It's often been pointed out how the standard of TV has risen over the last few years, but it has to be said that HBO has long been carving the pathway for quality TV that rivals anything you would see in a movie theatre. Recently it has been announced that Game of Thrones has surpassed The Sopranos as the most watched show ever on the network, which is quite a feat considering the ubiquitous popularity of Tony Soprano and co.
Never mind Tony though, HBO have delivered a shed load of award winning TV down the years. Everything from Six Feet Under to The Wire and Girls have come from the American network so trying to decide which five are the cream of the crop is no easy task, but we've gone and done it. Yes, we know how many we've left out, believe us, it killed us to do so.
5. True Detective
The latest of HBO's dramas, it seemed True Detective was all people were talking about at the start of this year. The eight part drama written so incredibly well by showrunner Nic Pizzolatto, starred Woody Harrelson and Matthew Mcconaughey as detectives Marty Hart and Rust Cohle attempting to solve a case which spanned over seventeen years. It would most certainly fall into what's been called the McConaissance and there's no doubt the actor played a blinder as the odd, loner detective. What made it so good though? Well besides the knockout performances by its leads, Pizzolatto managed to deliver a compelling and thought provoking crime drama that managed to explore the absolute worst parts of the human psyche yet still engaged the audience in the complex relationships between its main characters. Thankfully a second season is on the way from Pizzolatto although with a whole new cast, setting and story, watch this space!
4. Sex and the City
At this point we are all fed up to our eyeballs with the tales from Carrie and the girls and the thoughts of a third movie would literally send shivers down your spine. However, the cultural significance of this show is not to be sniffed at. This show ran from 1998 to 2004 and was nominated for a whopping 50 Emmy Awards in its time. SATC opened up conversations about sex, it showed the intrinsic dynamics of female friendships, it basically came along and turned on its head every typical portrayal of women on television prior to that. And yes we did think of adding Lena Dunham's Girls into the mix here but without SATC, there would have been no Girls. Simple as.
3. The Sopranos
It's rare for a show to come along and just blow everything that's gone before it out of the water, but that's what The Sopranos did. Little did we know that a mafia family in New Jersey would have such a lasting effect on pop culture. There was so much more to The Sopranos though than watching the lawbreaking exploits of an organised crime family (oops sorry, waste management consultants), through the character of Tony Soprano we got a deeper understanding of the men behind these positions of power. His sessions with his therapist served as a narrative thread throughout the series that was as crucial to the development of the show as the criminal plots we followed so closely. It was no secret that the writers spoke to actually members of the mafia and it seemed that real crimes bosses themselves were irked by the show's accuracy. Sadly, the legendary James Gandolfini is no longer with us but this career defining role will make it a long time before he is ever forgotten.
2. The Wire
A hardcore fan of The Wire and fellow entertainment.ie-r Adrian Collins gave his thoughts on the show... Not simply one of the best shows on HBO, The Wire was one of the best shows that has ever been made on television. Ask anyone who has watched it, and they will tell you the same thing: give it a few episodes, preferably in a row when you’re hungover and too lazy to do anything one Sunday, and you’ll be hooked. The language is difficult to get to grips with, and yes, it can be incredibly grim, but that grit and lack of polish are what make it so great. This is a series where the investment of your time is worth it not only for the quality of the television, but for the glimpse you get of a life that would otherwise go unreported or end up hidden away in newspaper columns. Having worked on the desk of the Baltimore Sun for years, creator David Simon was more than familiar with the danger of the streets in the city and the fact that the police seemed to be more concerned with improving statistics than actually making things better.
Without doubt, the fourth season is as good as television gets. It examines the school system, looks at how the kids on the streets fall through the cracks and how that is doomed to be repeated unless something changes. That season is a genuinely affecting piece of television, and delivers everything that you could hope for from a TV show: the characters change and evolve, you become involved in their lives, and when the final scene of the final episode closes that chapter, you're struck by the weight of everything that has been building to that point from the very start of the first episode of series one.
1. Game of Thrones
Apologies to fans of The Wire and The Sopranos but yes Game of Thrones has rightfully earned its place in the top spot - the viewing figures speak for themselves. After the success of these crime dramas it's almost difficult to believe that a programme set in a fantasy world with swords and dragons would come along and take the TV world by storm. But as anyone who has watched it will tell you, there is so much more to it than that. It's all thanks to the creative mind of author George RR Martin along with show writers David Benioff and Dan Weiss (who actually got the idea to make it into a TV series right here in Trinity College). At four seasons in, the series is showing no signs of declining in popularity and it's pretty much reached the status of cultural phenomenon. Yes your nerves would be gone watching it, and yes it definitely pushes your comfort levels, but there has simply never been a show like it. The breathtaking sets, the huge diverse cast, the sheer scintillating brilliance of how the narrative of each and every episode is told... well you get it, we're a fan. And if you haven't succumb to the awesomeness of this show just yet, get crackin', because it is definitely not going anywhere anytime soon.