you have an aversion to gore.

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Close Enough (2020): Best Animated Sitcom for Millennials

Close Enough

Netflix

IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama

Starring: J.G. Quintel, Gabrielle Walsh, Jason Mantzoukas

Created By: Matt Price, J.G. Quintel, Ryan Slater

TV Rating: TV-14

Number of Seasons: 2

Close Enough is about a married couple of millennials adapting to the trappings of adulthood. Like series creator J.G. Quintel's Regular Show, Close Enough's comedy is lighthearted and highly relatable, especially if you're in the same age group as the main characters.

Although the show contains adult language and humor, it's much tamer than cartoons like South Park. Each episode has two short vignettes, so the plot never gets too complicated, which makes it perfect for watching when you need a mindless laugh before bedtime.

20
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Gomorrah (2014): Best International Crime Drama

Gomorrah on HBO Max

HBO Max

IMDb Rating: 8.7/10

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Starring: Salvatore Esposito, Marco D'Amore, Cristiana Dell'Anna

Created By: Leonardo Fasoli, Stefano Bises, Roberto Saviano

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 4

An adaptation of Roberto Saviano's book series about a war between crime families, Gomorrah has been a hit worldwide. After a high-ranking member of a criminal operation gets put in jail, Ciro Di Marzio (Marco D'Amore) becomes a key player in the battle over Naples' shady underbelly.

Gomorrah consistently holds a rating of over 90 percent on the notoriously cynical Rotten Tomatoes, which is quite a feat. All seasons are now available to stream on HBO Max. There's also an Italian film, L'immortale, based on the series starring Marco D'Amore.

21
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The Flight Attendant (2020): Best One Night Stand Gone Very Wrong Book Adaptation

Kaley Cuoco in The Flight Attendant (2020)

HBO

IMDb Rating: 7.2/10

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery

Starring: Kaley Cuoco, Michiel Huisman, Zosia Mamet

Created By: Steve Yockey

TV Rating: TV-14

Number of Seasons: 1

A drunken layover in Bangkok ends horribly when flight attendant Cassie Bowden (Kaley Cuoco) wakes up in a strange bed next to a dead passenger. Unable to recall the previous evening events, she decides not to tell anyone, including the federal agents who greet her when she returns home.

Kaley Cuoco, who also serves as a producer, sympathetically portrays a flawed character who you want to root for, even if she might have done horrible things. The Flight Attendant is an adaptation of a 2018 book by Chris Bohjalian, which you should check out if you like the show.

22
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Doom Patrol (2019): Best DC Superhero Team Up

The cast of Doom Patrol

Warner Bros.

IMDb Rating: 7.9/10

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy

Starring: Diane Guerrero, April Bowlby, Matt Bomer

Created By: Jeremy Carver

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 2

Doom Patrol comes from the DC Universe and features characters from the 2018 series Titans. Chief (Timothy Dalton), a wealthy doctor who takes in social rejects with supernatural powers and trains them to fight evil, leads the titular team. It's kind of like The Umbrella Academy, which means it's awesome.

The first season of Doom Patrol received several award nominations, including Best Streaming Superhero Television Series at the Saturn Awards. The series originally debuted on the DC Universe streaming service, but future episodes will stream exclusively on HBO Max. A third season is coming in 2021.

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Looney Tunes Cartoons (2020): Best Comeback for Classic Characters

The Looney Tunes in Looney Tunes Cartoons

HBO Max

IMDb Rating: 8.2/10

Genre: Animation, Short, Adventure

Starring: Eric Bauza, Jeff Bergman, Bob Bergen

Created By: Hugh Harman

TV Rating: TV-Y7

Number of Seasons: 1

Just like Mickey Mouse and the Animaniacs, the Looney Tunes are now making a comeback. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Wiley E. Coyote may be living in the 21st century, but their antics haven't changed. Looney Tunes Cartoons is an excellent reintroduction, or introduction, to classic childhood characters.

Everything from the animation to the voice acting to the musical scores matches the classic shorts from the 1930s and 1940s. Based on that track record, Looney Tunes Cartoons will likely stand the test of time.

24
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South Park (1997): Longest Running Cartoon for Adults Only

South Park: The Pandemic Special

HBO

IMDb Rating: 8.7/10

Genre: Animation, Comedy

Starring: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes

Created By: Trey Parker, Matt Stone

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 23

Second only to The Simpsons in terms of longevity, South Park has kept its finger on the pulse of American politics and culture for more than two decades. Join Cartman and the gang as they navigate the challenges of being a kid with help from their school cafeteria chef and Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo.

South Park moved to HBO Max in 2020, so you won't find it streaming anywhere else. The 24th season kicked off with the appropriately named "Pandemic Special," with new episodes coming in 2021. In case you didn't know, this cartoon isn't for kids, so watch it after they've gone to bed.

25
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Succession (2018): Most Critically Acclaimed Show on HBO Max

The cast of Succession (2018)

HBO

IMDb Rating: 8.6/10

Genre: Drama

Starring: Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook

Created By: Jesse Armstrong

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 3

As entrepreneur Logan Roy (Brian Cox) nears the end of his life and career, his four kids are already beginning to fight over the family business. However, on his 80th birthday, Logan announces that he has no plans of stepping down anytime soon.

While this family drama may sound similar in premise to the Netflix series Empire, the series has enough refreshingly humorous moments sprinkled throughout to keep things from getting too tense. A massive hit with critics, Succession has won numerous accolades, including Golden Globe Awards for Best Television Series and Best Actor (for Cox).

26
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Chernobyl (2019): Best Historical Drama About the Cold War

A scene from Chernobyl (2019)

HBO

IMDb Rating: 9.4/10

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller

Starring: Jessie Buckley, Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård

Created By: Craig Mazin

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 1

In April 1986, a nuclear energy plant exploded in Ukraine, causing a cloud of radiation to cover the nearby city of Pripyat. This HBO exclusive, presented in five-parts, tells the story of the Chernobyl disaster from the perspective of the bureaucrats who oversaw it and the first responders who orchestrated the evacuation.

The creators did painstaking research, including reading first-hand accounts from survivors, but they took some liberties with the plot for dramatic effect. Nonetheless, Chernobyl earned a whopping 19 Primetime Emmy nominations and the Golden Globe for Best Miniseries.

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Adventure Time (2010): Best Cartoon Series Kids and Adults Can Enjoy Together

Finn and Jake in Adventure Time

HBO

IMDb Rating: 8.6/10

Genre: Animation, Comedy

Starring: John DiMaggio, Jeremy Shada, Tom Kenny

Created By: Pendleton Ward

TV Rating: TV-PG

Number of Seasons: 10

Even if you've never seen an episode of Adventure Time, you can probably recognize its characters. What began as a series of Nicktoons shorts in 2007 about a boy and his dog traversing a surreal post-apocalyptic world has evolved into a big franchise that includes numerous spin-off comics and games.

If you didn't watch Adventure Time during its first run, now is a perfect time to get acquainted with Finn, Jake, and the rest of the crew. HBO is releasing a limited reboot series called Adventure Time: Distant Lands that will continue into 2021.

28
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Last Week Tonight (2014): Best Late Night Parody News Show

John Oliver in Last Week Tonight

HBO

IMDb Rating: 8.9/10

Genre: Comedy, News, Talk Show

Starring: John Oliver, David Kaye, Ryan Barger

Created By: John Oliver

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 8

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver is HBO's flagship late-night talk show, and the number of awards it has won goes well into the double digits. There are rarely any guests or musical performances. Instead, it follows the format of a satirical news program, much like The Daily Show, where Oliver got his start as a correspondent.

Oliver has complete control over his show's content, and he doesn't shy away from political topics. The show introduced “the John Oliver effect,” or instances where the show's fans influenced public policy, such as when viewers flooded the FCC with public comments following proposed changes to net neutrality protections.

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Lovecraft Country (2020): Most Horrific Show About American History

Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett in Lovecraft Country

HBO

IMDb Rating: 7.1/19

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror

Starring: Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett, Courtney B. Vance

Created By: Misha Green

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 1

In the 1950s, an African American man named Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) travels to the segregated American south to find his missing father. On top of discrimination from locals, Atticus must also deal with the ghosts of slave owners and monsters from H.P Lovecraft's twisted imagination.

Lovecraft Country is based on a book of the same name, inspired by fantasy-horror author H.P Lovecraft, the show's namesake. Some scenes are brutally violent, and it doesn't pull punches when addressing America's racist past, so viewer discretion is highly encouraged.

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Equal (2020): Best Pre-Stonestall LGBT History Docuseries

Hailie Sahar in Equal

HBO

IMDb Rating: 6.5/10

Genre: Documentary, History

Starring: Billy Porter, Anne Ramsay, Cheyenne Jackson

Created By: Diane Becker, Melanie Miller

TV Rating: TV-MA

Number of Seasons: 1

You've probably heard of Stonewall, but have you heard of the Daughters of Bilitis? What about the 1966 Compton Cafeteria riots? Equal celebrates the history of LGBTQ civil rights activism before 1969. Even if you consider yourself well-versed in the subject, you'll probably learn something you didn't know.

Each hour-long episode focuses on various individuals, organizations, and movements that played a role in expanding the rights of LGBTQ+ people. This docuseries brings historical events to life through a combination of archival footage and dramatic reenactments by LGBT actors.

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