7 reasons Hulu with Showtime is worth the extra 9 bucks a month

More and more people are joining the ranks of “cord-cutters,” choosing to cancel their cable or satellite subscriptions and instead subsist on the nigh-endless supply of entertainment options from sources like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. One of the biggest reasons so many viewers were reluctant to cut those cords for so long was access to the premium cable channels like HBO and Showtime, which regularly provide some of the most buzzed-about TV programming around. Thankfully, there are new ways to see this content without having to pay a full cable or satellite subscription. You can rent or purchase shows like Game of Thrones digitally, of course, but much of HBO’s back catalog is available to Amazon Prime customers, and the newer stuff is available through the HBO Now service. Now those craving Showtime’s stable of series, including Homeland, Shameless, and Penny Dreadful, need look no further than Hulu.

Hulu recently launched Hulu with Showtime, which, for an extra monthly fee of $8.99 per month on top of your standard Hulu Plus subscription, gets you access to damn near everything in Showtime’s lineup—both current shows like those mentioned above and beloved older series like Weeds and Californication. We here at the Dot spent a few weeks diving deep into the service, and it definitely looks to be a worthwhile addition to any cord-cutter’s monthly lineup. Here’s some of the best of what you’ll get with Hulu with Showtime.

1) Homeland (2011–)

Based on a 2010 Israeli series, Homeland stars Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, a CIA counterterrorism operative struggling with bipolar disorder, and Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody, a former Marine sniper who was held as a POW by al-Qaeda for years… and whom Carrie believes is now working for his former captors. As Brody receives a hero’s welcome and is taken under the wings of Washington power players, Carrie faces ridicule and potential career suicide as she attempts to prove Brody is not what he seems. The always-wonderful Mandy Patinkin plays Saul Berenson, Carrie’s mentor who’s worried she’s out of her gourd.

Homeland has taken home numerous awards since its 2011 premiere, including the 2012 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series and Best Actor/Actress Golden Globes for both Danes and Lewis. The series is due for a major overhaul when it returns next month, skipping ahead two years and relocating Carrie to Berlin, where she will be working for a private security firm.

All four seasons of Homeland are available on Hulu with Showtime. Season 5 premieres Oct. 4 on Showtime.

2) Episodes (2011–)

Most of the core Friends cast have struggled to define their careers beyond the legacy of that classic hit sitcom. For Matt LeBlanc, who played the amiably dumb Joey Tribbiani, it turns out his best post-Friends role is playing himself. Episodes stars Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig as a British husband-and-wife writing/producing team whose critically acclaimed sitcom won them a BAFTA. Naturally, Hollywood wants to remake it, and Episodes follows their voyage to the States to watch the slow, methodical destruction of everything they held dear about their creation… epitomized in the casting of LeBlanc as the series lead.

Mangan’s Sean is soon won over by LeBlanc’s charm, but Greig’s Beverly is standoffish at best, and the love/hate/exasperation triangle only gets more complicated from there. Episodes was created by industry vets David Crane (Friends) and Jeffrey Klarik (Mad About You, Dream On), and it’s great fun watching LeBlanc parody himself. The series has earned LeBlanc several Emmy nominations over the years, as well as a Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy Golden Globe back in 2012.

All four seasons of Episodes are available on Hulu with Showtime. The series has been renewed for a fifth season, due to air sometime in 2016.

3) Shameless (2011–)

Based on a long-running, BAFTA-winning British series, Shameless spins tales of the Gallagher clan of Chicago. Patriarch Frank (William H. Macy) is an Olympic-level alcoholic whose hobbies include disappointing his children and squandering any family funds he can get his hands on. While Frank spends his days and nights pickled, it falls to eldest daughter Fiona (Emmy Rossum) to bring home the dollar-store bacon substitute and try to give her siblings the best life they can manage. The rest of the clan includes Lip (Jeremy Allen White), a once-promising high school graduate now disillusioned and self-destructive; Ian (Cameron Monaghan), closeted gay and maternal half-sibling to the rest of the Gallaghers; Debbie (Emma Kenney), good-hearted and forced to grow up too fast; the borderline psychopathic Carl (Ethan Cutkosky); and infant Liam. Developed for U.S. TV by industry vet John Wells (E.R., The West Wing), Shameless is a hilarious and all-too-real look at a family just trying to get by below the poverty line, with nothing to cling to but each other. The cast is uniformly great, but everything is anchored by Emmy Rossum’s fearless, sympathetic performance as Fiona.

Four seasons of Shameless are available on Hulu with Showtime. The series wrapped up its fifth season this past April and is due back for a sixth in 2016.

4) House of Lies (2012–)

Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle) is a ruthless management consultant for an equally cutthroat firm called Galweather-Stearn, and if he ever had a moral compass, the needle snapped off a long time ago. He heads up a team consisting of Jeannie van der Hooven (Kristen Bell), whip-smart and determined to succeed on her own terms; Clyde Oberholdt (Ben Schwartz), a born spin doctor and unabashedly arrogant prick; and Doug Guggenheim (Josh Lawson), an analyst who often seems too goofy and clueless to survive in Marty’s bloodthirsty bottom-line world. Under Marty’s morally flexible leadership, the team lies, cheats, and manipulates their way toward success at any cost, and sometimes the job is almost enough to distract them from what a shitshow their personal lives are.

House of Lies was created by Matthew Carnahan, who previously gave us the underrated Courteney Cox FX series Dirt, and it traffics in the the same bleak, amoral sense of humor and self-destructive characters who will leave viewers ricocheting back and forth between “love” and “love to hate.”

All four seasons of House of Lies are available on Hulu with Showtime. It has been renewed for a fifth season, set to air in 2016.

5) Masters of Sex (2013–)

Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan star as Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, better known to history as “Masters and Johnson.” The scientific duo pioneered the study of human boot-knockery for decades beginning in the 1950s, dispelling many longstanding misconceptions and providing crucial insights into female sexuality in particular. Masters of Sex tracks their research, their relationships, and the way their science affected the larger culture and helped kickstart the sexual revolution.

The series was developed by Michelle Ashford, who worked on the sadly short-lived Boomtown and the HBO miniseries The Pacific and John Adams. It’s landed numerous awards nominations over the course of its three seasons, including a Best Actress Emmy nom for Caplan last year. Human sexuality can be profound or silly, funny or phenomenal, and Masters of Sex embraces that marvelous spectrum in all its eccentricity, with a pair of wonderfully drawn characters and performances at its core.

All three seasons of Masters of Sex are available on Hulu with Showtime. The show has been renewed for a fourth season, due in 2016.

6) Ray Donovan (2013–)

Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) is a “fixer” for a powerful Los Angeles law firm. Think Winston Wolfe from Pulp Fiction, but he cleans up messes for Hollywood’s elite rather than for clumsy hit men who don’t know how to keep their fingers off the trigger. Need somebody bribed to forget they saw something, or to look one way when they should be looking the other? Ray Donovan is your man. Unfortunately, Ray can make everybody’s problems vanish but his own, and his (relatively) stable existence is thrown for a loop by the news that his lowlife father Mickey (Jon Voight) is being released from prison and right back into his life.

The series was created by Ann Biderman, who gave us the NBC/TNT cop drama Southland and won an Emmy for her writing on NYPD Blue back in the day. Both Voight and Schreiber have earned Emmy and Golden Globe noms for their roles in the show, and Voight actually took home the Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe last year.

All three seasons of Ray Donovan are available on Hulu with Showtime. The show will return for a fourth season in 2016.

7) Penny Dreadful (2014–)

If you were a fan of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s brilliant League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novels, and justifiably depressed by the abysmal movie adaptation, Penny Dreadful may be the closest we’ll get to a satisfying transition of Gentlemen to the screen. Like Moore and O’Neill’s comics, Penny Dreadful imagines a world where the heroes and villains of Victorian fantastical literature populate the same gaslit landscape: Dorian Gray, Mina Harker, Frankenstein and his Monster, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and Abraham Van Helsing, just to name a few. And with Harkers and Van Helsings in the mix, you know the immortal bloodsuckers are going to be lurking in the shadows…

Penny Dreadful was created by John Logan (Skyfall, Hugo) and the cast includes Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, Doctor Who’s Billie Piper, and Josh Hartnett. Honestly, this sort of stuff is my bread and butter, and Penny Dreadful is the main reason I’m springing for Hulu with Showtime.

Both seasons of Penny Dreadful are available on Hulu with Showtime. It will return for a third season in 2016.

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The solid back catalog

Those seven current series more than make Hulu with Showtime worth the investment if you’ve bailed on cable, but that’s just scratching the surface. There’s plenty of Showtime back catalog to delve into as well, including full runs of shows like Dexter, The L Word, Nurse Jackie, Californication, Weeds, and—one of my personal favorites—Penn and Teller: Bullshit! Clear your schedules, people!

Illustration by Max Fleishman | Remix by Jason Reed

David Wharton

David Wharton

David Wharton is a journalist and film critic with over 15 years of experience. His reviews for the Daily Dot focus on original movies and series produced by streaming entertainment services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. He lives in Texas, where he works as the online editor of DSNews.com