Published on September 24th, 2015 | by Clint Davis
Top 10 shows not available on HBO Go
If you’ve had a traditional subscription to HBO — meaning through a cable or satellite TV service — at any point since February 2010, then you’ve also had access to HBO Go. The service allows streaming on-demand access to many of the current and former original series from the network, as well as movies, boxing events and comedy specials.
The key phrase there is many series.
The biggest limitation to HBO Go is that it doesn’t allow subscribers to watch all of the network’s former shows. Sure, the greatest hits are there; for instance, it allows users to watch every episode of The Sopranos, The Wire, Sex and the City, Six Feet Under and current HBO favorites like Game of Thrones and The Leftovers. But a lot of classic shows that helped build HBO into the acclaimed programming behemoth it is today are missing from the service.
Below are our picks for the 10 best shows not currently available on HBO Go.
#10 – The Life & Times of Tim (2008 – 2012)
HBO has never had much luck sustaining a grown-up animated series. Like Todd McFarlane’s Spawn and The Ricky Gervais Show, this 2008 series only ran three seasons before coming to an untimely end. But if you ever saw The Life & Times of Tim, you know it was never destined to be a runaway hit. It featured shoddy, Beavis & Butthead-esque animation, storylines that derived humor from painfully awkward situations and a theme song by Hank Williams … Senior.
But the show was really funny and certainly the strongest animated series HBO has tried. It didn’t have a ton of name recognition in the main cast — other than Nick Kroll as the title character’s best friend — but respected comedians regularly popped up in guest roles, including Bob Odenkirk, Aziz Ansari, Bob Saget and Cheri Oteri. Think an animated version of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
#9 – Real Sex (1990 – 2009)
One of the longest-running series in HBO’s history, Real Sex (later reborn as Sex On//) was basically 60 Minutes for stories about sex. Each hour-long episode featured three to four 15-minute vignettes, often about offbeat sexual practices. The stories included tasteful interviews with shameless people and didn’t feature a host or any editorialization of the topics, allowing each subject to be treated with respect.
Memorable segments included an in-depth look at the making of realistic sex dolls, a profile of sexploitation filmmaker Doris Wishman and look inside a cunnilingus workshop. As of this writing, a single episode of Real Sex is available on HBO Go but it’s a shame to not see all 31 episodes of this classic documentary series streaming on-demand. It offers a fascinating and guilt-free view of the wide world of sex in the 1990s.
#8 – Da Ali G Show (2003 – 2006)
Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen became an international iconoclast in 2006 when his Academy Award-nominated mockumentary Borat became one of the year’s highest-grossing films. But Cohen introduced Borat and a couple other beloved characters on Da Ali G Show, which first aired on HBO for American audiences.
The show starred Cohen as Ali G, a desperate-to-fit-in white correspondent who feels he has his finger on the pulse of the world’s youth (or “da yoof,” as he says). As Ali G, Cohen would interview American political leaders and otherwise “serious” people who weren’t in on the joke. The show was both political-media satire at its finest and bawdy slapstick comedy.
#7 – Tenacious D (1997 – 2000)
Succinct, hilarious and always including a funny song that would end up lodged in your head, Tenacious D was Flight of the Conchords and Garfunkel and Oates before those shows were ever dreamed up. Tenacious D starred a then-unknown Jack Black and musician/actor Kyle Gass as a duo of wannabe heavy metal icons struggling to make it big and finishing each episode performing an adventure-encompassing song to an unenthusiastic crowd at open mic night. The show’s entire run spans only six episodes, making it perfect for a quick binge-watching session.
Many of the songs in the series ended up on Tenacious D’s 2001 debut album — but a few of the best from the show were missing, making this series a must-see for fans of the band. It was co-created and written by Bob Odenkirk and David Cross and featured guest turns from comic actors like Scott Adsit, Paul F. Tompkins and John C. Reilly as sasquatch!
#6 – Tanner ’88 (1988)
Airing concurrently with the 1988 U.S. presidential campaign/election, this ambitious mockumentary miniseries can be seen as a forerunner to HBO’s recent hit series Veep. For fans of filmmaking and political satire, the two men behind Tanner ’88 are legends. Director Robert Altman was behind brilliant films like Nashville, Short Cuts and The Player; meanwhile, writer Garry Trudeau created the Pulitzer-winning political comic strip Doonesbury.
The 11-episode miniseries followed Democratic politician Jack Tanner (played by Michael Murphy of X-Men: The Last Stand) on his quest through primary season. The show is ripe for a dust-off as the American political movie/album reviews season is under way and gearing up for one of the most entertaining presidential showdowns ever.
#5 – Arliss (1996 – 2002)
Sporting a seven-season, 80-episode run, Arliss was the HBO sitcom that was often forgotten, as it ran alongside the more acclaimed Larry Sanders Show and more popular Sex and the City. Its multi-colored cast and mostly safe-for-work plotlines make Arliss seem a little ginger in comparison to other HBO original series but it’s also one of the network’s most heartfelt and easily digestible comedies.
The show followed sports agent Arliss Michaels (portrayed by series creator Robert Wuhl) and the employees of his agency as they tried to sign the world’s top athletes and keep them happy at any cost. Arliss was at its best when dropping pointed, obscure sports references and featuring self-deprecating cameos from big-name athletes. The central cast of Arliss was a fun group to watch, especially Michael Boatman who was also starring in ABC’s Spin City during this show’s entire run.
#4 – The Corner (2000)
Of all the shows on this list, I find it hardest to understand why The Corner would be left off of HBO Go. This miniseries was a direct predecessor to HBO’s masterpiece The Wire and at only six episodes, it surely wouldn’t require much server space to store.
Co-written by Wire creator David Simon and frequent collaborator David Mills — both former professional journalists — the show examined an impoverished family in drug-riddled Baltimore. The Corner was hailed as groundbreaking television in 2000 and won three Emmy Awards out of four nominations (ironically, The Wire was only nominated for two Emmys during its acclaimed five-season run; it lost both).
#3 – Tales from the Crypt (1989 – 1996)
Tales from the Crypt was arguably HBO’s original hit series and it’s a downright shame this timeless horror reviews anthology isn’t streaming on HBO Go. Sure it’s campy as hell but Tales from the Crypt episodes were always a blast to spend a half-hour with.
There was gore, profanity, nudity and laughs in every episode and the Crypt Keeper (pictured above) acted as a debaucherous version of Rod Serling. Even if HBO didn’t want to offer up all 93 episodes of Tales from the Crypt, they could at least showcase the ones that were directed by and starred A-listers like Tom Hanks, Michael J. Fox, Robert Zemeckis and Benecio del Toro. In the age of American Horror Story and Black Mirror, it’s time for TV fans to revisit this macabre classic.
#2 – Mr. Show with Bob and David (1995 – 1998)
Sketch comedy is a genre HBO has toyed with several times since The Kids in the Hall debuted on the network in 1989. But they’ve never had a sketch series as good as this alt-comedy showcase in the mid-’90s. Mr. Show starred co-creators Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, as well as some of the best up-and-coming featured players in the business including Sarah Silverman, Tom Kenny and Brian Posehn.
The show’s sketches could’ve only played on censor-free HBO and there were no big-name celebrity hosts or musical guests and few recurring characters. In short, Mr. Show was the anti-SNL. The show was at its sharpest when attacking political and cultural norms but was just as funny when taking on sillier characters, like a guy who wrote the hosts sarcastic hate-letters which were read as glowing recommendations of the show. Mr. Show had balls and endless attitude; HBO Go subscribers deserve to watch all four hilarious seasons.
#1 – The Larry Sanders Show (1992 – 1998)
At the turn of the 1990s, HBO was known primarily as an expensive channel that allowed subscribers to watch movies and the occasional stand-up comedy special. The Larry Sanders Show was the series that put HBO on the map as a network for prestige original TV. The series followed late-night talk host Larry Sanders (co-creator Garry Shandling) and his staff as they went through the rigors of putting together an entertaining hour of television each night.
During a six-season run, Larry Sanders was nominated for a staggering 57 Emmys, winning a pitiful three. It was consistently hilarious and addicting to watch thanks to an endless parade of celebrity cameos that were well-written and necessary for the show’s storylines. This show may still be the greatest rumination on the fragile egos that make up the entertainment world ever produced. It hasn’t lost a step but unfortunately, HBO Go subscribers are forced to miss out.