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The Top 3 HBO Series to (Not) Watch Stoned

12/13/2021 Culture & Entertainment

OK, so I admit that the title of this post is a bit odd – especially for a Colorado-based marijuana blog. But let me explain: first, these are HBO series so immediately we can surmise that they are pretty good (actually they are outstanding as you’ll read on this post), but the subject matter that is covered in these three series are not for the faint-at-heart. And since marijuana can heighten our awareness, senses and – yes, even our – emotions, take caution when sparking up and turning on one of these heavy, heavy series. They’re awesome but they are intense!

The Vow

This 9-part mini series gives viewers an inside view of one of the most disturbing cults in history, the NXIVM sex cult from Albany, New York. And this is not just me saying this; the documentary series features cult experts and therapists who also say this is the most disturbing cult they had come across in their decades of research and work.

If you haven’t heard of the cult, NXIVM (pronounced “nexium”) purported itself as a self-help system of course, curriculum and classes operating on a multi-level marketing business model. This is what it purported itself to be, but what it turned into – whether by design or by evolution of its narcissistic, sociopath leader, Keith Raniere evil and sick nature – was a sex cult organized in a similar pyramid scheme, only with brainwashed sex slaves.

And if that wasn’t enough – throw in forced labor, starvation, sleep deprivation, sexual assault and branding (yes, you read that correctly: branding, as in searing of the sex slaves’ flesh).

The documentary follows several members as they attempt to exit the cult (there had been verifiable reports of NXIVM going after defectors with aggressive legal and illegal means financed by über-wealthy members) and the daughter of actress Catherine Oxenberg of Dynasty fame.

Actress Catherine Oxenberg in Los Angeles, 2011.

The series is intense and beyond shocking, but important nevertheless. It helps answer the question of anyone who’s never been in a cult of “How could anyone get involved with a cult like this?!” The series helps us understand how people can get sucked in and how dangerous true-blue cults can really be.

Seriously, this cult makes Scientology look almost harmless. Watch with discretion, especially if you’re high!


When I first read the synopsis for Euphoria, it read like this decade’s “Kids” – the 1995 gritty drama about several groups of teenagers coming of age in New York City starring Chloë Sevigny and Rosario Dawson. After I started watching it, it really seemed like it.

Actress Chloe Sevigny arrives at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2017.

Like it’s 1990s predecessor, Euphoria follows a group of teenagers experimenting with sex and substances with gritty realities as the backdrop. And like the earlier movie, this series is overt in its depiction of sex – almost to a fault. Both are incredible productions in the sense that they are well acted, directed, written, filmed, edited and even musically scored.

The cast of “Europhia” arrives on the red carpet in 2019.

But take the shock value of sex and drugs away and neither “Kids” nor “Euphoria” has much substance. Well, unless leaving with a feeling of uneasiness about the state of youths of today (or mid-1990’s if you remember how you felt after seeing “Kids” for the first time). But this is just my opinion; after all the series has an incredibly high rating on various review aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb.com.

Don’t get me wrong – this is a great series. I just hope the storylines get a little more (sorry to say it again …) substance. That notwithstanding, it’s so satisfying watching actress/singer/model, Zendaya in a role that is pushing her into Emmy-winning territory.

Actress Zendaya arrives at a premier in Los Angeles CA.

Just be careful watching this one if you’re partaking. It’s got some seriously shocking and heavy subject matter.


Holy moley. Those of us old enough to remember or to have heard first-hand accounts of this mid-80s tragedy remember how bad it was. But holy smokes (no pun intended), I had no idea it was this bad. This 5-part HBO mini-series explores the actual tragedy, the cleanup efforts, the reality of radiation poisoning for people and all living things, the trial that all in its entirety show us just how bad – like really, really bad – this tragedy really was.

No surprise coming from HBO, everything about this series and its production are top-notch but throw on top of that the acting chops of Jared Harris and Stellan Skarsgård and you have one of the best series – and probably one of the most important – to see. The characters (well, actually they both play real people) are tasked with assessing the disaster and to find solutions for its clean up. The two don’t like each other at first, but through the sober realization of the size of the disaster and the near-impossibility of a quiet, easy clean up they soon come to respect each other and almost find a camaraderie in their hopeless assignment.

Viewer beware: this is a graphic series, especially some of the hospital interview scenes, of radiation poisoning on people. Some people started seeing the effects of the poisoning the same night the tragedy happened. I actually had to tell myself several times that I was watching a studio-produced series and that what I was seeing was top-notch makeup skills because it looked REAL.

A crowd gathers at the reactor on the set of “Chernobyl” from HBO.

The entire series does an excellent job of telling the entire story (or as much as we know – we are, after all, talking about a Cold War tragedy from the now-dissolved Soviet Union) with reverence to those who were affected, who were tasked with the clean up and the victims who eventually succumbed to the radiation. It also does an excellent job of explaining nuclear fusion, power and how nuclear reactors work – because, let’s face it, not many of us are nuclear physics!

I highly recommend this series, but you might not want to watch this moving, graphic and very intense series if you’re stoned!

Happy viewing!



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