Like Amazon itself, Prime Video can sometimes feel like the Wild West: a proliferation of TV and movies from every era, none of it terribly well-curated. There’s a lot there, and the choices can be a little overwhelming. That being said, there’s gold in there as long as you’re willing to dig a bit, and the streamer has had at least its share of impressive original shows, though they sometimes get lost amid the noise. Something like The Rings of Power, with Amazon’s entire checkbook behind it, gets a lot of press (and it’s good!), but it’s not nearly all.
These worthwhile shows, some ended and some ongoing, are representative of both original productions by the streamer, co-productions (often from the UK), as well as one or two shows for which Prime Video is the North American distributor.
Good Omens (2019– , two seasons)
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Michael Sheen and David Tennant are delightful as, respectively, the hopelessly naive angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley, wandering the Earth for millennia and determined not to let the perpetual conflict between their two sides get in the way of their mismatched friendship. In the show’s world, from the 1990 novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, heaven and hell are are less representative of good and evil than hidebound bureaucracies, more interested in scoring points on each other than in doing anything useful for anyone down here. It’s got a sly, quirky, sometimes goofy sense of humor, even while it asks some big questions about who should get to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. Each of the two current seasons has been presented as a standalone, and as yet there’s no word on whether a third is coming.
Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (2022– , season two forthcoming)
All the talk around The Rings of Power in the lead-up to the series had to do with the cost of the planned five seasons expected to be somewhere in the billion dollar range. At that price point, it’s tempting to expect a debacle—but the resulting series is actually quite good, blending epic conflict with more grounded characters in a manner that evokes both Tolkien, and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. Set thousands of years before those tales, the series follows an ensemble cast lead by Morfydd Clark as Elven outcast Galadriel and, at the other end of the spectrum, Markella Kavenagh as Nori, a Harfoot (the people we’ll much later know as Hobbits) with a yearning for adventure who finds herself caught up in the larger struggles of a world about to see the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron, the fall of the idyllic island kingdom of Númenor, and the the last alliance of Elves and humans.
The Underground Railroad (2021, miniseries)
The harrowing miniseries, based on Colson Whitehead’s 2016 novel, blends real history with fantasy (or, at least, a sense of magical realism) to imagine the title’s Underground Railroad as literal, rather than metaphor. Thuso Mbedu stars as Cora Randall, and enslaved woman from Georgia, working her way up through the subterranean network, with each episode representing a different stop. Not only is the show, helmed by Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins, lush and often gorgeously filmed, it also feels incredibly evocative of the experience of someone like Cora—the show’s turns away from strict historical reality serving to disorient us, as viewers, and situate us in the head of a young woman traveling through an unfamiliar, and almost entirely hostile, America.
A League of Their Own (2022– , final season forthcoming)
Amazon’s stellar adaptation (and expansion) of the 1992 film feels like it came out at the wrong time: The bills have come due for streaming services that were all trying to outdo each other in terms of volume of original content, so great shows like A League of Their Own are getting the chop—this one, at least, will see one more shortened season to wrap things up. The show follows the 1943 formation of the real-life Rockford Peaches, part of the then-new All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The show’s characters are fictional, but are based on the real, and often ignored, stories of women in sports, queer and Black women among them. It’s got a big heart, a sharp sense of humor, and earned great reviews…so enjoy it while it lasts.
The Expanse (2015–2022, six seasons)
A pick-up from the SyFy channel after that network all but got out of the original series business, The Expanse started good and only got better with each succeeding season. Starring Steven Strait, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Dominique Tipper among a sizable ensemble, the show takes place in a near-ish future in which we’ve spread out into the solar system, while largely taking all of the usual political bullshit and conflicts with us. A salvage crew comes upon an alien microorganism with the potential to upend pretty much everything, if humanity can stop fighting over scraps long enough to make it matter. The show brings a sense of gritty realism to TV sci-fi, without entirely sacrificing optimism—or, at least, the idea that well-intentioned individuals can make a difference.
Reacher (2022– , season two forthcoming)
I’ve never read any of Lee Childs’ Jack Reacher books on which the show is based, but I’ll take the word of the author’s many fans that Tom Cruise’s take in the movies from a couple of years ago didn’t have much to do with the character on the page. Getting far higher marks in that regard is Alan Ritchson (Titans), playing Reacher with a more appropriately commanding physical presence. The first season finds the former U.S. Army military policeman visiting the rural town of Margrave, Georgia…where he’s quickly arrested for murder. His attempts to clear his name find him caught up in a complex conspiracy involving the town’s very corrupt police force, as well as shady local businessmen and politicians.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017–2023, five seasons)
Mrs. Maisel was one of Prime’s first and buzziest original series, a comedy-drama from Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls) about the title’s Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), a New York housewife of the late 1950s who discovers a talent for stand-up comedy. Inspired by the real-life careers of comedians like Totie Fields and Joan Rivers, the show is both warm and funny, with great performances and dialogue; it also achieves something rare in being a show about comedy that’s actually funny.
The Man in the High Castle (2015–2019, four seasons)
From a novel by Philip K. Dick (whose work has been the basis for Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, among many others), The Man in the High Castle takes place in an alternate history in which the Axis powers won World War II, and in which the United States is split down the middle; Japan governing the west and Germany the east. The title’s man in the high castle offers an alternate view, though, one in which the Allies actually won, with the potential to rally opposition to the Axis rulers. As the show progresses through its four seasons, the parallels to our increasingly authoritarian-friendly world, making it one of the more relevant shows of recent years.
Paper Girls (2022, one season)
Though tragically cut short after only one season, Paper Girls is still more than worth the ride. Starting out on the morning after Halloween in 1988, the show sees Erin, Tiff, Mac, and KJ set out on their normal delivery route when very, very weird things start to happen. The young cast is brilliant and the story is consistently surprising; the series also has more going on than just time-traveling adventures: it’s about confronting your own future at a challenging age, as well as about considering your past and all of the routes not taken.
Tales from the Loop (2022)
The titular “Loop” is a facility conducting experiments that seek out alternate dimensions for scientific advancement. In the town that lives above the Loop, remnants of failed experiments affect the town in ways no one could imagine, setting the stage for this gorgeous-looking semi-anthology (it’s based on a conceptual art book by artist Simon Stålenhag, and successfully ports over the book’s striking look and feel). One device is found that allows you to stop time; another causes you to switch bodies with whatever being is nearby. The fun comes in watching the unfortunate outcomes that manifest when tampering with experimental science—but these are all slow-burning, often meditative stories. Viewers with patience for the deliberate pacing will find themselves rewarded.
Outer Range (2022– , season two forthcoming)
Westerns are big now, as evidenced by the wildly popular Yellowstone family of shows, but this Josh Brolin-lead series operates a little differently: Wyoming ranger Royal Abbott (Brolin) is trying to save his land and family while a rival landowner threatens a takeover. Nothing new there, until he discovers a mysterious black void on his land that’s tied to a mysterious drifter. it’s been renewed for a second season.
Vanity Fair (2018, miniseries)
Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel, House of the Dragon) stars as Becky Sharp in this appropriately scandalous adaptation of the William Makepeace Thackeray. The author’s lead is one of literature’s great bad girls, a woman who lies, cheats, and steals, and always with a smile—which is all probably why Vanity Fair isn’t adapted as often as novels featuring ladies of better reputation. Cooke is really the appeal here, offering, very possibly, the best performance of Becky in TV or film.
The Boys (2019– , three seasons)
There’s a lot of superhero stuff out there, no question, but, as there was no series quite like the Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson comic book on which this show is based, there’s nothing else quite like The Boys. The very dark satire imagines a world in which superheroes are big with the public, but whose powers don’t make them any better than the average jerk. When his girlfriend is gruesomely killed by a superhero who couldn’t really care less (collateral damage, ya know), Wee Hughie (Jack Quaid) is recruited by the title agency. Led by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), the Boys watch over the world’s superpowered individuals, putting them down when necessary and possible. A fourth season is on the way, as is a spin-off (Gen V). An animated miniseries (Diabolical) came out in 2022.
Fleabag (2016–2019, two seasons)
Fleabag isn’t a Prime original per se, nor even a co-production, but Amazon is the show’s American distributor and still brands it as such, so we’re going to count it. There’s no quick synopsis here, but stars Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the title character (only ever known as Fleabag) in the comedy drama about a free-spirited, but also deeply angry single woman in living in London. Waller-Bridge won separate Emmys as the star, creator, and writer of the series (all in the same year), and co-stars Sian Clifford, Olivia Coleman, Fiona Shaw, and Kristin Scott Thomas all received well-deserved nominations.
The Horror of Dolores Roach (2023– , one season)
Justina Machado (who was fabulous in One Day at a Time) stars in this utterly unique comedy-horror as the title’s Dolores, released from a 16-year prison sentence and returning to her old neighborhood, now thoroughly gentrified. The show kicks off with a Broadway show reflecting on Dolores’ actions, with hints of Sweeney Todd that will pay off relatively quickly: she teams up with Luis (Alejandro Hernandez), proprietor of a local empanada place; if you’re at all familiar with the Sondheim musical, you might be able to guess where this is going. The bodies start piling up, but the show doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it all ties back to Dolores, and the extremes to which a woman might be driven when trying to rebuild her life after a ridiculously long prison sentence for selling weed. TBD on a season two renewal.
The Wheel of Time (2021–, season two forthcoming)
An effective bit of fantasy storytelling, The Wheel of Time sees five people taken from a secluded village by Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike), a powerful magic user who believes that one of them is the reborn Dragon: a being who will either heal the world, or destroy it entirely. The show has an epic sweep while smartly focusing on the very unworldly villagers, experiencing much of this at the same time as the audience. The show has been renewed for second and third seasons, which is probably for the best—the Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson series runs to 15 books, so there’s plenty more story to tell if the Amazon money holds out.
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart (2023)
There’s something old-fashioned, in the best way, about Lost Flowers (from the novel by Holly Ringland). The miniseries is a melodrama of the kind they don’t often make anymore, full of drama and family secrets, but without the lazy clichés and obvious twists that so often rule the genre. The story of a young woman (Alycia Debnam-Carey) who goes to live with her grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) following a rough childhood, the Australian series is beautifully atmospheric and compelling.
The Consultant (2023– , one season)
It’s never entirely clear if the Consultant is a comedy or a thriller, and that tension is both a strength and a weakness…but the show is weird enough, and interesting enough to overcome any problems with landing on a tone. Lead Christoph Waltz is also a strength here, as the mysterious consultant who shows up to put a mobile gaming company right. Think Severance, but with less sci-fi and more mystery.
The Devil’s Hour (2022 – , one season)
Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife) joins Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It, Doctor Who) for a slightly convoluted but haunting series that throws in just about every horror trope that you can think of while still managing to ground things in the two lead performances. Raine plays a social worker whose life is coming apart on almost every level: She’s caring for her aging mother, her marriage is ending, her son is withdrawn, and she wakes up at 3:33 am every morning exactly. She’s as convincing in the role as Capaldi is absolutely terrifying as a criminal linked to at least one killing who knows a lot more than he makes clear. It’s been renewed for second and third seasons.
The Kids in the Hall (2022 — , one season)
After a 27-year hiatus, Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson returned for an eight-episode revival season of the classic Canadian sketch comedy show, joined by celebrity guests like Kenan Thompson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Mark Hamill, Eddie Izzard, and Catherine O’Hara. It’s not just that the new show is just about as good (and as weird) as the original—the core troupe are no longer wildly talented amateurs, but comedy pros with decades of experience. There’s likely more on the way.