Last year, I put together a March Madness-style tournament to determine who was the greatest HBO character of all time. It was fun to do and we had some laughs and made some memories.
My main takeaway once it was done was that HBO shows have produced a lot of great characters. Yes, there was only one winner to the tournament, and yes, in the end, it wasn’t all that close, but still, it’s not like the rest of the bracket—especially the Final Four—was comprised of one-sided matchups. Things got tight and for good reason.
If you devote as much time as I did to picking the 32 best HBO characters before spending God knows how long arguing with yourself to produce winners, you’re left wondering what to do once the dust eventually settles.
It’s the question that has dogged writers and content creators for generations: Now what?
Here’s a crazy idea: What if you were able to do something with all of these fantastic HBO characters that’s not pitting them against one another? What if you were also able to incorporate what is easily viewed and agreed upon as the best part about playing fantasy sports: the draft?
What if there was an HBO Fantasy League? What if you could draft characters from existing HBO shows and create your own series?
Here’s what you do.
Step 1: Compile a list of HBO characters and break them up by roles (i.e. cops, drug dealers, gangsters, athletes, musicians). There are some characters who deserve inclusion but don’t necessarily fall into a specific category so you also have to create a list of wild cards.
For instance, Ari Gold from Entourage is a wild card. So is Erlich Bachman from Silicon Valley and Arya Stark from Game of Thrones.
Step 2: Put together a list of genres (i.e. cop show, science fiction drama, situational comedy, political comedy).
Step 3: Come up with a list of settings (ideally settings previously used by HBO shows but feel free to get creative).
Step 4: Start making your own HBO show.
How specific you want to get from here is entirely up to you. I played a few rounds and this is what I came up with.
Show Number 1: A Gritty Cop ShowCharacters:
- Jimmy McNulty (The Wire)
- Rust Cohle (True Detective)
- Tony Soprano (The Sopranos)
- Roman Grant (Big Love)
- Stringer Bell (The Wire)
- Clay Davis (The Wire)
- Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones)
- Eric Northman (True Blood)
Setting: Atlantic City, NJ
Jimmy McNulty and Rust Cohle are detectives working in Atlantic City, a town on the verge of bankruptcy.
The state is looking to intervene and take things over but so is North Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano. A local religious leader, Roman Grant, is also looking to gain control.
Grant’s plans are a cause of concern for mayor Clay Davis, who has numerous financial interests tied up in the town and, as a result, has several reasons for it to continue to operate as a gambling hub.
Cersei Lannister plays Davis’ wife, who is looking to make a power move of her own with the help of local businessman Eric Northman.
Finally, Stringer Bell plays a rival of Davis who has his own plans for the future of the city.
Show Number 2: Cop Dramedy
- Bunk Moreland (The Wire)
- Jason Stackhouse (True Blood)
- Hannah Horvath (Girls)
- Lester Freamon (The Wire)
- John Stone (The Night Of)
- Jaime Lannister (Game of Thrones)
- Bubbles (The Wire)
- Jonah Ryan (Veep)
- Arya Stark (Game of Thrones)
Setting: Los Angeles
Jason Stackhouse is a young detective who gets teamed up with salty vet Bunk Moreland in the LAPD’s homicide unit.
Hannah Horvath is the unit’s secretary who harbors a secret, Lester Freamon is the duo’s sergeant, Jonah Ryan serves as a local city council member, Arya Stark is a no-nonsense detective, and John Stone is the District Attorney.
Bubbles works as a janitor in the station who harbors his own dreams of becoming a police officer and enjoys giving his thoughts and insight into cases on a regular basis, whether it was asked for or not.
Jaime Lannister is the police commissioner who is also Stackhouse’s uncle, which is routinely cited as a reason for the latter’s promotion. Lannister and Moreland were cadets together and had been friends before a falling out broke up their friendship.
Moreland constantly feels as if Lannister is out to get him and getting partnered with the young and experienced Stackhouse just seems like his latest attempt to make Moreland’s life miserable.
Show Number 3: Political Drama
- Tommy Carcetti (The Wire,)
- Ari Gold (Entourage)
- Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones)
- Marnie Michaels (Girls)
- Adam Sackler (Girls)
- Jon Snow (Game of Thrones)
- Bodie Broadus (The Wire)
- Erlich Bachman (Silicon Valley)
- Carmela Soprano (The Sopranos)
- Sansa Stark (Game of Thrones)
- Seth Bullock (Deadwood)
Setting: Washington D.C.
Tommy Carcetti is the newly elected President of the United States but he has a shady, secret past that continues to dog him and influence his decisions. He also has a bold and disruptive Chief of Staff in Ari Gold, whose motives are frequently suspect.
Sansa Stark is the young First Lady, who harbors her own political ambitions much to the chagrin of her husband and Chief of Staff.
Tyrion Lannister is the President’s most trusted advisor, Seth Bullock serves as the head of the Secret Service, Jon Snow is the Secret Service agent tasked with leading the First Lady’s security detail, and Marnie Michaels has a job as Press Secretary.
Adam Sackler and Bodie Broadus play young, hungry reporters and Erlich Bachman is an ethically-challenged photographer for The Washington Post.
Carmela Soprano plays a high-powered lobbyist who will do whatever it takes to keep Carcetti in office, provided he continues to play by the rules.
Show Number 4: Gangster Drama
- Jimmy Darmody (Boardwalk Empire)
- Christoper Moltisanti (The Sopranos)
- Al Swearengen (Deadwood)
- Avon Barksdale (The Wire)
- Wayne Hays (True Detective)
- Kima Greggs (The Wire)
- Bunny Colvin (The Wire)
- Antonie Batiste (Treme)
- Marlo Stanfield (The Wire)
- Omar Little (The Wire)
- Charlotte Hale (Westworld)
Setting: New Orleans
Jimmy Darmody and Christopher Moltisanti are young lieutenants for Midwestern crime boss Al Swearengen. They are sent to New Orleans to establish an organized crime ring in the city in the years following Hurricane Katrina.
Once they get there, they team up with local gang leader Avon Barksdale to help get them situated (although their partnership is less than cordial). Barksdale’s number two, Marlo Stanfield, is immediately suspicious of the two gangsters and soon begins plotting ways to not only get rid of them but Barksdale as well.
Wayne Hays is a veteran New Orleans cop with close ties to Barksdale who is also skeptical of Darmody and Moltisanti. His supervisor, Bunny Colvin, urges him to steer clear of the situation based on his own past with Swearengen.
We’ve also got Antonie Batiste, a local musician who doubles as a police informant for Hays’ partner, Kima Greggs.
Charlotte Hale serves as the young mayor of New Orleans who tries to keep her connection with Barksdale secret (he is an associate of her father, Omar Little), as she was elected thanks to her promise to rid the city of crime.
Show Number Five: Situational Comedy
- Kenny Powers (Eastbound & Down)
- Bret and Jermaine (Flight of the Conchords)
- Carrie Bradshaw (Sex in the City)
- Nucky Thompson (Boardwalk Empire)
- Lee Russell (Vice Principals)
- Johnny Drama (Entourage)
- Richard Splatt (Veep)
- Murray Hewitt (Flight of the Conchords)
- Gary Walsh (Veep)
Setting: Baltimore, Maryland
Kenny Powers is a former MLB pitcher who is now the pitching coach for the lowly Baltimore Orioles. Johnny Drama and Richard Splatt also have coaching roles and the three of them share a house in a suburb outside of the city.
Powers becomes infatuated with Carrie Bradshaw, a local journalist who covers the team. Murray Hewitt is her editor at the paper who also has a crush on her despite being married.
Upon learning that she has a thing for musicians, Powers befriends a couple of guys from New Zealand (Bret and Jermaine), who agree to teach him how to play music. To return the favor, Powers begins acting as the duo’s manager and helps them book gigs in the city.
Nucky Thompson owns the Orioles and is yet another in a long line of guys with a thing for Bradshaw. Gary Walsh works as his assistant and Lee Russell is Powers’ best friend.
These ones are free, HBO. The rest are going to cost you.