The 10 Best TV Shows to Stream on HBO Max Right Now
When WarnerMedia launched its long-awaited streaming platform HBO Max in late May, many people were excited, some were confused (here’s a quick rundown of what it actually is), and others were simply overwhelmed by its many film and TV options. To help you narrow down your watch list, below are 10 must-see shows for every type of TV fan. (If you're in more of a movie mood, we've got some recommendations on that front, too.)
1. We’re Here (2020-)
Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara, and Shangela Laquifa Wadley—all alums of RuPaul’s Drag Race—travel to small towns across the nation to teach “drag daughters” the art of drag in this non-competitive Max Original reality series. Each episode, chock-full of personal growth and glitter, culminates in a drag show. It’s basically a fusion of Queer Eye and RuPaul’s Drag Race, and it’s just as entertaining as you’d expect that to be.
2. At Home With Amy Sedaris (2017-)
At Home With Amy Sedaris is an absurdist cross between an at-home talk show and a sitcom. In it, Sedaris teaches viewers how to do a variety of crafting, cooking, and home improvement tasks, interspersed with visits from her neighbors, friends, and an eclectic selection of guest stars that includes Michael Shannon, Rose Byrne, and Neil Patrick Harris. Everything about the series is surprising, bizarre, and hysterical, from the poorly-executed how-to lessons to the house itself, which looks like it could be made of gingerbread.
3. A Black Lady Sketch Show (2019-)
Drinking anything while watching A Black Lady Sketch Show is a dangerous game—every single sketch is spit-take-level hilarious. Robin Thede executive produces and stars in the series, which also features Ashley Nicole Black, Quinta Brunson, and Gabrielle Dennis, with guest appearances from celebrities like Angela Bassett, Laverne Cox, and Issa Rae (who is also an executive producer). It's the first sketch comedy series entirely created by and starring Black women, and sketches cover contemporary culture without ever straying into stale or trope-y territory—take, for example, this parody of “stans” through the lens of a 21st-century retelling of Romeo and Juliet.
4. The Sixties (2014)
For anyone wishing that some enterprising production company would sum up the 1960s in America in a straightforward, easily digestible (but not boring) docuseries, we have good news. CNN’s The Sixties, produced by Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman’s Playtone, covers the Vietnam War, the assassination of JFK, the civil rights movement, the space race, and more in 10 riveting episodes. And, since 1968 was such a landmark year, there’s even a four-part spinoff series called 1968: The Year That Changed America, which is also streaming on HBO Max.
5. Wallander (2008-2016)
This BBC version of the Swedish series—based on Henning Mankell’s crime novels—stars Kenneth Branagh as Kurt Wallander, a flawed investigator trying to solve murders and find meaning in his life at the same time. It’s slow-burning, a little gritty, and perfect for fans of Luther, Broadchurch, and every other British crime drama series. Oh, and Tom Hiddleston is in it, too.
6. Looking (2014-2016)
Heaps of critical acclaim weren't enough to keep HBO from pulling the plug on Looking, but low viewership is no reason to skip its two existing seasons (plus a 2016 television film that serves as the series finale). It chronicles the lives of three gay friends in modern-day San Francisco: video game designer Patrick (Jonathan Groff), artist Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez), and sommelier Dom (Murray Bartlett). Groff delivers the type of nuanced, earnest performance that his fans have come to expect from him in every role, and you’ll probably find yourself torn between wanting to binge-watch Looking all in one sitting and making it last as long as you can.
7. United Shades of America (2016-)
In this docuseries, comedian W. Kamau Bell paints a comprehensive portrait of the nation and its issues by interviewing the most unexpected people in the most unexpected places. He rides along with a New Jersey cop, explores the LGBTQ+ community in Salt Lake City, talks with people living along the U.S.-Mexico border, and even sits down with members of the Ku Klux Klan. Bell does his best (and his best is very good) to approach every topic with good-natured humor and highlight important takeaways for viewers, making United Shades of America an engrossing, illuminating watch.
8. Love Life (2020-)
This Max Original follows Anna Kendrick’s Darby as she navigates a string of relationships in her mid-twenties. The show captures the slightly desperate, slightly confusing nature of trying to find a sense of belonging in modern-day New York, and Kendrick’s characteristically candid humor is a perfect match for the passionate, vulnerable, self-deprecating Darby. It features Strangers star Zoë Chao in the “best friend” role—another top-notch performance for her perfect record—and a voiceover by Lesley Manville, whose even-keeled delivery gives the series a quirky storybook vibe.
9. Gavin & Stacey (2007-2010, 2019)
Before James Corden hopped across the pond to fulfill his "Carpool Karaoke" destiny, he was the co-creator and supporting star of a BBC comedy series called Gavin & Stacey, about a couple whose relationship forces their very different families (one from South Wales, the other from Essex, England) to spend a lot of time together. It’s equal parts charming and funny, and there’s also a one-hour reunion Christmas special that aired in 2019—10 years after the show ended.
10. Friends (1994-2004)
Friends wasn't off Netflix for long before it became available on HBO Max, but it probably felt like an eternity for anyone who plays the classic sitcom on a continuous loop. All 10 seasons are now available on the service, and with a reunion special finally in the works (which will also air on HBO Max), there’s no better opportunity to watch the lives of Ross, Rachel, and the rest of the gang unfold for the first—or 40th—time.