Streaming Wars

HBO Max: The best originals to watch, from Succession to Euphoria

Here are the top-tier HBO Max shows, according to Inga Parkel. Including Insecure, The Sex Lives of College Girls, I May Destroy You, and lots more

<p>Hacks, Euphoria, The Flight Attendant, and Succession</p>

Hacks, Euphoria, The Flight Attendant, and Succession

Launched in May 2020 by Warner Bros as a replacement for HBO Now and HBO Go, HBO Max is a premium US platform offering a glittering array of TV shows and movies.

It’s home to many well-known and critically acclaimed series, including Euphoria and Succession. Beyond that, it has a seemingly endless supply of dramas and comedies that give Netflix a real run for its money. UK viewers don’t need to fret because most of the channel’s originals remain available on other streaming services – such as NOW TV and Prime Video – for your viewing pleasure.

Here’s just some of what you’ll get for $14.99 per month.

And Just Like That (NOW UK, one season, 2022–)

Eleven years after its famed predecessor, And Just Like That is the TV spinoff of Sex and the City’s leading ladies, minus Samantha (Kim Cattrall). In an attempt to make up for the original’s lack of diversity, its attempts at inclusion can sometimes feel forced. Yet, “it is a brave, unexpected and ultimately rewarding move,” argues The Independent’s Adam White. So, for the old-school fans of the forerunner, this one’s for you.

Made for Love (Prime Video UK, two seasons, 2021–)

Cristin Milioti on Made for Love

A futuristic sci-fi with hints of humour, Made for Love is about Hazel (Cristin Milioti), a woman trying to escape her toxic marriage to a tech billionaire. Now, on the run, she has to figure out a way to stay hidden despite being chipped with a monitoring device. Similar to Black Mirror, you will find intrigue and horror in the sinister capabilities of future technology.

Succession (NOW UK, three seasons, 2018–)

Succession dominated recent Emmys, and for good reason. This bleakly funny drama about a family-owned media conglomerate whose ageing patriarch, Logan Roy (Brian Cox), must consider the company’s future, is spectacular. While his children fight for control, family loyalties collide, leading to Machiavellian drama. “The show is funny, elegant and pleasurable precisely because there is no hope of an actual happy ending for its bratty, spatting leads,” writes The Independent’s Philippa Snow.

Hacks (Prime Video UK, two seasons, 2021–)

Emmy-winning Hacks boasts a cast whose identities uniquely reflect their characters. Cleverly written, it follows a fading stand-up comedian (Jean Smart) who’s paired with a cancelled comedy writer (Hannah Einbinder) in an attempt to revitalise both of their careers. Despite the stark contrast in age and the generations that shaped them, they eventually find a human connection that brings them closer together.

Euphoria (NOW UK, two seasons, 2019–)

Shocking viewers with its grittiness and nudity, Euphoria has successfully distinguished itself from other contemporary coming-of-age shows. Telling the story of Rue (Zendaya), a recovering teenage drug addict, and her equally troubled classmates, its highly stylised shots and wardrobe elevates it to incredible heights. In its second season, creator Sam Levinson “keeps his foot on the pedal in other ways, with the support of a cast who are only getting better,” praises The Independent’s Annabel Nugent.

Somebody Somewhere (NOW UK, one season, 2022–)

Bridget Everett on Somebody Somewhere

A semi-autobiographical tale, Somebody Somewhere is a heartwarming dramedy following Sam (Bridget Everett) just as she’s moved back home to Kansas, where she struggles to fit in. Grappling with the recent death of her sister, she’s reunited with her love of singing within a group of community misfits. There, they teach her to defy expectations and pursue life authentically.

The Sex Lives of College Girls (ITV2 UK, one season, 2021–)

Co-created by Mindy Kaling, The Sex Lives of College Girls is an empowering and lighthearted look at four new college roommates and their sexual escapades. Through a comedic lens, it normalises women’s sexuality, sharing the message that they can engage in promiscuity too.

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Mare of Easttown (NOW UK, one season, 2021–)

Emmy-winning miniseries Mare of Easttown leads with Kate Winslet as Mare, a small town Pennsylvanian detective. As her personal life crumbles, she finds distraction in investigating a brutal murder. Although tonally dark, The Independent’s Ed Cumming credits Mare’s undimmable spirit despite the encompassing gloom, making it an easier watch than others of the same genre, such as Fargo, and Broadchurch.

Insecure (VirginTV GO UK, five seasons, 2016–2021)

Jay Ellis and Issa Rae on Insecure

Insecure is a funny yet realistic depiction of two friends Issa (Issa Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Orji), and their lives in Los Angeles. While they reside in a city focused on exclusive parties and status, their flaws and insecurities are only exacerbated. It’s a necessary narrative that digs into the strong and confident Black woman stereotype, and delves deep into the nuances of friendship.

The Flight Attendant (NOW UK, two seasons, 2020–)

This murder mystery thriller starring Kaley Cuoco soars with its “methodically plotted whodunnit” pacing, writes The Independent’s Amanda Whiting. When Cassandra (Cuoco), a struggling alcoholic, wakes up next to a dead man in her bed, she has no memory of what happened. Forced to prove her innocence, she gets caught in the middle of the CIA and a hitman group.

Gentleman Jack (BBC iPlayer UK, two seasons, 2019–)

A collaboration between BBC One and HBO Max, Gentleman Jack is a historical drama, set in 1830s England. Based on the diaries of real-life landowner Anne Lister, famously dubbed “the first modern lesbian”, it’s a take on her gay love affairs during a time when women were expected to marry, breed, and stay indoors. “This is its own programme, a confident, smart period drama with fabulous sets and costumes,” argues The Independent’s Ed Cumming.

Westworld (NOW UK, three seasons, 2016–)

Evan Rachel Wood on Westworld

An ambitious sci-fi, Westworld is “a gorgeous Lost with robots, utter hokum and tremendously entertaining”, writes The Independent’s Ed Cumming. Acting as an iteration of the 1973 movie of the same name, about a futuristic theme park whose guests use artificial consciousness to live out their fantasies, it boasts a strong cast of Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Thandiwe Newton, and Ed Harris.

The Gilded Age (NOW UK, one season, 2022)

Think “American Downton Abbey”, and you have the premise of The Gilded Age. Taking place in 19th-century New York, the stakes are low for the aristocratic Brook family, whose biggest upset is table settings. So while it may feel “glossy and bloated” as The Independent’s Ed Cumming describes, its lavish costuming and overdramatisation makes for campy viewing.

I May Destroy You (BBC iPlayer UK, one season, 2020)

Poignantly written, I May Destroy You is “an honest and unparalleled exploration of sexual assault and survival”, argues The Independent’s Isobel Lewis. Inspired by the real-life attack of creator Michaela Coel, her character Arabella’s absent memory of a rape comes back to her in flashbacks as the show deftly explores the complexities of sexual assault and its effect on survivors.

Barry (NOW UK, three seasons, 2018–)

Bill Hader on Barry

Barry is a dark comedy about a low-level Midwestern hitman (Bill Hader) who desperately wants to untangle himself from his violent past of contract killing. When a hit on an actor brings him to Los Angeles, he finds inspiration to pursue acting himself. According to The Independent’s Louis Chilton: “It’s one of the funniest comedies around and one of the most gripping crime dramas.”

Love Life (BBC iPlayer, two seasons, 2020–)

Whimsically told, Love Life follows Darby (Anna Kendrick) as she searches for love throughout young adulthood. Despite its cheeriness, it rightfully depicts the sorrows of heartbreak and turns the tiresome rom-com trope on its head. Impressive characterisation also makes up for any cheesiness it might often lean into.

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