Top TV shows and box sets on Amazon Prime Video UK
Ivan Radford | On 24, Nov 2020
Amazon Prime Video is perhaps the most underrated streaming service in the UK. While most people think of Amazon as an online retail giant, the site has built up an impressive library of TV series, from original productions, such as Golden Globe winners Mozart in the Jungle, to exclusive acquisitions, such as The X-Files, Preacher and Mr. Robot.
With the UK on lockdown or under various coronavirus-related restrictions, a lot of people will be taking Amazon Prime Video for a spin for the first time. Afraid your £5.99 subscription will run out of steam? Looking for a box set to fill the gaps between each new episode? We round up the best TV shows now available on Amazon Prime Video, from The Man in the High Castle and Parks and Rec to Outlander and The Walking Dead.
Bookmark this list – we’ll be updating it regularly to take into account new releases and removals.
Michael Chiklis delivers an iconic turn in this cop frama featuring the best anti-hero on the small screen since Walter White – but this came first.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Gilmore Girls fans, get this in your watchlist now. From Amy Sherman-Palladino, this delightful period comedy stars a magnetic Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards) as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a 1958 New York City woman who has everything she’s ever wanted — the perfect husband, two kids and an elegant Upper West Side apartment perfect for hosting Yom Kippur dinner. But her perfect life suddenly takes an unexpected turn and Midge discovers a previously unknown talent for stand-up comedy. It puts her on a course from her comfortable life on Riverside Drive, through the basket houses and nightclubs of Greenwich Village to a spot on Johnny Carson’s couch. The story of a unstoppable female force demanding to be taken seriously in America, every aspect of this show carries some of the small screen’s best witticisms since, well, Gilmore Girls. (Read our full review)
The Good Fight
“The only constant we have is the law,” says Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo) in The Good Wife’s first season. It’s exactly the kind of declaration you expect to hear in a slick legal drama, and The Good Fight doesn’t shy away from ticking all the boxes of the genre. But it ticks them with such style, confidence and class – using that motto to frame events against the shifting landscape of Trump’s America – that it’s impossible not to be hooked.
The show, of course, is a spin-off from The Good Wife, ordered by CBS to launch its subscription streaming service, CBS All Access. But it’s testament to how good the writing by creators Robert and Michelle King is that The Good Fight never feels like a sidekick or a companion piece, but a courtroom heavyweight in its own right – while it’s designed to woo fans of the original, you can tune into this without having seen any of The Good Wife and still be utterly gripped. The cast are exceptional, from Sarah Steel’s hilarious wannabe investigator, Marissa, to Cush Jumbo sinking her teeth into the meaty role of third year associate Lucca Quinn. The chance to see Christine Baranski reprising her role as Diane Lockhart, meanwhile, is reason to tune in alone. (Read our full review)
Tales from the Loop
A unique, sideways take on sci-fi, this slow, beautiful anthology explores profound questions of human existence.
Amazon’s surprisingly timely superhero satire is darkly entertaining, unabashedly violent and certainly never dull.
“She’s in heaven.” “Oh, which one?” “Lakeview.” “I hear that’s really pretty.” Death. The great leveller. But what if it wasn’t? That’s the kicker of an idea at the heart of Upload, Amazon Prime Video’s new comedy. The show, created by The Office and Parks and Recreation’s Greg Daniels, introduces us to a world where the afterlife has become a digital product – an eccentric place with an absurd sense of humour that will be familiar to anyone who has seen The Good Place. To compare the two, though, is to miss what makes Upload an intriguing and entertaining watch. The show balances its silly streak with a surprising satirical vein, investing as much effort in serious issues of social inequality as it does in slapstick and non-sequiturs.
“Dollars to doughnuts, The Americans is almost certainly the best US TV show you’re not currently watching. While it has yet to garner the same kind of awards recognition as classic prestige shows such as The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and Mad Men, it is unquestionably worthy of a place at their side, thanks to its stunning lead performances and its compelling mix of gripping Cold War spy thriller and powerful family drama.”
This slick, stylish and smart thriller is a James Bond box set the whole family can binge.
One of the best animated family sitcoms since The Simpsons.
Amazon’s gripping, surprising and action-packed thriller comes of age the more it outgrows the 2011 film.
Little Fires Everywhere
This scorching drama is a thoughtful and entertaining look at race, motherhood and regret.
Nick Frost and Simon Pegg’s horror comedy is an entertainingly dark ride.
“I can’t emphasise enough the risk you’re taking,” cautions Father Marcus (Ben Daniels) at a key turning point in The Exorcist Season 1. He might as well be talking to writer/executive producer Jeremy Slater, who dares to invoke the holy ghost of William Friedkin’s 1973 movie on the small screen. But from the unsettling first episode, this TV series confidently brushes aside any doubts in the show’s ability to possess the spirit of the feature film for 10 episodes. Smartly expanding the film’s universe, introducing some cheesy new villains and finding time for some nuanced exploration of doubt and conviction? Sometimes, you’ve just got to have a little faith.
Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer
This pertinent Ted Bundy series puts the lives of the women he stole front and centre.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s six-part comedy, which started its life as a play at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, already has people asking whether she’s Britain’s answer to Lena Dunham. It’s easy to see why – this shares with Girls a willingness to explore the darker aspects of what it is to navigate life as a single female in the city. The characters portrayed share, too, a willingness to (ahem) experiment, and a certain type of knowing narcissism, mixed with self-loathing.
Waller-Bridge stars as the character known only as Fleabag, newly single since her boyfriend dumped her for masturbating to a speech on democracy by Barak Obama. By day, Fleabag struggles to run a cafe on her own, gets thrown out of meetings with her bank manager for accidentally flashing him, and picks up men on the bus; by night, she attends lectures with her sister, where they embarrass themselves by being bad feminists, goes on dates with men with bad teeth, overshares in taxis, and turns up at her father’s house unannounced. All this is done with self-aware, fourth-wall-busting, straight-to-camera asides, and genuinely laugh-out-loud funny moments. Words: Helen Archer
A hilarious, heartfelt study of love, commitment and change, Forever is a quietly profound triumph, with an irresistible, unique hook that sees the lives of married couple June (Maya Rudolph) and Oscar (Fred Armisen) turned upside down.
The Expanse: Season 1 to 4
“‘In the 23rd Century, humans have colonised the solar system. The U.N. controls Earth. Mars is an independent military power. The inner planets depend on the resources of the Asteroid Belt. Belters live and work in space. In the Belt, air and water are more precious than gold. For decades, tensions have been rising. Earth, Mars and The Belt are now on the brink of war. All it will take is a single spark.’ So reads the pre-credit crawl of The Expanse, deftly laying out the show’s basic ground rules, before flinging the viewer head-first into its world(s). Agents unknown are trying to turn the Cold War between earth and Mars hot, and the key to who they are and what their game-changing plan is seems to be rich-girl-turned-revolutionary Julie Mao – now missing. Tasked with tracking her down is grizzled detective Joe Miller (Thomas Jane), who works for corporate law enforcement on dwarf planet Ceres. His investigation is expertly structured, with each episode ending on a stonking cliffhanger that’ll have you clicking onto the next instalment.” (Read our full review.)
John Krasinski is a wonderfully likeable tough guy in this update of the Tom Clancy hero for the 21st century, which follows CIA analyst Jack Ryan as he stumbles into global political conflict.
New Girl: Season 1 to 7
After a bad break-up, Jess moves into an apartment loft with three single men. Although they find her behavior very unusual, the men support her – most of the time. Zooey Deschanel is on winning form in one of the most entertaining sitcoms of modern TV.
The Office (US): Season 1 to 9
Proof that American remakes can be better than the original, this US take on the mockumentary is a sheer delight, thanks to Steve Carell’s hysterical yet oddly sympathetic portrayal of loser manager David Brent.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 1 to 7
If you haven’t ever seen Joss Whedon’s vampire-slaying series, starring a literally kick-ass Sarah Michelle Gellar, stop reading and get watching now.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
This lavish production, based on Susanna Clarke’s novel, is an amusing and intriguing delight. The tale of two magicians in Georgian England boasts two excellent performances from Bertie Carvel (the arrogant, clumsy Strange) and Eddie Marsan (the reclusive, nervous Norrell) and a sharply condensed script from Peter Harness, which leans on period drama tropes to sell its parallel history of England. But the programme’s real power lies in its ability to build the extraordinary out of the ordinary. Director Toby Haynes presents a world that is wholly believable, grounding the story’s magic in practical, everyday objects; an approach that makes the incredible surprisingly credible.
Based on the hit podcast of the same name, the thriller follows Heidi (Julia Roberts), a case worker at the Homecoming initiative, a program overseen by a large private company that works to help soldiers transition from the military and back into civilian life. But when we first catch up with her, several years later, she’s no longer at the scheme, and can’t remember a thing about it. A slick, small-scale thriller powered by old-school paranoia.
Amazon’s boldest commission to date is this twisted thriller, inspired by true events, that follows a diverse band of Nazi Hunters in 1977 New York City who discover that hundreds of escaped Nazis are living in America. And so, they do what any bad-ass vigilante squad would do: they set out on a bloody quest for revenge and justice. Conspiracies and dark humour interweave with brassy comic book nods and a poignant determination to pass on the story of the Holocaust to future generations. Is it tasteless? Your mileage may vary. Is it entertaining? Definitely.
The Bold Type
Magazines. They’re simultaneously the most out-of-date and important thing modern society has to offer. Print is dying a rude death, but as publications chase online traffic with clickbait and lazy recycling of other publications’ work – refracted and magnified through the lens of social media – the influence the media has upon the way we perceive the world, other people and ourselves is more visible than ever.
Enter The Bold Type, a new US series about a trio of 20-something women, who work at Scarlet Magazine. Fighting their way up the media ladder, it’s a frothy, funny, fantastic drama about women supporting each other to reach success. That, in itself, would be cause enough for celebration, but Sarah Watson’s show manages to weave its central portrayal of friendship with a whole host of topical themes and weighty issues – all wrapped up in the rewarding sight of a new generation working hard to find its voice.
That generation, to be specific, is Jane (Katie Stevens), Kat (Aisha Dee) and Sutton (Meghann Fahy). Jane’s a journalist who’s just managed to get a gig as a writer at Scarlet. Kat’s the publication’s social media director, navigating the sea of trolls and death threats. And Sutton is still slogging it out as an assistant, dreaming of breaking into the world of fashion. They’re played with bubbly energy by the central trio, who sell the insecurity and confidence of young people forging careers with a convincing balance of earnestness and humour – the whole cast suffers from the usual Good Looking Plague that has infected most US TV series, but it’s testament to the cast’s talent that their friendship is convincing.
The supporting ensemble, meanwhile, raise all manner of questions that would normally be dodged by most series, from religion and racism to sexual equality on Q&A panels as well as in the bedroom (Dan Jeannotte smoulders as Ryan Decker, a writer at men’s mag, Pinstripe). A growing bond between Kat and Adena, a proud Muslim lesbian covered by the magazine, highlights the privilege to speak out and stand up for issues that many people don’t have, especially in a Trump-era America. The publication’s Teen Vogue-esque embrace of politics, meanwhile, bucks the assumption that young people don’t want to be engaged in the world. All anchored by Melora Hardin’s fantastic Editor-in-Chief – a supportive boss, who never veers into Devil Wears Prada territory – The Bold Type is soapy and easy to watch, but repeatedly surprises with the way it embraces difficult, highly pertinent topics. Delicately balancing the personal and the professional, it’s a hugely entertaining look at the impact magazines have upon both society and individuals’ lives. Note: Season 4 is not available.
The Looming Tower
Hulu’s drama, based on the Pulitzer Prize winning exposé of the same name by Lawrence Wright, traces the rising threat of Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda and takes a controversial look at how the rivalry between the CIA and FBI may have inadvertently set the stage for the tragedy of 9/11 and the war in Iraq. Adapted by Foxcatcher’s Dan Futterman and directed by Alex Gibney, the top cast (including Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg and Tahar Rahim) ensure that this is never less than gripping, while the subject matter – right up to its inevitable finale – remains compulsively, urgently topical. Read our review
All or Nothing
From Jon Hamm’s narration to the slick visuals, Amazon’s All or Nothing is one of the top sporting documentary series around, taking us behind the scenes of the NFL. The unprecedented access given to Amazon takes us from the Arizona Cardinals in Season 1 to the Los Angeles Rams in Season 2, tracking a year from the moment the team announces its relocation to the hiring of new head coach Sean McVay and his first days on the job. Season 3 continues the show’s balance of on-pitch action and off-pitch human drama, bringing consequences to each game’s outcome, regardless of whether you’re a fan of American Football or not. And, if you’re not, there’s also the addition of a series dedicated to Manchester City to devour – one that paints a fascinating portrait of Pep Guardiola. If you like Netflix’s Last Chance U, this is well worth a punt.
“Whenever I get frustrated, I just think: what would Lenin do?” Amazon’s latest original show, Comrade Detective, is like no other TV show you’ve seen. The series is purportedly a resurrected piece of Romanian propaganda from the 1980s, discovered and dubbed over by Hollywood A-listers for modern audiences – a process that Channing Tatum explains earnestly to the camera in the opening episode. Of course, there was no such TV show in the first place – a host of Romanian actors filmed the whole thing specifically, just so that it could be dubbed back into English for giggles. It’s that dedication to the cause that makes Comrade Detective so much fun. There’s attention to detail in every frame, from the garishly colourful cinematography and set decoration to the even less tasteful period costumes and haircuts. It’s almost believable that this really was found in a box somewhere in its home country, a relic stuffed with historical artefacts and outdated dialogue. Delivered with deadpan panache by Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the juxtaposition of their voices coming out of unfamiliar mouths is only half the fun – and that’s the secret to the show’s success, which manages to find more than one joke to sustain its running time. What would Lenin do? He’d watch the whole thing immediately. Read our full review
Amazon’s Transparent follows Mort Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor), a father who comes out to his kids as a woman. While it has since become mired in allegations of abuse against Tambor, the show remains a groundbreaking step forward in awareness and representation for transgender issues and stories on screen, and Six Feet Under’s Jill Soloway and the ensemble cast judge the tone perfectly – half-hysterical, half-melancholic – creating a host of characters who engage because they all feel like actual humans, reinforced by the way each episode flows seamlessly into each other, more like chapters in a movie than individual tales. Sensitive and candid, Transparent is a deliberately opaque look at problems that are far from see-through. If you liked Orange Is the New Black, this is an ideal companion, despite the controversies that arose during it penultimate season.
The Man in the High Castle
If Transparent put Amazon’s original shows on the map, The Man in the High Castle carves out a whole country for the streaming site, which more than rivals Netflix with its ambitious, addictive story-telling. The show, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, shows us what it would be like if the Axis Powers won World War II, with Japan ruling the Pacific half of the US and the Reich ruling the Atlantic. Produced by Ridley Scott and created by The X-Files’ Frank Spotnitz, the world-building is astonishing, providing spades of exposition without characters saying a word. The cast, meanwhile, are engagingly enigmatic, as resistance fighters attempt to smuggle banned newsreels across the border – and Rufus Sewell’s SS officer, John Smith, hunts them down. Able to make us feel sympathy with either side, this is a provocative and daring study of indoctrination, propaganda and national identity. What would the world be like if the Nazis won World War II? The show’s brilliance isn’t that it asks the question, but that it provides such a chillingly convincing answer.
A 1980s comedy-of-age comedy? Amazon’s sitcom sounds like a self-aware affair, full of post-modern cliches, but there isn’t a self-aware bone in its body. Led by the charming Craig Roberts as David, who is hired as a tennis coach at the titular country club, it’s a sincere, witty, delightful show that ranges from slapstick and one-liners to a body-swap episode worthy of John Hughes. Between the leg warmers and innocent romances, the series just keeps serving up the laughs.
Mozart in the Jungle
Amazon’s Golden Globe-winning comedy is by far its most unusual commission: a show about an orchestra, even starring Gael Garcia Bernal as a sexy conductor, is surely destined for a niche audience. But there is charm in the series’ unique subject matter – when was the last time you heard a full symphony orchestra playing on the small screen? Season 2 steps up its game with a winning confidence, as Lola Kirke’s blossoming oboist and Gael’s madcap Rodrigo take us from rehearsals to cocktail parties in a light flurry of entertainment, never concerned with structure or narrative. That should be a problem, but miraculously, it isn’t: before you know it, you’ve already finished the whole record.
The Walking Dead
AMC’s zombie smash hit, which stars Andrew Lincoln as a sheriff who wakes up to find the undead apocalypse has happened, is gruelling, gripping stuff, bumping off some characters, developing others (hello to Melissa McBride as Carol) and never skimping on the gory horror. Seasons 1 to 9 are available.
USA Network’s cyber thriller is that rare thing: a TV show that understands how computers work as well as it presses its audience’s buttons. Rivalling Black Mirror for the way in which it turns digital concepts into real human drama, it drags the cyberthriller genre out of the 80s and 90s into the contemporary era of corrupt banks, anti-privacy conspiracies and masked hacker movements. The result is as tightly structured as it is thrillingly modern, with multi-faceted turns from Rami Malek and Christian Slater, who keep the intrigue going right until the end of the fourth and final season.
Claire, a married nurse from WWII, accidentally travels back in time to 18th century Scotland, only to fall in love with another man, in this series based on Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling books. Adapted by Star Trek’s Ron D. Moore, the result combines time travel, romance, historical drama and sci-fi to dizzyingly chameleonic effect; there genuinely is something in here for everyone. The fact that the Scottish bloke Claire falls in love is the strapping Jamie Heughan is a bonus. Season 1 to 5 are available.
The Grand Tour
Top Gear with more than 10 times the budget, Amazon reunites Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May for more fast cars, ludicrous stunts and middle-aged men insulting each other. The cars have never looked better, thanks to the lavish production values, and the chemistry between the trio (despite the odd forced bit of try-hard controversial banter) is still firing on all cylinders. The new format, meanwhile, is just different enough to feel new and fresh.
“Sorry I called your mum a haemorrhoid.” Catastrophe is a sitcom that manages to be funny, rude, sweet and brazenly honest all at the same time. It stars Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan as Rob and Sharon, an American and a Brit who bonk each other rotten on a business trip, only to find themselves unexpectedly having to raise a baby together. Over the course of two seasons, the familiar scenario is caustically fresh, thanks to a non-stop series of arguments and romantic apologies that tackle such minute issues that they become as absurdly funny as they are recognisable. The couple’s writing is sharp, but their tongues are even more so: their chemistry is at once natural and abrasive, showcasing both their raunchy charm and their hurtful insults. Apologise to your neighbours in advance: you’ll be hooting with laughter all the way through.
Parks and Recreation
“The Office, but with Amy Poehler” may not sound like anything new or special, but Parks and Recreation – which stars Poehler as Leslie Knope, a do-gooder member of the Parks department in the small US town of Pawnee – is one of the most adorable, amusing shows of recent years. A large part of this is due to the supporting cast, from Chris Pratt’s idiotic sidekick to Aubrey Plaza’s cynical intern, not to mention Nick Offerman as the male man’s man, Ron Swanson, but it’s the show’s endless sympathy for every person on screen that gives it its charm; unlike The Office, you’ll be rooting for all of them to succeed, laughing with them and not at them. It’s a difference that makes for a satisfying, warm watch. If you’ve never seen it, go ahead: treat yo self.
Dominic Cooper stars in this supernatural drama, based on the graphic novels by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, which follows a West Texas preacher named Jesse Custer, who is inhabited by a mysterious entity that causes him to develop a highly unusual power. What happens next is shocking, graphic, often funny, and completely, utterly, downright bonkers. Watch it right now.
After it was cancelled by the BBC, Amazon swooped in and revived Richard Warlow’s period crime drama, which follows Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen), Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rotehnberg) and Sergeant Bennet Drake (a scene-stealing Jerome Flynn) in post-Jack-the-Ripper Whitechapel. Growing from a case-of-the-week formula to over-arching narratives driven by its complex characters, its new incarnation gets better with every season – right up until the shocking, moving six-part finale.
From The Jim Henson Company, this much loved cult sci-fi deserves its following, thanks to its combination of wacky characters, humour and entertaining hijinks. It follows American astronaut John Crichton, who is thrown across the universe when an experimental mission goes awry, leaving him handing together with a group of rebels involved in an intergalactic battle.
Comedian Tig Notaro plays a semi-fictional version of herself, as she returns to her hometown in Mississippi, after her mother passes away unexpectedly. As she copes with the tragedy, the series becomes a poignant and honest exploration of family and grief. That warts-and-all tone keeps you so emotionally engaged that you’ll be three-quarters of the way through the eight episodes before you know it – at which point you’ll probably find yourself in tears. And yet even the moments that do make you cry are boldly underplayed, with one scene involving a mirror proving devastating in its simplicity. That’s the secret to One Mississippi’s sincerity: neither the comedy nor the drama feels forced, which, ironically, takes a colossal amount of effort. Season 2 has already been ordered.
The Night Manager
The Night Manager was written by John le Carré in 1993. Not that you could tell from the BBC’s sumptuous, gripping adaptation: the 23-year-old tale feels like it was written yesterday. The basic set-up is the same: former soldier Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston), now the night manager of a hotel, is recruited by an intelligence officer to bring down a big arms dealer, Richard Onslow Roper (Hugh Laurie). He has a girlfriend, Jed (Elizabeth Debicki), a loyal number two, Major “Corky” Corkoran (Tom Hollander), and a whole lot of digits in his bank account. So far, so standard. Tom Hiddleston, with his sleek suits and slick hair, even looks like he could be the new 007. But The Night Manager takes the usual spy formula and turns it into something much more. Read our full review
“Perhaps fittingly in these political times, this latest addition to the espionage thriller genre takes a full-on absurdist approach. The result, judging by these opening three episodes, is a triumph. We have a standard spy thriller plot – Iran must be stopped from developing nuclear weapons – but a protagonist John Tavner (Michael Dorman) who’s a bizarre mix of child-like innocent, deadly assassin, unfeeling psychopath and guitar-strumming folk singer. Think Homeland somehow merged with the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis: action, intrigue, moody songs in folk clubs, surreal moments involving kayaks and mechanised bulls… The result is fantastically silly and edge-of-your-seat gripping.” Read our full review
“Con-artist Marius (Giovanni Ribisi) shares a cell with petty crim Pete, who waxes lyrical about his grandparents and cousins, and the idyllic childhood he spent at their house in small-town New York State, before his mom took them away. Released from jail, Marius takes on Pete’s identity, posing as the prodigal grandson/cousin. It’s essential the con works, as Marius is wanted dead by gangster Vince (Cranston), who has his brother, Eddie (Michael Drayer), and former partner in con, Carly (Libe Barer), working for him as a card sharp to pay off their debt… With characters that are great company and a story that zips along, the strong finish to Sneaky Pete’s first season leaves you wanting more.” Read our full review
Whether you’re a fan of the modern reboot or not (also available on Prime Video), there are countless hours of TV to enjoy from the colossal archive of the classic sci-fi series. Every single episode of The X-Files ever made? Not bad for £5.99 a month.
The Girlfriend Experience
American Honey’s Riley Keough is sensational in Steven Soderbergh’s 13-episode series about a law student who finds her sliding from the glossy sheen of legal corporations into the world of transactional relationships. A provocative character study, which raises questions of selling oneself for money in all fields of life, doesn’t offer easy answers, but does reward binge-viewing over and over again. (Read our full review)
Fear the Walking Dead
Already up-to-date with The Walking Dead? AMC’s spin-off series, which takes us back to the first days of the zombie outbreak, is worth checking out, although it takes its time to develop its so-everyday-they’re-generic ensemble into characters worth rooting for. Its success, rather, lies in the novelty of exploring the crumbling of society from a fresh perspective. Season 3, in particular, sees the show find its feet to gripping, gruesome effect, even if Season 4 feels like a misstep.
Titus Welliver takes a rare leading role in this gripping detective series based on Michael Connelly’s best-selling books. The stylish opening credits and jazz soundtrack ooze cool, while the stories are smartly adapted and slotted together from the page. It’s not groundbreaking, by any means, but that’s no bad thing: this a polished, accessible, easy-to-watch crime drama.
What might once have seemed like a pale imitation of Game of Thrones has grown into a cracking epic in its own right over several seasons, as we see the rise of Ragnar Lothbrok in the 13th century. Travis Fimmel’s smirking hero is intriguingly enigmatic, but it’s the family that surrounds him that really makes the show, from Katheryn Winnick’s fierce shieldmaiden, Lagertha, to Clive Standen’s rival brother, Rollo. Their conflict becomes the heart of the wider political scheming and bloody battles that shape the history of the Viking age. George Blagden as confused monk Athelstan is the icing on the cake.
Created by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, this wickedly dark satire about a reality TV producer who has a nervous breakdown unflinchingly raises questions about modern TV and feminism with addictive, entertaining and pitch-black precision.
A period drama that still feels current, Amazon’s based-on-real-life drama follows a group of female researchers who stand up to the sexism in the office of their New York magazine. The cast are cracking, while its theme of personal and political liberation is eternal.
It’s not often you see martial arts TV series these days and AMC’s Into the Badlands doesn’t disappoint, throwing astonishing action sequence after astonishing action sequence up on the screen. The genre-bending show, loosely based on the Chinese tale Journey to the West, is set in a ruined future world controlled by powerful feudal baron, where ruthless warrior Sunny (Daniel Wu) winds up rescuing a young boy, M.K. (Aramis Knight), with his own formidable powers.
The Last Man on Earth follows the post-apocalyptic life of Phil, a guy who – thanks to a virus wiping out the human race – is now the only guy on the planet. It’s hard to believe that’s the start of a sitcom, but Will Forte’s series isn’t afraid to be unusual. The result is a series that makes you guffaw, while standing out from the crowd. More apocalypse now, please.
Who doesn’t love a good legal drama? That’s presumably the thinking behind Amazon’s original thriller, which was ordered straight to series from Ally McBeal creator David E. Kelley. Billy Bob Thornton is on blistering form as lead lawyer Billy McBride, a washed-up alcoholic who finds himself in the underdog corner on a lawsuit against a corporation represented by his sinister, estranged older brother (William Hurt). Add in a complex supporting turn from House of Cards’ Molly Parker as one of his ruthless, cruel employees and you have a tightly-plotted, hate-fuelled eight hours.
A wannabe hedge fund trader, a young tech genius and a Haitian gangster become unlikely business partners in this fin-tech thriller about the invention of a new cryptocurrency. The series spends a little too much time trying to explain its own modern premise, but the cast (particularly Martin Freeman, acting against type as a nasty FBI agent) make this an engaging, topical show that finally puts The OC’s Adam Brody back on our TV screens in a central role.
When billionaire playboy Oliver Queen returns home five years after his boat crashed in the Pacific, he hides the way his experience has changed him – specifically, given him a distaste for corruption and taught him how to use a bow and arrow. And so he becomes the Arrow, a vigilante fighting for justice. A rich man taking out criminals in a mask? This could be Diet Batman, but there’s a cheesiness and a sense of humour that makes The CW’s trashy superhero series a lighter, enjoyable watch. And not just because John Barrowman’s in it.
Amazon snapped up the exclusive rights to the BBC’s crime drama a while back, and with Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan both on stellar form, as we see her agent becoming increasingly obsessed with serial killer Paul Spector, it’s a smart, absorbing addition to the Prime Video line-up. If you missed it on the BBC, this is your chance to catch up from the start.
This hip hop musical drama from Lee Daniels stars Terence Howard as Lucious Lyon, the CEO of Empire Entertainment. Diagnosed with a terminal illness, which of his sons will be his heir? Faster than you can say “King Lear”, in walks his ex-wife Cookie (a scene-stealing Taraji P. Henson), fresh out of prison, who wants a piece of what’s hers. It’s a dysfunctional family that EastEnders would be proud of, but Empire manages to feel much bigger than Albert Square, thanks to the cast, the talent behind the camera and, most of all, its use of music.
Produced by Michael Bay, Starz’s pirate prequel, set before the events of Treasure Island, charts the bloodthirsty career of Captain Flint, the rise of Long John Silver and the growing dispute between the British Empire and the independently-minded Nassau. Toby Stephens is brilliantly nasty as our lead, while the nautical set pieces are frequently breathtaking.
“It seems more than likely that someone was murdered and dismembered aboard your ferry,” says police chief Andri, matter-of-factly, in this 10-part Icelandic series, which sees a chopped-up corpse pop up in a port just as a boat docks – and a storm looms, threatening to cut everyone off from civilisation. Think Fortitude, but with more claustrophobia instead of the supernatural shenanigans.
James Purefoy and Michael K Williams are both excellent in this adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s novels of the same name. They play the eponymous pair, who have a job picking roses – a job they soon lose and end up back at home, sitting around, playing with guns and buying Dr. Pepper from the supermarket. In other words, they hang out. And that’s about it. Until Christina Hendricks enters as his dangerous ex, Trudy, who points them in the direction of a suitcase full of money. Things go south from there in this slow, nostalgic Texan noir. It’s a show worth wallowing in.