Yeah, that's a pre-Law & Order: Special Victims UnitChristopher Meloni costarring in one of HBO's first original programming successes, a sitcom following a female owner (Delta Burke) of a professional football team.
ANGELS IN AMERICA (2003)
Tony Kushner adapted his own Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play for director Mike Nichols, who in turn assembled a titanic cast — including Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Justin Kirk, Jeffrey Wright and Mary-Louise Parker — for this miniseries, which won a then-record 11 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Miniseries.
Remember Robert Wuhl? If the answer is yes, then it's a good chance that it's for this proto-Jerry Maguire sitcom — or, to be fair, his roles in Bull Durham or Batman — in which Wuhl played a sports agent that would do anything for his clients.
BAND OF BROTHERS (2001)
Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks executive produced this 10-part miniseries — following the men of Easy Company from training camp through D-Day up to the capture of Hitler's Eagle's Nest and the end of World War II — that had the good fortune to take advantage of America's fascination with the Greatest Generation and the bad fortune to premiere two days before 9/11. (Also, it stars a pre-HomelandDamien Lewis.)
BOARDWALK EMPIRE (2010-present)
Executive produced by Martin Scorcese and created by Terrence Winter, a veteran of The Sopranos, this Prohibition-era, Atlantic City crime odyssey has done the unthinkable: make a leading man out of Steve Buscemi.
BORED TO DEATH (2009-2011)
Jason Schwarzman led the cast (which included Zack Galifianakis and Ted Danson) of this kooky Brooklyn-set detective series based on novelist Jonathan Ames' life. Sorta.
HBO WORLD CHAMPION BOXING (1973-present)
In its almost 40 years of broadcasting the Sweet Science, HBO Boxing has covered the Thrilla in Manilla (Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier), the Rumble in the Jungle (Ali vs. George Foreman), The War (Marvin Hagler vs. Tommy Hearns) and Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs Oscar de la Hoya...which didn't get a fancy nickname, but was still something to see.
The Dust Bowl was full of freaky in this supernatural odyssey, created by Daniel Knauf and executive produced by Ronald D. Moore (who left after the first season to "reimagine" Battlestar Galactica).
CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2000-present)
If the comedy of embarrassment is your thing, then Larry David's pseudo-improvised show must be nirvana, as it's all about people digging themselves deeper and deeper.
David Milch's [bleeep] [bleeep] Western [bleeep]. [Bleeep] Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Molly Parker, John Hawkes, Robin Swigert, Garret Dillahunt and Paula Malcomson [bleeep]. Also, profanity.
DENNIS MILLER LIVE (1994-2002)
When he left SNL's Weekend Update desk in 1991, he brought his topical, wordplay-heavy rants to HBO for this late-night talk show which, in its 215 episodes, hosted actors, musicians, comedians...and a pretty stylish intro.
DREAM ON (1990-1996)
This show took full advantage of HBO's standards-and-practices freedom: Brian Benben played a single book editor in NYC who was fond of daydreaming, and we got to see those daydreams made manifest. And many of those visions were about sex. Nay, most.
EASTBOUND AND DOWN (2009-present)
Bounced out of the majors, rogue pitcher Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) finds himself humbled in almost every way possible — which would be even sadder if he realized it.
EDDIE MURPHY DELIRIOUS (1983)
HBO had been featuring stand-up comedians since the mid-'70s, but none of them blew up quite like this 70-minute concert film featuring a fresh-off-of-48 HRS. Eddie Murphy. Woefully dated today — his comments on homosexuality and AIDS are shameful — but incendiary at the time.
Inspired by Mark Wahlberg's own experiences coming to Hollywood, Entourage might have overstayed its welcome towards the end, but early in its run it was a showbiz-savvy portrait of American excess and male pattern bonding.
GAME CHANGE (2012)
A clear-eyed look at Sarah Palin's 2008 run for the vice presidency — and how it overshadowed and, ultimately, helped derail John McCain's presidential campaign — Game Change gave JulianneMoore a showcase (and an Emmy) as the great Alaskan hope.
GAME OF THRONES (2010-present)
George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire books could never been adapted for the movies, but its dense fantasy is perfect for the small screen. Executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have managed to make Westeros a real place and its sprawling cast of characters painfully human.
Various George Carlin Specials (1977-2008)
The groundbreaking comedian and social satirist shot 14 specials for HBO; the first, George Carlin at USC, featured his infamous "Seven Dirty Words" bit while his final one, It's Bad For Ya, was televised live mere months before his death.
While Lena Dunham's Girls isn't quite a one-woman show — she's got a writing staff as well as Judd Apatow as an executive producer — it's most definitely her vision of what it's like being a single white girl in the Big City. Funny, honest, awkward, sexy.
How to Make It In America
It's hard out there for a kid trying to break into the fashion industry, or so this short-lived show (executive produced by Mark Wahlberg) would have you believe.
Being a member of the well-endowed club is hard work and it only gets harder for Ray (Thomas Jane) when he comes a freelance woodsman for the amorous ladies of Detroit.
IN TREATMENT (2008-2010)
Gabriel Byrne played a shrink who sees a different patient in each episode — and, borrowing from the Israeli show it was based on, there was an episode of In Treatment every day of the week. (The first season had 43 episodes.) It was a daring format, but it might've been a little too much of a good thing: Despite winning numerous accolades, HBO canceled it after its third season.
INSIDE THE NFL (1977-2008)
Thanks to an early deal with NFL Films, this weekly football recap show was the best in the business with footage that wasn't available anywhere else and an engaging panel of hosts (which included, over the years, Dan Marino, Bob Costas, Cris Collinsworth, Chris Carter, Len Dawson and Nick Buonicotti).
THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW (1992-1998)
A scathing look at the making of a fictional talk show, with a vain ego-maniac — the titular Larry Sanders (played by Garry Shandling — at the center. It functioned as high satire, a workplace comedy and a stage for celebrities to lampoon themselves. One of the best comedies ever broadcast...anywhere.
LUCKY LOUIS (2006)
Before he landed his eponymous, Emmy-winning show on FX, Louis took a stab at the sitcom with this short-lived effort. But his outre sensibility didn't mesh with the multi-camera format...if if he was winking at it the whole time.
THE NEWSROOM (2012-present)
After winning his Social Network Oscar, Aaron Sorkin returned to TV — where he created and wrote much of The West Wing and Studio 60 — for a workplace dramedy about a conservative Republican broadcast journalist (Jeff Daniels) who has a social awakening.
One of the most brutal shows to be broadcast on any network, Oz took viewers inside the experimental unit within the Oswald State Correctional Facility nicknamed Emerald City, which housed the hardest of the hard in glass cages and gave them (mostly) unfettered access to each other. Tom Fontana's sprawling story — which loosely followed Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergesen) and his prison transformation — hits almost Shakespearean levels of tragedy.
Set during the month immediately following the 2000 presidential election — in which Al Gore lost to George H.W. Bush, but contested the Florida results — Recount won three Emmys, including Outstanding Made For TV Movie.
THE RICKY GERVAIS SHOW (2010-2012)
It's simple, really: Take Gervais' long-running series of podcasts — done with lanky Steven Merchant and globe-headed Karl Pilkington — cherry-pick the best bits and animate them.
Following the devious and debauched movers and shakers in the first republic, Rome — which incorporated historical characters like Julius Ceasar, Marc Antony and Cleopatra — was as pulpy and violent as The Sopranos which preceeded it, but it had costumes and accents.
SEX AND THE CITY (1998-2004)
This was the first HBO show to become a real part of the mainstream pop-culture conversation, working its way into everyday conversation in a way few shows before or since have. To wit: There were housewives in the middle of America debating if they were a Carrie, a Samantha, a Charlotte or a Miranda. And a marked increase in cosmo consumption.
SIX FEET UNDER (2001-2005)
In the shadow of death — literally, thanks to the death of the Fisher family patriarch, a funeral home director, in the pilot episode — the surviving members of the Fisher family must navigate their prickly, messy lives. By turns haunting, sad, funny and moving, Alan Ball's first HBO series had a cast to die for (including Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Lauren Ambrose, Frances Conroy and Freddy Rodriguez) and an ending that still echoes.
THE SOPRANOS (1999-2007)
This is the show that, for all intents and purposes, kicked off the Golden Age of Television we're currently living in. It's possible that you don't know who Tony and Carmela Soprano are, or how the criminal enterprise in which Tony was a player infected every aspect of their lives (and, by extension, American life). But it's just as possible that you just rolled off the assembly line.
TANNER '88 (1988)
Written by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau and directed by Robert Altman, this mockumentary miniseries about a senator's presidential campaign was one of HBO's first forays into political theater.
THE CORNER (2000)
Before The Wire, writer-producer David Simon tackled the Baltimore drug trade in this Emmy-winning miniseries. Where The Wire would weave a tapestry of urban decay, The Corner focused on it through a narrower lens: a single family trying to survive.
THE PACIFIC (2010)
After dealing with World War II's European Theater in Band of Brothers, Hanks and Spielberg turned their gaze to the bloody, brutal Pacific Theater for this 10-episode miniseries, which would go on to win eight Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Miniseries.
THE WIRE (2002-2008)
Whenever there's a conversation about the best show to ever air on TV, David Simon's The Wire is always the show to beat. How many ways does the slinging of crack cocaine on West Baltimore's corners impact the life of those around them? In each of The Wire's five seasons, Simon and his team examined a different way: the docks, the schools, the government, the media and always, always the streets.
After spending five years in Baltimore, The Wire's David Simon turned his attention to a post-Katrina New Orleans, a city rich with history and culture that was torn asunder. The show, which won a Peabody Award in 2011, will wrap up its run with a fourth and final season in 2013.
TRUE BLOOD (2008-present)
After wrapping up Six Feet Under, which was all about life in the face of death, executive producer Alan Ball created this vampire series — based on Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels — which is all about life after death. It also happens to be nutbar crazy.
There are few things more oddly satisfying than watching Seinfeld's Julia Louis-Dreyfus, playing the first female Vice President, curse like a longshoreman. (Who, we assume, curse like overachieving sailors.)