Where Does “Succession” Rank Among the Best HBO Shows Ever?

Where Does “Succession” Rank Among the Best HBO Shows Ever?
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

Drawing in a series-high 2.6 million viewers for its Season 4 premiere, the hit HBO show “Succession” returned on Sunday, March 26. The popularity of the Emmy Award-winning series has exploded since its debut in June 2018, and with this set to be the final season, anticipation is at a fever pitch to see how the show will end — and who will be the CEO of Waystar Royco when the final episode airs.

For three seasons now, audiences have been rapt by the satirical send up of the uber-rich, which follows the Roy children — Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) — as they jockey for favor with their withholding father Logan Roy (Brian Cox), vying to “succeed” the aging patriarch when — or if — he finally steps away from his billion dollar multi-media corporation.

Logan’s oldest son, Connor (Alan Ruck), shows little interest in running the company but brings his fair share of drama to the show.

The conclusion of Season 3 found the Roy siblings turning their backs on their father, and in the Season 4 premiere we see Kendall, Shiv and Roman united and ready to wage an all-out war on Logan to bring down his company and destroy his legacy.

“Succession” is yet another stand-out TV series from Home Box Office, whose adult dramas and comedies have been penetrating the cultural zeitgeist for the better part of 25 years.

But where does “Succession” rank in the pantheon of great HBO series over the years?

To answer that question, EmpireStakes.com took a break from New York sports betting coverage to look at the IMDb ratings of HBO shows to compare “Succession” to other critically acclaimed series on the network.

While “The Wire” still holds strong at No. 1 more than 20 years since its debut, “Succession” is the second-highest rated series to premiere on HBO in the last 10 years.

HBO Shows by IMDb Rating

You can’t get odds on HBO shows from NY sports betting apps, of course, but we do have ratings for comparison.

Here’s the full list:

9.3The Wire2002
9.2Game of Thrones2011
9.2The Sopranos1999
8.9True Detective2014
8.8Curb Your Enthusiasm2000
8.7Six Feet Under2001
8.6Boardwalk Empire2010
8.3The Leftovers2014
7.9.The White Lotus2021
7.3Sex and the City1998


Assessing the Best of HBO

Not only is “The Wire” the highest-ranked HBO series on IMDb, the sprawling Baltimore crime epic is the sixth-highest ranked show overall. But despite being widely considered the GOAT television series, “The Wire” struggled to find an audience when it premiered in 2002.

Even in subsequent seasons, as word of mouth spread and critical acclaim grew, episodes never eclipsed the 1.7 million figure in ratings.

For context, the No. 3 show on this list, “The Sopranos,” ran during a similar period in HBO’s history but averaged closer to 9 million viewers per episode during its run. Premiering in 1999 and running through 2007, the beloved series about a New Jersey mob boss is largely considered the show that established HBO’s reputation for innovative adult entertainment, ushering in the so-called “prestige” television era.

Other highly rated HBO dramas from this period include the Western series “Deadwood” and “Six Feet Under,” which follows a family-run funeral home. Like “The Sopranos,” both shows pushed the boundaries of traditional TV, introducing darker themes, following complex protagonists — characters who were more “anti-hero” than hero — and favoring a more cinematic approach to televised storytelling.

At the same time HBO was pushing the boundaries of TV dramas, they were also revolutionizing the traditional sitcom, beginning with 1998’s “Sex and the City.” Although it’s the final show on our list, “Sex and the City” — with frank depictions and discussions of female sexuality — was every bit as groundbreaking as “The Sopranos” or “The Wire.”

Other highly rated comedies from this era include the absurdist “Curb Your Enthusiasm” from “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David, who plays himself in the largely improvised long-running series; and “Entourage,” the Hollywood wish-fulfilment comedy about an A-list actor and his posse of bros.

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A Throne All Its Own

However, the most popular TV show in HBO history is a more recent one. It’s also the second highest rated HBO series on IMDb — that would be “Game of Thrones.” When the fantasy series based on the novels of George R.R. Martin premiered in 2011 it drew 2.2 million viewers. By the time the series finale aired in 2019, that number ballooned to an HBO-record of 19.3 million.

“Thrones” has wrapped up its run, but several other series on the list are still airing, including the No. 4-ranked “True Detective.”

After blowing audiences away during its inaugural season back in 2014, the show returned the following year with a new set of detectives and a new mystery, but it largely underwhelmed. After rebounding with the third season starring Mahershala Ali in 2019, “True Detective” is set to return for a fourth season, with Jodie Foster on board to play one of the detectives.

Like “Succession,” there’s another beloved HBO series on the list that will be calling it quits after four seasons. “Barry” Season 4, starring SNL-alum Bill Hader as a hitman/wannabe actor, will premiere on April 16. It’s set to air after “Succession” as part of HBO’s coveted Sunday night slate. 

The final episode of "Succession" is May 14, getting us that much closer to Sundays of betting on the NFL.



Jeff Parker is an Entertainment Writer for EmpireStakes.com. A writer for film, television and the internet, Jeff is a life long movie buff, with an actual Masters Degree in Popular Culture. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he works full time as documentary filmmaker and producer.

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