10 Underrated Hits in HBO’s Catalog Made for Binging
Asia/ Vibe/ Pop Culture

10 Lowkey HBO Hits to Watch in February 2023

Lowkey HBO Hits HEADER Photo by Website/HBO

These days, as a result of being the only prestige streamer in a market flooded by weekly releases, HBO is betting on mega-scale small-screen releases like “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld” to maintain relevancy. And it’s only going to continue as their recent, and extremely reviled, moves of cutting content on their platform to lighten their wallets that will fund mostly bombastic IPs. No one can say if this is going to be a blot in HBO’s unique history, but all everyone knows is that the network will continue to rely on dragon spinoffs and probably, video game adaptations.

Still, despite the Hollywood-ification of the channel, HBO made its name by telling fantastic stories with a not-so-stellar budget and hype behind them. Their catalog is full of gems, and you’ll be doing yourself a favor in getting yourself a subscription, if it’s available in your country.

Once you’re tired of the big-money productions, here are 10 lesser-known signature HBO shows that should satisfy your craving for a genuinely absorbing story.

John Adams’ (Miniseries, 2008)

RT Score: 82%

It must not have been easy to be a costume designer on “John Adams,” as most of the defining scenes of the miniseries can only be described as grimy. Nevertheless, this is HBO putting its best foot forward for a story that doesn’t really resonate beyond the United States. The titular character was brought to life by Paul Giamatti, who made an antihero of the founding president of the United States. The series is rarely heard of these days, but in its short time in the limelight, it reaped the benefits of being an extremely well-made TV show, which in 2008 was a rarity.

Bored to Death’

RT Score: 79%

This show had Ted Danson, Jason Schwartzman, and Zach Galifianakis as its leads. It should’ve been a major hit, but it wasn’t. Though, that didn’t stop "Bored to Death” from becoming a lowkey favorite among comedy fans. This series is a romp from start to beginning, and most of all, it has heart. It stayed faithful to its formula of gentle humor until the wheels fell off, and that only made this series a must-see among classic HBO comedies.

High Maintenance’

RT Score: 98%

“High Maintenance” is a polished but hidden gem in the HBO catalog. The protagonist is The Guy, a weed dealer in New York who meets all kinds of people by conducting his business. As thorny as the subject of weed all those years ago, the show was never about that. It portrayed the human condition through The Guy’s hilarious interactions with his customers. It’s the best kind of feel-good show, something that doesn’t make you forget your problems but shows you that it’s okay to be who you are.

Treme’

RT Score: 97%


In many ways, “Treme” wasn’t made to be a TV show that lures in big viewers. Its cast wasn’t A-list then (they certainly are now), but within the world of “Treme,” they made perfect sense. Would you dare to say that casting Clarke Peters was a bad move? Or is Steve Zahn not the jazz purist that you would expect? The show didn’t make do with its stars, it showed them at their best.

As Wendell Pierce’s character, Antoine Batiste, in the show said: “This is about culture, family, tradition.” A phrase so fitting for “Treme,” a show about the side of New Orleans that wants to maintain its identity after being almost literally washed away by Hurricane Katrina.

Enlightened’

RT Score: 87%

This show’s cancellation is a foreboding of HBO’s future stance on its content: good shows won’t last without viewership. If only the network saw that streaming can bring unexpected growth, they would have extended “Enlightened’s” run beyond two seasons. A tale of a changed but not-so-lovable human facing unchanging circumstances, this is where Laura Dern started her journey to the mountaintop. This was a great TV show at its time that’s only becoming more relevant these days.

Folklore’

RT Score: 88%

Asian horror stories have always had a spine-tingling aura to them. There’s something about the primal truth of these supposedly tall tales, and “Folklore” tries to tell those stories in as real a fashion as possible. This is one of HBO Asia’s finest productions, but it’s not something that you’ll see plastered all over social media. Still, each episode in this show will make you look at stories that you were told when you were younger in a different, realistic, and scary light.

The Leftovers’

RT Score: 91%

Let’s put “The Leftovers” on the map. This show’s version of Thanos’ The Snappening is multitudes better. This is a searing story about those who were left behind after 140 million people, or 2% of the entire human population. It’s a fraction of what the Marvel villain disappeared, but this three-season TV show is a much, much better watch and so more absorbing. Often called one of HBO finest but underappreciated shows, it’s time to put some hours in watching this broken but (trying to be) hopeful world.

Crashing’

RT Score: 90%

What does it look like to actually fail and try? This is what “Crashing” wants to show us, often funnily: trying means failing, and failing means embarrassment (and possibly, homelessness). Fronted by stand-up comic Pete Holmes, the show is a semi-autobiographical telling of his life and is very genuine in its sweetness. Still, the show is sardonic in its approach to the portrayal of life—which, in most cases, reflects what the real world is actually like.

On the Job’

RT Score: 94%

“On the Job” started its life as an acclaimed movie by Filipino director Erik Matti. Several events later, it became an HBO Asia original telling the same story: a bunch of convicted criminals being hired to conduct assassinations in the Philippines. This show is as grimy as it gets, but that’s the point. It’s a story of people existing in and being taken advantage of by a broken system. There are no shiny lights here, only a life lived on the doldrums of society.

The Night Of’

RT Score: 94%

If there is one show made for night owls, it has to be “The Night Of.” It’s no easy story, though, as the show deals with the cultural complexities that attach themselves in a wrongful conviction of a Pakistani-American man. This is Riz Ahmed near the peak of his powers. New York City doesn’t seem so compelling as a backdrop to this story, but it sure is compelling.

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