Which of the following statements best describes how magazines are able to compete against cable tv?

The thing about any list ranking, if it's honest, is that it can't go un-updated. Things change as they age. As we age! Which means that it's time—right now, in 2022—for us to reevaluate the offerings from HBO, a network that has given us too much good for our own good when it comes to entertainment.

You can't help but recognize a drama that redefined television with a little story about a coveted Iron Throne. How can you not tip your hat to the great Larry Sanders Show? And then there are newbies, like Euphoria, that have turned the often-melodramatic teen drama category into a cutting edge storytelling device about drug use and social pressures.

So here's the rundown, best as we can imagine it: the top 40 HBO shows, including our takes on characters like Tony Soprano and Carrie Bradshaw—two figures who introduced the now defunct anti-hero era. We know there are always some capital-O opinions when it comes to the output from this beloved premium network, so sound off in the comments. But don't come at us with any pro-Westworld takes—you know that show is off its rocker.

If Queer Eye opened the door, We're Here kicked it down. Following three drag queens into their communities across the United States, the docuseries chronicles how various lives have been affected, in some way, by queerness. It mixes feel good optimism with a harsh dose of reality—sometimes the world isn't ready for a drag queen, or anyone, to live truthfully. But in doing so, it finds a profound truth: that's not your problem. You're here, baby.

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In the crusade that is Reese Witherspoon's complete takeover of media, Big Little Lies marks her most nuanced performance. Based on a novel of the same name, the series followed along with the book's plot pretty closely during Season One to winning effects. But getting renewed proved a cursed for the show. Had that second season not happened, Big Little Lies would be sitting squarely in the Top 10.

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If you hang in for more than two episodes of HBO's adaptation of Stephen King's The Outsider, it really starts taking off. Following the investigation of a young boy's murder, the miniseries starring Jason Bateman, Ben Mendelsohn, and Cynthia Erivo is a welcome addition to TV's horror lineup, and features masterclass performances from its major leads.

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No one wants Westworld to be on this list more than Westworld. Often, that obvious reaching is off-putting. But when Westworld turns out a solid episode, it's one of the best things on television. If it could just do that more consistently, it would feature higher here.

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Created by Lena Dunham, the show follows four young women as they step into adulthood while living in New York City... for better and worse. They can be messy and hypocritical and privileged, but isn't that the point? Have you met a New Yorker before?! What Dunham created is a triumph, documenting 21st century women who dare to be adventurous. And what cements Girls' spot on this list is that it's a series too cool to care if we remembered it at all.

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Funny, tender, and full of surprises, this swashbuckling comedy has just one season under its belt, but it’s destined to go down in the HBO hall of fame. At the center of the series is Gentleman Pirate Stede Bonnet, a wealthy landowner who abandons his pampered life to pillage and plunder at sea. Before too long, he falls in with the infamous pirate Blackbeard—and falls in love with him, too. Featuring a wide swath of LGBTQIA+ characters, it’s both a win for queer representation and a rollicking good time.

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Put briefly: it's a miniseries developed by Tom Hanks and directed by Steven Spielberg. That's kind of all you need to know, right?

The longer version is that the war epic follows Easy Company as they enter World War II—and the 10-episode series continues to stand as one of the great combat adaptations ever. Following its 2001 release, it nabbed a Best Miniseries Emmy, making it "prestige TV" before the phrase had even become en vogue.

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Well. I got it! Those four words are a hallmark of the Lisa Kudrow staple, but The Comeback was trendsetting in other ways—it was also one of the inaugural shows to be cancelled and then years later receive the revival treatment. Lisa Kudrow never quite got her due for the show, or the strange brand of comedy it introduced.

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Is The Flight Attendant a drama, a comedy, a thriller, or a mystery? Maybe it’s a little bit of everything—and whichever way, we aren’t complaining. Kaley Cuoco stars as Cassie Bowden, a hot mess flight attendant who wakes up in a hotel bed with a dead man and no clue what happened. Cassie’s quest to solve the crime takes her to the darkest recesses of her psyche, where she’s forced to confront her alcoholism as well as her complicated upbringing. Stylish and pulpy, The Flight Attendant will enrapture you, then sock you in the gut.

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Silicon Valley nearly missed its window. Running for six seasons, the comedy continues to draw critical acclaim, and few fans, even now several years after its finale.

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Nothing like a massive nuclear accident to get the family around the television, right? The 2019 miniseries was a stalwart during awards season and still (!) holds a 96 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Dark horror set in Louisiana, based around sharp-talking, sexy vampires with sharper teeth? Sign us up. The steamy premium cable drama is some of the best TV out there, and Anna Paquin absolutely shines.

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This 2019 series was probably too relevant. The British program follows one family through the ups and downs of a 15-year span, jumping in time from episode to episode—and it exists in our current timeline as it tackles a rise of nationalism and increasing fear of others. The series is a haunting collection of what-ifs, making for an occasionally uncomfortable, but always rewarding, watch.

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Listen. Euphoria is a lot to take in. (See: dozens o' dicks.) It also will make you extra grateful to not be coming of age in the year of our Lord, 2022. When the high school-set series began, it hinged on Zendaya's performance, but as seasons have continued, its supporting cast has upped the ante. The peephole into addiction, drug access, social pressures, and growing up right now is some of the most visually stimulating and thought provoking television around.

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What happens when you combine Steve Buscemi, New Jersey, and the prohibition era? You end up with a really great HBO show. Boardwalk Empire only falls this low because the rest of the list is so incredibly strong.

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While Queer as Folk and Queer Eye cleared the path, Looking looked (no pun intended) to revolutionize the way that stories are told about gay men. The series never gained a massive audience, but its reverberations are still being felt.

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Amy Adams's psychological thriller Sharp Objects, based on a book of the same name, dominated the summer TV conversation a couple of years ago. Playing a reporter with a drinking problem, Adams returns to her hometown to investigate a murder only to find herself back under the thumb of her Missouri-dwelling mother. What follows is impossibly dark, and completely addicting.

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In this sensational limited series, a group of privileged assholes descend on a Hawaiian luxury resort, including a family, two newlyweds, and a single woman who’s arrived to scatter her mother’s ashes. These travelers soon collide with one another, as well as with the put-upon hotel staff. The pressure cooker plot dredges up secrets and crimes, all while tackling issues of colonialism, racism, and reparations. This is HBO magic at its finest.

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Oz was ahead of its time. Set in a fictional men's prison, the series ran for six seasons and tackled topics that were, at the time of its 1997 premiere, too taboo for any other channel. It helped usher in a new era of television, one that skips the fluff and gets into difficult conversations.

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Placing a new series (let alone a miniseries) is difficult; the bias of newness is hard to shake. But Station Eleven deserves a call out. With standout performances from Lori Petty, Himesh Patel, and Mackenzie Davis, the series about a post-pandemic world is all about the poetry of being alive—and the bravery it takes to push through when just surviving isn't enough.

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Issa Rae set out to create a show that captured a bit of her life, but what she ended up with is something entirely phenomenal: a comedic look inside the life of two Black women trying to find success after college.

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RIP Bill Paxton and the show that managed to corral Chloë Sevigny, Ginnifer Goodwin, Amanda Seyfried, and Jeanne Tripplehorn into one series about polygamous marriage. God only knows where we'd be without Big Love. (Somewhere far more boring.)

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Hacks stars the inimitable Jean Smart as Deborah Vance, a pioneering comedian who has settled into the complacency of a cushy Las Vegas residency. Hannah Einbinder stars opposite Smart as Ava, an outcast 25-year-old comedy writer from Los Angeles. When Deborah stands to lose her residency and Ava’s writing career is on life support, their shared manager pairs them up to revitalize Deborah’s material. Punctuated by caustic barbs and generational conflict, Deborah and Ava’s animosity softens into a growing friendship. Featuring a career-best performance from Smart and a poignant story about generational divides, Hacks is an HBO all-timer.

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Starstruck creator, writer, and star Rose Matafeo has utterly nailed the secret sauce of rom-coms. In this warm and winsome series, she stars as Jessie, a twenty-something New Zealander struggling to carve out a life in London. When Jessie has a one-night stand with a movie star, a burgeoning romance follows, forcing both partners to confront the challenges of sustaining a lasting love. Joyful, keenly observed, and deeply funny, Starstruck makes its act of rom-com magic look effortless.

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Bill Hader might have been strong on Saturday Night Live, but his turn on HBO's Barry is the role he was meant for. The dark-comedy follows Hader as Barry, a Marine-turned-hitman who just happened to find his bliss (or, you know, get closer to it) by joining the theater scene in Los Angeles. The dream! Just remember to always yes and...

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Laurie Metcalfe paired with Niecy Nash and Alex Borstein is an indomitable trio. Together, on Getting On, you have one of the most accomplished casts on television representing overworked doctors and nurses. It's a series that doesn't come up enough, and it certainly hits a little different now in 2022.

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Treme had a relatively quiet run beginning in 2010, which is a damn shame because it is one of the best shows HBO has ever released. Following the events of Hurricane Katrina, it serves as a love letter to New Orleans; it made the city a character, with all its food, music, and culture.

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Succession might have been a slow burn when it came to building an audience, but after three successful seasons, the sardonic drama—comedy?—about an elite media family is a dark and deeply addicting look into wealth and dominance. This series might have made Top 10, had it not been for Kendall Roy's rapping.

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Six Feet Under, a dark, comedic look at death through the lens of a funeral home, has only gotten better as the years have passed. The writing is smart, the acting is stellar, and the meditation on grieving is completely cathartic. Plus, the cast is stacked: Peter Krause, Lauren Ambrose, Rachel Griffiths, and Dexter before he was Dexter? Damn.

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Watchmen changed the television landscape in late 2019. It also, as few shows do, exceeded expectations—which, with Damon Lindelof and Regina King involved, were high. In fact, the television adaptation of the graphic novel eclipsed the fanfare and left viewers hungry for more. But in a rare move, Lindelof bowed out, leaving us with only one iconic run of episodes. But boy was this great TV.

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Deadwood is the kind of period piece that feels like it just belongs on HBO. The drama, set in a lawless mining town in post-Civil War America, is one of HBO's most recognizable exports for good reason.

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Michaela Coel's HBO series was widely seen as one of the best series of 2020. I suspect in the years to come, it will only grow in esteem. Unrelenting and impossibly brave in its discussion of sexual assault, Coel's character, Arabella, faces the truths of her past and how it affects her job, her relationships with those closest to her, and most importantly, herself.

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Revolutionary for its time, I couldn't help but wonder... could this list ever include Sex and the City outside of the top five? With the advent of the reboot, things get tainted a bit. Is that fair? Perhaps not. But that's the risk you take when you play with an existing batch of characters. The adventures of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte defined a generation and set up the idea that a show about women could be just a risqué as anything else on television.

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Improv on television? Sounds like a recipe for disaster. But former Seinfeld co-creator Larry David managed to create one of the most hilarious and unpredictable comedies by turning the focus on himself.

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Placing Game of Thrones is difficult. The phenomenon of fanfare is hard to ignore. (But so is that very uneven final season.) If The Sopranos defined the genre of high-end television, then you have to give GoT the credit for reinventing it. The show has a following unlike anything else in recent memory, as well as some of the most intense scenes we've seen on our screens at home. If you got a problem with where it landed on the list, tell Cersei it was me.

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5. The Larry Sanders Show

Garry Shandling broke the mold with The Larry Sanders Show. The series may have been a fictional talk show, but something about the way Shandling infused his natural hosting talent with the vibe of the pretend Larry Sanders is magic that hasn't been recreated in the years since it wrapped.

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Selina Meyer predicted something that we could have never seen coming: what happens when someone absolutely bananas ends up in the highest office in the land. But more than that, Julia Louis-Dreyfus created a character that set her far apart from her Seinfeld years, proving herself to be one of the most iconic comedians of our time.

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The Leftovers dared to be adventurous in ways that many shows shy away from: big mysteries, a controversial ending, and a crash course in just how good Carrie Coon is.

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Never has a cut to black caused so much controversy. But well beyond its shockingly ambivalent ending, the mob series set the tone for modern, elevated television. The Sopranos is responsible for prestige TV as we know it, and ultimately, no other show on this list would be what it is without its guidance.

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At the top of every HBO list is one of two culprits: The Sopranos or The Wire. While The Sopranos may have edged out The Leftovers, it's just impossible to beat The Wire, at least here at Esquire. The show captured the complexity of the Baltimore narcotics scene and the War on Drugs in a way that all the talking heads could never. This isn't just HBO's best series, it's one of the finest programs to ever air anywhere.

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