The 84 greatest films on HBO Max proper now

This week, HBO Max is debuting the new Hugh Jackman sci-fi/thriller Reminiscence on the same day it hits theaters for no additional cost. That’s a feature that may not continue for Warner Bros.’ 2022 movies, so enjoy it while you can. But the one thing that won’t change next year is HBO Max’s absolutely stellar lineup of movies. Warner Bros. has one of the most storied film libraries ever created, which also stretches back almost a century. The modern hits and a selection of flicks from other studios give HBO Max an edge over its rivals at Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and even the mighty Netflix. To get the most out of your subscription, check out our list of the best movies on HBO Max right now.
Looking for more suggestions? We also have guides to the best movies on Netflix, the best movies on Hulu, the best movies on Amazon Prime Video, and the best movies on Disney+.

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How A lot Hollywood’s High-Paid Movie and TV Stars Cashed in In the course of the Pandemic

Dwayne Johnson is among the highest-paid stars in all of Hollywood. Frank Masi/NETFLIX © 2021
The entertainment industry is currently trapped in a vortex of attention, skepticism and hard fought negotiations as it pertains to talent compensation, but its highest earners are still cashing colossal paychecks. As the ways in which major studios distribute their biggest products changes, so too must the ways in which Hollywood’s biggest stars are paid. In the pandemic, that has forced both sides to navigate the ever evolving landscape of shortened theatrical windows, premium video on demand, straight-to-streaming, and hybrid releases. This has led to some high-profile headlines surrounding Warner Bros.’ decision to send its entire 2021 film slate to HBO Max and Scarlett Johansson’s ongoing lawsuit against Disney over Black Widow.
But what does the actual top-tier A-list hierarchy look like in terms of Hollywood salaries? From the outside looking in, pretty darn comfortable! The envy-inducing totals these highly paid stars receive may sour your mood for the rest of the day. But thanks to Variety‘s reports on the biggest film and TV salaries, we at least have an understanding of modern talent compensation at the highest levels. Here’s the Top 10 for both mediums.
Film Salaries:

Daniel Craig ($100 million for two Knives Out sequels)
Dwayne Johnson ($50M for Red One)
Will Smith ($40M for King Richard)
Denzel Washington ($40M for The Little Things)
Leonardo DiCaprio ($30M for Don’t Look Up)
Mark Wahlberg ($30M for Spenser Confidential)
Jennifer Lawrence ($25M for Don’t Look Up)
Julia Roberts ($25M for Leave the World Behind)
Sandra Bullock ($20M for The Lost City of D)
Ryan Gosling ($20M for The Grey Man)

(Note: these sums include streaming backend buyouts)
Netflix’s $469 million acquisition of two Knives Out sequels from filmmaker Rian Johnson netted Daniel Craig a mind-boggling windfall. Who would have thought Benoit Blanc might out-earn James Bond? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has often been among Hollywood’s highest-paid stars and his upcoming universe-building collaboration with Amazon, the Christmas-themed Red One, is no exception.
What’s interesting to note about the film list is that five titles — Knives Out sequels, Don’t Look Up, Spenser Confidential, Leave the World Behind, The Grey Man — all belong to Netflix. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the Netflix Model of talent compensation, large upfront sums that buyout the backend, are becoming the norm across the industry.
TV Salaries:

Chris Pratt ($1.4M per episode for Terminal List)
Jeff Bridges ($1M per episode for The Old Man)
Bryan Cranston ($750k per episode for Your Honor)
Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis ($650k-$750k per episode for And Just Like That…)
Kate Winslet ($650k per episode for Mare of Easttown)
Viola Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Gillian Anderson ($600k per episode for The First Lady)
Pedro Pascal ($600k per episode for The Last of Us)
Steve Martin, Martin Short ($600k per episode for Only Murders in the Building)
Alec Baldwin ($575k for Dr. Death)
Brian Cox ($400k-$500k for Succession)

Not a single series among television’s Top 10 salaries hails from broadcast. Instead, the list is dominated by streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video (Terminal List), Hulu (The Old Man) and HBO Max (And Just Like That…) as well as premium cable such as HBO (Mare of Easttown, Succession, The Last of Us) and Showtime (The First Lady). It goes to show you where the small screen power lies these days. Variety also reports that Robert Downey Jr. is rumored to have earned $2 million per episode for A24’s Vietnam War thriller The Sympathizer on HBO, though the outlet did not include this on its official list.

One of the best reveals on HBO Max proper now

If there’s a key difference between HBO Max and its predecessor, HBO, this is it: The HBO brand was built on quality over quantity. By contrast, HBO Max has a much heavier emphasis on quantity. But so far, it’s a mixture that has worked well for HBO Max, by combining the prestige series from HBO itself with an assortment of Max originals, which wouldn’t have easily fit in with the cable network. Additionally, there is an assortment of dramas, comedies, documentaries, and even reality shows from other studios to beef up the lineup. In short, you won’t be bored anytime soon. If you’re looking for a good place to plan your next TV binge, then check out our list of the best TV shows you can stream on HBO Max right now.
Looking for something else? We’ve also rounded up the best shows on Hulu, the best shows on Netflix, the best shows on Amazon Prime Video, and the best shows on Disney+.

Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens
Awkwafina’s real name is Nora Lum, but she’s not really the perennial screw-up that she presents herself as in Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens. Within the series, Nora lives at home with her father, Wally (BD Wong), and Nora’s grandmother (Lori Tan Chinn). Nora wants to break out and begin life on her terms, but events (and her own actions) often get in the way. Nora also finds herself feeling jealous when her cousin, Edmund (Bowen Yang), plans to launch his own business. And when Nora teams up with Edmund on their new app, things don’t always go smoothly. But it’s definitely hilarious.
Created by: Awkwafina, Teresa HsiaoCast: Awkwafina, Lori Tan Chinn, Chrissie Fit, Jonathan Park, BD Wong, Bowen YangNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO MAX

Warrior
If you’re looking for some action, then Warrior is the martial arts show for you. Inspired by a concept created by the late Bruce Lee, Warrior takes place in San Francisco during the 1870s. Andrew Koji stars as Ah Sahm, a Chinese immigrant who comes to America in search of his sister, Mai Ling (Dianne Doan). Much to his surprise, Ah Sahm learns that Mai Ling is married to Long Zii (Henry Yuk), the leader of a powerful gang. Ah Sahm also finds himself caught in the middle of a gang war designed to ensure that there is no peace in Chinatown. It’s a good thing that Ah Sahm is an expert martial artist, because he will need those skills to survive.
Created by: Jonathan TropperCast: Andrew Koji, Olivia Cheng, Jason Tobin, Dianne Doan, Kieran BewNumber of seasons: 2
Watch on HBO MAX

Small Town News: KPVM Pahrump
At first glance, Small Town News: KPVM Pahrump could easily be mistaken as a mockumentary comedy. However, this is a real documentary, and there really is an independent TV station called KPVM Pahrump. It’s owned by Vernon and Ronda Van Winkle, a couple who have ambitions of expanding their reach beyond Pahrump’s small-town confines and into the broader Las Vegas market. The show features a colorful cast of real personalities as the employees try to make Vern and Ronda’s dream a reality. Unfortunately for the Van Winkles, their ambitions aren’t easily achieved.
Created by: Fenton Bailey, Randy BarbatoCast: Eunette Gentry, Missy Kohler, John Kohler, Deanna O’DonnellNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO MAX

The Venture Bros.
The Venture Bros. was Rick and Morty before Rick and Morty. This animated comedy/adventure series started off as a parody of Jonny Quest, with two dim-witted teenage adventurers, Hank (Christopher McCulloch) and Dean Venture (Michael Sinterniklaas), who are accompanied by their jaded father, Dr. Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture (James Urbaniak), and the family’s incredibly lethal bodyguard, Brock Samson (Patrick Warburton). However, the series has expanded its reach in each subsequent season to tackle superheroes, pop culture, and more while developing many of its characters into more than just caricatures. We’ve come to love this group of weirdos and misfits, especially their supervillain nemeses: The Monarch (McCulloch) and Dr. Girlfriend (Doc Hammer).
Created by: Jackson PublickCast: Christopher McCulloch, Michael Sinterniklaas, James Urbaniak, Patrick Warburton, Doc HammerNumber of seasons: 7
Watch on HBO MAX

Gossip Girl
HBO Max also has the original Gossip Girl series available to watch, but the recently launched 2021 incarnation is both a sequel and a soft reboot. Only Kristen Bell remains as the voice of Gossip Girl, because there’s a whole new cast of kids to anonymously sling dirt and rumors about. Julien Calloway (Jordan Alexander) and her friends are students at Constance Billard, an elite private school in New York City. Julien may be the new “it” girl, but she and her fellow students have a dark side as well. That’s one of the reasons why the Gossip Girl persona has been revived, and everyone’s delicious secrets are already starting to come to light.
Created by: Joshua SafranCast: Jordan Alexander, Whitney Peak, Eli Brown, Emily Alyn Lind, Evan MockNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO MAX

Wellington Paranormal
Fans of the original What We Do in Shadows movie should recognize officers Kyle Minogue (Mike Minogue) and O’Leary (Karen O’Leary) in the spinoff series, Wellington Paranormal. Let’s just say that Kyle and O’Leary aren’t exactly Mulder and Scully in this horror/comedy series from Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. After encountering a young girl suffering from demonic possession, Kyle and O’Leary are roped into joining a paranormal response unit. From there, their lives are about to get infinitely stranger. Only a handful of episodes are currently up on HBO Max, but there’s more on the way, including a new fourth season down the line.
Created by: Jemaine Clement, Taika WaititiCast: Mike Minogue, Karen O’Leary, Maaka PohatuNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO MAX

The White Lotus
Have you ever had a vacation go spectacularly wrong? The White Lotus seems destined to depict a darkly comedic tale about that topic despite the best efforts of Armond (Murray Bartlett), the manager of the White Lotus resort in Hawaii. Armond instructs his loyal staff to ensure that their new guests have a memorable stay. That includes visitors like Shane (Jake Lacy) and Rachel Patton (Alexandra Daddario), a newlywed couple whose connection is already being tested. Other guests are also bringing their own personal and emotional baggage to the resort, which occasionally leads to fireworks between them and the poor beleaguered staff. There’s even an ominous hint that not everyone is going to make it out of this vacation alive.
Created by: Mike WhiteCast: Murray Bartlett, Connie Britton, Jennifer Coolidge, Alexandra Daddario, Fred HechingerNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO MAX

Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes
Reporter and investigative journalist Ronan Farrow helped pave the way for the Me Too movement through his dogged investigation of producer Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual misconduct and abusive behavior. But it wasn’t an easy road for Harvey’s victims, or for Farrow himself. Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes revisits Farrow’s investigation with gripping interviews from the women and men who blew the whistle on Weinstein, including the guy who was initially hired to spy on Farrow! It’s not always easy to watch, but this is an essential record of the crimes from victims who deserve to be heard.
Created by: Ronan FarrowCast: Ronan FarrowNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO MAX

Hacks
Jean Smart’s career renaissance continues with HBO Max’s Hacks, a new original series that finally puts Smart in the leading role that she deserves. Smart portrays Deborah Vance, an iconic comedian on the Las Vegas strip who has been a fixture for decades. And that’s the problem. Deborah’s act is getting really stale, and she desperately needs fresh material to revitalize her persona. Enter Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder), a former TV writer whose career stalls after a social media mishap. Ava’s comedic talent may be just what Deborah needs — if the two strong-willed women can learn how to co-exist and work together.
Created by: Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, Jen StatskyCast: Jean Smart, Hannah Einbinder, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Kaitlin Olson, Christopher McDonaldNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO MAX

In Treatment
After running for three seasons on HBO over a decade ago, In Treatment has returned for a fourth season on HBO Max. In the new season, Uzo Aduba stars as Dr. Brooke Taylor, a therapist who tries to help her patients face their complex emotional issues through intimate one-on-one sessions. Like the first three seasons, each patient gets their own spotlight episodes with Dr. Taylor; multiple episodes are released per week in the extended season. Additionally, the first three seasons of In Treatment are also on HBO Max, with Gabriel Byrne as Dr. Paul Weston and Dianne Wiest as Paul’s therapist, Gina Toll.
Created by: Rodrigo GarcíaCast: Uzo Aduba, Anthony Ramos, John Benjamin Hickey, Gabriel Byrne, Dianne Wiest, Michelle ForbesNumber of seasons: 4
Watch on HBO MAX

Betty
Betty is (kind of) a spinoff of the film Skate Kitchen, but don’t worry if you haven’t seen the movie — Betty quickly goes off in its own direction. Two teenage girls, Kirt (Nina Moran) and Janay (Dede Lovelace), face resistance from the largely male skateboarding scene in New York City. That’s why they decide to strike out on their own with fellow female skaters Honeybear (Kabrina Adams), Indigo (Ajani Russell), and Camille (Rachelle Vinberg). Their shared friendship allows them to navigate the occasional rocky episodes of their lives. A second season is imminent, and their story will continue soon.
Created by: Crystal MoselleCast: Dede Lovelace, Moonbear, Nina Moran, Ajani Russell, Rachelle VinbergNumber of seasons: 2
Watch on HBO MAX

Chernobyl
The best way to describe HBO’s Chernobyl is to call it a historical tragedy. The miniseries dramatizes the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Soviet Union and the subsequent investigation into how it happened. This show doesn’t shy away from the most horrific aspects of radiation poisoning, and it’s not for the faint of heart. Jared Harris leads the ensemble cast as Valery Legasov, one of the lead investigators who personally oversees the Chernobyl cleanup efforts. As Valery searches for answers, he has to pay a high personal cost as well. No one emerges from Chernobyl unchanged by the experience.
Created by: Craig MazinCast: Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Paul Ritter, Jessie Buckley, Adam NagaitisNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO MAX

Made for Love
Modern relationships are a mess even under the best of circumstances. Yet things could still be worse, as exemplified by HBO Max’s Made for Love. Hazel Green (Cristin Milioti) may have thought that she had it made when she married Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen). He’s a tech billionaire who is easily among the richest men in the world. Unfortunately for Hazel, Byron is also a control freak. In the ultimate jerk move, Byron has a device implanted in Hazel’s brain that can track her anywhere, spy on anything she sees, and monitor her emotions. That’s the very last straw for Hazel as she fights to regain her life and her sense of self.
Created by: Alissa Nutting, Dean Bakopoulos, Patrick Somerville, Christina LeeCast: Cristin Milioti, Billy Magnussen, Dan Bakkedahl, Noma Dumezweni, Ray RomanoNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO Max

Mare of Easttown
Kate Winslet leads a magnificent cast in HBO’s latest miniseries, Mare of Easttown. Winslet plays Detective Sergeant Marianne Fahey “Mare” Sheehan, a woman haunted by her son’s suicide and the unsolved murder of a young girl a year earlier. In the present, Mare’s personal life is in turmoil as she deals with a divorce from her husband, Frank Sheehan (David Denman). Meanwhile, her former daughter-in-law, Carrie Layden (Sosie Bacon), is suing Mare for custody of her grandson, Drew. However, a new murder case will soon draw Mare into an even more intense web of danger and deceit.
Created by: Brad IngelsbyCast: Kate Winslet, Julianne Nicholson, Jean Smart, Angourie Rice, David Denman, Guy PearceNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO MAX

The Nevers
Sci-fi and Victorian London don’t often go together, but The Nevers is very much its own thing. In the alternate history of this series, a handful of women have been gifted with supernatural abilities beyond anything that the world has seen before. The powers that be are inherently threatened by Amalia True (Laura Donnelly), Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), and the rest of the Touched … and that’s why they want to destroy them. However, there are also a few men with the powers of the Touched, as well as a vicious killer. That’s why Amalia and Penance are pushed to their limits to keep their people safe.
Created by: Joss WhedonCast: Laura Donnelly, Ann Skelly, Olivia Williams, James Norton, Tom Riley, Pip TorrensNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO MAX

Deadwood
Deadwood was the HBO series that elevated expletives into high art. It was also an incredibly well-made Western that captured the post-Civil War period in Deadwood, South Dakota. Series creator David Milch populated the town with many real historical figures, including Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) and Sheriff Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant), in addition to original characters as the major players vie for control of the town. McShane’s performance was unforgettable even when paired with a stellar supporting cast. Regardless of how you feel about Westerns, you have to see Deadwood. It is legitimately one of the best shows that HBO has ever made.
Created by: David MilchCast: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Jim Beaver, Brad Dourif, Paula MalcomsonNumber of seasons: 3
Watch on HBO MAX

Gen:Lock
It’s a dystopian future and a hostile force known as The Union that has taken over Earth. The gen:LOCK program involves a unique subset of individuals who have been testing an experimental technology that makes it possible to upload their minds to giant suits of armor called Holons. Once housed within their new bodies, they might be humanity’s only hope at defeating the autocratic regime. Dubbed a “cautionary tale about cultural warfare” and inspired by anime, the combination of the star-studded and intentionally diverse and inclusive cast and sci-fi feel make this a worthwhile watch for any comic book/sci-fi fan. A second season was commissioned by HBO Max to stream there before being released on the home network, Rooster Teeth.
Created by: Gray HaddockCast: Michael B. Jordan, Dakota Fanning, Golshifteh Farahani, Maisie Williams, Koichi Yamadera, Asia Kate Dillon, Monica Rial, David TennantNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO MAX

Succession
With two seasons under its belt and several Emmy wins, including Outstanding Drama Series, Succession has already become one of HBO’s most popular new series. Waystar Royco is a global media and hospitality empire headed up by the cutthroat, cruel Logan Roy. As he reaches retirement age and suffers a health setback, he must look to his rich and entitled children to find a successor. But who of his four children, from the arrogant playboy to the power-hungry and visionary addict, is really ready and deserving? And will Logan ever be ready to hand over the reins anyway? The question of who will take over hovers above every episode as the company, Logan, and the Roy family engage in dirty tactics, flaunt their wealth, and find themselves constantly embroiled in controversy.
Created by: Jesse ArmstrongCast: Hiam Abbass, Nicholas Braun, Brian CoxNumber of seasons: 2
Watch on HBO Max

The Flight Attendant
If there was any doubt about Kaley Cuoco’s dramatic acting ability, The Flight Attendant proves the naysayers wrong, thanks to her riveting performance in this miniseries. Cuoco not only stars, but also executive produces. Cuoco is Cassie Bowden, a reckless, alcoholic party girl who miraculously hasn’t been fired from her lucrative and exciting career as a flight attendant, which provides her with a revolving door of cute passengers to hit on. But when one of her overseas trysts winds up dead, she must try and clear her name. It doesn’t help that her mind keeps playing games on her with flashbacks of her troubled past that continue to haunt her. It’s surprisingly good, with a top-notch cast and thrilling story that keeps you drawn to Cuoco’s performance as a woman who is rapidly descending to her personal rock bottom.
Created by: Steve Yocket (based on The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian)Cast: Kaley Cuoco, Michiel Huisman, Zosia Mamet, T.R. Knight, Michelle Gomez, Colin Woodell, Merle Dandridge, Rosie PerezNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO Max
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30 Coins
Father Vergara, a former convict and exorcist, is exiled from the church and moves to a remote town in Spain to work as a priest. But when really strange and paranormal things begin to happen, both the mayor and a local veterinarian suspect that it might be Vergara’s arrival that has sparked the puzzling occurrences. The unlikely pair teams up with him to investigate the mystery behind a coin he owns, and Vergara’s troubled past. What they find, however, is more than they could ever have imagined. The mystery, fantasy, horror series, originally called 30 Monedas, is offered in Spanish language.
Created by: Alex de la IglesiaCast: Eduard Fernandez, Miguel Angel Silvestre, Megan Montaner, Macarena Gomez, Pepon Nieto, Manolo SoloNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO Max

The Alienist: Angel of Darkness
Based on the 1994 novel of the same name by Caleb Carr, this limited series period drama is set in the 1890s during a time when a serial killer is on the loose in New York City, targeting young male prostitutes. Mainly fiction, the series includes some elements of historical facts, including Theodore Roosevelt’s time as police commissioner. In order to track down the killer, Roosevelt enlists the help of a criminal psychologist and newspaper illustrator to conduct investigations in secret. A pair of detective sergeants and Roosevelt’s secretary chip in as well. But the ad hoc group faces pushback from the NYPD and its captain, which are more concerned with protecting the New York City elite than actually finding the killer. Season 2 received much better reviews than the first, focusing more on social issues like income inequality and the role of women in the 1890s.
Created by: Based on The Alienist, The Angel of Darkness by Caleb CarrCast: Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans, Brian Geraghty, Robert Ray Wisdom, Douglas Smith, Matthew Shear, Q’orianka Kilcher, Matt Lintz, Dakota Fanning, Rosy McEwen, Melanie FieldNumber of seasons: 2
Watch on HBO Max

Search Party
When an old college acquaintance named Chantal goes missing, Dory sets out on a mission to find her, with the help of her boyfriend and friends. While the others aren’t so keen on bothering with the investigation, Dory is convinced that Chantal is in danger. Initially dubbed a dark comedy, through its seasons, the series has adjusted the tone and genre. It starts with a classic mystery and Nancy Drew-like detective work, but things shift to more of a psychological thriller vibe for season 2. Season 3, meanwhile, is a subtle nod to courtroom drama narratives, inspired by the Amanda Knox trial, with satire sprinkled in reminiscent of The Bling Ring. There’s something unique with every season, but the tones all pay homage to some of the most revered film and television styles, so you get a bit of everything with this series.
Created by: Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, Michael ShowalterCast: Alia Shawkat, John Reynolds, John Early, Meredith Hagner, Brandon Michael HallNumber of seasons: 4
Watch on HBO Max

At Home with Amy Sedaris
Go on a journey each episode with comedian Amy Sedaris as she demonstrates her endless homemaking skills, with the help of hilarious guest stars playing equally funny characters: Think Justin Theroux as “the Hip Guy” and Heather Lawless as the “Lady Who Lives in the Woods.” Along with playing herself in various sketches, Sedaris also plays a variety of characters. There is also a long list of guest stars through the seasons, including Paul Giamatti, Chris Elliott, Aidy Bryant, Matthew Broderick, Susan Sarandon, Michael Cera, and more. Though it was canceled after three seasons, the series maintains a 100% critic rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes and has earned Emmy nominations for each year since it went on the air.
Created by: Amy Sedaris, Paul DinelloCast: Amy Sedaris, variousNumber of seasons: 3
Watch on HBO Max

Gomorrah
A play on the name of the real crime syndicate, Camorra, this Robert Saviano book was turned into a crime drama set in the 2010s about the dark underbelly of the criminal world and the high-ranking members within it, along with their rivals. It’s the age-old story of “old guard” versus “young guard” when it comes time to consider succession in the family business. Originally in Italian, everything from the pacing to the atmosphere, acting, directing, writing, and characterization has been praised.
Created by: Roberto Saviano, based on Gomorrah by Roberto SavianoCast: Marco D’Amore, Salvatore Esposito, Fortunato Cerlino, Maria Piz CalzoneNumber of seasons: 4
Watch on HBO Max

The New Adventures of Old Christine
Everything on the small screen Julia Louis-Dreyfus touches turns to gold, and after Seinfeld and before Veep, there was this sitcom. She plays a divorced and neurotic single mother trying to navigate life while raising a child and running a women’s gym on her own. The name references the fact that Christine’s ex has a new, much younger, girlfriend who is also named Christine, thus making her the “old” Christine in more than one sense of the word. Not surprisingly, Louis-Dreyfus earned an Emmy for her role as the struggling single mom.
Created by: Kari LizerCast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Clark Gregg, Hamish Linklater, Trevor Gagnon, Emily Rutherford, Tricia O’Kelly, Alex Kapp Horner, Wanda SykesNumber of seasons: 5
Watch on HBO Max

Person of Interest
After building a machine that can predict crimes before they happen, reclusive billionaire Harold Finch fakes his death and goes into hiding to prevent his creation from being used for nefarious purposes. But he still sees the value in the machine, so he recruits the help of John Reese, a former Green Beret CIA agent, also presumed dead, to investigate cases and stop crimes before they are committed. The catch? The machine can pinpoint two persons of interest based on their social security numbers, but it doesn’t know who is the victim and who is the perpetrator. Thus, Harold and John must use their skills, talents, and intuition to figure it out in time. It’s a thrilling ride through each episode and each case, made all the more entertaining thanks to the top-notch cast.
Created by: Jonathan NolanCast: Jim Caviezel, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Chapman, Michael Emerson, Amy Acker, Sarah ShahiNumber of seasons: 5
Watch on HBO Max

Selena + Chef
Combine a charismatic pop music sensation with a background in acting with a cooking show and you get this entertaining series. Totally unscripted, Gomez attempts to try a new dish each episode, cooking from her home while quarantining. Each episode features a guest professional chef there to provide assistance, tips, tricks, and advice when a kitchen disaster strikes. Food-related charities are also promoted in each episode. Guests from the first two seasons included Antonia Lofaso, owner of Black Market Liquor Bar, Roy Choi, one of the founders of the gourmet food truck movement and owner of the Korean-Mexican taco truck Kogi, celebrity chef and author Curtis Stone, and founder of World Central Kitchen (WCK) Jose Andres.
Created by: Aaron SaidmanCast: Selena Gomez, various guestsNumber of seasons: 2
Watch on HBO Max

Batman: The Animated Series
Widely considered to be the best television adaptation of the popular DC Comics character along with his sidekick Robin and arch-nemesis the Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill), this animated series from the ’90s lasted two seasons and 85 episodes. Despite lacking the flashy graphics and animations of modern-day animated series, it will delight any fan of the superhero genre, young or old. Named The Adventures of Batman & Robin for its final 15 episodes and in reruns, the film noir aesthetics with complex and dark plots make the nostalgic series just as entertaining and enthralling for adults as it is exciting for kids. Also named among the best animated series of all time, it’s a top option in HBO Max’s lineup.
Created by: Eric Radomski, Bruce Timm (based on Batman by Bob Kane and Bill Finger)Cast: Kevin Conroy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Bob Hastings, Robert Costanzo, Loren Lester, Mark Hamill, Arleen SorkinNumber of seasons: 2
Watch on HBO Max

Snowpiercer
Transforming Bong Joon-ho’s film concept to the small screen, this dystopian post-apocalyptic thriller features a star-studded cast that draws you into the dark and politically charged story. Earth has become a frozen wasteland, and the only survivors managed to hop aboard a perpetually moving train just in the nick of time before the human race could be entirely obliterated. Despite living in a spacious train and focusing solely on survival, however, the survivors aren’t necessarily all working together. Just as how society worked before, there are social class divisions and politics, class warfare, and social injustice that runs rampant. The binge-worthy story is based on the 1982 graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette and is a reboot of the continuity from the movie.
Created by: John Friedman, Graeme Manson (based on Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, Jean-March Rochette and Snowpiercer screenplay by Bong Joon-ho and Kelly MastersonCast: Jennifer Connelly, Daveed Diggs, Mickey Sumner, Alison Wright, Iddo Goldberg, Susan ParkNumber of seasons: 2
Watch on HBO Max

The West Wing
Martin Sheen plays President Josiah Bartlet in this long-running Aaron Sorkin serial political drama. It’s one of Sheen’s most memorable roles, and it’s not uncommon to find this show on every list of the best TV series of all time. Known for popularizing the long hallway walk-and-talk shots that have become commonplace in political dramas, The West Wing approaches the White House in such a way that has sparked conversation, with some questioning its legitimacy and exaggerations. But it is a television show, after all, designed to entertain. And it’s a must-watch, not only for the compelling stories about the inner workings of politics but also for the talented performances from the top-notch cast.
Created by: Aaron SorkinCast: Rob Lowe, Moira Kelly, Dule Hill, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford, Martin Sheen, Janel Moloney, Stockard Channing, Mark McCormack, Jimmy Smits, Alan Alda, Kristen ChenowethNumber of seasons: 7
Watch on HBO Max

Lovecraft Country 
Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams are behind this drama-horror series about a young Black man who travels across the United States in the ’50s, during a time when segregation was the norm. His mission: to locate his missing father. But when he arrives in the town that the famous horror author H.P. Lovecraft highlighted in his seemingly-fictional stories, he discovers dark secrets lurking there that are enough to make one wonder if the stories were fiction after all. Along with Peele and Abrams serving as executive producers, the series stars Courtney B. Vance, Jurnee Smollett, and Tony Goldwyn.
Created by: Misha GreenCast: Jurnee Smollett, Jonathan Majors, Aunjanue Ellis, Courtney B. VanceNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO Max

Adam Ruins Everything
Comedian, writer, voice actor, and TV host Adam Conover sets out to debunk commonly-held myths and misconceptions in this educational comedy. Every episode begins with Adam seemingly overhearing someone utter one of these questionable myths, after which he interrupts and proceeds to investigate. Through interviews with experts, analysis of scientific studies, and even humorous sketches, animation, and time travel, he aims to provide the truth. The series is based on the CollegeHumor web series of the same name.
Created by: Adam ConoverCast: Adam ConoverNumber of seasons: 3
Watch on HBO Max

Southland 
Before Michael Cudlitz was Abraham on The Walking Dead and Ben McKenzie was James Gordon on Gotham, they were a pair of LAPD officers in this crime drama that followed their interactions with detectives, criminals, and others. Focusing more on the characters than the stories, it’s atypical compared to other police procedurals, but the show has also been praised for being raw and authentic. Despite being compared to other, more high-profile series within the same genre, like The Wire and The Shield, Southland never really received the same level of attention it deserved.
Created by: Ann BidermanCast: Ben McKenzie, Kevin Alejandro, Arijia Bareikis, Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, Regina King, Michael McGrady, Tom Everett Scott, C. Thomas HowellNumber of seasons: 5
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Industry
The corporate world can be cutthroat, especially when there are several young and talented people all vying for the same job. In this British drama, which counts Girls‘ Lena Dunham among its episode directors, the job in question is at a prestigious investment bank in London. With only a few slots left, a group of recent graduates race for a seat at the corporate table. Many have suggested that the series could be a launchpad to burgeoning careers for writers Mickey Down and Konrad Kay, given that one of its strong points is the “sharp writing,” even if is classified as a “soapy workplace drama.”
Created by: Mickey Down, Konrad KayCast: Myha’la Herrold, Marisa Abela, Harry Lawtey, David Jonsson, Nabhaan Rizwan, Freya Mavor, Will Tudor, Cono MacNeill, Priyanga BurfordNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO Max

Titans
Take a look back at the young heroes in the DC Universe who get together to fight evil forces. Known as the Teen Titans, this live-action version of the series has an ensemble cast playing all of the DC favorites, led by Richard “Dick” Grayson, Batman’s former sidekick known as Robin, now under the assumed identity of Nightwing. There’s also Wonder Girl, Hawk, Deathstroke, and more. With two seasons available now, a third is forthcoming from the streaming service, though no release date has been confirmed.
Created by: Akiva Goldsman, Geoff Johns, Greg Berlanti (based on Teen Titans by Bob Haney, Bruno Premiani)Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Anna Diop, Teagan Croft, Ryan Potter, Curran Walters, Conor Leslie, Minka Kelly, Alan Ritchson, Esai Morales, Chelsea Zhang, Joshua OrpinNumber of seasons: 2
Watch on HBO Max

Looney Tunes
Introduce a new generation of kids to the ACME Corporation, falling anvils, and endless sight gags, or relive your own youth with classic catchphrases like, “What’s Up, Doc,” or, “I say, I say, I ain’t no chicken!” with the original Looney Tunes cartoons. Airing from 1930 through 1969, the animated shorts harken back to a time when cartoons were much simpler — and arguably more violent. From the music to the iconic characters like Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote, Speedy Gonzales, Road Runner, Tweety, and Elmer Fudd, it’s thoroughly entertaining for Saturday morning viewing. Once you’ve powered through those episodes, check out HBO Max’s rebooted Looney Tunes Cartoons, which are based on the original.
Created by: Warner Bros.Cast: Mel Blanc, June Foray, Arthur Q. Bryan, Bea Benaderet, Stan Freberg, and othersNumber of seasons: 31
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The Undoing
You’ll be at the edge of your seat through every episode of this nail-biting psychological thriller, with both Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant delivering incredible performances as a wealthy married couple whose lives get upended following a brutal murder. A traditional whodunit in some ways, there are so many extenuating elements that it’s easy to wind up going down the Reddit rabbit hole of theories about symbolism and meanings of every little nuance and scene. Based on the 2014 novel You Should Have Known by Hanff Korelitz, the wonderful cast brings the story to life in a way that makes viewers totally invested in both the stories and characters.
Created by: David E. Kelley (based on You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz)Cast: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Edgar Ramirez, Noah Jupe, Lily Rabe, Matila De Angelis, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Edan Alexander, Michael Devine, Donald SutherlandNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO Max

His Dark Materials
Dafne Keen turned a lot of heads with her star-making turn in Logan. But she’s really stepped up in HBO and BBC’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. In an alternate world where souls appear as companion animals, Keen plays Lyra, a young girl who finds herself torn between her uncle, Lord Asriel Belacqua (James McAvoy), and the enigmatic Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson). Meanwhile, in a world very much like our own, young Will Parry (Amir Wilson) learns a family secret that will bring him inexorably closer to Lyra. This family-friendly fantasy is still unfolding, but it’s a winner for fans of all ages.
Created by: Jack ThorneCast: Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy, Lin-Manuel MirandaNumber of seasons: 2
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Boardwalk Empire
During the Peak TV era, Boardwalk Empire was criminally underrated. But this Prohibition-era drama was one of the very best that the medium had to offer. The Sopranos veteran Terence Winter recruited Martin Scorsese to direct the pilot episode and executive produce the series. Yet it wouldn’t have worked without Steve Buscemi’s complex performance as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, an Atlantic County treasurer who had a large role in the criminal underground. Winter weaved a rich and compelling tale around Nucky and historical gangsters from that era. It’s a one-of-a-kind show from a one-of-a-kind network.
Created by: Terence WinterCast: Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Michael Kenneth WilliamsNumber of seasons: 5
Watch on HBO Max

Silicon Valley
Mike Judge has come a long way from his Beavis and Butt-Head days. While Judge has previously directed live-action comedy films, Silicon Valley gave him an even bigger platform to expand his mastery of the medium. The series follows programmer Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) as he and his friends try to launch a new startup company called Pied Piper. Their trials and tribulations run the gamut from hilarious to dramatic. Judge and his co-creators also assembled one of the most talented supporting casts in recent memory, including T.J. Miller, Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr, and Amanda Crew. Nearly all of them have gone on to even bigger things after the show’s six-season run.
Created by: Mike Judge, John Altschuler, Dave KrinskyCast: Thomas Middleditch, Josh Brener, Martin Starr, Kumail NanjianiNumber of seasons: 6
Watch on HBO Max

Young Justice
DC Universe’s loss is HBO Max’s gain. Young Justice is one of the greatest superhero cartoons ever made, thanks to its fantastic writing and terrific performances by the cast. The so-called sidekicks come into their own by starting their own team under Batman’s supervision. Over time, the show has allowed the kids to grow into young adults. More importantly, Young Justice’s creative team isn’t afraid to take chances as well. Heroes rise, fall, and even die, with dramatic stakes. Even a nearly decade-long wait between seasons 2 and 3 couldn’t diminish our love for this show.
Created by: Brandon Vietti, Greg WeismanCast: Jesse McCartney, Khary Payton, Jason Spisak, Nolan NorthNumber of seasons: 3
Watch on HBO Max

Friends
Binge all 10 seasons of this iconic sitcom that has become part of pop culture history. Relive the hilarious moments and one-liners from the six 20-somethings living in New York City and navigating dating, careers, and life. The show originally aired from 1994 to 2004, long before social media, smartphones, and dating apps would have markedly changed its course. Despite the technological differences, Chandler’s frequent sarcastic remarks, the search for an adult identity, and the on-again, off-again nature of relationships are still totally relatable today.
Created by: David Crane, Marta KauffmanCast: Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David SchwimmerNumber of seasons: 10
Watch on HBO Max

Veep
Julia Louis-Dreyfus won six consecutive Emmy Awards for playing Selina Meyer, the fictional vice president (later president) of the United States in this political satire comedy that wrapped in 2019. The series itself also received critical acclaim throughout its seven-season run. Fans couldn’t get enough of watching Meyer and her team as they engaged in political games. The show calls out and exaggerates the absurdity of politics in a way that makes it universally funny.
Created by: Armando IannucciCast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony HaleNumber of seasons: 7
Watch on HBO Max

Westworld
Fans waited two years for the third season of this fabulous sci-fi Western and dystopian series that portrays a futuristic Wild West-themed amusement park called Westworld. Despite looking and acting convincingly human, the people who work there are actually hosts programmed to have specific personalities and skills, and cater to every visitor’s desires, whether that’s to meet and bed a beautiful woman or get caught up in a gunfight. The first season and overall story are inspired by the 1973 Michael Crichton film of the same name. The second, and especially the third, seasons, however, are very different from the first. Each is equally captivating and fast-paced, keeping the story continually refreshing.
Created by: Jonathan Nolan, Lisa JoyCast: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey WrightNumber of seasons: 3
Watch on HBO Max

The Wire
Though it ended in 2008, this crime drama is still widely considered to be one of the best TV series of its generation. Created and written by former police reporter David Simon, it takes an authentic look at various institutions and their sometimes twisted and controversial relationships to law enforcement. A different story is introduced every season, tackling topics from the illegal drug trade to schools and education. With Dominic West and Idris Elba among the top-billed cast, it’s no surprise the series lasted a successful five seasons and appears on many “must-watch” lists.
Created by: David SimonCast: Dominic West, John Doman, Idris Elba, Frankie FaisonNumber of seasons: 5
Watch on HBO Max

Batwoman
While Ruby Rose, who played the title character, has exited the superhero series after just one season, the show has already been renewed for a second. But you can catch the first season of this CW show on HBO Max as you prepare for season 2, which is set to debut in January 2021 (though that may be delayed). As part of the DC Comics world, the series, which includes 20 episodes to date in season 1, examines the story of Batwoman as a local vigilante in Gotham City.
Created by: Caroline DriesCast: Ruby Rose, Rachel Skarsten, Meagan TandyNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO Max

Sex and the City
Live vicariously through four 30- and 40-something single friends in New York City navigating their hectic careers and dating lives. The romantic comedy-drama, which debuted in 1998, is credited with helping put HBO on the map, and for good reason. Throughout its six seasons from 1998 to 2004, the show received 54 Emmy nominations (seven wins) and 24 Golden Globe nominations (eight wins) and spawned two feature films and even a prequel series. It remains a pop culture phenomenon that presents life, love, sex, and relationships in a raw, emotional, and honest way from the eyes of four very different adult women.
Created by: Darren StarCast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia NixonNumber of seasons: 6
Watch on HBO Max

Rick and Morty
Rick Sanchez is a mad scientist who reappears after having gone missing for 20 years. He now lives with his daughter and her family, including his grandson Morty Smith. And together, he and Morty navigate regular daily life along with inter-dimensional adventures. The adult animated sci-fi sitcom has aired for four seasons on Adult Swim and has been lauded by critics and audiences alike, who have called it kooky and described the storylines as “densely plotted science fiction escapades” and “intricately hilarious misadventures.”
Created by: Justin Roiland, Dan HarmonCast: Justin Roiland, Chris Parnell, Spencer Grammer, Sarah ChalkeNumber of seasons: 4
Watch on HBO Max

Game of Thrones
Chances are you’ve already watched this fantasy series, which was HBO’s anchor for eight seasons from 2011 through 2019. Based on the George R.R. Martin series of fantasy novels, it was rich in scenery, costumes, and storylines depicting the fight for the Iron Throne among the various houses and individuals within the fictional world of Westeros. It broke viewership records for HBO, and it’s not uncommon for fans to watch this series from beginning to end, again and again, picking up on new details each time. If you haven’t yet watched, what are you waiting for?
Created by: David Benioff, D.B. WeissCast: Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia ClarkeNumber of seasons: 8
Watch on HBO Max

Doctor Who
Produced by the BBC since 1963, the revival version of this long-running British sci-fi series has found a streaming home on HBO Max. It follows the stories of a Time Lord called The Doctor who travels through time in the TARDIS spaceship to help civilization. Since The Doctor is an extraterrestrial being that can appear human, the role has been handled by 13 different actors to date. The most recent version of The Doctor is played by Jodie Whittaker, who has held the role since 2018. The revival series began in 2005, and you can watch episodes dating all the way back to that first season.
Created by: Sydney Newman, C.E. Webber, Donald WilsonCast: Jodie Whitaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip GillNumber of seasons: 12
Watch on HBO Max

The Sopranos
When it comes to crime dramas about mobster families, it doesn’t get much better than The Sopranos, which has been named on many lists as being one of the greatest TV series of all time. For six seasons, we followed the Soprano family led by Tony (the late James Gandolfini) as he attempted to balance his life in New Jersey as a father and husband and his position as the leader of an Italian-American criminal organization. It launched in 1999 and was among the first series to bring shocking main character deaths to the small screen, continuing the cliffhanger endings and cringeworthy moments through to its ending in 2007 with an iconic diner closing scene.
Created by: David ChaseCast: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie FalcoNumber of seasons: 6
Watch on HBO Max

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
If you want to know the story about how Will Smith became the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, tune into this classic ’90s sitcom starring the now A-list Hollywood actor. Smith stars as Will, a young man who, as the popular theme song says, is sent to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle after he gets into a fight on the basketball court. His mom, worried about her son growing up in a rough Philadelphia neighborhood, decides this is the only way for him to have a better life. Naturally, the dichotomy between Will from Philly and Uncle Phil with his mansion, butler, and stuck-up kids leads to plenty of clashes between family members. It’s six seasons of pure fun along with those signature moral lessons at the end of every episode that defined sitcoms of the ’90s.
Created by: Andy Borowitz, Susan BorowitzCast: Will Smith, James Avery, Janet HubertNumber of seasons: 6
Watch on HBO Max

Curb Your Enthusiasm
Witty, funny, and engaging, this comedy series was so popular that it returned for a ninth and tenth season after a six-year hiatus. Filmed in a cinéma vérité style, Larry David plays a fictional and exaggerated version of himself, a semi-retired television writer and producer. As he interacts with friends and family, it’s clear David is easily annoyed with social conventions and expectations. Known for its largely improvised dialogue and constant stream of guest stars, all playing fictional versions of themselves, it’s the perfect series to binge when you need a good laugh.
Created by: Larry DavidCast: Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Susie EssmanNumber of seasons: 10
Watch on HBO Max

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
Gone far too soon, Anthony Bourdain left behind a legacy in the culinary world. And that legacy included this sensational TV series that saw him travel the world to discover different cultures, cuisines, and local delicacies. For 12 seasons, Bourdain took viewers everywhere from the hidden gems in Los Angeles to Myanmar, Congo, Copenhagen, and Beirut, sampling all kinds of food and teaching viewers more about culture and travel than even the best travel shows could accomplish. Not surprisingly, the series was nominated for 31 Primetime Emmy Awards during its run and won a dozen. It’s the perfect show for foodies and those with serious wanderlust.
Created by: Zero Point Zero Production Inc.Cast: Anthony BourdainNumber of seasons: 12
Watch on HBO Max

The Big Bang Theory
This sitcom wrapped up after 12 successful seasons in 2019, and HBO reportedly spent $425 million to snag exclusive rights to the CBS show. You can catch every season and revisit the social growth of four nerdy friends after they befriend the attractive waitress and aspiring actor next door and expand their insulated group. The ensemble cast was among the highest-paid television actors in the show’s later years, each making $1 million per episode at one point. The scientific jargon that dominated much of the complex dialogue didn’t impact the series’ popularity; you didn’t have to be an astrophysicist or engineer to understand the witty humor and appreciate the amazing chemistry among the cast members.
Created by: Chuck Lorre, Bill PradyCast: Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley CuocoNumber of seasons: 12
Watch on HBO Max

The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo
HBO Max brought the talk show world to kids with this new Sesame Street spinoff starring none other than the beloved, tickle-friendly furry puppet as host. In each of the 13 episodes, Elmo talks about bedtime routines, helping kids get ready to turn in for the night. There are guest stars in every episode, starting with Kacey Musgraves and including others like Batman, the Jonas Brothers, John Oliver, and more in season 1. It’s a must-watch for any family with toddler-aged children. This series received rave reviews from its preschool audience for its inaugural season.
Created by: Sesame WorkshopCast: Pam Arciero, Jennifer Barnhart, Tyler BunchNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO Max

Flight of the Conchords
For two seasons, Flight of the Conchords turned failure into joyful fun. The HBO show followed two New Zealand musicians — Jemaine (Jemaine Clement) and Bret (Bret McKenzie) — as they tried to make it in big, bad New York City. They would spontaneously break into song multiple times an episode, sometimes revealing their innermost thoughts to the audience and breaking the fourth wall in hilarious fashion. Some of the show’s songs continue to stand the test of time, such as Robots and Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros, though, some of the best scenes were the meetings the band held with their manager, Murray Hewitt (Rhys Darby).
Created by: James Bobin, Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzieCast: Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, Rhys DarbyNumber of seasons: 2
Watch on HBO Max

South Park
In addition to Friends, one of HBO Max’s big streaming snags was the entirety of the South Park catalog. The controversial animated show following four friends growing up in South Park, Colorado, has now aired for 23 seasons on Comedy Central, spanning more than 300 episodes. The show has frequently received criticism — and it often takes aim at taboo subjects in a way that can make viewers uncomfortable — but it also remains one of the smartest satires on television, its fearlessness often serving as a tremendous asset in comparison to safer shows on the airwaves.
Created by: Trey Parker, Matt StoneCast: Trey Parker, Matt StoneNumber of seasons: 23
Watch on HBO Max

Watchmen
A new version of Watchmen could’ve easily been met with skepticism, especially after the poor reception for the 2009 film of the same name. HBO’s limited, nine-episode limited series made an instant impact in 2019, but its importance didn’t start rising until 2020. From the complexity of its characters to its incredible acting performances — particularly that of Regina King — to its highlighting of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Watchmen was never afraid to reflect the worst of society back to its audience, making it a valuable media prism through which to view the racial reckoning of the times.
Created by: Damon LindelofCast: Regina King, Tim Blake Nelson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jeremy Irons,Number of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO Max

Barry
Transitioning into an acting career can be a challenge for anyone. It’s especially challenging if your old career beckons often, which it apparently does if your old career is being a hitman. Barry finds its laughs in the awkward exploration of its lead character, played by two-time Emmy winner Bill Hader. The show can also take on a more serious tone, as the trauma Barry suffers from merges with his inability to turn the page on his old life and escape the black-and-white world of contract killing. Its best episodes are the ones that transcend the screen altogether, however.
Created by: Alec Berg, Bill HaderCast: Bill Hader, Stephen Root, Sarah GoldbergNumber of seasons: 2
Watch on HBO Max

Insecure 
Based on Issa Rae’s web series Awkward Black Girl, she stars as a 20-something Black woman navigating everyday life, including relationships and career, with her best friend Molly (Yvonne Orji.) The series has received critical acclaim, largely for its honest portrayal of the modern black experience that transcends stereotypes while also exploring social and racial issues in an unbiased way.
Created by: Issa Rae, Larry WilmoreCast: Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji, Jay EllisNumber of seasons: 4
Watch on HBO Max

I Know This Much Is True 
Mark Ruffalo took home an Emmy award for his dual portrayal of identical twin brothers, one of whom suffers from severe mental illness, in this limited series based on the 1988 Wally Lamb novel of the same name. Set in the ’90s, Dominick (Ruffalo) has his own issues, including the breakdown of his marriage, the death of his infant child, and undiagnosed PTSD. Despite dealing with his own trauma, however, he also feels responsible for caring for his paranoid schizophrenic twin brother Thomas (Ruffalo). It all comes to a head when Thomas cuts his own arm off, believing he is doing so in sacrificial protest. While Thomas needs to be institutionalized, Dominick struggles with the knowledge that the hospital he’s staying in doesn’t provide adequate care. It’s a touching and emotional story about unconditional love, the toll that caring for a family member can take on someone, and how far sacrifices should go. The series consists of just six episodes, making it a quick, though emotionally powerful, binge.
Created by: Derek Cianfrance, Anya EpsteinCast: Mark Ruffalo, Melissa Leo, John ProcaccinoNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO Max
Robyn Von Swank / HBO
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
If you’re into true crime, this is the series to binge. The six-part documentary follows the late Michelle McNamara’s journey to investigating the Golden State Killer. After learning of the unsolved case, McNamara became obsessed with solving it and took it upon herself to look into details of the series of murders, rapes, and burglaries the unknown perpetrator committed through California in the ’70s and ’80s. McNamara, who sadly passed away before genetic genealogy was able to finally identify the killer as Joseph James DeAngelo, was just shy of finishing her book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, before her death. The book, and the series that features excerpts from it, footage with McNamara, and interviews with survivors, family members, and others (including McNamara’s widowed husband, comedian Patton Oswalt) were both released posthumously.
Created by: Michelle McNamaraCast: Michelle McNamara, Patton OswaltNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO Max

Moral Orel
Looking for something totally different to watch? Step into the world of stop motion animation with this show, designed for mature audiences and originally developed for Adult Swim. Orel Puppington is a school-aged boy who is brought up a fundamentalist Protestant Christian and takes his church’s teachings a little too literally, brushing off his father’s alcoholism and abuse and his mother’s neglect, failing to see the hypocrisy in it all. Set in a fictional Bible Belt state called Statesota, the series is worth watching if you appreciate humor that isn’t exactly politically correct: Think South Park meets Davey and Goliath. The series consists of three seasons and a total of 43 episodes
Created by: Dino StamatopoulosCast: Scott Adsit, Jay Johnson, Carolyn LawrenceNumber of seasons: 3
Watch on HBO Max

Young Sheldon
For those missing The Big Bang Theory, this prequel series tells the childhood story of Sheldon Cooper, from his time as a precocious, know-it-all pre-teen who was fast-tracked to high school and already taking college classes by the age of 10. Narrated by Jim Parsons, who played the adult Sheldon, the show delves into his family life, including his parents (Zoe Perry, the real-life daughter of Laurie Metcalf, who plays Sheldon’s mother in The Big Bang Theory), his older brother, twin sister, and wild and crazy grandmother, played by Annie Potts. It’s a sweet story of an average Southern family in Texas dealing with a very special and unique child. Fans of The Big Bang Theory will recognize depictions of various events the older Sheldon referenced in the main show, but you don’t necessarily have to have watched The Big Bang Theory to appreciate the sweet and funny sitcom.
Created by: Chuck Lorre, Steven MolaroCast: Iain Armitage, Zoe Perry, Lance BarberNumber of seasons: 3
Watch on HBO Max

Raised by Wolves
Premiering in 2020, this sci-fi drama is already getting great reviews, lauded for its “bloody exploration of artificial intelligence and religious beliefs that will stimulate the eye and mind.” The Earth has been destroyed and a pair of androids are raising human children on a new planet. But just like the old Earth, religious differences seem to be getting in the way of building a harmonious existence. Can the androids get everyone to agree and share the same belief system? Travis Fimmel (Vikings) heads up the cast on this series, which is executive produced by Ridley Scott.
Created by: Aaron GuzikowskiCast: Amanda Collin, Abubakar Salim, Winta McGrathNumber of seasons: 1
Watch on HBO Max

Editors’ Recommendations

The Finest New Motion pictures and TV Exhibits to Stream This Week: Aug. 13-18

Brooklyn Nine-Nine NBC
Conspiratorial mystery is the name of the game this week for Observer Entertainment’s watch list, and there are an abundance of players to choose from. If your interest lies in high-tension political thrillers, look no further than Beckett or The Kingdom. For those who want to dissect the mind of a serial killer who got away with double-digit murders, turn your attention to Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes. If you are a skeptic who knows that when things seem too good to be true, they probably are, you’ll find yourself riveted with Nine Perfect Strangers. When you’re finished with these nail-biting, action-packed films, take a breather with feel-good dramedy CODA. Whatever you’re looking for, we have you covered.
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Brooklyn Nine-Nine (August 12)
After eight years, the Nine-Nine is going out in a blaze of glory with its final season that promises to meet and exceed fans’ high expectations, bringing all the inside jokes and iconic references to the briefing table (as the teaser trailer notes, there have been seven heists, 32 impromptu sex tape titles and 4,279 “cools”). Nonetheless, even with all the familiar tones of adventure and comedy that make up the fundamentals of the series, the show will look different than previous seasons, a choice that was influenced by the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and racism. The show attempts to balance lighthearted comedy, such as Jake (Andy Samberg) and Charles’ (Joe Lo Truglio) socially distanced high-five, with more serious topics, and while there are moments of inevitable awkwardness that come with navigating such a space, it adds to the depth of the characters we’ve come to know and love throughout these years. Watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine on Hulu.
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CODA (August 13)
As a child of deaf adults, or CODA, Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones) is the only hearing member of her deaf family. A teenager who is torn between her passion for music and her dedication to her family’s well-being, Ruby faces the toughest, coming-of-age challenges in her life. CODA skillfully balances the line between heartstring-tugging, emotional catharsis and clever comedy from the most unexpected places, making it no surprise that the film made splashing waves among audiences and judges alike at the Sundance Film Festival. The dramedy is also notable for its extensive use of sign language and its casting of deaf actors, including Oscar winner Marlee Matlin. Watch CODA on Apple TV+.
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Brand New Cherry Flavor (August 13)
What do you get when a filmmaker travels to Hollywood in the early 1990s? In the case of Brand New Cherry Flavor, the answer entails a kaleidoscopic rabbit hole filled with revenge, magic, gore — and kittens. While the eight-episode series draws much of its off-kilter allure from the plethora of spine-tingling horror interlaced with frankly bizarre situations that will leave audiences unsure of whether to be frightened or amused, it’s the way in which the main characters just roll with the flow of all this disturbing drama that ties together this mystifying show. Watch Brand New Cherry Flavor on Netflix.
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Beckett (August 13)
This conspiracy thriller reminiscent of the 1970s slow-burn political paranoia films stars its namesake, played by John David Washington, as he becomes entangled in a tragic accident in Greece. An American tourist who involuntarily finds himself the target of a governmental manhunt, Beckett is desperate to reach the American embassy and clear his name, a goal that becomes complicated amid the broader context of political unrest throughout Greece, which is portrayed in the film as a dynamically troubled nation amid political and economic friction. Watch Beckett on Netflix.
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The Kingdom (El Reino) (August 13)
The boundaries of the state and the church are blurred and mixed with drama, mystery and murder in this Netflix series, which stars Diego Peretti as Emilio Vázquez Pena, candidate for vice president of Argentina. During the campaign closing ceremony, his running mate is assassinated. This creates an opportunity for him to rise in political power as the next president of the nation, but the situation becomes more labyrinthian due to Emilio’s commitments to his family and religion given his position as lead pastor of the Church of Light. Watch The Kingdom on Netflix.
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Gone for Good (August 13)
Based on Harlan Coben’s best-selling book, Gone for Good is a French mystery and thriller miniseries that follows the gripping journey of Guillaume Lucchesi (Finnegan Oldfield), whose closest loved ones are taken away from him in one way or another — quite a tragic irony considering the show is set in none other than the city of love, Paris. Lucchesi, whose character is given introductory depth by the deaths of his first love and his brother that happened 10 years ago, finds himself plunged into a gripping, mind-twisting mystery after his now-girlfriend goes missing. Watch Gone for Good on Netflix.
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Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes (August 18)
Dennis Nilsen, or the notorious “Muswell Hill Murderer” who confessed to killing 15 men and boys in the 1970s and 80s, is the next to receive Netflix’s true-crime documentary treatment. Using investigative tactics such as never-before-published voice recordings of Nilsen himself, the documentary attempts to dive into not only how the mind of a serial killer works but how it developed to be that way. The documentary chronicles the life of Nilsen, shedding light on just how chillingly and cunningly he orchestrated the horrific murders. Watch Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes on Netflix.
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Nine Perfect Strangers (August 18)
The wellness industry reveals its dark side at Tranquillum House, a therapeutic retreat located on a picturesque estate that is run by enigmatic guru Masha (Nicole Kidman). As the title of the series alludes, nine strangers enter this seemingly perfect centre in hopes of overcoming their personal challenges and dissolving their egos over the course of 10 days. However, not everything is as it seems, most of all Masha, whose witchy charisma progresses from charmingly serene to hauntingly unnerving as the story unfolds. The series illuminates just how far some individuals are willing to go to achieve wellness, and the questionable ethics that underlie such motivations. Watch Nine Perfect Strangers on Hulu.

Keeping Watch is a regular endorsement of TV and movies worth your time.

Breaking Down the ‘White Lotus’ Finale & the Present’s Surprising Success

Murray Bartlett as Armond in HBO’s The White Lotus. Photograph by Mario Perez/HBO
Warning: The following contains spoilers for HBO’s The White Lotus
Lost amid the slow-burn obscurity and tropical Succession-on-Xanax vibes of HBO’s The White Lotus  is the reminder that this is a murder mystery at its core. You’ll remember way back in the first episode, “Arrivals,” we were tipped off to the inevitable tragedy that was to occur at the resort. One can be forgiven for being lulled into a false sense of security what with Belinda’s (Natasha Rothwell crushing it all season) deep-tissue massages and Quinn’s (Fred Hechinger) daily ocean vista wake ups. Sunlit wealth porn is intoxicating, to say the least.
Yet over the course the show’s six-episode run audiences have continued to cast suspicion on each and every character at one time or another. In the end, however, Occam’s Razor prevails. The fates of these intertwined characters were sealed from the very moment they arrived and the most obvious outcome came to pass.
The finale “Departures” concludes with Shane (Jake Lacy) accidentally stabbing Armond (Murray Bartlett, earning every ounce of that forthcoming Emmy statue) after the hotel manager broke into his room and, uhh, left him a parting gift in his suitcase. Really, this was the only way the story could play out. Armond had been circling the drain all season and his conflict with the hotel’s resident rich Mama’s boy was the most suitable vehicle for creator Mike White’s endgame. But rather than feel unfulfilled by the unsurprising development, The White Lotus uses it to twist the knife in its ongoing searing exploration of class and wealth.
Shane gets off scot-free (admittedly, it was unintentional, but we were all rooting for that douchebag to be punished) in what becomes a thesis statement for the finale. Rachel (Alexandra Daddario), embracing her own agency as recently as last episode, slinks back to him in the end. Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge, great all season) dashes Belinda’s dreams in favor of her own romantic chase. Kai’s (Kekoa Scott Kekumano) life is ruined after Paula (Brittany O’Grady) Lady Macbeth-ed him into breaking into the Mossbacher’s room. The incident, and by proxy his suffering, brings the despicable “it’s hard to be a white guy right now” Mossbacher clan closer together. (How great was Steve Zahn this season?)
The tragicomedy ends with the rich winning, succeeding and thriving while everyone else who exists in the real world in the shadow of the 1% losing or getting screwed over. Welcome to the hellscape that is modern economics. May I interest you in a coupon for being treated as a second class citizen for the rest of your life?
Jake Lacy, Alexandra Daddario, Molly Shannon in HBO’s The White Lotus. Photograph by Mario Perez/HBO
The White Lotus has been a deliberately uncomfortable but often engrossing watch. That discomfort works for the quirky satirical humor and bits of the drama. But it’s so obscure and vague at times that it can feel like a series of disparately connected shorts rather than a series. Vignettes of malaise and misery interspersed with ASMR flavorings. Was it entertaining? Absolutely. But was it also an esoteric, glacially paced downer? That’s fair to say, too. So is it surprising that HBO has doled out a second season order for the limited series?
The show is averaging less than 500,000 live linear viewers on HBO, ranking 14th among HBO’s active shows (not canceled or concluded even if they’re in the offseason). In the key 18-49 demo, it ranks 13th in raw live linear viewership for the premium cable network. But currently ranking #1 among all series on HBO Max, The White Lotus has achieved consistent week over week growth for both premiere and digital audience, leading into the finale episode, per HBO. However, no specific viewership stats have been provided so we don’t really know what that means. 
Conventional wisdom would suggest that something more sturdy and traditional such as Mare of Easttown or The Undoing would be the recipients of a renewal. Yet despite The White Lotus‘ malleable disposition, it appears to have developed into a buzzy oft-discussed hit across linear and streaming.
“Crash and burn,” Armond snarls before snorting a line of Ketamine that will ultimately drop the question mark from his fate. That may be the decisive end for his character, but The White Lotus is on the opposite trajectory.

Right here’s What ‘White Lotus’ Creator Mike White Thinks of That Murderous Finale

The White Lotus creator Mike White explains the finale’s meaning. Photograph by Mario Perez/HBO
Warning: The following contains spoilers for HBO’s The White Lotus
HBO’s twisty murder mystery tragicomedy The White Lotus concluded its first season Sunday night. We’ve already supplied our own deep dive thoughts on the final episode, the season’s strengths and weaknesses, and its unexpected breakout success. And while we have great confidence in our own takes and appraisals (why do you think we shout our opinions from the digital rooftops?), we won’t be offended if you’re more interested in hearing directly from creator Mike White.
White spoke with Entertainment Weekly and Vulture to answer a handful of burning questions after the sixth episode. But what really stood out was his take on the death of Armond (Murray Bartlett) and the central message the finale’s parting shot leaves audiences with.
On Armond’s death:
“Well, the thing is, I was like, ‘We got to have a death here,’” White told EW. “Because otherwise it’s just going to be like My Dinner with Andre in Hawaii or something. So it was engineered from the beginning and I just felt like the guy’s like an actor who plays King Lear. He has his best scene ever. And then he has the ultimate act of defiance where he craps in someone’s bag. And I was like, ‘There’s really nowhere else to go from here.’ But this is your swan song. So it felt like the right ending for him.”
It did indeed feel as if Armond’s fate was inevitable. The character was submerged in gloriously self-destructive behavior all season and a happy ending seemed to be a leap too far at this point. White revealed that it was always the plan to bookend the season with Chekov’s casket and the final big reveal of who was in it. Filling in the blanks became increasingly clear as Armond became increasingly erratic. RIP you sad and wild man.
On Rachels big decision:
After summoning up the courage to leave Shane on their honeymoon, Rachel ends The White Lotus by going back to him and the life their marriage represents. As it turns out, this move was always in the cards.
“I always knew she’d go back to him,” White told Vulture. “There was something about her, even in the way she’s approaching him; it’s like someone who wants to get a response. Honestly, it feels true to life for me. I’ve seen peers who may not have been in this exact situation. She’s started to feel the limits of what she thinks she’s capable of, and it’s the reality of the seduction of a lifestyle. Some people read it as cynical; to me, the thing that I feel about Shane is that even though he is a privileged asshole, he does really love her. Even if it’s just an idea of her.”
On first read, this move suggests an underlying weakness to Rachel’s character. But White didn’t necessarily see it that way. It’s not a binary problem with a simple solution.
“To me, it’s an indictment in the sense that it’s sad that principled actions don’t always win the day,” the creator said. “But it’s also — she already married him! They had the wedding. I can see how you’d just be like, No, never mind, I don’t want to have to unravel this. It’d be interesting to come back and revisit them down the road and see what happens.”
On whatever happened to Lani:
In the first episode, we meet Lani, a pregnant hotel employee who gives birth in Armond’s office and then we never see her again. It turns out, that was both practical — The White Lotus was shot in the fall of 2020 with COVID restrictions — and thematic.
“It’s not just her, too. We meet Kai and then he just disappears,” Whit says. “There’s a practical aspect to that, which is that we were forced to shoot in the bubble, so other than when we were out on the boats, we couldn’t shoot anything else. That was the mandate.”
He continues: “But I thought it would be interesting to do that. At the very beginning, [Armond says], ‘We’re interchangeable helpers.’ It’s like they don’t exist, this idea that once they exit the hotel, they’re pulverized, they vanish. I thought that would be maybe controversial, but it’s like a steamrolling. The people waving in the beginning, by the end they’ve been replaced, and it’s like the experience of these hotel guests — oh, she had a baby, he’s in jail, whatever. My hope is that the critique of that is built into the DNA of it.”
On the final image: 
The White Lotus ends with Belinda and the other employees burying their true feelings as they smile and wave at a new group of guests arriving to the resort. The heartbreaking image is something of a thesis statement for the season’s exploration of socioeconomic class divides.
“In the end, I think that having money is the difference between being able to continue to make mistakes and fly out to Honolulu with the guy you just met and whatever, and then being stuck in the job that you want to get out of, or where you want more,” White explained to EW. “And I just thought bookending the show where you have all of these people greeting them at the beginning. And then by the end, either they had a baby, they were murdered, they ended up in jail, or their dreams have been shattered. And the guests move on to the next thing. It just felt like it was, ‘Well, this is kind of a devastating moment.’ But it feels like it’s true to the story.”
HBO has renewed The White Lotus for a second season with a new cast and location to be determined. Here’s to hoping we go from sunshine beaches to whiteout winter wonderlands.

The Whiteness Lotus: HBO’s Hit Present Needs to Critique Energy, However It Fails to Commit

Natasha Rothwell and Jennifer Coolidge in The White Lotus. Mario Perez/HBO
This post contains spoilers for the first season of The White Lotus.
“This is the spa!” Belinda (Natasha Rothwell), the spa manager of the White Lotus resort, says in a voice that conveys both “effortlessness” and a vascular maintenance of emotional presentation. At the very end of “spa,” you can catch a slight sigh. (In another life, I worked as a houseboy at a bed and breakfast in Provincetown, so I know the sound.) “Hey, it’s me,” the other voice says on the line. It cuts to Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge), an affluent goofy-cum-troubled guest at the hotel, stepping somewhat hesitantly onto the balcony of her room. She pauses and stumbles over some of her words, the way she has throughout the entirety of the show. “Uh, listen, um. Is it okay if we push our dinner off till tomorrow? I — I got asked out, believe it or not.”
Tanya, who is mourning her abusive mother and craves intimacy, goes on to describe the man as working with “a group from Black Lives Matter.” Belinda, who is Black and who has been promised by Tanya a possible business partnership, understands, agrees and supports Tanya’s endeavors, because, of course, she must. It may lead to heartbreak of a certain kind, but it must be done when you’re in the service industry, mustn’t it?
This exchange, and the relationship itself, from the fourth episode of The White Lotus — created, produced, written, and directed by Mike White — is microcosmically emblematic of the best and worst attributes of the show. It’s a setup for a later joke (Tanya’s date does not work with Black Lives Matter) where the punchline is dilated beyond broad comedy so that it flips back to drama again. It’s positioned as broadly prickly and satirical at first (this rich white woman and her mistake) before icily changing its focus back to ensemble study (the woman of color who still has the dangling carrot of independent success in view). And it codifies their relationship as explicitly within a matrix of sociopolitical lenses with regard to race, class and gender.
The show looks sheepishly at exploitation and imbalance, and then covers its face with a shit-eating grin, congratulating itself for glancing at everything in the first place.
In a way, their dynamic of a kooky, unhinged master and reasonable, hopeful submissive is the show’s most thoughtfully illustrated, often keyed into relational subtleties and the specific frustrations of what “emotional labor” actually entails for the service workers that must maintain their emotions for their work. One doesn’t exist without the other, and Coolidge’s at once amusing and horrifying performance wouldn’t work without Rothwell’s thoughtful, heartbreaking one.
But it’s basically a promise that’s seldom kept by the show. A kind of inverted Fawlty Towers, with Murray Bartlett as its relapsing addict version of Basil Fawlty, the put-upon hotel manager, The White Lotus feels unclear in its tone and intentions. Nominally imploding the lives of a flurry of people staying at the resort and the people who work there, the show gleefully enjoys whiplash between the sharply critical and generally melodramatic, the (supposedly) incisively satirical and aspirationally fleshed out interiority. For every piece of exaggeration intended to register as social critique and satire, there’s another that wants to take that same person’s life with a level of seriousness that is spoken in an altogether different contextual voice. Steve Zahn’s patriarch dodges cancer and goes over the top with a “life is so precious” spiel, but later has to process the news that his father died of AIDS complications and was queer. It’s too broad to be a good satire, too pointedly critical to be a straight tragedy, too invested in its melodrama to be a broad comedy, until it becomes ouroborosian in its indecision on tone and ethos. It’s not that these genres and tropes can’t coexist. It’s that here, they float adrift, devoid of alchemical balance.
Steve Zahn and Connie Britton in The White Lotus. Mario Perez/HBO
The White Lotus asks us to look at their interior lives but then lets the characters engage in morally or ideologically dubious behavior and dares the audience to judge. Or frame or codify it in relation to a change in the sociopolitical sea. While Jake Lacy plays the ultimate unsatisfied guest, a nightmare of entitlement, Zahn and Connie Britton opine about the place of the straight white man in the modern world in front of a woman of color, on this island, in this social climate. Add to that mix a reactionary leftist podcast–ready Sydney Sweeney as their daughter, and Brittany O’Grady as her conflicted nonwhite friend, jousting with zingers poised to be posted with a chirp). It’s theory vs. application, the two never to meet harmoniously. This feels less like an accomplishment of thoughtful and rigorous characterization and rather an uncertainty of how these characters and ideological concepts want to orbit or obliterate one another.
This panoramic view, with various characters’ paths crossing but their trajectories kept pretty insular, never really crystallizes why we’re here in the first place. Relationships that are at first complementary remain confined, like Alexandra Daddario’s character trapped with her rich husband man-baby played by Lacy. And, sure, that’s part of the point, but, again, why are we here again? Because if power is a central question in everyone’s relationship (it is), a fixation for White to be sure, what exactly does he have to say about it? That it’s irascibly fickle in who it lets harness it and to whom it will never be stripped? Who will never acquire much of it in the first place? And what’s it got to say about whiteness — the way it shape-shifts, intrudes, haunts, pervades, invades — that isn’t easily tweetable?
Alexandra Daddario and Jake Lacy in The White Lotus. Mario Perez/HBO
The White Lotus hedges on those questions, too, centering whiteness without necessarily subverting or unsettling it. Despite a half-assed interest in Native Hawaiians, the score by Cristobal Tapia de Veer aided by music by the Rose Ensemble to give it a layer of proximity to quasi-Indigeneity, it is about politics but refuses relatively staunchly to be “about politics.” Its Native characters, like staffers Kai (Kekoa Scott Kekumano) and Lani (Jolene Purdy), are a blip, with White’s “interchangeable” intention never registering because it never gives them enough time for that thematic conceit to register. It splashes about these people’s lives, mired in the rhetoric of the extremely online trying to balance the ostensible realism of its characters emotional interiority, a didacticism spouted by those ideologically and hierarchically inert, and something about their locale being, effectively, a chess board laden with the ghosts of historical abuse and scarred by a history of colonial power.
For every piece of exaggeration intended to register as social critique and satire, there’s another that wants to take that same person’s life with a level of seriousness that is spoken in an altogether different contextual voice.
It’s a show about whiteness that frequently gestures towards prodding something deeper about the possibility of whiteness’s power being, if not toppled, then at least destabilized in some way. But these grand, and frankly romantic, signals are unsent like a mistaken Gmail before the time has run out. It feels, like some of its cinematography, muddled, both feeling an impulse to critique whiteness with brittle humor about money, autonomy and discourses du jour, but stops short of being actually satirical, sincerely destabilizing anyone’s sense of status safety. Rather than a laceration, it licks at what feels most like “boo boos,” while it’s unable to decide whether we’re watching humans or arch parodies of the affluent and unapologetic.
It’s this tacit embarrassment to go in on these concepts that frustrates me most, as someone who is very fond of White’s usually tender, deft hand at balancing tone, seeing both flaw and beauty, good intention and awful execution. I still believe Enlightened to be one of the best pieces of art in the 21st century. But, unfortunately at the White Lotus, power will not be displaced, status quo will not be disrupted, and critique will waver. It’s not really about the ones most at risk or made vulnerable by that power inequity. It’s mostly about those who are, if not at the center, then at least have some of the greatest proximity to it, which would be less bothersome if it had more precision in its aimed poisoned arrows. It’s not about history or politics, either, which would be fine if it didn’t constantly orient itself around the idea of being about history or politics.
The show looks sheepishly at exploitation and imbalance, and then covers its face with a shit-eating grin, congratulating itself for glancing at everything in the first place. The gorgeous title sequence by Plains of Yonder features beautiful, delicate wallpaper designs of sea creatures and presumably Native people canoeing, and as the sequence goes on, the ink on the paper begins to bloom and bleed. That’s what the show needed: to bloom and bleed. But it didn’t. The petals just wither and wilt.

Observation Points is a semi-regular discussion of key details in our culture.
The White Lotus is available to stream on HBO Max.