Would Everyone Please STFU About HBO?

OK, look, someone has to say this.

Enough with the HBO stuff. We get it. They can show boobs. They even show other private parts when they want. They can use the much-vaunted F-bomb if they want! Heck, they peddled Sarah Jessica Parker as a sex goddess for years before anyone caught on to that racket.

But enough is enough.

I just don't get it.
I just don’t get it.

I still get told to watch HBO “so that I can speak intelligently about television.” That’s an actual quote from my co-host on Words With Nerds. Of course, that was before True Detective apparently managed to disappoint everyone in existence.

I watched the first season of Game of Thrones. I can see the appeal to the D&D (or rehabbing D&D) crowd, because they get to see dragons, swords and boobs all in one spot, but otherwise…meh. I’ll grant you that Peter Dinklage is an incredibly gifted actor, but that would be true regardless of the show.

I watched Curb Your Enthusiasm when it was good, and since then have just reverted back to quoting Seinfeld. Which is sort of a testament to which finished stronger and was more memorable in the long run.

HBO was once the king of the TV landscape because they were willing to go outside the norms. But that landscape has shifted considerably since then, and worked within limitations that prove that whatever horizons HBO may have once expanded, it is no longer a necessity.

For every good season of The Sopranos there was, I can point to an AMC or FX show that trumped it since. And they did it with considerably more limitations, in a more competitive marketplace that couldn’t rely on pay-channel walls or the air of exclusivity.

The Sopranos completely collapsed by the end of it all, regardless of what you think of the ending. By contrast, The Shield and Breaking Bad not only sustained their excellence but finished so strong that they’re held as examples of how to close out a show.

In terms of comedy, Archer is nearly as great an achievement of absurdist humor as one unscripted Curb. There, I said it.

And as for drama, you’re actually seeing a resurgence on network with shows like Hannibal. Which you can watch for free!

So tell me why people are still telling me I need to watch HBO. Because I just don’t see it.



14 thoughts on “Would Everyone Please STFU About HBO?

    1. Eh, by your rationale so do all of Paul Krugman’s complaints but I don’t see you interrupting your bot-like trolling of people on Twitter to point *that* one out, so I guess we’ll all call it even at the end of the day.

      On Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 1:11 AM, kessel korner wrote:


    1. Then I propose this challenge: Convince me what about them couldn’t be accomplished on a basic cable channel besides nudity, excessive violence porn and the unfortunate unleashing of Lena Dunham on an unsuspecting populace.

      On Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 7:53 AM, kessel korner wrote:


  1. I believe I told you to watch HBO, and offered my HBO Go password so you could talk intelligently about True Detective. I used a specific show. Because it is a topic that would have been good for this multi-national podcast called Words With Nerds. I did not make the statement to qualify ALL television. It has good shows and some worth watching, but it is not the end-all be-all of television.

  2. Hey man … you gotta watch HBO .. teehee.

    I suppose I like GoT because of how much I used to play AD&D and then D&D as well as Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Star Wars RPG, Warhammer FRP, Pendragon, Vampire the Masquerade, So it is a bonus for me, and I love dragons. Dany is played by a stunning actress, and I am reading the books. Although in the book, the use of the C word outside of a conversation annoyed me.

  3. Is your irritation over having to pay for it, of being told you have to watch it?

    Because I know a guy who has told me I had to watch a LOT of stuff….some of it was on HBO.

    On one hand, I do get it; for years, I resisted the Sopranos because I was sick of being told I “had to” watch things.

    At the same time, HBO got a massive, massive head start on FX, AMC and others. The programming WAS better. A lot better. And that legacy is now a part of its brand. It’s hard not to admit that they kicked the door open for networks to invest in writers again. (Case in point: not even close to your demographic, but Portlandia never would have gotten the green light – not even from IFC – if not for HBO striking gold with Flight of the Conchords. For the record….no boobs, few eff bombs, mostly just funny and sweet and charming).

    Because of the craze over Breaking Bad the past three years (recently at a fever pitch), it’s easy to mistakenly believe that non-network cable programming has been strong for a lot longer than it actually has. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of non-pay channel programming was absolutely awful for far longer than it’s been great. I’d wager that for every The Shield, there have been about 17 The Mentalists.

    Disclaimer: I don’t have HBO.

    1. I think the root of it is that I just don’t think it’s releasing things that are all that special. The fact that I’d have to pay extra is definitely an irritant, but of the shows I’ve sifted through on HBO the only things that have ever really set them apart are the ability to show sex and violence on a graphic scale.

      To your point about it “elevating everyone else’s game” – if I read you correctly – I don’t know that I agree HBO was a necessary catalyst. I acknowledge they’ve had some fine concepts, and even great writing on episodes (the first season of Deadwood had some real highlights). But I think the shifting environment to basic cable made “game changers” inevitable as more and more niche shows were cancelled after one or three seasons by networks hungry for ratings.

      To wit, Arrested Development and Firefly have just as much to do with the latter-day successor Portlandia as anything HBO did. There were 57 channels with nothin’ on, and eventually they had to fill it.

      I’m now going to consider throwing myself into traffic for going to the effort of writing that last line.

  4. I don’t think I disagree with you all that much. I haven’t cared enough to pay for HBO in well over ten years, and that probably speaks louder than anything else I have to say. Still, I’d be lying (…totally lying) if I didn’t admit how much I’d found myself wanting to watch Real Sports, or Hard Knocks, or John Adams, or the Wire, or Vice, or Eastbound & Down (or about a dozen different types of documentaries and boxing matches) when they were all playing. Heck, I’d like to see Girls just to have an informed opinion about it, rather than just hating on it for the sake of hating on the people who watch it.

    I don’t think we’re on the same page regarding Portlandia. I don’t know much about Firefly, but my guess is that you’re saying that these “quirky and hip” shows opened the hipster niche that makes Portlandia possible. What I am saying is that FOTC’s unabashed self-parody or the hip (which, admittedly, isn’t really visible to some people) is the blueprint that Portlandia took to the next level.

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