The Showtime network debuted a few years after HBO as one of the first pay cable networks in the 1970s, and in recent decades, as both networks moved from mostly broadcasting theatrical films to producing original series, Showtime has been HBO’s bridesmaid, scoring long-running hits of its own without receiving the same level of acclaim or Emmy glory.
Part of this may be by design: Showtime has never chased prestige projects in the same way, and many of their signature shows have aimed for simpler pleasures, from bloody dramas like Ray Donovan and Dexter to trashy comedies like Californication and Weeds. They may not have made a consensus classic like The Sopranos, but it doesn’t necessarily seem like they ever tried to.
Showtime has been on a roll lately, though. They’ve had a string of excellent miniseries like Escape at Dannemora and The Good Lord Bird, and have made significant inroads in the late-night comedy market with Desus and Mero and Ziwe. And most significantly, there’s Yellowjackets, which just wrapped up its first season and has been renewed for a second, and has achieved Showtime’s best balance of surging ratings and critical buzz in years.
So here’s a look back at the 10 best Showtime original series from the ‘80s to the network’s current slate of programming.