It’s not TV, it’s HBO. The channel’s iconic tagline has long suggested that when you settle in for an evening of comedies, dramas, or miniseries with the HBO brand attached, you’re in for something special. However, for every Game of Thrones, there’s a Luck that just never got the love it deserved. When you think HBO, your mind likely goes to the heavy-hitters — The Sopranos, The Wire, Curb Your Enthusiasm — but the premium channel has so many hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.
Whether you subscribe to HBO or HBO Now, you have an impressive back-catalog of shows at your disposal. It’s time to stop re-watching Veep, and sample one of the gone too soon (or simply flying under the radar) series that everyone zips past on their way to the next new episode of Silicon Valley. The shows on this list range from one and done seasons of brilliance to criminally underrated newcomers. The one thing they all have in common is the HBO stamp of approval. Add them to your streaming queue now, and prepare to bask in some serious television goodness.
The Dust Bowl provides an appropriately eerie setting for this series that melded a traveling carnival show with an impending apocalypse. Strange and provocative, if you like your American history tangled up with religion and folklore, this two-season curiosity is for you.
Come for the luscious Botswana scenery, stay for the tremendous character work done by Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose. The slow bloom of their friendship as they confidently open up a detective agency everyone believes is doomed to fail is a joy to watch. If any show deserves to join the reboot trend, it’s this one.
3. Doll & Em
Technically, Doll & Em is a British import, but it’s also an exquisite examination of female friendships and the struggle to maintain them even as people begin to grow in different directions. HBO knew what it was doing when it acquired this Sky series, it’s just too bad that most people missed out on seeing it.
Weird and profane, Animals is an animated series that finds humor in the quirks of city life as seen through the eyes of pigeons, rats, and the various other non-human creatures who exist in the margins. This comedy is still airing, so catch up now, and prepare to fall hard for this strange, but addictive series.
Enlightened was critically-acclaimed, but little seen. And that’s a shame because Laura Dern as a self-destructive executive trying to turn her life around by exposing corruption is darkly funny and unlike anything else on TV (or HBO). It lasted for two glorious seasons, and by the time you watch them both you’ll join those in the know in wishing there was more.
An honest exploration of sex and relationships in modern America isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you enjoy a show that delves deep into its characters’ interior lives, Tell Me You Love Me is a classic. (The star-studded cast that includes Ian Somerhalder, Adam Scott, and Sonya Walger is a definite perk too.)
New Orleans gets The Wire treatment in David Simons’ post-Katrina masterpiece. Sit back and watch as culture and bureaucracy collide in one of the most fascinating cities in the world.
8. Hello Ladies
Sometimes the jokes will make you cringe, but it’s almost impossible not to love Stephen Merchant. Even when he’s fumbling his way through awkward first dates, there’s something undeniably charming about this British star.
Far too many people dubbed Looking “Girls for gay men.” The melancholy comedy wasn’t a knock-off, it was an intimate look at the loves and friendships of a group of gay men living and working in San Francisco. Full of heartbreaks, sly humor, and the natural ebbs and flows of adult friendships, this show was a half-hour feast.
Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church’s comedy was lost in the shuffle of buzzier shows when it first premiered. That’s all the more reason to catch up before Season 2 arrives this winter. Penned by Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan, this examination of a marriage gone sour is far funnier than it has any right to be.
11. Room 104
Room 104 is a mesmerizing anthology series held together by nothing more than a dingy hotel room. The series is weird, occasionally creepy, and always entertaining. And it deserves way more love than it gets.
The mundanity of day-to-day suburban life as imagined by the Duplass brothers is something everyone should see. Wry and full of clever, squirm-inducing jokes, Togetherness never fully got its due.
It’s time to put that HBO subscription to good use and watch these 12 series that deserve way more fans.