HBO Max Review

Last Updated on by Joshua Mathieu (Jmb a.k.a. The Boss)

Another title that families will enjoy is The Not Too Late Show With Elmo, a talk show parody starring the loveable monster from Sesame Street. It’s a very simple premise to grasp: Elmo hosts a talk show and has featured guests on to perform songs, have competitions, and just chat, all like your standard late-night show. It’s a fantastic show for young kids and will be a decent watch for families. It’s unlikely to blow away adult viewers, but it’s a fun enough time and it’ll keep your kids entertained for the duration it’s on. 

While those two MAX Originals are fine entries in the launch lineup for kids and families, they do have a selection for adults as well, with the scripted series Love Life. Executive produced by Paul Feig (Ghostbusters (2016), Bridesmaids), the show stars Anna Kendrick as Darby Carter, a woman trying to find a connecting love in her life. It’s not great, with a lot of the humor coming from awkward dialogue that somehow relates to humor. Some scenes drag on far too long and have nothing meaningful to say or aren’t entertaining to sit through, with the worst of them not featuring anything remotely funny. This feels like a mishmash of ideas and none of it culminates into a cohesive plotline, ending up feeling like it isn’t funny enough to be a comedy while lacking enough weight to swing over to a drama. Love Life could very well improve over time, but the pilot episode should capture the heart of the show and engage viewers. When it isn’t able to do that, it feels like a waste of time. This is just scratching the surface of the MAX Original options, with other launch titles including Craftopia, a kid-based competition show, Legendary, an adult-oriented competition show, and the #MeToo documentary Off The Record. There is a good amount of content here but outside of Looney Tunes Cartoons, nothing really stands out as a must-watch title. However, some attractive Originals are coming within the first year, with titles like the second season of DC Universe webseries Doom Patrol (which is also still appearing on DC Universe, making this less of a MAX Original), Close Enough, a new animated show from Regular Show creator J.G. Quintel focusing on a married couple raising their daughter, and Adventure Time Distant Lands, four one-hour specials continuing on from the hit Cartoon Network series. HBO itself has other originals planned (such as the rebooted Perry Mason series and the Game of Thrones prequel series House of Dragons), but the launch lineup definitely needed more heavy hitters to really feel like a cornerstone of the service. 


Overall Content

While original movies and series are what some people might subscribe to streaming services for, the real value of most of these services lie in the catalog of movies and TV shows that are at the consumers disposal. At launch, HBO Max offers a good selection overall, but there are some odd omissions. First of all, there are a lot of high-quality films available at launch, including not only the majority of the Studio Ghibli library, but you also have access to the large array of movies from HBO, Turner Classic Movies, and Warner Brothers. This boosts the service with a huge selection of great films, offering countless hours of entertainment lined up in one place. Some of the highlights outside of the Ghibli catalog include Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, the Harry Potter movies, Lord of The Rings trilogy (unfortunately, not the extended cuts), Godzilla franchise, the DC Extended Universe movies, and so much more. It really is an incredible amount of films available at launch with more being added in the future.

(Source: Seven Samurai)

Unfortunately, this also brings the same kind of cycle-in, cycle-out availability that services like Netflix has, meaning some movies will end up being removed in the near future. While no specific date has been said on when movies like Us, Batman (1989), or March of the Penguins will leave the service, it should be kept in mind that films on HBO Max are not permanent and will leave whenever the rights expire. 

As for the television side of things, unfortunately, it’s not all good news. At launch, there are a good selection of TV shows in the lineup, but there’s definitely room for improvement. Of course you have the entire HBO catalog which hosts some of the best TV out there, including Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, and Watchmen,  but you also have other hit shows from WarnerMedia’s own vault such as Friends, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and The Big Bang Theory. There’s also a decent catalog of titles available from other well-known WarnerMedia brands like Cartoon Network, CNN, Looney Tunes, and Crunchyroll as well as a decent catalog of shows from Sesame Workshop, part of the agreement that saw HBO take the reins on paying for production of Sesame Street in 2015. Yet, at launch, it feels very vacant, without much here that could be called incredibly exciting. Take for example, the Cartoon Network library of titles. At launch, we have twenty-five Cartoon Network series and on paper that seems like a decent amount. However, a large amount of it is focused on the new Cartoon Network series, shows like Steven Universe, Adventure Time, and We Bare Bears. While that’s a decent amount of kid’s shows that’ll appeal to families and I’m happy to see them here, it skews too much in favor of these newer Cartoon Network series. The older stuff falls to the wayside as the only classic Cartoon Network shows at launch are The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s Lab, and Ben 10. Where are the rest of the older Cartoon Network series? Where’s Ed, Edd, ‘n Eddy? Where’s Johnny Bravo? Where’s Megas XLR? I can understand if WarnerMedia doesn’t want to have a ton of content right out of the gate so as not to overwhelm new subscribers, but personally, it just feels like a lackluster representation of Cartoon Network’s history. At least it is a larger library of shows compared to Adult Swim’s collection, which on day one is a pretty pathetic showing. There are only nine series available right now, which is a problem.

(Source: HBO Max)

This only scratches a minuscule portion of Adult Swim’s catalog and it feels rather shallow compared to the content on Cartoon Network’s library, even though that one too is a bit barren. With Adult Swim’s current offerings on HBO Max, it’s likely you can finish them all within a few weeks, maybe less than that. They do have great shows on here such as Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal, Samurai Jack, The Boondocks, and Home Movies, but the offerings could be better and they’re missing episodes for shows like Space Ghost Coast To Coast. It’s possible those missing episodes aren’t available due to licensing reasons, but it’s still rather annoying that these series are incomplete on a streaming platform.


Senior Editorial Writer for Toonami Squad and former writer for Swim Squad. Host for Toonami Squad Sessions Podcast.