Amazon’s Prime Video service has evolved significantly since it began offering a collection of free movies and TV shows to Prime members years ago. What was once a relatively limited catalog has grown into a library formidable enough to take on Hulu and Netflix — especially if you’re in possession of a Fire TV Cube.
With lots of popular licensed projects alongside a growing list of original movies and TV series, Amazon now has something to offer nearly every fan. If you’re looking for a new show to binge but aren’t quite sure what’s right for you, just browse through our list of the best Amazon Prime TV shows. After all, there’s much more to Amazon Prime than free shipping.
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A co-production of BBC Studios and Amazon Studios, this six-part series adapts the fantasy novel of the same name by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. The series follows an angel and a demon played by Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex) and David Tennant (Doctor Who), respectively, whose comfortable lives on Earth are threatened by the impending Apocalypse. The pair must team up to prevent the ascension of the Antichrist and a war between heaven and hell.
The series’ impressive cast is filled out by Jon Hamm, Michael McKean, Miranda Richardson, Adria Arjona, Nick Offerman, Jack Whitehall, and other familiar faces. Like the book that inspired it, the series is packed with quirky, irreverent humor that filters both human history and biblical mythology through its clever lens.
In the 1980s, with the Cold War getting warmer, American pop culture produced a bounty of movies expressing the anxieties and patriotism of the era: Films like Red Dawn, or 1985’s lesser-known Invasion U.S.A. (starring Chuck Norris). Comrade Detective lifts the aesthetics of ‘80s action cinema and filters them through a (sardonic) communist lens, following a pair of Romanian detectives investigating a plot by Western imperialists to subvert the communism order.
The show — which is framed as an actual show from Romania, dubbed over in English with voices from actors like Channing Tatum and Joseph-Gordon Levitt — begins with detective Gregor Anghel (a hard-nosed cop who plays by his own rules but gets results) and his partner busting drug dealers, only for a sniper to shoot Anghel’s partner. Out for vengeance, Anghel and his new partner, Iosif Baciu, hunt the killer, and stumble on a conspiracy of international proportions. Comrade Detective is a strange show even by the inventive standards of modern television, a parody wrapped in a layer of faux-authenticity, but its odd charms are worth watching.
Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
If you want to watch a star being born, stop what you’re doing and immerse yourself in Rachel Brosnahan’s work as Miriam “Midge” Maisel on the 1950s-set comedy Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Midge is a housewife who pursues a career in standup comedy after her husband, Joe Maisel (Michael Zegen), unexpectedly leaves her.
After a drunken, impromptu, and mile-a-minute standup set that ends with Midge being arrested, hard-nosed venue employee Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein) takes Midge under her wing in hopes of molding a diamond in the rough. The show took home the Golden Globe for best comedy or musical series for its debut season, and Brosnahan took home the statue for best actress in a comedy or musical. If you haven’t heard much about this inventive series yet, you probably will soon.
Here’s a testament to how consistently funny HBO’s Veep has been over its six-season run: Julia Louis-Dreyfus has won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series every single year since the show’s 2012 debut. Louis-Dreyfus plays the self-centered yet lovable loser Selina Meyers as she hilariously works her way through the bureaucracy of the federal government, initially as vice president. A primary source of the show’s raucous humor are the vitriolic comments thrown around with such inventiveness you’ll often fall back cackling as you applaud the creativity. It’s time for you to binge one of the finest comedy series of this decade.
Additional streaming guides
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- Best shows on Hulu
- Best HBO series
This sitcom classic is set in Boston and primarily takes place in a bar called Cheers, where a host of zany characters gathers to work or take up a seat at the bar. The legendary cast alone is more than enough reason to binge watch this seminal comedy series: Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammer, and many others became household names on this show, which won an astounding 28 Emmy Awards.
The show had such a powerhouse lineup of comedians that they all couldn’t be contained in a bar — it eventually produced the spinoff series Frasier, with Grammer reprising his role as psychiatrist Frasier Crane. For 11 seasons, Cheers was one of the gold standards for TV sitcoms, and everyone still knows its name.
Flight of the Conchords
Chasing dreams of music stardom can be commendable, and even inspirational. It can also be a hilarious series of unfortunate events, which Flight of the Conchords demonstrated for two seasons on HBO. In the show, Bret (Bret McKenzie) and Jermaine (Jermaine Clement) are two musicians from New Zealand looking to strike it big in America, before realizing how difficult it is to make it in New York.
The comedic timing and rapport of the stars are what brings you into Flight of the Conchords, but it’s the inventive manner in which the duo weaves songs into episode plots that will have you bingeing episodes with fervor. With Flight of the Conchords, you get a great comedy series and a few albums worth of music at the same time. How can you beat that?
People who watched Fox in the early 2000s may have vague memories of a short-lived superhero sitcom called The Tick (based on the comic of the same name), in which a blue-costumed superhero played by the unmistakable Patrick Warburton dealt with supervillains and awkward situations. Amazon’s The Tick is a fresh adaptation of the franchise, with no Warburton in sight (he was just as disappointed as we were), but it maintains the comic’s absurd, cheerful sense of humor.
The show follows a superhero called The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz) and his companion, Arthur (Griffin Newman), who fight crime and investigate a conspiracy involving an infamous supervillain called The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley). The Tick is an upbeat palate-cleanser after years of more dour superhero tales, even if a third season seems increasingly unlikely.
At times introspective and moody, at others absurd and raunchy, Fleabag defies easy categorization. In its funnier moments — such as the intro, which is an elegant, extended soliloquy ending in a sudden smack of a sex joke — it is one of the sharpest comedies around (season two won the 2019 Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series), but underneath it all runs a current of sadness. The show follows a lady known only as “Fleabag” (Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who took home Emmys herself for acting and writing), a neurotic woman juggling a failing business and disastrous personal life.
The term fleabag immediately conjures images of filth, and the protagonist’s problems run deeper than her name. Selfish, wanton, and a compulsive liar, she fits in with the various antiheroes that have become popular in television. Uniquely, Fleabag does not keep its damaged lead at a distance; she frequently speaks directly to the viewer in frantic monologues, offering insight into her unquiet mind.
The death of a loved one does not seem like the most auspicious start to a comedy series, but One Mississippi is anything but conventional. Starring comedian Tig Notaro as a fictionalized version of herself, the show draws on several tragedies in her real life. Still reeling from breast cancer, fictional Tig returns to her hometown in Mississippi to witness her mother being taken off life support, and decides to stay and reconnect with her stepfather and brother. Despite the depressing first chapter, One Mississippi is not an unrelenting drama. The show balances grief and joy in equal measure, examining the long, up-and-down process of trauma and recovery.
Chris O’Dowd plays Tom Chadwick, a lovable loser who inherits a chest of “family heirlooms” from a great aunt he’s never met. The items lead him on a quest to discover his roots, which he undertakes with hilarious sincerity and focus. An elderly friend and his sister — the latter of which relies on a hand puppet for (relative) sanity — help him, along with an antique story owner and his best friend. Tom follows many a wrong path on his journey to find his family, however, and the character is constantly at the mercy of creator Christopher Guest’s mockumentary style and dry use of humor. The show was cut down in its prime and therefore only consists of one season.
Bored to Death
Bored to Death straddles the line between a stoner comedy and noir spoof, following unlicensed gumshoe Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman) and his friends as they work to solve cases when Ames isn’t struggling with his writing. The show’s aesthetics are appropriately high-contrast and gritty for a comedic neo-noir, and Woody Allen fans will appreciate the self-deprecating humor. Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis are the show’s real scene-stealers. The series was created by graphic book novelist Jonathan Ames, which makes it pretty meta.
A trailblazing, original series straight from Amazon, Transparent follows Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor), a transgender woman who comes out to her family. Not content to merely present a novel premise, the show explores the relationships and neuroses of Maura and her children. A show that never wavers in its attempt to mine the depths of the human condition, it’s a bold offering from Amazon. Transparent is also the first show from a streaming service to win a Golden Globe for Best Series, which likely bodes well for the future of Amazon’s original content.
Harassment allegations levied against Tambor put a damper on the show legacy, and the actor didn’t return for Transparent‘s final season, but it’s a special show anyway. It’s worth watching for its musical series finale alone.
Jean-Claude Van Johnson
Everyone’s favorite ’80s martial artist, Jean-Claude Van Damme, is back with a vengeance in one of the strangest, most unexpected Amazon Originals. The premise: Jean-Claude Van Damme’s entire film career was a mere front for his deep cover operations as a secret agent. Van Damme plays himself playing himself, as well as several other characters trying to pass undercover as Van Damme. It’s Van Damme’s The Klumps and it is equal parts zany and delightful. The veteran action star also exhibits surprising comedic chops while retaining much of the extraordinary athleticism that made him an action star in the first place. The series only lasted six episodes but, with great supporting performances from Kat Foster and Phylicia Rashad, it’s a great way to binge a few hours.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Rumors circulated for years that the most vital force behind Seinfeld was not the eponymous comedian, but the sitcom’s enigmatic showrunner, Larry David. These suspicions seem a lot more grounded after David tackled his own series, Curb Your Enthusiasm. Like Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm centers on a protagonist — in this case, Larry David as himself — who finds himself in mundane, often hilariously awkward situations. David is a consummate performer, and the largely improvised dialogue gives him and the rest of the cast a chance to show off their comedic chops.
After a six-year hiatus, the series returned for a well-received ninth season in 2017, with a 10th season scheduled to premiere in 2020.
Rescue Me, originally aired on FX, takes a semi-serious look at the lives of firefighters in New York City. Denis Leary — also the show’s creator — headlines as Tommy Gavin, who suffers from PTSD and survivor’s guilt following the deaths of many peers in the 9/11 attacks. Tommy’s work as a fireman is commendable but off the job, he’s an imbalanced wreck, self-sabotaging and repeatedly relapsing into alcoholism. Leary received a slew of accolades for both his on-screen performance and his writing on the series, which was commended for its honest, humorous willingness to tackle subjects like depression, addiction, infidelity, and more.
Red Oaks doesn’t offer much in the way of length. However, while you could easily binge the entire three seasons over a single weekend, the casual pacing makes it more suitable for quick installments. Set during the 1980s, the show is centered on a young tennis player (Craig Roberts) who opts for a job at the exclusive Red Oaks Country Club during the summer between his sophomore and junior year of college. What ensues is a warm and heartfelt nod to the sex comedies that were a staple of that decade. Boasting dry humor and a solid ensemble that includes Ennis Esmer as the hilarious tennis pro, Nash, Red Oaks rises above the raucousness to create characters you really care about.
Mr. Show with Bob and David
Although Mr. Show never found a huge audience, it has cast a long shadow over the world of comedy. Hosts Bob Odenkirk and David Cross have gone on to impressive careers, and the show’s writing staff, including Scott Aukerman and Paul F. Tompkins, have become godfathers of contemporary comedy. Watching Mr. Show now, it’s easy to see how its DNA has seeped into modern television.
Each episode is a collection of surreal sketches, loosely tied together in the vein of Monty Python. The sketches often erupt into absurdity, such as a gang war between ventriloquists from different coasts, and the two leads morph easily into the many bizarre characters the plots require. Time has not dulled Mr. Show’s edge one bit; the writing remains as sharp as anything on TV.
An exemplary British period drama, Downton Abbey is an examination of the politics and personal lives of an aristocratic British family in the early 20th century. As they navigate the touchy social circles of high society, the Crawley family also reacts to the impact of seismic historical events such as the sinking of the Titanic and the outbreak of World War I. Of course, conflicts closer to home, such as the family’s financial problems and difficulty securing their inheritance, provide a solid emotional backbone. The 2019 movie based on the series was a surprise hit, and there’s never been a better time to catch up with the Crawleys.
Amazon’s original series Sneaky Pete crafts a nail-biting drama out of an intricate case of identity theft. Marius Josipovic (Giovanni Ribisi) is a con man recently released from prison who assumes the identity of his former cellmate, Pete Murphy, in order to hide from crime boss Vince Lonigan (Bryan Cranston). The show shines thanks to its ensemble of critically acclaimed actors including The Americans’ Margo Martindale, but the core of its brilliance lies in the clever writing.
In this surreal psychological thriller based on characters from the best-selling Thomas Harris novels, FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) struggles to catch serial killers while teetering on the edge of a mental breakdown. Unbeknownst to him, his therapist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelson), is himself a serial killer with dark designs for Will. As their friendship deepens, Will finds himself at the center of a symphony of violence.
Showrunner Bryan Fuller (the man behind Pushing Daisies and the first season of American Gods, as well as the creator of Star Trek: Discovery) breathes new life into the franchise with arthouse cinematography and a chillingly charismatic performance by Mikkelson. It was one of the goriest shows on network TV when it first aired on NBC, but the direction and set design transform the violence into some of the most exquisite images you’ll see on the small screen.
One of the best-reviewed cop shows in its day, The Wire casts an unflinching gaze at the war n drugs and its effect on society. Set in Baltimore — the “murder capital,” as many a character notes — the show begins as a police procedural following a group of detectives hoping to bust one of the biggest drug kingpins in the city. The show expands its outlook with every season, though, gradually revealing a city in which everything is interconnected and every action has far-reaching consequences.
The Wire is unique among cop dramas in the extreme attention it pays to the lives and minds of its criminal element. Even the most minor street-level drug dealers seem complex. The show never loses sight of the fact that all of its characters — cop or criminal, politician, or lawyer — are members of a society and are thus shaped by the world around them far more than they shape it.
It’s 1981, President Ronald Reagan has just been elected, and like most Americans, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) are enjoying the country’s rising prosperity as the Cold War heats up. Unlike most Americans, however, the Jennings are actually KGB spies.
From that singular premise emerges one of the most exciting thrillers on the air today. The political intrigue is exciting, but what makes The Americans stand out is its focus on the Jennings’ marriage. In examining the tensions of married life, the show demonstrates that personal issues like spousal conflict can be every bit as exciting as geopolitical maneuvers.
Hailed by some critics as “the most influential television drama ever,” The Sopranos certainly seems like the blueprint for the modern TV drama. The show features an aging antihero at its center, a large cast of interconnected characters, and all the scheming and violence that have recently become emblematic of dramatic television.
Beneath the Shakespearean scope of the story, however, there beats a human heart. The Sopranos is, at its core, a family drama, and an examination of the man at the head of that family. Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) is a tragic figure, as the position of power he creates for himself in the Mafia brings with it pressures that threaten to break him. The show is so popular, in fact, that a prequel movie featuring a young Tony Soprano is coming to TV more than a decade after The Sopranos concluded its run.
Six Feet Under
Death is one of the few universal experiences. No matter where one is born, whether a beggar or a king, the pale rider eventually comes knocking. Despite this commonality, most TV series tend to keep death at a distance, only to acknowledge it when it shows up. Unless, of course, death is your job. Six Feet Under is a grim comedy-drama following the Fishers, a family of morticians who must confront death with every episode in the form of a new corpse to be buried.
In addition to standard family drama, their proximity to the deceased leads to a lot of meditations on mortality and the human experience. It’s not all heavy subject matter, however. The show is loaded with gallows humor and some genuinely heartwarming moments. In an age of saccharine sitcoms, Six Feet Under stands out for its mature approach to comedy.
This post-Katrina New Orleans drama reunites two of our favorite actors — Clarke Peters and Wendell Pierce of The Wire — as well as that show’s creators, David Simon and Eric Overmeyer. The series was praised for its realistic depiction of NOLA culture and its ensemble cast, which includes gems like John Goodman, Rob Brown, and Edwina Findley.
The series focuses on the working-class neighborhood of Tremé, from which it gets its name. Beginning just three months after Hurricane Katrina, it follows Mardi Gras Indians, musicians, police, bar owners, a civil rights lawyer, and others as they pick up the pieces, and shows the challenges and resiliency of a community refusing to break despite the levees doing so.
Oh, Steve Buscemi. We love you, especially as the tyrannical treasurer and criminal kingpin of Prohibition-era Atlantic City. With a pilot directed by Martin Scorsese and a producer of The Sopranos at his side, the series came out of the gates swinging.
Scorsese’s initial direction solidified a visual aesthetic that the show’s later directors emulated, one that has since been lauded again and again. The show’s attention to historical accuracy is equally as impressive and gives the period piece a subtlety and realistic feel. The characters are complex, too, and their relationships with one another often encompass both sides of the love-hate coin.
The Night Manager
This six-part miniseries was showered with nominations at high-profile award shows during both 2016 and 2017, and for good reason. Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers) is absolutely marvelous as hotel manager Jonathan Pine, whose military past comes back to haunt him when he’s recruited by an intelligence officer (Olivia Coleman) to infiltrate the operation of a chemical weapons dealer (Hugh Laurie).
You might remember Laurie as the sarcastic Dr. House — don’t we all? — but here he taps into a completely different character, one that is ruthless and unafraid of getting his hands dirty. The BBC One series is the third attempt at adapting John le Carré’s novel of the same name, and, apparently, three is the magic number. The Night Manager is suspenseful, charming, and well worth your time.
As information technology creeps into every aspect of life, one can’t help but look at the people controlling that technology (corporations, government agencies) with a wary eye. The modern world, at times, seems like the prelude to a cyberpunk dystopia, at least the way Mr. Robot portrays it. The show follows Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), a paranoid security engineer who, in addition to his day job working for a massive corporation, engages in acts of vigilante hacking.
When Elliot is courted by a mysterious activist-hacker known as “Mr. Robot,” he has a chance to use his skills for more than acts of petty justice. Mr. Robot has a grand plan to topple society, and Alderson could play a key role. Mr. Robot is a cyber-thriller with a keen grasp of the technology it represents, but don’t mistake technical accuracy for realism — the show dives headfirst down a rabbit hole of paranoia and espionage, with a plot that constantly challenges the viewer’s perceptions.
After three years fighting in the American Revolution, Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) returns to his home in Cornwall, England, only to find his estate in shambles and his lover, Elizabeth (Heida Reed), married to his cousin. As Ross attempts to rebuild his family’s tin mines, he rescues a young woman named Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) and gives her a job as a maid. Making things more complicated for Ross is his rival, George Warleggan, an ambitious industrialist.
Based on a series of 20th-century novels, this adaptation of Poldark moves at a brisk pace befitting a modern show, deftly juggling romance, action, and political maneuvering.
Sci-Fi, action, and thrillers
Julia Roberts in an Amazon Original? Believe it. Nominated for three Golden Globes, including Best Drama Series, Homecoming is a slow burn of mysterious government programs, complicated red tape, and characters you never feel you can fully trust. This sci-fi/drama introduces us to Homecoming, a facility that helps soldiers transition to civilian life. Led by Heidi (Roberts), their mission seems a noble one, and soldiers appear to be genuinely benefiting from the program. However, the show follows a split timeline, and when, years after the facility has closed, Heidi begins fielding questions from the Department of Defense, it becomes clear there was a lot more going on at higher pay grades than she ever realized.
Of all the superhero movies and TV shows out there, none of them are quite like The Boys, a dark, depraved deconstruction of super-powered heroes and villains. Based on Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s comic book series of the same name, The Boys follows a group of vigilantes who take it upon themselves to police the super-powered heroes who abuse their abilities and take advantage of the trust the public has placed in them.
As grim and shockingly violent as it is clever, the series is set in a world in which superpowers, corporate greed, and media consolidation have bled together to create a particularly frightening form of corruption. The audience sees it all through the eyes of Hughie, an average guy whose chance encounter with a superhero changes his life forever.
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams
You could call this Amazon Prime’s Black Mirror, and you wouldn’t be wrong. The Show is an anthology sci-fi series based on stories from the late science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick, whose work inspired Blade Runner and Amazon series The Man in the High Castle. Electric Dreams‘ first season explores injectable consciousness, mind readers, humans beings replaced by robots, and a genocidal presidential candidate, to name a few.
The production value is impressive, with Hidden Figures and Moonlight actress Janelle Monae playing an artificially intelligent robot in a metallic suit that looks convincingly realistic. Like Black Mirror, Amazon’s sci-fi series employs some major stars, including Terrence Howard, Bryan Cranston, Steve Buscemi, and Anna Paquin. Those looking for a gripping dose of dark sci-fi will definitely find it here.
Doctor Who revolves around a Time Lord, referred to as “The Doctor,” who travels through time and space in his TARDIS, a ship disguised as a British police box. Alongside his human companions, he battles villains using his boundless imagination and intelligence while attempting to prevent history from being changed. The Doctor Who episodes available on Amazon Prime Video are part of the series revival that began in 2005, which are based on the original series that ran from 1963-1989.
Since the lead character can transform his appearance, the audience gets to watch a musical chairs of lead actors in the role. The Doctor is currently played by Jodie Whittaker, the first female lead in the series’ history, following an acclaimed run by Peter Capaldi (pictured above). You never know who or what you may come across when The Doctor hops out of that time machine, but the results are always enticing.
Imagine a future in which humans have colonized every part of the solar system. The Expanse turns that hypothetical future into a powerhouse sci-fi drama. The series is set 200 years from now, and centers on a conspiracy that threatens to wipe out the human race. Don’t let the CGI effects and space setting fool you, The Expanse is a riveting drama that tackles the nuances of human conflict in a way that rivals shows like Game of Thrones and Westworld.
The first three seasons of the series are currently available to stream, and Amazon picked up the series for its fourth season in early 2019.
The Man in the High Castle
World War II seems to be the most common source for the “What if?” scenario in fiction. The Man in the High Castle, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name, starts with the premise that not only did the Axis powers win the war, but they also occupied the United States afterward, with Imperial Japan governing the West Coast and the Nazis controlling the territory east of the Rockies.
The show follows a few different characters living in different regions as they try to endure the occupation and simultaneously investigate a mysterious film reel that depicts an alternate universe where the Allies actually won the war. Dick was a true visionary author, and The Man in the High Castle captures the otherworldly, authoritarian nature of the world he imagined. Rich with intrigue and superb direction, The Man in the High Castle is an exciting thriller. The series wrapped up its impressive run with November’s season 4.
In this critically acclaimed British series, a young woman named Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) has a chance encounter with a woman who looks just like her. This sets Sarah down a path to discovering that she is one of several clones who have been created as part of an ongoing experiment. Soon, she is at odds with the corporation that created her, and a mysterious organization that wants to get rid of her. It’s a fast-paced thriller that takes the time to explore themes of self-identity and bioethics.
For those who enjoy the political maneuvering and messy military battles of Game of Thrones but want something a bit more grounded, Vikings is sure to please. A down-to-earth historical fantasy saga, Vikings chronicles the rise of Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) from farmer to legendary warrior. Ragnar sails around Northern Europe searching for plunder, accompanied by his warrior wife, Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), and other allies.
It’s a grim series, drawing on the legends surrounding Viking raids in the Middle Ages. Although not the most historically accurate show, Vikings does maintain a grittier aesthetic than some of its fantasy contemporaries; there’s a lot of blood and a lot of mud.
The Twilight Zone
One of the most important anthology series in television history, The Twilight Zone was a showcase for some of the best writing talent on TV in the ’60s, with literary greats like Ray Bradbury contributing scripts. Under the direction of showrunner Rod Serling, each episode offers a unique science fiction/horror tale examining a variety of subjects.
Although it’s an old show, and thus light on special effects, the concepts it explores are as brilliant (and disturbing) as anything on television today. The stand-alone nature of the episodes means you can pick it up at any point you want, too, without worrying about continuity or recurring characters.
David Lynch was an accomplished arthouse director even before 1990, with films like Blue Velvet and Eraserhead under his belt. His move into television must have seemed an odd choice at the time given TV was often seen as a fairly lowbrow medium in the early ’90s, but ever the visionary, Lynch brought the format to new heights, crafting a compelling serialized narrative with all the surreal imagery Lynch’s films are known for.
Set in the titular town deep in the Pacific Northwest, Twin Peaks begins with a mystery — the death of local homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee.) FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) arrives to investigate, quickly encountering the many strange characters living in Twin Peaks and uncovering the salacious secrets lurking beneath the surface of their pastoral lives. A mere two seasons in its original run, Twin Peaks is relatively brief, and it fizzles out somewhat once the mystery of Laura Palmer is solved. However, it stands out as one of the weirdest, most imaginative shows ever on television.
American Horror Story
The horror anthology that is Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story, though novel, continues to surpass expectations with every passing season. Each essentially functions as a self-contained miniseries, focusing on a repertory cast of characters and a storyline that features its own beginning, middle, and end.
Each season — whether it revolves around a coven of witches, an insane asylum, or a haunted house in the middle of Los Angeles — features lavish set pieces and campy aesthetics, both of which add to sterling performances from the likes of Lady Gaga and the award-winning Jessica Lange. Many of the seasons even take a jab at current social issues, and they often leave a weird and wonderful impression. Well, that, and an awful taste in your mouth.
Star Trek: The Original Series
A groundbreaking science fiction series from writer Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek follows the crew of the Enterprise as they travel the universe on a mission of peace and exploration. Starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in the roles that launched them into stardom, the series is a cornerstone of television history. Each episode explores timeless philosophical and social ideas.
Star Trek was also famous for incorporating an ethnically diverse cast in the politically tumultuous ’60s, making it a show that was far ahead of its time. Roddenberry envisioned a future where humanity would bring its very best traits and ideals out into the universe, and the show shares his boundless idealism. The primitive special effects can make Star Trek seem a bit cheesy to the modern eye, but even its most inept action scenes have a certain bizarre charm to them.
Kids and family
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood
Fred Rogers created 31 seasons of what is possibly the best children’s show of all time. The show consists of Roger’s half-hour “visit” with his audiences, in which he speaks directly to his viewers. Once he enters his home and changes into his famous zip-up cardigan and blue sneakers, he creates a safe and special place through his genuineness and naturalness. Children learn about various topics, including those that deal with death, jealousy, divorce, and anger.
The show also incorporates visits from Mr. Rogers’ friends, such as delivery man Mr. McFeely, and always features a “Picture Picture” segment designed to teach children how various items are made. At the end of the show, the trolley from the opening credits takes viewers to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, where beloved puppets often have interactions that reflect the theme of the show.
Shaun the Sheep
From Aardman Studios — the creators of Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, and Creature Comforts — comes the children’s series Shaun the Sheep. Shaun is a sheep who doesn’t follow the herd. In fact, he often brazenly leads them into all sorts of madcap shenanigans around Mossy Bottom Farm. The show also features the iconic studio’s stop-motion animation and remains free of dialogue, which is actually a welcome reprieve for parents who simply can’t get on board with the high-pitched voices and exuberant makeup of many modern children’s shows.
Tumble Leaf, Amazon’s heralded foray into the realm of children’s programming, is a stunning example of what a children’s show should be. The recent stop-motion title is based on the short film Miro and aimed at preschool-aged children, though it remains charming enough to entertain adults who want to further engage with their children.
Each episode follows Fig the Fox (Christopher Downs) and his science-centric escapades around the whimsical world of Tumble Leaf, a woodland locale laced with a melange of quirky creatures with whom Fig is friends. Together, the humanoid creatures discover how reflections, shadows, and other facets of our natural world work, examining the value of friendship and kindness as they do so. The scenery is as vibrant and colorful as are the characters, rendering it both eye candy and a conversation starter.
The inspiration behind several movies, a toy that created a buying frenzy, and its own magazine, Sesame Street is a veritable institution. The show, which has spanned 45 seasons and won more awards than its young viewers could count, takes place on an urban street where humans and Jim Henson’s Muppets interact. The show also includes short animation and live-action films, pictures, and songs. It was the first children’s show to use educational goals and a curriculum to shape its content, and as such, it has taught millions of viewers around the globe about the importance of relationships, ethics, and emotions. Plus, you know, the ABCs.
Reality TV and documentaries
The Grand Tour
For years, the trio of Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond drove cool cars and clowned around with each other on the BBC’s Top Gear. Despite their departure from that series, however, the good times keep rolling on The Grand Tour, which reunites the three snarky hosts for a show that is very similar in format to Top Gear. Episodes often feature studio segments and test drives on the show’s test track, the “Eboladrome.”
As with Top Gear, the best episodes are the ones where the hosts venture to foreign lands, testing unique vehicles on unfamiliar terrain. For car enthusiasts or Top Gear fans not satisfied by that show’s new hosts, The Grand Tour is a welcome return to form.
Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin
Follow along with noted conservationist Jeff Corwin as he dives into a new subject of ocean research in each episode. This series is famed for its depth of research and concern for the well-being of ocean life. It also made a splash with critics, having won multiple Emmys since it first aired in 2011.
Eat The World with Emeril Lagasse
This Emmy and James Beard Award-nominated show follows celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse around the world, where he meets up with friends and fellow chefs to discuss and taste some of the culinary world’s hottest flavors. Season 1 sees Lagasse tour Sweden, China, Spain, South Korea, Italy, and Cuba.
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