HBO has finally made cord cutting easier, with monthly subscription options independent of a cable or satellite plan. You can get HBO Now on Apple devices (and others, beginning later this year) for $15 per month, or soon add it to the $20-per-month Sling TV streaming service for an additional $15. The move is not surprising, given the huge cord-cutter demand for HBO — as seen by record-setting online piracy and the many people who sponge off their cable-subscribing friend's or family member's HBO Go login.
Online subscribers will not be disappointed, even after the upcoming Game of Thrones season has played out. In addition to that blockbuster, Girls, Boardwalk Empire and other headliners, HBO has a rich offering of smaller shows — dark comedies, in particular — that have flown under the radar. Additionally, HBO's documentary division is packed with interesting, original and controversial stories. (The Jinx is just one example.)
Here are 10 great things to discover when you sign up for HBO's online service.
1. Angry Boys
Chris Lilley is a one-man artistic virtuoso. The hilarious (and, at times, cutting) Australian comedian is quickly gathering a following stateside. In Angry Boys, Lilley plays an outrageous cast of characters of his own creation in several mockumentary-style series. The show focuses on the image of traditional masculinity in Australia, featuring identical twins (fans of his series We Can Be Heroes will remember them) making trouble in the outback and an aging female guard at a center for juvenile detention. Nobody blends comedy and drama the way Lilley does.
2. The Comeback
If you never caught this dark comedy starring Lisa Kudrow (Friends) when it first aired in 2005, now is the time to catch up. After one season, the show took a 10-year hiatus, only to return in 2014 with a new season on HBO. Kudrow plays former "it girl" Valerie Cherish, in a stunning, dark, satirical comedy about a deluded TV star who refuses to accept that she's completely washed up.
3. Doll & Em
Emily Mortimer (The Newsroom) and her best friend Dolly Wells (Bridget Jones's Diary) play alternate versions of themselves in this comedy from HBO. When Dolly breaks up with her boyfriend in London, Emily invites her to come take a break in Los Angeles, where she can live with Em and work as her assistant. When Doll arrives, their relationship as best friends becomes threatened by their new dynamic of employer and employee.
4. Getting On
This American adaptation of the British series is absurd in the best sense of the word. The show stars Alex Borstein (Family Guy) as Dawn, an incompetent nurse who lets her personal life get in the way of her job. Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne) stars as Dr. Jenna James, a self-obsessed doctor whose quest for medical stardom makes her oblivious to the needs of her patients. The show takes place in the elder care wing of a large hospital and manages to find humor in its bleak surroundings.
5. Life's Too Short
Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (Extras) created the concept of this comedy starring veteran character actor and little person Warwick Davis (Willow). Davis plays a heightened version of himself, a once-well-known actor struggling to stage a return to the big screen and manage his struggling casting agency that caters exclusively to little people. Look for countless (priceless) celebrity cameos, including Liam Neeson and Val Kilmer.
6. Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart
True crime documentaries are nothing new, but Captivated is something else altogether. Rather than simply chronicle the 1990 murder of Gregg Smart by his wife Pamela's high school student (and lover), the film explores the role the media played in pretty, young Pamela's case and asks important questions about how news and television can influence the justice system.
7. Banksy Does New York
This film is a must-watch for fans of the street artist Banksy. It chronicles the 31 days Banksy spent during his self-proclaimed New York residency. His street art and installations were all captured, not by a professional camera crew but by folks who happened to share what they saw on social media via Instagram, YouTube and other sites. The footage was deftly cut and shaped into a visually stunning hour-long film about the elusive artist.
8. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
HBO's documentary series The Jinx recently brought new evidence to light in the murder case against Robert Durst. But the network has helped to crack cases in the past, too. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory revealed evidence in the case of the West Memphis Three — the three then-teenagers accused and eventually found guilty of the murder of two little boys in the Robin Hood Hills section of West Memphis, Arkansas.
9. Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life & Times of Katrina Gilbert
Maria Shriver helped produce this documentary about 30-year-old mother of three Katrina Gilbert in an effort to shine a light on the case of the poverty-stricken single mothers who make up a large portion of the U.S. population. Living in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Gilbert spends most of her days working tirelessly (and, at times, fruitlessly) to help her children survive. It's heartbreaking and will change the way you think about poverty in America.
10. Wishful Drinking
Legendary actress Carrie Fisher (Star Wars, When Harry Met Sally) opens up in this acclaimed adaptation of her memoir of the same title. Fisher is smart, wry and funny. She's also exceptionally open, more than at ease discussing her experiences with fame, drug and alcohol addiction, and the depression that would lead her to electroconvulsive therapy. Fisher is a compelling and engaging storyteller, and she has one heck of a story to share.
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