HBO has been pretty much dominating the drama series game since 1997, when it came onto the scene with the one-two punch of Oz followed by The Sopranos. Though things have faltered a little in the last few years — projects being scrapped at the last minute, deals not working out, or big series failing to find an audience or their own voice — HBO has still produced some of the best series on TV and helped usher in an era of exceptional dramas.
The list below ranks the premium network’s drama series from the worst to best. “Worst” is a little harsh, because even the worst are still better than most, and the list very quickly moves into some great series that are still very worthy of a re-watch (or watching for the very first time)
For our purposes, a drama series is defined as an hourlong show that is scripted, though miniseries are left out (further, I’m considering The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency a comedy — rankings coming soon!) As it so happens, HBO has some amazing miniseries: John Adams, Band of Brothers, Parade’s End, The Pacific, Generation Kill … go and watch those. They are almost all top tier (I didn’t love Olive Kitteridge).
The rankings below are based not only on how solid the series were throughout their run, but also their legacy and influence on pop culture and television as a whole. HBO’s most recent series, The Night Of, is not included because it hasn’t finished airing yet — its placement is TBD. Also, the 2003 political series K Street is not here because I never saw it, and it’s not available on streaming (not even on HBOGo!)