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2015 will go down as The Great Unbundling of Television. In a rush to gain the loyalty of the elusive “I don’t even own a TV, bro” crowd—your cord cutters and your ‘cord nevers’—and to compete with the rising tide of original programming offered by streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon, both HBO and Showtime have untethered their services from cable and satellite providers. HBO made the initial splash with its standalone HBO Now service and now Showtime is following suit like the reactive younger sibling it often seems to be.
However, to some surprise in industry circles, Showtime has partnered with Hulu to make its premium programming available to an even wider base of binge-watching fiends. Starting this week, Hulu Plus subscribers can access a large chunk of Showtime’s current and library content for a small discount, sort of. The standalone Showtime service is $10.99/month, while Hulu Plus subscribers can add Showtime programming to their pre-existing $7.99/month bill for an additional $8.99. Look at this way: It’s still better than paying Comcast $120/month. However, the particulars of what programming is available is unsurprisingly murky. Hulu will provide all the programming Showtime has the rights to, but the current Showtime on Hulu landing page is missing a few notable shows (The Big C, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show).
If you’re a Hulu Plus subscriber, you now have access to another treasure trove of television, but maybe you don’t know what’s good or what’s bad. To make matters more complicated, many Showtime shows swing wildly between good and bad from season to season that it’s almost impossible to know where to begin, what to skip over, and how to effectively manage your binging time. So let me be your binging coach. Here’s the essential guide to making your way through Showtime’s programming, from the entirely skippable to the absolute cannot-missable.