How HBO Went from a Scrappy Cable Network to Changing TV Forever
What started out as a small cable network airing mostly sports events has grown into one of the most successful and influencial names in TV.
HBO completely dominated this year's Emmys with 96 nominations and 43 wins, not to mention the fact that their highest rated show, Game of Thrones, made Emmy history by bringing home 12 awards, which is the most any show has ever won in a single year. So, what's the deal? What's going on over at HBO that makes them so special?
Well, the answer becomes quite apparent when you take a look at this supercut by video essayist Fernando Andrés, in which he expertly cuts together clips from HBO's best shows, like The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Leftovers, Veep, and True Detective to pay tribute to the network that helped make TV a cinematic medium.
TV has always been seen as the "lesser" art form compared to film. For a long time, the best talent in showbiz would be the ones making movies, while the rest would be kicking around on TV waiting for their "big break" into cinema. However, in the last several years there has been an incredible shift. TV is where it's at now—some of the best producers, writers, directors, and actors have made an exodus to television and have left the cinema behind to lie in its superhero-themed bed. But why?
It all started in the 90s when HBO found success with their original programming: Tales from the Crypt, Tracey Takes On..., and The Larry Sanders Show. The network, though not as popular as ABC, NBC, or CBS, was able to gain cult status, as well as some nominations and wins from the Primetime Emmys and Golden Globes. And because it was subscription-based, it didn't have to air traditional commercials, which meant that since they didn't have to adhere to pressure from sponsors to clean up content, they were able to create original programming that pushed boundaries. Producers, writers, and directors could take more risks and include more graphic content, including nudity, profanity, and strong violence—you know, stuff you'd see in an R-rated movie.
This freedom and risk taking seems to be the thing that helped HBO usher in this new Golden Age of television, with shows that look and feel more like the films of today, but remind us of the challenging, visceral films of the past. Now, cable networks like Showtime, and even streaming services like Netflix and Amazon have been coming out with fantastic shows, like Homeland, Orange is the New Black, and Transparent respectively. So, who knows what the future holds for television, but thanks to HBO, television has one.