Last update: July 11, 2020.
Amazon Prime Video’s library has expanded quite a bit since the service began offering free, streaming movies and TV shows to Prime members years ago. What was initially a limited library has grown into a media vault formidable enough to challenge Netflix and Hulu — particularly if you own a Fire TV Cube.
If you’re looking for a new TV series to binge but aren’t certain what’s right for you, just browse through our list of the best Amazon Prime TV shows available on the service. After all, there’s much more to Amazon Prime than free shipping.
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Titus Welliver plays Los Angeles homicide detective Harry Bosch in this Amazon Studios original series based on Michael Connelly’s series of novels. The first season of the critically acclaimed series has Bosch standing trial for the killing of a serial murder suspect while simultaneously confronting his past when a cold case involving a missing boy suddenly heats up again. After six well-received seasons, Bosch was renewed for a seventh and final season in February 2020.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams’ hilarious sci-fi saga first got the television treatment in this six-part BBC series that premiered in 1981. The story follows average guy Arthur Dent as his bad day gets progressively worse when he — and the rest of the planet’s inhabitants — learn that the Earth is about to be destroyed. He soon finds himself whisked away on a cosmic adventure filled with colorful aliens and eccentric personalities that could hold the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything.
This satirical sitcom created by and starring Tina Fey was inspired by her experiences as head writer for Saturday Night Live, and ran for seven seasons, earning an astounding 103 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and winning 16 times over the course of its run. The series follows the showrunner of a sketch comedy series who’s forced to juggle the competing interests of her brash network boss, narcissistic actors, and sensitive writers as she attempts to keep her show on the air and successful. Along with Fey, the series’ impressive cast included Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, and Judah Friedlander, among other familiar faces.
This British series chronicles the reign of Queen Victoria, who took the throne at age 18 ruled during a period of immense change throughout the United Kingdom and rapid expansion of the British Empire. Doctor Who actress Jenna Coleman portrays Victoria, with the first season covering her accession to the throne and early relationships with her advisor Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell) and the man who would become her husband, Prince Albert (Tom Hughes). Three seasons of the series have been broadcast so far.
Ken Burns’ 2010 documentary series remains one of the most comprehensive, fascinating explorations of America’s favorite sport ever made, encompassing more than 24 hours across 11 episodes. The series chronicles everything from baseball’s origins through the modern-day incarnation of the sport, and takes a deep dive into the people, places, controversies, and legends that made it so popular here and abroad. Few projects have explored any sport with as much care as Burns’ beloved series.
Bob Ross: The Joy of Painting
Sometimes we all want to get lost in a world of happy trees and fluffy clouds, and for more than ten years, that’s what painter Bob Ross famously invited his audience to do with The Joy of Painting. The winner of three Emmy Awards, this beloved series ran from 1983 to 1984 and featured master painter Ross calmly teaching viewers how to use oil painting to depict beautiful landscapes. Ross’ soft voice, kind manner, and signature permed hair made him a beloved icon whose legacy transcended his long-running public television series.
James Roday plays a crime consultant for the Santa Barbara Police Department in this popular comedy series that has Roday’s character pretending to be psychic as he uses his heightened observational skills and eidetic memory to help the agency solve difficult cases. Dulé Hill plays the brilliant best friend of Roday’s character, who becomes his reluctant business partner after the pair find themselves repeatedly caught up in local cases. The series unfolded over eight seasons, and also spawned a pair of TV movies, with the second film — Psych 2: Lassie Come Home — premiering in July.
An eight-time Emmy Award winner, Monk casts Tony Shalhoub as private detective Adrian Monk, who assists the homicide department of the San Francisco Police Department with various cases. His powerful deductive skills are matched only by his myriad phobias, which — along with his obsessive-compulsive disorder — complicate his work with police investigators. The series concluded its eight-season run in 2009 with a finale that wrapped up one of the show’s longest-running mysteries.
Over the course of eight seasons, actor Hugh Laurie turned the irascible Dr. Gregory House into one of pop culture’s most iconic physicians in this medical drama that ranked among the most popular shows in the world during its run. The series followed Dr. House as he used his unique insights to diagnosis puzzling illnesses while simultaneously battling his own addictions. Laurie’s unconventional medical genius was the show’s titular star, but his supporting cast played a big role in making House one of the highest-rated series in the US between 2004 and 2012.
The series that first introduced many American audiences to anime, Robotech chronicled the events that transpire after a gigantic alien spacecraft crash-lands on Earth. The craft alerts humankind to an impending invasion, and also provides a powerful arsenal of advanced technology. When the alien invaders finally arrive, the battle sets off a series of events that take the ship, its crew, and their armada of transforming robots jets on an adventure that spans galaxies as they try to protect what remains of humankind among the stars. A surprise hit when it arrived in the U.S. in 1985, Robotech went on to spawn a long list of sequel, prequel, and spinoff series, as well as movies, video games, and other franchise tie-ins over the years.
In 2033, people who are near death can be “uploaded” into virtual reality afterlives of their choosing. These VR afterlives are run by six tech firms, setting up a new kind of corporate competition over human death. When Los Angeles party boy Nathan’s (Robbie Amell) self-driving car crashes, his girlfriend uploads him into the luxurious Lakeview digital afterlife. There, he meets Nora, a customer service representative for Lakeview, who onboards Nathan to his version of heaven. The series follows their friendship as Nathan grows accustomed to life away from his loved ones while Nora balances her connection with the virtual Nathan with her real-life financial and personal struggles.
Tales from the Loop
Inspired by the futuristic paintings and designs of Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag, this Amazon original series centers on a small rural town where people live above “The Loop,” a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe. Duncan Joiner and Rebecca Hall star in this drama that aims to make the science fiction appear more real-life than ever.
Dead Like Me
Although it only lasted two seasons and a made-for-TV movie, this dark comedy series developed a loyal following early on and is widely regarded as an under-appreciated gem of its time. The series follows a colorful group of “reapers” — individuals who died and are now tasked with helping souls move on to the afterlife — as they attempt to go about their work while also dealing with lingering issues from their mortal lives.
The series hails from the mind of prolific Pushing Daisies, Hannibal, and Wonderfalls creator Bryan Fuller, with a cast led by Ellen Muth, Callum Blue, Jasmine Guy, and Mandy Patinkin. Muth’s character serves as the protagonist and narrator of the show, a slacker killed by a falling toilet seat who finds that her latest job is one that she just can’t ignore. The series was canceled by Showtime in 2004 due to behind-the-scenes squabbles, but the story’s loose ends were finally tied up in a 2009 movie.
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 communist 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 has won numerous awards and is on track for a fourth season.
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 it only lasted two seasons before cancellation.
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 2 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 on 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.
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.
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.
Tom Clancy’s “Ryanverse” franchise makes the leap from film to television with this spy thriller that premiered in 2018 and casts John Krasinski as the titular CIA analyst who finds himself investigating one far-reaching international threat after another. Lost co-creator Carlton Cuse serves as co-creator and executive producer on the Amazon Original series along with Krasinski and Michael Bay (among others), and the show has offered up two well-received seasons so far, with a third on the way.
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. In season one, 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. Season two, just released, features a new cast of characters (some return though not Roberts) and storylines centered around Janelle Monae’s character, who wakes up in the middle of nowhere, confused about her identity, with the same sinister organization featured in season one clearly up to no good.
When college dropout Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) interviews for a law associate position, he instantly impresses the team and is offered the job — even though he never technically graduated. The lengths he and those who know the truth go to keep this a secret from not only clients but also many people in the firm is at the heart of the first season. But each episode looks at different cases, mostly involving wealthy clients and the lines the corporate lawyers are willing to cross in order to win. It features your typical legal drama themes of corporate greed and inflated egos, and storylines can sometimes get repetitive once you’re a few seasons in. But the fabulous cast that also includes Gabriel Macht, Rick Hoffman, Sarah Rafferty, Gina Torres, and now British royal Meghan Markle, make it a worthwhile watch. The series aired for nine seasons, ending in 2019 (Adams and Markle did not appear in the final season), all of which are streaming now.
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, who spent years regaling him with childhood stories of his tight-knit family (who he hadn’t seen since he was a child) and their bail bonds business. 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. Watch all three seasons, which complete the series as it was canceled in 2019.
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.
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.
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.
Esme Creed-Miles stars as the title character, a young teenager who was raised in isolation in a remote forest in Poland with a man named Erik (Joel Kinnaman), who escaped the CIA with her. She was part of a program called UTRAX where children were given enhanced DNA to become super soldiers. But when Erik fell in love with Hanna’s mother, he fled with her to protect the young girl. Based on the 2011 film of the same name, and called a “gritty reimagining” of it, season two debuted in early July 2020 to follow Hanna along her journey now that she knows who and what she is. She also discovers that UTRAX never actually shut down after her escape and that there might be other “sisters” out there like her.Watch on Amazon Prime
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.
This cult-favorite series that premiered in 1999 follows a modern-day astronaut whose accidental journey through a wormhole finds him joining the colorful crew of a living spaceship in an unknown region far from Earth. On the run from a powerful military force known as the Peacekeepers, he and the crew attempt to find sanctuary — and a way home — in a strange galaxy. The award-winning series is notable for being a production of The Jim Henson Company and including multiple featured characters created by the company’s Creature Shop. The show’s four-season run was followed by a three-hour miniseries that concluded the story, and also inspired a long list of spinoff stories in novels, comic books, and other formats.
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.
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 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 2019’s season 4.
In this critically acclaimed Canadian 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. And Maslany does a beautifully captivating job of playing several clones, each of whom has very a distinct personality, mannerisms, and style. Her performance alone, which earned her a Primetime Emmy Award in 2016, is worth watching, with the fascinating story surrounding it as icing on the cake.
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.
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.
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 mohovies, 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.
Xploration DIY Sci
Science teacher Steve Spangler hosts this Emmy-nominated series that uses fascinating experiments you can try at home to explore scientific concepts such as the powerful potential of fluids and gases, as well as the secrets behind some magic tricks and seemingly complicated energy systems. Each episode tackles a different theme using everyday items to conduct the experiments, making it a truly family-friendly experience that breaks down complex concepts into simple (but occasionally messy) lessons.
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.
This long-running PBS documentary series began its run in 1974 and continues to this day, with each episode exploring science-themed discoveries, historical events, or topics making headlines in the science world. The show has won a long list of awards, including multiple Peabody and Emmy Awards, over the course of its decades-spanning run that currently includes more than 880 episodes and counting. Broadcast in more than 100 countries, NOVA features interviews with scientists and other experts as it explores everything from the miracle of life to the evolution of science and technology in espionage.
Life in Pieces
This sitcom didn’t quite get the attention it deserved, quietly airing for four seasons from 2015 through to 2019 before being canceled. But if you’re looking for corny jokes and honest belly laughs, it’s a great feel-good sitcom. The ensemble cast includes Colin Hanks, Betsy Brandt, Thomas Sadoski, Zoe Lister-Jones, James Brolin, and Dianne Wiest, among others, as members of an extended family that includes the Short parents, their three kids, and their kids’ respective families, including kids and significant others. The close-knit family are always in one another’s business and feature a cast of hilarious characters, including the youngest son and mama’s boy Greg (Hanks) and his overly sarcastic wife Jenn (Lister-Jones); Matt (Sadoski), the starving artist eldest son who still lives at home; and the goofy son-in-law, Tim (Dan Bakkedahl). The episodes are 20 minutes long so you can easily binge your way through the entire series over a weekend.Watch on Amazon Prime
Based on the 2010 Australian movie of the same name by David Michod, this 2016 series debuted on TNT in 2016 and continues to air, with its fifth season being released last summer. Follow the story of “J,” a teenage boy who moves in with his extended family after his mother dies. But they aren’t baking cookies and taking trips to the beach — they just so happen to be running a criminal enterprise. Finn Cole stars as Joshua “J” Cody and Ellen Barkin as Janine “Smurf” Cody, his grandmother and the family matriarch whom he eventually tries to challenge for leadership.Watch on Amazon Prime
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