Best Shows On Max: Top 5 Series Most Recommended By Experts

Now that HBO Max has rebranded as Max on May 23, 2023, there are many first-time subscriber incentives and free trials available for viewers. It could be a good time to check out Max’s newly expanded offerings or catch up on some of the most binge-worthy television available on streaming platforms. Craving something binge-worthy? Let us have a look at the top five best shows on Max right now.

According to a recent study, binge-watching may be predicted by a number of different criteria. In the study of 645 respondents ages 18 to 30 who reported viewing more than two episodes of a TV program in a single sitting, some 20 percent confessed to watching 6 to 20 episodes in one session. When investigators tested their impulsive behavior, emotional maturity, and incentives for binge-watching, impulsivity and poor planning were found to be strong indicators of excessive TV-watching. Motivation also stems from short attention spans and the need to be amused, according to experts at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. The number of shows watched in a given session was shown to be most closely correlated with viewers’ empathy and emotional clarity and desire to be amused, according to the study. Researchers say having little response inhibition and foresight may both be important indicators of excessive binge-watching.

Just one more episode. Or five. That’s the mantra of millions who suddenly found themselves stuck at home all day during the coronavirus pandemic. A survey of 2,000 U.S. residents finds the average American is currently streaming eight hours of content per day and finishing three TV series per week. We all have some extra free time on our hands right now, but at this rate many people may exhaust the entire Netflix library by summer. Moreover, many parents have started to fall back on streaming services to get a break from their kids. In all, 65 percent of surveyed parents said they’re allowing their children to watch more TV and movies during this pandemic. The research, commissioned by Tubi, also noted that the average American enjoys access to four streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime). Another 38 percent are usually logged into five or more at any given time. Of course, many households find themselves operating on a leaner budget, so it makes sense that 47 percent are also taking advantage of free streaming services.

With so many great options to choose from, our sources have highly recommended several HBO original series. With their recent rebrand, we took a look at the best shows on Max that are now available in this revamped version of the platform. Is there are certain show that you love to binge watch the most?  Let us know your favorites in the comments below!

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Smart TV (Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash)

The List: Best Shows on Max, According to Critics

1. “The Last of Us” (2023)

Based on a hit Sony PlayStation game of the same name, Tom’s Guide explains the plot: “Pedro Pascal just can’t stop trying to save precocious children with a special spark. The Mandalorian paired him with the adorable Grogu. Now, weeks before The Mandalorian season 3 hits, he’s taking on the care of a different youngster in a different franchise. Based on the iconic video game, The Last of Us is set in a post-apocalyptic world roamed by zombie-like cannibals and equally dangerous human survivors. Joel is a smuggler tormented by his past, and tasked with ferrying Ellie (Bella Ramsey) out West. She’s the key to curing the virus that has plagued the land, but getting her to the destination is going to be a harrowing experience.”

Video game adaptations seem to fail more often than they succeed, but according to Wired, “The Last of Us managed to succeed where Netflix’s Resident Evil (which was canceled after one season) and other live-action TV shows based on video games failed—by being really, really good. Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and the video game’s original director, Neil Druckmann, cocreated the post-apocalyptic drama, in which one grizzled survivor (Pedro Pascal) is tasked with smuggling a smart-mouthed teenager (Bella Ramsey) who could be the key to finding a cure for the fungal infection-fueled pandemic that has turned most of America into zombie-like creatures. Props to everyone for generating so much interest in the (very real and parasitic) Cordyceps fungus—because fungi nerds like TV, too.”

“The Last of Us” is a bona fide ratings hit, with ever-growing viewership throughout the run of its first season. According to Collider, “The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic drama about a hardened smuggler and a teenage girl. The Last of Us follows these unlikely allies as they journey across what is left of the United States. Starring Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian) as Joel and Bella Ramsey (Catherine Called Birdy) as Ellie, The Last of Us reveals that young Ellie might be the key to survival, as she’s immune to the deadly fungal infection which turns people into ruthless, bloodthirsty killers. Also featuring Gabriel Luna, Merle Dandridge, and Anna Torv, The Last of Us is a heart-pumping adventure wrapped in gritty scenescapes and graphic violence.”

 2. “House of the Dragon” (2022)

In 2023 there was not one, but two programs that set new viewership records for the HBO streaming platform. TV Guide writes, “House of the Dragon, HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel series, needs no introduction, but I’ll attempt to give it one anyway: Set two centuries before Game of Thrones, the series centers on the Targaryen family as they fight for control of the Iron Throne. Expect power struggles and white hair.”

Even though “Game of Thrones” ended on a sour note with a dissatisfying final season, “Thanks to that fizzling 2019 climax, prequel ‘House of the Dragon’ premiered amid slightly lower expectations than it would have if ‘GoT’ had nailed the landing. But with the arrival of the first episode, ‘The Heirs of the Dragon,’ the hope that a new series might recapture some of the power and grandeur of its predecessor no longer seems so fanciful. Set 172 years before the death of the Mad King and the birth of Daenerys Targaryen, ‘House of the Dragon’ immediately thrusts viewers into the familiar sights and sounds of the ‘Game of Thrones’ universe: Flea Bottom and its brothels, dragons and their flames, the Red Keep and its Iron Throne. While honoring the legacy and look of the original series, the spinoff wisely adopts subtle changes in tone and approach while introducing a fresh world of characters and storylines.”

Equally well-received among both critics and fans, “House of the Dragon” has generated renewed viewership for HBO. Digital Trends says, “Anyone who claimed that fans didn’t care about Game of Thrones after the divisive final season turned out to be quite wrong. House of the Dragon has already proven to be a monster hit, with an early renewal for a second season. Milly Alcock stars as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, although she will soon relinquish the role to Emma D’Arcy. Following the death of her mother and her infant brother, Rhaenyra was named heir to the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. However, her childhood best friend, Lady Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey), has married Rhaenyra’s father and become the new queen. And as the queen becomes a woman (played by Olivia Cooke), her rivalry with her former friend will throw House Targaryen into turmoil.”

 3. “Love & Death” (2023)

Continuing the trend of highly rated drama, Digital Trends writes: “The second series to center around the story of Candy Montgomery (Jessica Biel played her in the Hulu original series Candy), Elizabeth Olsen takes on the portrayal in Love & Death, a crime drama by TV hitmaker David E. Kelley, the man behind shows like Big Little Lies, Boston Legal, and Chicago Hope. In 1980, Montgomery was accused of brutally murdering her friend Betty Gore with an axe. Montgomery claimed self-defense, and the controversial trial and story full of twists and turns was followed closely by members of the Texas community. Jesse Plemons also stars in this depiction of the events as Allan Gore, Betty’s husband, and Lily Rabe as Betty.”

Considered an excellent show by several of our sources, Complex adds that “it seems like every month there’s another crime drama miniseries to watch, and HBO’s newest entry into this steadfast genre definitely brings the goods. Love & Death has familiar elements in both its female lead and an affair that goes south, but its game cast helps elevate the material beyond the familiar. Elizabeth Olsen especially shines in this crime drama inspired by a true story, showcasing why HBO and TV are such a playground for actors during this golden age of streaming.”

With more than one program about the subject matter, TV Guide explains how this one’s different: “You’ve seen the story of Candy Montgomery unfold on Hulu’s Candy, but now it gets HBO-ified. Elizabeth Olsen leaves the confines of WandaVision’s Westview for the suburbs of Wylie, Texas, to play Montgomery, who was accused of murdering her friend Betty Gore with an axe after having an affair with her husband. The limited series was written by the indefatigable David E. Kelley, and also stars Jesse Plemons, Krysten Ritter, Lily Rabe, and Patrick Fugit.”

 4. “The White Lotus” (2021)

For some, “The White Lotus” was a surprise hit. According to Mashable, “this dark comedy series from creator Mike White explores the humor to be found among the ridiculously wealthy in a resort that caters to their every whim. While each season of White Lotus is set in a different picturesque locale (Hawaii! Sicily!), they share a setup of a mysterious death in the first episode. As the stories of privileged jerks tangle with the hardships of the workers tending to (and exploiting) their desires, viewers are tempted to play whodunnit, even if the show’s not really about that.”

Uproxx also adds, “The White Lotus is the perfect embodiment of modern culture. It packs a cast of hot, flawed, generationally diverse characters at the same picturesque resort and puts them (and the audience) to the test. Mike White’s series is so well-written that the fact that the first two seasons are framed as murder mysteries and packaged as thrillers is the least interesting (but still very interesting) part of the show. Its greatest strength is its humanity, or in some cases, lack thereof.”

Praised for direction, storytelling, and a strong ensemble cast; fans seem to love “The White Lotus”. According to The LA Times, “In the satirical limited series ‘The White Lotus,’ that tradition is extended to an exclusive Hawaiian resort where a group of wealthy guests with ample baggage has turned paradise into a living hell, both for themselves and for the staff… But fun as it may be watching the wealthy eat themselves alive, these visitors are the invaders. The staff members are their unfortunate subjects. And colonization is a theme flicked at, including Native Hawaiians’ economic and social inequality and the tourism industry’s appropriation and destruction of native culture.”

 5. “Barry” (2018)

In what seems to be another surprise hit, Barry is a popular program among streaming audiences. “In Barry’s opening scene, SNL alum Bill Hader casually leaves a hotel room that contains a dead body. The actor plays hitman Barry Berkman, who isn’t happy with life or his unconventional profession, but his path is altered when he travels to Los Angeles and gets roped into performing in an acting class. Barry features plenty of violence and a deeply troubled protagonist, leaning into the ‘dark’ part of its dark comedy designation,” writes CNET.

Tom’s Guide also mentions what to expect: “Barry season 3 finds the titular hitman-turned-actor in a state of ennui. After the bloodbath at the monastery, he’s gone back to contract killing and his quest to transition to acting has seemingly failed. Meanwhile, girlfriend Sally (Sarah Goldberg) has seen her star rise since their showcase; she’s signed a deal to write, direct and star in a semi-autobiographical series for a streaming service. As for acting coach Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler), he’s still reeling from his girlfriend’s death, his arrest for her murder and subsequent release and the knowledge he’s gained about Barry’s true identity.”

Wired claims: “No one seemed particularly wowed when HBO announced that Bill Hader and Alec Berg were cocreating a series in which Hader would play a hitman with a conscience who attempts to go straight. But what might sound like a played-out trope has taken on new dimensions of humor, darkness, humanity, and plain old weirdness, with its final season (which will also conclude on May 28) serving as a brilliant crescendo of all of that dark weirdness mixed in with a little time jump.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.