Last Updated: June 4th
We’ve filtered through HBO Max’s massive movie queue already, so it’s only right that we take a look at some of the best TV shows the platform has to offer. Of course, HBO originals like Game of Thrones and Succession belong on this list, but we’ve already given them a shoutout on our rankings of the best HBO shows, so go there if you’re looking for network staples. Here? Well, here we’re giving the original series and old favorites the shoutouts they deserve.
Here are the best shows streaming on HBO Max right now.
The Flight Attendant
1 season, 8 episodes | IMDb: 7.1/10
Kaley Cuoco surprised everyone, especially fans from her Big Bang Theory days, when she delivered this jet-setting mystery on HBO Max. In it, Cuoco plays Cassie, a flight attendant who masks her many troubles with alcohol and avoids forming meaningful relationships by way of her job. When she hooks up with a passenger and wakes to find him dead, the downward spiral she’s been putting off arrives with a force. Cuoco is brilliant in this, as are Zosia Mamet and Rosie Perez.
4 seasons, 40 episodes | IMDb: 7.7/10
This genre-bending comedy hid its greatness over on TBS for its first two seasons, which is why we’re thrilled HBO Max decided to shuffle it over to their new streaming platform. More people need to be watching this show, mainly because it manages to distill the millennial experiences into darkly comedic subplots about murder, missing person cases, and conservative talk shows, but also because the cast is terrific.
The West Wing
7 seasons, 155 episodes | IMDb: 8.7/10
Aaron Sorkin’s iconic political drama receives more than its fair share of praise. It’s got a boatload of Emmys to its name, an enviable cast, and a team of polished writers — it’s not the dark horse of this list by any means — but greatness is greatness, and we must recognize it. The show, which stars Martin Sheen, Allison Janney, Rob Lowe, and a slew of other A-list names too many to list, follows the inner-workings of the president’s inner circle. It’s a who’s-who of political masterminds, manipulating events behind the scenes, managing the damage of bad decisions, controlling the press, and trying to lead the free world while fighting their own personal battles. In short: it’s the gold standard of television.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
6 seasons, 148 episodes | IMDb: 7.9/10
Besides introducing the masses to the undeniable talent of Will Smith, and giving us the dopest theme song to ever exist on television, this classic family sitcom managed to put in some real work with all those laugh tracks. Smith plays a version of himself, a kid from Philly who move to Bel-Air to live with his rich relatives. He teaches them some street smarts, they try to class up his act, and the comedy comes from that disconnect, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t get emotional from time to time while bingeing this thing.
11 seasons, 851 episodes | IMDb: 8.7/10
Doctor Who is a long-running British series that follows the adventures of a Time Lord and his companion as they travel throughout space and time in the TARDIS. Doctor Who can be a little cheesy, but it is nevertheless one of those shows that’s difficult not to become completely invested in once you begin. Viewers who may not even consider themselves sci-fi geeks should give it a shot because this may be the show that converts them. It isn’t just a sci-fi show, it is a series about love and heartbreak and loneliness, about coming of age, about humanity and about loss. Maybe even more than that, watching Doctor Who is not just a television experience, it’s a cultural one, one of the rare shows capable of connecting people across the globe.
10 seasons, 236 episodes | IMDb: 8.9/10
There are some who argue that Friends was an overrated sitcom, with protagonists as unrealistic as they were lily-white. But like a big bowl of mac ‘n cheese, Friends is TV comfort food: not exactly great for you, but sometimes exactly what’s needed. From classic episodes like “The One With the Embryos” and “The One Where Everybody Finds Out” to its sprawling cast of eccentric supporting characters, the enduringly funny Friends will be there for you when you need to kick back and forget about the real world for a while.
4 seasons, 16 episodes | IMDb: 8.5/10
Maybe the bleakest, grittiest cop show you’ll ever see, Luther is so intense that it may at times rattle your brain stem. It’s got the best elements of other of its ilk as it follows a genius detective who struggles to separate his personal and professional lives. But it is also pummeling great drama, and Idris Elba is a tour de force (Ruth Wilson is fantastic, too).
The Office U.K.
2 seasons, 14 episodes | IMDb: 8.5/10
What can we say about this genre-defining workplace comedy that hasn’t been said before? Ricky Gervais’ mockumentary has influenced some of the greatest works on television and despite its many predecessors, it remains the best example of what a good, mundane comedy series can do. Gervais as clueless boss David Brent, whose desperate attempts at connecting with his underlings are a painful exercise in futility. Martin Freeman is also a stand-out, playing a role that John Krasinski inhabited in the American remake, but it’s the British sarcasm that really elevates this series and makes it worthy of a watch.
4 seasons, 92 episodes | IMDb: 7.5/10
Another fish-out-of-water type tale, this one skews a bit heavier on the side of melodrama as it follows a troubled kid named Ryan (Ben McKenzie), who’s taken in by a wealthy public defender, his socialite wife, and their nerdy teenage son, Seth (Adam Brody). The two become quick friends, navigating the f*cked-up, elitist world of Orange County, California, falling for society girls, heading South of the Border, confronting criminals who surf. You know, normal West Coast shenanigans.
Rick and Morty
Many wondered how Dan Harmon would follow up the perfection that was Community at its peak, and he certainly delivered with Rick and Morty. Like a demented version of Back to the Future, Rick and Morty follows a super scientist and his less-than-genius grandson on a variety of adventures. It’s part cartoon, part “cosmic horror.” Who knew that following a vomiting scientist and his dimwitted grandson could be so brilliant? Rick and Morty is a demented work of escapism for adults that’s not to be missed. It’s also a still relatively underground show that’s waiting to burst forth into a broader audience. Get in on the goodness now.
1 season, 8 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
Jean Smart is dominating the content over on HBO and HBO Max but her best work is undoubtedly this dramedy adventure. Smart plays Deborah Vance, a legendary stand-up comedian on her last leg whose Vegas show needs some help. Enter Ava (Hannah Einbinder), a young, up-and-coming comic in need of an image makeover. Their odd-couple dynamic is the draw here as their personalities and generational divides clash backstage. Einbinder more than holds her own, which is high praise because Smart’s never been better.
1 season, 10 episodes | IMDb: 7.2/10
One of the better original offerings available at the launch of HBO Max is this Paul Feig created, Anna Kendrick-starring anthology series about finding love in all the wrong (and right) places. Kendrick plays a young woman named Darby who reminisces on her past relationships. We follow her over the course of a decade as men flit in and out of her life, but what sets this show apart, aside from Kendrick’s undeniable comedic talent, is that its heroine shows real growth in the romance department. Novel, we know.
United Shades of America
4 seasons, 32 episodes | IMDb: 6.6/10
Comedian W. Kamau Bell brings a sharp, humorous take on some admittedly difficult subjects that are plaguing our country with this docuseries, which sees him traveling the U.S. to interact with a variety of communities — think everyone from the KKK to commune lovers and doomsday preppers. It’s eye-opening comedic commentary, and it’ll definitely make you view the melting pot in a different light.
4 seasons, 28 episodes | IMDb: 8.5/10
Think of this early aughts comedy series as the British version of Friends. It follows much the same format — a group of six mates, three women, three men, exploring sex, love, and relationships in the city — but it’s got the courage to dig a bit deeper into what makes men and women tick than its American counterpart. It’s also got plenty of that trademark British sarcasm to pass the time in between hook ups and dick jokes.
Conan Without Borders
1 season, 6 episodes | IMDb: N/A
Technically, this “series” is just a collection of late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien’s recurring travel segment, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. In fact, Conan’s frequent trips to places around the world are often more enlightening and fun to watch than the more traditional travel shows. Conan Without Borders has a knack for getting people to open up, lightening the mood with his trademark humor before delving into serious topics, like the humanitarian crisis in Haiti or the war in Israel. He’s not afraid to make fun of himself, which puts his guests at ease and gives us a more authentic travel experience.
1 season, 10 episodes | IMDb: 8.2/10
Primal is almost like a grown-up take on The Land Before Time. Let us explain. The animated series from visionary creator Genndy Tartakovsky, follows the story of a caveman who befriends a dinosaur and together, they fight to survive the harsh world of the prehistoric age. It’s definitely more violent, with darker, more adult themes at play, but it’s also a beautiful story of friendship packaged in some cool-as-hell illustrations.
4 seasons, 56 episodes | IMDb: 8.3/10
Watchmen‘s Regina King leads the voice cast of this adult animated sitcom that first aired on Cartoon Network. The show tells the story of the Freemans, a Black family moving from the streets of Chicago to the suburbs. This culture clash fuels much of the plot, with both the parents and the kids struggling to adapt to mostly-white neighborhoods, blatant prejudice, class inequality and more.
2 seasons, 16 episodes | IMDb: 6.3/10
Though this reality competition series opened to some controversy, it’s still an addictive watch and one of the few queer-centered original series that you’ll find on the streaming platform. The Good Place star Jameela Jamil leads a panel of judges as voguing teams battle it out on the ballroom dance floor for a cash prize. To get a better sense of the history and culture at play here, go watch FX’s Pose, then come back and enjoy the show these divas are putting on.