Almost six months ago we started a series featuring the best shows on a particular streaming service or premium channel. We started with HBO, and now we turn our attention to the shows on Amazon Prime Video. Who would have ever thought that a website selling books would become a top original content provider for millions of people around the world? You have to hand it to Jeff Bezos and his crew for having the vision to get into creating original content – and be so successful with it. Believe it or not, it’s been less than ten years that Amazon has been putting out original series’ – starting with Alpha House and Betas in November 2013. Their first breakout successes came in 2015 with Transparent and Mozart In The Jungle, both of which received awards recognition. Amazon has gone on to produce both movies and episodic series and just came out with their heavily advertised Hunters, starring Al Pacino, and is currently working on a Lord of the Rings series.
So for this post, we will each list our top shows (or movies) along with a show we think was overrated and one we thought was underappreciated. Use the comments to let us know your favorites.
I have to admit when I heard Amazon was doing original shows and films it just seemed weird to me. I had accepted the fact that Amazon (and Netflix) were now the places to “rent” movies, but producing their own stuff? I mean, Blockbuster never made their own films. But good content is good content, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how it all turned out. For whatever reason, I resisted their early stuff, like Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle, despite the good reviews and awards. Eventually, though, I caught on and I’ve seen some truly amazing stuff. Here are some of my favorites:
- The Man In The High Castle (2015-2019) – For whatever reason, it, took me three tries to get into this show, but when it finally hooked me it didn’t let go. The vision of the series is amazingly consistent and well carried-out, all the way through to the end. This is probably in my top five shows of the past decade.
- The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017-2020) – When I heard about this show, it didn’t sound like my cup of tea, but I gave the first episode a chance and loved it. I can’t think of another show with such a sumptuous level of production design.
- Mad Dogs (2016) – This may have been my first original Prime series. It stars Michael Imperioli and Steve Zahn among a group of middle-aged guys who accept an invitation to Belize from a rich friend for a kind of bro-cation. It’s not long before there’s a murder and things deteriorate into a Deliverance-style hell.
- Fleabag (2016-2019) – I know people, including my wife, who didn’t initially take to this show. The comedy is pretty dark and cynical, but if you stick with it you’ll find this show also has some heart – and can be genuinely funny.
- Bosch (2014-2019) – I’m so glad Titus Welliver and Harry Bosch found each other. So often we say “the book was better” but this is a production that truly complements the work of author Michael Connelly.
- The Boys (2019) – If you are sick of Marvel and DC films, this is the perfect antidote to all of it. Be prepared for some demented stuff – plenty of profanity, violence, raunchiness and really dark humor. Don’t bring the kids.
- Catastrophe (2015 – 2019) – I really enjoyed the first season – the two leads had great chemistry and it was genuinely funny. BUT, the second season started out with such nasty undertones I shelved the series and haven’t gone back to it.
- Hunters (2020) – Overall this is a well-made series with some great characters, and I loved the late 70’s setting. The storytelling can be a bit choppy at times, along with the character development, but it’s an ambitiously entertaining show that I can see going strong for several more seasons.
Overrated series: Homecoming (2018)
I was really excited for this show, mostly due to how much I loved creator Sam Esmail’s first TV series, Mr. Robot. Esmail definitely brought his signature stark, noir-ish visuals to Homecoming, but the underlying story and main characters didn’t add up for me. It’s one of those stories that keeps hinting at a twist ending, but the “big reveal” was lacking (so much so that I don’t even remember what it was). Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate it, I just think it fell well short of my expectations. Hollywood loves Julia Roberts so much, I have to wonder if she wasn’t in it, would it have been held in such high regard?
Underappreciated series: Electric Dreams (2017)
When I talk to people about what they are watching on streaming, almost no one has said they have watched this show (which I suppose is why it only had one season). Electric Dreams is a sci-fi anthology series that is kind of like Amazon’s answer to Black Mirror, although not as dark. It is based on the works of sci-fi legend Phillip K. Dick, the mind that gave us the basis for films like Blade Runner and Total Recall. You’ll be reminded of these films at times, as well as The Twilight Zone, with some of the twists that pop-up. A number of well-known actors appear in individual episodes, such as: Bryan Cranston, Anna Paquin, Terrence Howard and Vera Farmiga. Admittedly, there are a few weaker episodes that were just average for me, but if you are even a slight fan of sci-fi, you should check this series out.
DJ: Yeah a lot of stuff I need to see here. Hunters is on my list, I love Pacino so not sure why I have not gotten to it, but I will soon. Maybe I will check out The Boys too. I was going to watch Homecoming until I heard some bad things about it. You can hear what I have to say about Bosch and Fleabag below.
So I had Netflix way before Prime and the only reason we got it was for the free shipping. The bonus was access to Prime Video. So I was way behind on their signature earlier shows and films. It even took me away to get to Bosch which I had to binge to catch up. Generally, I enjoy Prime, it doesn’t have as much newer content as Netflix but I do like the older stuff they have. I tend to like documentaries and true crime shows which they have a lot of, not their own, but exclusive to. I think they will continue to put out new content which I am excited by and there is still plenty to catch up including The Man in the High Castle.
- Bosch (2014-2019) – Bosch is a great show and I think we have discussed it before. It’s grittier than the regular network TV show and Titus Welliver is great in it. He creates a likeable character. I can’t wait for the new season to see where Bosch is headed.
- Lorena (2019) – This documentary series that may have fallen off the radar, is the story of Lorena Bobbitt. It’s fascinating and more than just a penis cutting. The two trials that both Lorena and John went through. The aftermath of both their lives. A surprisingly interesting story.
- Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer (2020) – The Ted Bundy story fascinates me and I can’t get enough of it. I don’t know why, I feel terrible about that. This brand new documentary series tells the story from the woman’s point of view. Bundy’s longtime girlfriend and her daughter, a couple of survivors, and close friends of the victims. It’s good to see how he impacted all these people and how much of a monster he really was.
- You Were Never Really Here (2017) – The Joaquin Phoenix thriller about a hit-man who specializes in rescuing young women. It’s dark, violent, although calm, and uncomfortable but Phoenix is brilliant. I haven’t seen The Joker but this performance needed more praise.
- The Report (2019) – Annette Benning and Adam Driver star in a true life story about the Congressional investigation into the detainees created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It was decent, Adam Driver had a killer year, he was great in everything. I was expecting a bigger “All the President’s Men” moment though and it wasn’t there.
- The Americans (2013-2018) – Not technically an Amazon production but currently exclusive to Amazon Prime and maybe FX. I started watching this show on Prime so it counts. I heard this show was good but I had resisted it, once I watched the first episode I was hooked. the car chase with Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” playing sold me. Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are amazing in it.
- I Am Not Your Negro (2016) – A documentary made using author James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript (30 pages) about his interactions with Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X. The director does a great job filling in the gaps. Samuel L. Jackson narrates. This should be shown in school. It encapsulates the race issue that America has suffered with for a long time and does not appear to be going away. Must viewing.
- Catastrophe (2015-2019 ) – Okay, so I am cheating a bit here, I have not watched a ton of this show, but I really enjoyed it, the leads are funny, and the writing is sharp. I just need to find time to go back to it.
Overrated series: Fleabag (2016-2019)
I heard a ton of great stuff about this series but I had been resistant to watch it. When I finally did watch the first episode, I didn’t get it. Maybe I am getting old but I didn’t find it funny. I did give it another try, got to episode 3. It didn’t change. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is intelligent and charming, but so far the show is not for me. I know I am in the huge minority and this is not a show I would disparage someone for liking, like say Bull or that new show with the Nanny in it.
Honestly, I have not seen enough of their content to have an unappreciated series but I think their movie collection is underappreciated. I say that because they pump new movies out and I don’t hear about it anywhere. I thought The Report was a shoo-in for Oscar nods and nothing. They just released Troop Zero, The Aeronauts, and something about a marathon, to a pin drop. I don’t know if all these movies are good but they have top talent including past Oscar winners. Netflix does a way better job of promoting their original films. Who hasn’t heard of Dolemite or The Irishman?
MG: Interesting pick for your underappreciated, because as I read your list I realized I have not given their original movies enough attention. I also have been watching The Americans on Prime which has been great. I think I watched all of Breaking Bad on Prime and also caught up on American Horror story there as well. The Report and the Ted Bundy series are on my list. You should give Fleabag another try, although I would prioritize High Castle and Mrs. Maisel over it.