5 HBO Max shows that Warner Bros. Discovery better not cancel

The HBO Max logo on a phone on top of a keyboard
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

We love HBO Max. It's our pick for the best streaming service. That's partially because of its fantastic library of stuff that ranges from HBO classics to Studio Ghibli films to Criterion Collection picks, and even Friends. HBO Max has been there for you. 

Unless you're the Batgirl movie, the Scoob! sequel or those eight Max Originals films that disappeared quietly. All axed in cost-cutting endeavors. Then, the news of the HBO Max and Discovery Plus merger came into clearer focus. HBO Max's demise was seemingly off the table. 

That said, it's hard to really feel safe right now, as anyone who worked at a company that's been recently acquired by another (HBO Max parent company WarnerMedia was acquired by Discovery this past April). So, we've decided to present five of the shows we really need to stay on HBO Max in the coming years. 

Oh, and if you're wondering why Peacemaker isn't on this list? James Gunn's already said it's safe. Additionally, The Flight Attendant season 3 is, according to HBO exec Casey Bloys, solely dependent if its producers want to return.

The Rehearsal

Nathan Fielder watches a monitor with 16 closed caption camera feeds inside of the home he's living in, in The Rehearsal.

(Image credit: HBO)

Okay, I'll say this up front, The Rehearsal isn't an HBO Max show as much as an HBO show. That might be confusing, as it does air on HBO Max, but this is a show with a scheduled airing time on HBO, and it's classified as an HBO show. But this isn't your normal HBO show.

The Rehearsal, if you haven't heard, may be one of the weirdest and possibly most difficult to produce show on HBO Max, well, outside of House of the Dragon. In the first episode, Nathan Fielder's team reproduced their guest's apartment as a set, and an entire Williamsburg bar to boot. The staged versions of these locations were used for 'rehearsals,' where Fielder walks his guest — who he's ostensibly trying to help — through every possibility of an upcoming conversation or event that concerns them.

Except, there's also the matter of the house Fielder and a woman are staying at, and the many child actors who are pretending to be their kids. Awkward as hell, and probably more expensive than HBO Max or Warner Bros. will like — we're not sure how big its audience is — The Rehearsal is still one of the best shows on HBO Max, and one we hope it holds onto. We're not sure when to expect a second season announcement, as season one is still airing.

Status: Season 1 is airing on Fridays
Watch it on HBO Max

Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn season 3

(Image credit: DCComics.com/Warner)

Here's the thing about Harley Quinn, the very adult DC animated series on HBO Max: it's not going to be right for everyone. Some DC traditionalists may be off-put by its weird takes on Commissioner James Gordon (voiced excellently by Christopher Meloni) and everything it does to the Bat-family. Heck, even DC reportedly said no to the series at one point, over a Batman/Catwoman sex scene that was later turned into a foot massage.

I'm not sure how expensive Harley Quinn is to make. Its budget may primarily go to its excellent voice-actors. Kaley Quoco thrives as as Ms. Quinn, Lake Bell has given us one of the best Poison Ivys ever, Ron Funches delights as King Shark and Jason Alexander is a pleasant surprise as Sy Borgman. Oh, and as noted above: Christopher Meloni is an unhinged Jim Gordon. But in a world where a Batgirl movie can get canned for not hitting the right tone for their DC plans, one hopes that Harley Quinn doesn't get the rug pulled out from under. Fans of the character are already familiar with WB's mismanagement, as the Birds of Prey movie had a poor release that wasn't its fault.

Status: Season 3 is airing Thursdays
Watch it on HBO Max


Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder in Hacks season 2

(Image credit: HBO Max)

Arguably the very best Max Original, Hacks is all about a toxic work situation or two in Las Vegas. At the center, you have comedy legend Deborah Vance (Jean Smart, in the role of a lifetime), who is a snarky force to be reckoned with that needs help revitalizing her career. Her agent then introduces her to Ava (Hannah Einbinder) an up-and-coming writer who got black-listed for some controversial tweets. Meanwhile, Deborah's agent Jimmy (series creator and writer Paul W. Downs), has his hands full with his assistant Kayla (Megan Stalter), who redefines inappropriate conduct on a weekly basis.

Hacks may be getting a third season, but production hasn't began, and who knows when Warner Bros. Discovery could change its mind. Seriously, watch Hacks (and all the other shows on this list) now, to make sure its numbers are strong, even off-season.

Status: Renewed for season 3
Watch it on HBO Max

The Sex Lives of College Girls

Poster for The Sex Lives of College Girls

(Image credit: HBO Max)

Don't judge a show by its name, as The Sex Lives of College Girls may just be using its title as a way to get in the door. We hope Warner Bros. Discovery execs didn't find themselves in such a confusion, as this well-written and acted series about female friendship at college deserves more than just the second season it's renewed for. As every college student knows, you need (at least) four years to make it. This series from Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble has impressed folks enough to earn that second season with the stories of four young women who move into a suite at the fictional Essex University in Vermont. 

Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott) is a star athlete who struggles with the fact that her mother is a famous politician; Leighton (Renée Rapp) is a closeted legacy; Bela (Amrit Kaur) loves her some comedy; and Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet, yes, Timothée’s sister) is smart and here on a scholarship. While some romance and sex does occur in the show, the series is more about everything else that makes college complicated, such as friendship, parents, class and anxiety. Critics scores don't mean much to execs, but these College Girls have a 97% Rotten Tomatoes score, which is nothing to cough at.

Status: Renewed for season 2
Watch it on HBO Max

Our Flag Means Death

Taika Waiiti as Captian Blackbeard in Our Flag Means Death

(Image credit: Aaron Epstein/HBO Max)

Our Flag Means Death, colloquially known as "the gay pirate show" is a fantastic period piece where wealthy Barbadian aristocrat Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) is bored of his normal life (and unhappy marriage) and decides he's going to become a pirate. He's not made for the job at all, and wants to be a "gentleman pirate." And this leads to all sorts of dissent with his crew. Eventually, he meets Edward (Taika Waititi), a fellow pirate who is in fact Blackbeard. A possible relationship, and chaos, ensue.

So, Our Flag Means Death season 2 (just like Hacks' next season) is confirmed. And it has a rabid fanbase. And the research firm Parrot Analytics ranked it as having "exceptional" audience demand. But I'm still concerned about the long term future of Stede, Ed and the rest of its crew members. Maybe this is just the specter of the confirmed-then-canceled fourth season of Glow that haunts me to this day, but the annoyingly long wait that fans experienced before this Max Original was renewed concern me greatly, as fans waited from March 24 to June 1 for the announcement. The finalization of the Warner Bros. Discovery deal (on April 8) may have put a delay in the renewal process, but I've got some concerns about this one.

Status: Renewed for season 2
Watch it on HBO Max

Next: A huge Disney Plus price hike is coming. These 7 must-watch Apple TV Plus shows have 90% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes.  Also, HBO Max should ‘devour’ Discovery Plus - not the other way around.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.

  • Moose and Squirrel
    I've spent all week watch HBO snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    The "must have" streaming service of 2021 is laying eggs constantly, with big budget, big name movies turning into ho-hum.

    Now we can't figure out how to combine two pools of content, when my 16 year old could code that up in an afternoon? Largely because "the audiences are different and neither wants to be in a 'tab' under the other".

    Remember when you cared even a little bit about that, before pushing a button on your remote and watching your show anyhow, regardless of which 'tab' it's under?