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'The Sopranos', 'The Wire' - HBO's Greatest Shows: Friday Fiver
This week's Friday Fiver pays tribute to the greatest shows to emerge from the channel's 'golden years' - check out our picks below and then share your favourite HBO shows, scenes and moments below!
> Six Feet Under: Tube Talk Gold
> Sopranos creator David Chase on movie: 'Never say never'
The Sopranos (1999-2007)
There's no two ways about it... David Chase's creation revolutionised cable television when it debuted at the tail-end of the 20th century - without The Sopranos, there would be no The Wire, no The Shield, no Boardwalk Empire.
A powerful blend of involving family drama and brutal gangster action, The Sopranos wowed critics and viewers alike - the show won a total of 21 Emmy Awards across its six seasons and accrued a gob-smacking 111 nominations in total. And over five years later, series finale 'Made in America' remains one of the most divisive and scrutinised episodes of television ever produced.
Sex and the City (1998-2004)
At its peak, HBO's programming maintained a perfect gender balance - while the male-oriented Sopranos drew critical acclaim on one side, Darren Star's Sex and the City showcased the range, variety and quality that the channel's original programming slate was now capable of.
Unlike many of HBO's cultish hits, SATC broke the mainstream and became a genuine cultural phenomenon. With 50 Emmy nominations across six seasons, two film spinoffs and an '80s-set prequel series currently in the works, the show's impact on television drama - and in particular on series aimed at women - cannot be overestimated.
The Wire (2002-2008)
Composed of five seasons telling five very distinct stories, David Simon's The Wire managed to be both epic and intimate. Populated by truly iconic characters - the likes of Michael K Williams's Omar Little, Idris Elba's Stringer Bell and Dominic West's Jimmy McNulty - the series tackled police corruption, politics, drugs, street crime, the education system and more.
As much a piece of social commentary as it was a slice of entertainment, The Wire - along with its HBO stablemate The Sopranos - has frequently been referred to as the greatest television series ever made. And even if you don't think it's worthy of that lofty title, you've got to admit that it's a damn strong candidate.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-Present)
The only show on our list that is (apparently) yet to complete its run, Curb Your Enthusiasm stars Seinfeld co-creator Larry David as a fictionalised version of himself in a show best described as part Hollywood satire, part awkward character comedy.
On paper, it seems like the most niche of niche ideas, but the inventive interplay between the cast - who improvise each episode from a basic outline - and David's anti-charisma have seen Curb become a firm favourite of social outcasts and misfits the world over. It's alright Larry - we understand you.
(Warning: Clip contains strong language)
The Larry Sanders Show (1992-1998)
The earliest entry on our list, this '90s comedy was co-created by and starred Garry Shandling as neurotic talk show host Larry Sanders. While it may not have the name recognition of some other HBO series, The Larry Sanders Show received global critical acclaim upon original transmission - Emmys flooded in from the US, BAFTAs from the UK.
Much of HBO's comedy output that followed this show's 1992-1998 run have followed in its footsteps - the aforementioned Curb mimics the satirical style of Larry Sanders, as did the network's Entourage and Extras. This was the show that helped brand HBO as it took its first baby steps towards becoming the bastion of quality that it's recognised as today.
Honourable Mentions... Kudos also to slick comedy Entourage, dark Western Deadwood, the powerfully emotional Six Feet Under, insta-classic Boardwalk Empire and oddball musical Flight of the Conchords.
Which are your favourite HBO series? Share your own favourite shows below!