By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –Follow me on X.

Max, the streaming service formerly known as HBO Max, is home to numerous hit series such as The Sopranos, Succession, The Wire and Game of Thrones. But today, I want to alert you to four excellent shows on Max that I have watched but you may not be aware of. I loved them all and I think you will, too. And here they are: (And note that Max is now offering a free seven-day trial for a limited time. Click here to learn more.)

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (Seasons one and two)
Winning Time, which chronicles the enormously successful Los Angeles Lakers teams of the late 1970s and early 80s, stars John C. Reilly as team owner (and playboy) Jerry Buss in a delightfully over-the-top performance. But the entire cast is terrific, including Quincy Isaiah as Magic Johnson, Adrien Brody as Lakers coach Pat Riley, Solomon Hughes as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jason Clarke as Jerry West, Hadley Robinson as Jeanie Buss, the owner’s ambitious daughter, and DeVaughn Nixon, as his father, Lakers point guard Norm Nixon. If you’re a sports fan, you’ll fall deeply in love with this fast-moving, funny and often poignant show. While Winning Time only lasted two seasons, they are as breezy and efficiently orchestrated as a ‘Showtime Lakers’ fast break.

Tokyo Vice (Seasons one and two)
Ansel Elgort stars in this dramatic series based loosely (very loosely) on real-life American journalist Jake Edelstein who moves to Tokyo and investigates the local crime syndicate. With visionary Michael Mann (Heat, Collateral) as a hands-on executive producer (and director of season one, episode one), Tokyo Vice is a thrill-a-minute ride with strong performances from Elgort, Ken Watanabe as a haggard detective caught in the middle of good and evil, and Rachel Keller as an ambitious American with a mysterious past who wants to leave the Tokyo floozy life for something better. (But she might lose her soul in the process.) Great show! (Max confirmed over the weekend that there would not be a third season, but season two nicely wrapped up all loose ends.)

Station Eleven (Season one)
What would happen if a pandemic flu wiped out most of civilization, leaving a small number of survivors in each city to build new lives and systems? That’s the question asked of Station Eleven and the answer is that humans will always yearn to connect and move forward despite the circumstances and odds. Featuring an excellent ensemble cast including MacKenzie Davis, Himesh Patel, Lori Petty, and Gael Garcia Bernal, the 10-episode one season of Station Eleven shows how all lives are intertwined in one way or another. And if we allow ourselves to accept that, life gets easier and more understandable. It’s an absorbing show that you won’t soon forget after it’s over. (Station Eleven ran for one season, which was the intention of the show’s producers.)

Hacks (Season one)
Jean Smart plays Deborah Vance, an aging comedienne (based loosely on Joan Rivers) who must freshen up her act or else face show business extinction. Hannah Einbinder plays Ava Daniels, a young arrogant comedy writer who can’t keep a job because of her stubborn nature. The comedy begins when Deborah hires Hannah to write her a new act, but the real charm of Hacks comes from the Mommie/Daughter relationship between the two leads. Smart is terrific as an overbearing performer desperate to stay relevant while Einbinder (the daughter of Saturday Night Live charter member Laraine Newman) is equally good as the rebellious Ava. You’ll laugh and cry with Hacks, sometimes both at the same time. (Hacks has now run for three seasons, but I am recommending season one here. I stopped watching during season two because I felt the show was spending too much with supporting characters. But if you like season one, and I believe you will, you can watch season two and three and judge for yourself.)

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The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than three decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television. See the bio for Phillip Swann here.