HBO vs. Showtime

The past few years have given way to exceptional premium television programming, creating fierce competition between networks.  From HBO’s early success with The Sopranos to Showtime’s hit show Weeds, premium networks are exceeding the expectations of viewers by utilizing well-known writers and actors and consistently delivering quality new programs.

Fortunately for them, this trend makes it much easier for cable subscribers to rationalize the extra monthly add-on to their bill in this wavering economy.  I’m guilty of cutting back in other areas but unable to give up my premium TV channels.  TV is clearly a huge priority in my life; I like to consider it “professional development” for my TV and film production career.  Great rationalization!

At the 2011 Golden Globes, HBO easily beat Showtime in nominations and awards.  Showtime wasn’t far behind with nominations for United States of Tara, Dexter, Nurse Jackie and The Big C.  But HBO won ‘Best Television Series – Drama’ for Boardwalk Empire, claiming victory over Showtime’s Dexter.  Boardwalk also earned ‘Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama’ for Steve Buscemi, again beating Dexter‘s Michael C. Hall.  Showtime came through with a win for ‘Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Comedy or Musical’ for Laura Linney’s role in The Big C (one of my favorites).  Congratulations, Laura!

Despite HBO’s commanding presence at the Golden Globes and my liking of “Boardwalk,” Showtime still dominates my DVR.  Here’s why:

Shameless with William H. Macy – This new series is CRAZY and entertaining from start to finish.  I was a fan in the first 5 minutes of the pilot.  “Shameless” is one of my favorite new TV shows (tied with Ancient Aliens on The History Channel).  Hats off to William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum whose fiery characters keep the plot rolling.  I’m not normally a Macy fan ,but his extreme alcoholism and insane antics make for an endearing train wreck.

Weeds with Mary-Louise Parker – This show has come a long way since suburban Agrestic in season 1.  No longer the simple pot-dealing mom, Nancy Botwin has had more ups-and-downs than most soap opera characters.  Even with it’s unrealistic plot lines and occasionally lackluster episodes, Weeds still has a hold on my heart.   It helps that Hunter Parrish is easy on the eyes.  Season 7 will be back in 2011 and I can’t wait!

(Hunter Parrish)

Dexter with Michael C. Hall – While many fans were disappointed with the season 5 finale, I enjoyed the season as a whole and was delighted to see Julia Stiles join the cast.  Sidenote:  I don’t think she had anything to do with breaking-up the marriage of Hall and his wife/on-screen sister Jennifer Carpenter. My question is:  Will season 6 be the end for vigilante serial killer Dexter Morgan?  I hope not.

United States of Tara with Toni Collette – This Emmy award-winning show Executive Produced by Steven Spielberg sheds a hilarious light on mental illness.  Collette’s character Tara Gregson lives with Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder).  WOW.  Props to Collette for playing different roles throughout each episode – she is amazing.  I also adore her on-screen husband Max Gregson (played by John Corbett), he’s easy on the eyes in rugged teddy bear kind of way. Apparently I value good looking men on my shows.

(John Corbett, image from Showtime)

The Big C with Laura Linney – Who knew that cancer could be so funny?  Linney has a knack for turning the malignant into the laughable.  Her character Cathy Jamison is a complete bitch who you can’t help but love.  The first season was bittersweet but ballsy with a lot of “Did she really just do that?” kind of moments. Gabourey Sidibe and Oliver Platt round out the exceptional cast.  Catch up with this one on-demand before the next season!

Showtime isn’t perfect though; the latest season of Californication is lackluster and new series Episodes with Matt Leblanc didn’t make the cut on my DVR.  Friends constantly remind me that I’m missing out on HBO favorites like Big Love, True Blood and Entourage, but for some reason I prefer the dysfunctional/drug-ridden/serial killer/mentally ill/diseased plots that Showtime does so well (don’t judge).

With 5 favorite shows on Showtime and only 1 on HBO, (Boardwalk Empire,) I choose Showtime.  Where do you stand?

Media Melanie is a marketing consultant in San Diego, specializing in Social Media & TV Production. Visit to learn more! @mediamelanie on Twitter & Media Melanie on Facebook.

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