6 new and returning shows coming to tv this fall include “Fargo” on FX and “Ratched” on Netflix.
There’s more than just “Friends” on HBO Max. We swear.
The new service has made a name for itself as the exclusive streaming home for Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and Ross, but it has a deep library of great TV beyond our “Friends.” HBO Max combines original TV shows and films with the entire library of HBO and many series from its corporate siblings such as TNT, TBS and CNN. So you’ll find “Friends,” sure, but also series like “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” “The Sopranos” and new “Looney Tunes” cartoons.
But although its archive of TV is deep and exciting, there are plenty of duds mixed in with critically acclaimed and Emmy-winning series. We’ve picked the 50 best series to watch in November 2020, from reality to documentary to children’s shows to dark dramas (listed in alphabetical order).
More: 50 best TV shows to watch on Netflix right now
1. Angels in America
HBOs 2003 adaptation of Tony Kushners Pulitzer Prize-winning play, an allegorical examination of the AIDS crisis and LGBTQ life in the 1980s, is absolutely mesmerizing. Its outstanding cast, including Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Patrick Wilson, Mary-Louise Parker, Emma Thompson and Jeffrey Wright, makes it an absolute classic.
Anthony Bourdain with a member of his film crew in Jerusalem for “Parts Unknown” in 2013.
2. Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
The travel and food show was always a thoughtful exploration of culture and cuisine, and its 12 seasons, which originally ran on CNN, became even more poignant and touching after the death of chef Bourdain in 2018.
3. The Bachelor franchise
If the bachelors and bachelorettes of ABC’s long-running reality dating franchise can find love in a hopeless place (like in front of millions of TV viewers), then there’s hope for the rest of us, too.
‘The Bachelorette’ is back Oct. 13: A boy band manager, chef and more set to woo Clare Crawley
4. Band of Brothers and The Pacific
Created by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, these two World War II set miniseries are exquisite. Like Spielbergs lauded Saving Private Ryan, the HBO series capture the epic scale of war but are measured and realistic in the costs and sacrifices of soldiers and bystanders.
In HBOs black comedy as dark as Batmans cape, Bill Hader plays a depressed hitman who finds new purpose taking acting classes in L.A. A concept that sounds too out there to work is pulled off thanks to Hader; Henry Winkler; and Anthony Carrigan, whose dumb mobster NoHo Hank is a breath of lightness the show sorely needs.
Review: Bill Hader makes the wild and weird ‘Barry’ wonderful
Quinta Brunson and Robin Thede in “A Black Lady Sketch Show.”
6. A Black Lady Sketch Show
Created by Robin Thede and produced by Issa Rae, HBOs tiny-but-mighty sketch comedy series is knee-slappingly hilarious. Its talented Black lady comedians excel in sketches that are unique to their experiences and universal in their humor.
More: The 50 best TV shows to watch on Amazon Prime right now, from ‘Fleabag’ to ‘Psych’
7. Being Erica
In this charming Canadian series, a woman (Erin Karpluk) who feels as though she has made all the wrong choices in life is given the chance by a magical therapist to go back in time and change them, though those trips to the past dont always have the result she intends. It may sound hokey, but its an insightful character portrait.
8. The Big Bang Theory
CBS hangout sitcom starring Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco was often TV’s most popular show for a reason its big, broad humor and nerdy characters are comforting and familiar.
9. The Boondocks
With a stunning voice cast (Regina King! John Witherspoon!) and provocative material, this Adult Swim animated series was woefully underrated when it aired from 2005-2014. But hopefully its new home on HBO Max, which streams the original seasons and has commissioned two new installments, will bring the adaptation of Aaron McGruders comic strip the acclaim it deserves.
Valery Legasov (Jared Harris) gets to the core of the Chernobyl disaster.
(Photo: Liam Daniel/HBO)
The brilliance of HBOs historical miniseries, which chronicles the 1986 nuclear disaster at a power plant in Soviet Ukraine, creeps up on you. Chernobyl is never crass or exploitative, but rather it simply, and anger-inducingly, explains the failures and hubris that led to the disaster, and introduces the people who tried to mitigate its consequences.
11. Curb Your Enthusiasm
Larry Davids dry, meta comedy, in which he plays a fictionalized version of himself, is a reliable source of humor for his fans. Whenever he returns to HBO for a new season, David is ready to poke fun at his peculiarities and neurosis.
Ranked: Larry David of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ and his fellow masters of comedic discomfort
Creator David Milchs masterpiece of a Western, which originally aired on HBO for for a criminally short three-season run in the 2000s, is one of TVs all-time best series, and a 2019 revival movie didn’t disappoint.
Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh) and Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill) on “Doctor Who.”
(Photo: Sophie Mutevelian/BBC/BBC Studios 2018)
13. Doctor Who
With a time machine, a screwdriver and a plucky spirit, there is no limit to where (or when) the Doctor (currently embodied by Jodie Whittaker) can take you in this British sci-fi institution.
14. Doom Patrol
The best superhero show on TV right now is this irreverent team-up show that originally streamed on DC Universe. Starring Alan Tudyk, Brendan Fraser, Timothy Dalton, Matt Bomer and more, the series steers clear of tired tropes and fake optimism for a gritty-but-not-exhausting version of superheroics.
If you liked Laura Dern in Big Little Lies, youll love her razor-sharp, nearly unhinged role as Amy Jellicoe in this two-season HBO series from creator Mike White. A cringe dramedy that never goes too far (but gets very, very close), the smart series sees Dern turn in one of her best performances.
16. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
While a dramatic reboot of Will Smiths seminal NBC comedy is coming to streaming service Peacock, HBO Max has the original six seasons of the sitcom about a teen (Smith) from West Philadelphia (born and raised) who moves in with his rich relatives in California.
“Friends” cast (clockwise from top left): Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Courteney Cox Arquette as Monica Geller, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller.
(Photo: LANCE STAEDLER/NBC)
More than two decades after it premiered, “Friends” remains a cultural institution and reliable source of delight and laughs. Its long afterlife in cable reruns and streaming (it was on Netflix for years before it moved to its new HBO Max home) has introduced it to new generations. It may be a cliché, but it is nice to spend some time with our “Friends.”
18. Game of Thrones
At any moment during its eight seasons and 73 episodes, Game of Thrones could be the best or worst series on TV, but when it was at its peak, there was nothing else like it. A full exploration of this complex series reveals impeccable acting, gorgeous costuming and an expansion of our collective ideas about what TV can achieve.
More: The 50 best TV shows to watch on Hulu right now, from ‘Fargo’ to ‘Buffy’ to ‘Pen15’
Lena Dunhams 20-something women in New York series, which ran from 2012-2017, was controversial and had its creative ups and downs over its six seasons, but overall the HBO comedy is a smart portrait of what being young was like in the Obama-era economy and culture.
20. Harley Quinn
Cuoco gives voice to this animated version of the DC Comics villain (and sometimes anti-hero) that Margot Robbie brought to life on the big screen. As wonderful as Robbies performance is, the DC Universe series is a smarter, more dynamic portrait of Harley, with superb scripts and an excellent supporting voice cast, including Lake Bell, Alan Tudyk and Christopher Meloni.
21. I May Destroy You
British actress and writer Michaela Coel broke out in the U.S. with her beloved Netflix comedy Chewing Gum, but I May Destroy You is where she truly triumphs. An imperfect but vital examination of sexual assault and consent in the modern world, Coles performance is heartbreaking and vivid.
More: ‘I May Destroy You’: How HBO’s tragicomedy brilliantly depicts sexual assault trauma, consent
“Insecure” (HBO) with Issa Rae
Issa Rae crafts a distinctly millennial and hilarious series in this HBO comedy about a Black woman in Los Angeles who, as she approaches 30, begins to question her life decisions, including her long-term boyfriend.
23. In Treatment
HBOs therapy-set drama is primed for binge-watching, even if it aired from 2008-2010, before we widely used that term. Each episode of this drama sees its therapist protagonist (Gabriel Byrne) hold sessions with his different clients, while seeking his own counseling. (A new version, with Uzo Aduba as the therapist, is due in 2021.)
24. John Adams
Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney anchor HBOs historical miniseries that brought one of the architects of the American Revolution to life almost a decade before Hamilton would do the same (albeit with music) for Alexander Hamilton. Never stodgy or stuffy, John Adams is a biopic that may gloss over some of history but is a gripping fictionalized narrative.
25. The Jinx
True-crime documentaries are so prevalent and popular in the current TV culture that theyre almost tired and cliche. But the stunning, horrific tale weaved by HBOs 2015 docuseries, and the alleged and controversial confession at its conclusion, make Jinx an unparalleled achievement in the genre.
26. Leaving Neverland
Among the many true-crime documentaries of late about sexual assault allegations, this one about two men who accused Michael Jackson of sexual abuse when they were children stood out. Wade Robson and James Safechuck were given a platform on HBO to tell their harrowing stories, and director Dan Reed is unflinching as he captures the pain and suffering of the men and their families. Tough to watch, it’s also an eye-opening look at the lasting effects of abuse and the way the media handles allegations against powerful men.
“The Leftovers” (HBO) with Justin Theroux and Chris Zylka
(Photo: Van Redin, HBO)
27. The Leftovers
Even if the tone of HBOs overwhelmingly somber series isnt your style, its hard to ignore the level of artistry delivered over three seasons from co-creators Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta. Two percent of the earths population disappears without an explanation, but the story is not in the mystery but in the aftermath, the broken people forced to keep living in a world that doesnt make any sense.
28. Looney Tunes
Not only are the archives of the classic childrens cartoons available on HBO Max, but the streamer has produced new installments that capture the mania and humor of Bugs Bunny and friends perfectly for the modern era.
Idris Elba is a powerhouse as the eponymous detective in this British drama. His performance, and the cat-and-mouse game he plays with psychotic killer Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), have echoes of Sherlock Holmes, but Elba makes the renegade detective trope his own.
Charlie McDermott, left, Eden Sher, Atticus Shaffer, Patricia Heaton and Neil Flynn star in ABC’s ‘The Middle.’
(Photo: Michael Ansell, ABC)
30. “The Middle”
During its 2009-2018 run, this ABC comedy starring Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn and national treasure Eden Sher was woefully underrated, outshined by its buzzier and flashier family sitcom cousins on the network. But now you can stream all nine seasons and revel in the hilarious averageness (they’re very middle of the road, you might say) of Indiana’s Heck family.
31. Mr. Show with Bob and David
Bob Odenkirk and David Cross are delightful, hilarious and unhinged in their 1995-1998 HBO sketch comedy series, considered to be one of the best sketch comedies of all time.
32. The O.C.
With a perfect cast, just the right amount of soap opera and gorgeous California setting, The O.C. was the best teen drama of the 2000s and continues be a deliciously juicy binge-watch.
33. The Office (UK)
Before Steve Carell made us cringe as Michael Scott, Ricky Gervais played the somehow-even-more-cringeworthy David Brent, king of his own little office, in the UK version of the series he co-created.
Brutal, shocking and groundbreaking, Oz, which is set at a mens prison, was one of HBOs earliest successes and remains vivid viewing more than 20 years later.
35. The Plot Against America
An alternate history drama with dire warnings about modern culture, Plot, based on Philip Roths 2004 novel, tracks what would have happened in the U.S. if Franklin Roosevelt had lost the 1940 presidential election to Charles Lindbergh. Adapted by The Wire creator David Simon, Plot evocatively brings a scary could-have-been to life.
More: HBO’s ‘The Plot Against America’ rewrites history with fascist, anti-Semitic president
Pretty Little Liars was originally on Freeform.
(Photo: Ron Tom, ABC FAMILY)
36. Pretty Little Liars
Although this Freeform soapy thriller sometimes goes off the rails, early seasons are gripping and addictive, spinning delicate webs with the mystery of the disappearance of a teen girl, her left-behind friends and their mysterious harasser.
37. Pride and Prejudice
Theres no Mr. Darcy quite like Colin Firth. This miniseries adaptation of Jane Austens celebrated novel, which originally aired on PBS in the U.S., is the definitive take on Pride and Prejudice, thanks to Firths performance and its faithful, but not restricted, translation of the story from page to screen.
38. Robot Chicken
Stop-motion and distinctly adult humor make this Adult Swim series, created by Seth Green, one of the networks biggest successes, gaining the show celebrity guest stars six Emmys and 10 seasons and counting in Cartoon Networks mature programming block.
39. Samurai Jack
Another Cartoon Network series with plenty for adults to enjoy, Samurai is fun, gripping, visually daring and has a loyal cult fanbase.
40. Search Party
This surreal comedy (which originally aired on TBS but jumped to HBO Max) is both relatable and infinitely absurd. A group of 20-somethings, led by Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), gets over involved in the disappearance of a former classmate, leading to hilarious, horrifying and morbid discoveries.
Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Ernie, Bert, Grover, Prairie Dawn, Elmo and Oscar the Grouch are characters featured on “Sesame Street,” which began charming children in 1969.
(Photo: RICHARD TERMINE/CTW)
41. Sesame Street
A 50-year institution for a reason, there is no childrens show quite like Sesame Street, which has both old PBS episodes and new HBO installments available to stream.
42. Sex and the City
Although it may be a bit dated, Sex and the City remains a classic sitcom, both for the magnetism and performances of its four leads: Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall and Kristin Davis. Dating in New York may have more apps and fewer cosmopolitans now, but Sex still captures the uncertainty of putting yourself out there, looking for love and affection.
43. The Sopranos
HBOs New Jersey mobster drama that launched a thousand antihero knockoffs still has punch (pun intended) two decades after its debut.
44. South Park
Trey Parker and Matt Stones adult animated series may not, in current episodes on Comedy Central, have quite the same bite it did in its heyday during the mid 2000s, but it is still a generational touchstone and one-of-a-kind satire of American life.
45. The Thick of It
Before Peter Capaldi was Doctor Who and before Armando Iannucci created Veep, the pair collaborated on this searing British political satire, both hilarious and known for containing nearly 50% profanity in any given scene.
46. True Detective
If you ignore the subpar second season, HBOs crime anthology series has two compelling mysteries, and two superb casts, for your viewing pleasure. In particular Mahershala Ali shines in Season 3 as a Black detective working in the 1980s.
Some of the political satire’s bite faded in later seasons as our world has become more absurd and shocking, but that doesn’t dull the sharpness of star Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ performance.
HBOs very loose adaptation of the graphic novel has blossomed into one of creator Damon Lindelofs best series, and from the man behind Lost and The Leftovers, thats some achievement. The series has a superb cast including Emmy-winner Regina King that elevates smart scripts that get better as the season progresses. Lindelof and his writers find surprising ways to bring the superhero story from the 1980s into todays culture, helping Watchmen upend the comic book formula once again.
“The West Wing”
49. “The West Wing”
The simplicity of politics in Aaron Sorkin’s White House drama feels almost quaint in 2020, but the rousing speeches of President Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen) still inspire and captivate (Seasons 1-7 streaming Dec. 25). HBO Max is also home to this year’s “West Wing” special, which featured the original cast reuniting for a staged reading of a Season 3 episode to benefit get-out-the-vote efforts.
50. The Wire
Touted by many as the best TV show of all time, writer David Simon’s meticulous crime drama is gorgeously wrought and acted by the likes of Dominic West, Idris Elba and Michael B. Jordan.
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6 new and returning shows coming to tv this fall include “Fargo” on FX and “Ratched” on Netflix.