When Amazon Prime's video service stepped out into the streaming arena, there was but one question on everyone's lips: could an online retailer really survive stiff competition from the likes of Netflix? As it turns out, yes. The best shows on Amazon Prime Video are, in many areas, even more extensive than its big name rival. Heck, they’re just as good if not better than the likes of Hulu as well!
There’s loads of exclusive content with Amazon Originals like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Homecoming, and its huge database features a lot of HBO titles, which no other streaming service can boast. The way I see it, while January can be grey and bleh, you’ve kinda got a sweet deal: the best shows on Amazon Prime are an entertaining way to get through these tough times. This list is your salvation. I’ve included loads of series that are about to become your bingeing besties, so get cracking and add them to your watchlist, pronto!
The show: Being a first-time parent isn’t a picnic. Especially when your partner is from another country. And you don’t really know them that well... or have indeed only met them once. Throw these factors into the pot and you get the beginnings of one of Amazon’s most seriously underseen comedies. Sharon Horgan stars as an Irish schoolteacher in London who embarks on a week-long affair with Rob Delaney’s Boston ad exec. Their efforts to stay together after they discover they’re pregnant are what drive the series into hilarity and, at times, heartache.
Why it’s worth a watch: Funny as hell, do it for ya? Horgan and Delaney, who also wrote the entire show together, make their experience relatable and humourous without resorting to silly gags. Plus, Carrie Fisher’s ongoing cameo as Delaney’s mom is divine. Her little dog Gary even cameos with her!
The show: Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail takes a well-loved podcast and turns it into a TV series. Homecoming is technically created by its podcast authors, Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz, yet its got Esmail’s stamp all over it; no surprise as he directs every episode. Julia Roberts stars as Heidi Bergman, a counsellor at a facility called Homecoming who helps veterans transition back into civilian life. Or so she thinks. The show flits back and forth between Heidi’s first day on the job, to an unknown point in the future, where she’s back home with her mom, working as a waitress with a foggy memory of her time at Homecoming. But don't worry, the show's ten episodes come together like drawstrings, until the truth is finally revealed.
Why it’s worth a watch: Nabbing an A-list star like Roberts might be what draws your attention to a series like Homecoming. While this is her first dip into "event television", and she is excellent, she’s not the only element that deserves acclaim. Esmail and co. have delivered one of 2018’s best shows, that ropes in film scores from the 1970s and 1980s to add that era’s level of paranoia to Bergman’s suspenseful journey. It’s masterful. You will be on the edge of your seat the entire time.
Region: UK, US
The show: A rough 'n' tumble period piece that's not a million miles away from Game of Thrones, Vikings serves up a similar amount of blood-drenched violence, but none of the rampant nookie. Travis Fimmel leads the series as noted Norse figure Ragnar Lothbrok, a lowly farmer who becomes a respected warrior. That's after years of sailing the seas of Europe, of course, along with his wives and chums, in search of vulnerable countries to ransack.
Why it's worth a watch: The story itself is terrific, and along with its glorious production design, you’ll be drawn in and unable to stop yourself from one more episode. It's less concerned with the intricate political ties of the aforementioned series, yet does err heavily on the side of fantasy. These are not the vikings you've read about at school; these are far more devious.
22. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
The show: Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino hits another home run with a show that’s, on the surface, cut from an entirely different cloth. The late 1950s are a tough time for women everywhere, including those like Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) on the Upper West Side, who remains under the thumb of her husband. A devoted wife who supports her husband’s desire to be a stand-up comic, it’s soon revealed that Midge herself has quite a gift for the gag on-stage. The show won five Emmys and two Golden Globes in its first year, with Brosnahan snagging the same Globe the following year.
Why it’s worth a watch: There is so much to love about Maisel. If you’re a fan of rich storytelling that’s not gloomy and doesn’t involve murder (c’mon, a LOT of prestige television is pretty downbeat) then you’ll get a kick out of this. Brosnahan is one of the best actors working today, bringing heart, warmth, humour and a fire in her belly to the role of Midge. The best scenes are the after-hours debriefs with her friend/manager Susie, played by Family Guy’s Alex Borstein. But make no mistake: this isn’t a fluffy series. It’s an R-rated show, with swears and nudity.
21. Sneaky Pete
Region: UK, US
The show: After his release from prison Marius (Giovanni Ribisi) decides to get creative with his new-found freedom. Instead of picking up where he left off, which is at the mercy of gangster Vince (Bryan Cranston) for the $100,000 he owes, Marius opts to take over the life of his cellmate Pete who remains behind bars. Pete’s estranged family welcome “Pete” back into the fold as if nothing’s happened, and Marius starts to discover that his new clan might be a source of further strife.
Why it’s worth a watch: Its well-written scripts and fantastic performances are what have turned Sneaky Pete into one of those sneaky shows that wheedles its way into your mind and refuses to let go until you’ve watched just one more episode. This is top-notch viewing that’s a relentlessly bingeable mix of crime, comedy and drama.
The show: Another killer small-screen series featuring Timothy Olyphant, who diversifies his skill set by playing Raylan Givens. A U.S. Marshal, Givens is forced to return to his backwater Kentucky hometown after his quickdraw antics attract the attention of his superiors. Upon his arrival, things get worse when he gets embroiled with the dealings of the Crowder family, in particular his old pal, Boyd (Walton Goggins).
Why it's worth a watch: If old-school westerns and their outlaw-knows-best type of morality are your thing, then Justified is a must-see. Hell, even if they’re not, this is riveting telly! Givens has a particularly special brand of justice that makes for great viewing: doing whatever he decides at any given moment. Saddle up folks, and leave your judgement at the door.
The show: Starring an award-winning Ian McShane as the foul-mouthed Al Swearengen, the old west gets the R-rated revamp you never knew it needed. Much like Thrones brings violence and nudity to fantasy, Deadwood does the same to the lawless post-Civil War era of the west. David Milch's canceled-too-soon series takes place in the town of Deadwood, South Dakota at a time when every man took matters into his own hands. Misfits, thieves, weirdos, they’re all eager to make their fortune, or even better, steal it. Swearengen is at the centre of things as the owner of the Gem Saloon.
Why it's worth a watch: This richly-textured drama might bungle the historical accuracy of its 1870s pilfering, but more than makes up for it with attention to detail. Characters this well-drawn don't come around that often, even if they’re not exact replicas of their real-life counterparts.
18. Six Feet Under
The show: One of HBO's finest achievements (it’s their best show, ever) attempts to make sense of death by chronicling the lives of a family who own and run a Pasadena funeral parlor. Just because The Fishers are forced to contemplate mortality on a daily basis, doesn't mean they're any better at coping with it. They struggle to derive meaning from death and choose to instead celebrate the joy of life. Each episode opens with a different person’s moment of death, which inspires the Fisher family’s individual journeys.
Why it's worth a watch: Aside from the fact that its last ever episode will make you BAWL, it’s a simple drama that brings to light the troubles with all struggle with, through the lens of those closest to death. The Fishers aren’t perfect, either, making them all the more relatable. Eldest son Nate (Peter Krause)'s acerbic wit is an intoxicating blend of self-affirming mantras. He'll make you laugh and break your heart.
17. American Horror Story
The show: Dark and torrid are two adjectives that could describe any season of FX's anthology series. And it's rather bleak too. Still, that's the allure of Ryan Murphy, who has a way of hooking you into the corroded corners of humanity by crafting tales of unbelievable madness. Each season begins anew, with a fresh story, location, and characters; although many of the same actors return. The most recent season - Apocalypse - unites several of the previous, and still maintains its own sense of WTF-ery.
Why it's worth a watch: Simply put, it’s unlike any other horror series. It’s weird, it’s black as night, it’s baffling. This won't just give you sleepless nights, it will make your days pretty jarring too.
16. The Tick
Region: UK, US
The show: The world of do-gooders in tights gets a much-needed boost of chuckles and heart. From one-time Supernatural showrunner Bed Edlund, this fun remake of the '90s animated show stars Peter Serafinowicz as The Tick, a superhero who arrives in The City with a plan to tackle crime. He soon meets Arthur Newman, a regular joe whose own experiences with superheroes make their friendship crackle with humour.
Why it's worth a watch: Superhero saturation getting you down? The Tick knows this all too well, making fun of the caped crusader boom while still managing to make you really care about its own buffoonish, good-hearted hero. That's not to say it's all kittens and rainbows; this is a much darker show than the original.