The world of television is changing. Nowadays, it seems every cable channel is churning out award-worthy programming, while streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are becoming increasingly heavy competition for traditional networks. However, amid all the talk about the current golden age of television, it’s easy to forget that HBO was forging the path long before its cable brethren began to develop their own hit shows. In fact, chances are that most viewers still haven’t delved into some of HBO’s best original programs.
HBO proved itself to be a major pioneer for edgy comedy series that elevated the form past the laugh track limitations series often face on more traditional networks. Below, we look back at the most hilarious and memorable comedies ever to come out of HBO. For the record, we’re only considering scripted series, as sketch comedy is deserving of its own list.
1. The Larry Sanders Show (1992-1998)
In many ways, this groundbreaking series — which chronicles the behind-the-scenes goings-on of the titular late night talk show — is responsible for putting HBO on the map as a credible source for quality original programming. During its run, the show earned much acclaim for stars Garry Shandling, Jeffrey Tambor, and Rip Torn. The show’s comedic sensibility has influenced many series in the years since its debut, including more recent fare like Curb Your Enthusiasm (more on that later), 30 Rock, and The Office.
2. Sex and the City (1998-2004)
Long before Entourage proved that not every HBO comedy hit had what it takes to make the leap to the big screen, this racy, raucous series catapulted its stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, and Kim Cattrall to new heights of stardom. Created by Darren Star, Sex and the City set off a global phenomenon that cemented the show’s place in television comedy history and become a reference point for other single-in-New York sitcoms like Seinfeld and Friends. Considering the HBO show’s presence on a premium network, that feat is all the more impressive.
3. Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-present)
When Seinfeld ended in 1998, it seemed that viewers would have to do without series co-creator Larry David’s sarcastic sense of humor. Alas, David returned to the airwaves with a vengeance just a couple years later as a fictional version of himself. As a result, the actor and writer earned even more notoriety and five Emmy nominations. HBO recently announced that Curb Your Enthusiasm would return to the airwaves in 2017 after several years of hiatus, marking David’s return and the show’s ninth season.
4. Flight of the Conchords (2007-2009)
Prior to the debut of this musical HBO comedy series about a pair of struggling New Zealand musicians in New York, most viewers in the U.S. likely weren’t familiar with the comedic stylings of the title duo. However, soon after its debut, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie’s quirky, self-deprecating folk-rap established a sizable cult following. After two seasons on the network, the duo opted not to return for Season 3 and instead have been busy with film work. Rumors persist that Flight of the Conchords might live on in a film adaptation.
5. Veep (2012-present)
Escaping the shadow of a role on one of the most popular shows of all time is never easy (just ask the cast of Friends). Yet, Julia Louis-Dreyfus managed to land a pair of successful shows post-Seinfeld. Though The New Adventures of Old Christine ran for five seasons, Louis-Dreyfus’s true second wind has come on this political comedy which sees the actress star as U.S. Vice President Selina Meyer. The show has continued to track the character’s career in Washington D.C. and has only continued to thrive without creator Armando Iannucci.
6. Silicon Valley (2014-present)
This comedy series is centered on a group of men who launch a startup company in the Silicon Valley’s tech landscape. The show has continued to earn critical acclaim and awards recognition throughout its run. Silicon Valley‘s offbeat sense of humor — buoyed by stars like Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, and Zach Woods — has developed a growing fanbase. Silicon Valley shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, with HBO having already renewed it to return for Season 4 in 2017.
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