Amazon spent a long time trying to “do a Netflix” by creating its very own blockbusting TV shows, and Transperent was the moment it got it right. For a start, this is really bold – it tells the story of a sixtysomething divorcee announcing to his three grownup kids that he’s always felt different and is now going to live as a woman.
Sounds heavy, and it sort of is, but it’s also darkly funny, with a degree of wit and sharpness that’s still rare even in this golden age of TV. The bickering between the three kids (each of whom is riddled with their own individual problems and peccadillos) is as chucklesome as it is awkward and believable. Amazing telly.
Rejoice, for “the show about nothing” has finally come to a UK streaming service; now Prime customers have the perfect excuse to plough through all nine seasons of Jerry Seinfeld’s beloved sitcom.
An inventive, absurd and hilarious examination of the trivialities of modern life, never relying on slapstick or coddling viewers with cheap sentimentality, Seinfeld is quite simply a must-watch for all fans of comedy. With each episode clocking in at a little over 20 minutes, it’s also great fare for binge watching. Be warned: your Sundays will be eaten right up.
Parks and Recreation (S1-7)
The show that propelled Amy Poehler to Golden Globe-presenting notoriety and Chris Pratt to blockbuster ultra-stardom has its wit and one-liners honed to perfection. Taking Modern Family’s warmth, mixing it with Arrested Development’s absurdity and building it around The Office’s mockumentary formula, it centres on the inconsequential workdays of the least consequential department (Parks and Rec) of the council of madeup middle- American town of Pawnee, Indiana.
Like The Office, its brilliance lies in its characters and their relationships, although its comic set pieces are also ingenious. But unlike The Office, it’s not tragic – it’s bright, touching and will leave you grinning from cheek to cheek. It takes until series two to really hit its stride, but Parks and Recreation is a true must-see.
Attack the Block
Aliens descend on Earth with bad intentions. Aliens land in a South London housing estate. Aliens find out that South London housing estates hold their own kind of dangers.
By refusing to cast judgement - either good or bad - on the actions of its teenage protagonists, it leaves you free to make up your own mind. Though you'll probably be too engrossed in the action to bother. Directed by Joe Cornish (of Adam & Joe fame), Attack the Block is scary, funny and very cool.
A hot steamy hook-up while you're out of the country for work - probably the dream of anyone that's ever seen the inside of an airport business lounge. Finding out you've got said hook-up pregnant? Not so much. That's pretty much the gist of Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan's comedy, which is equal parts hysterical and cringeworthy, yet still manages to pull on your heartstrings too.
Moving to London might be culture shock for Boston native Rob, but it's hardly a picnic for unwed Irish teacher Sharon - expect prodding parents, unsubtle school kids and a cool clique of antenatal mummies. Don't miss a foul-mouthed Carrie Fisher as the mother-in-law from hell, either.
All three seasons are now available to stream on Amazon.
In The Loop
This big screen spin-off of The Thick Of It takes everything that makes the Brit political satire so special and shoves it over the Atlantic to wreak havoc. As you'd expect, it plays out mostly like a longer episode of TTOI, with added star factor courtesy of James Gandolfini.
But excellent though the late Sopranos actor is, it's Peter Capaldi's Malcolm Tucker who steals the show – as always. He rants; he raves; he bullies those above and below him with equal abandon; he swears in new and inventive ways. And by the end you'll be convinced that if he really ran the country we'd be much better off.
Red Oaks (S1-3)
A hidden gem in Amazon’s catalogue, Red Oaks’ unremarkable premise belies a nuanced show that blends humour and pathos surprisingly adeptly.
Set in 1980s suburban New York, it follows the bumbling but tumultuous life of David Myers. From the enigmatically aloof love interest to parental turmoil at home, all the classic teen drama tropes are ticked off here with just enough of a twist to sustain your intrigue. What really elevates this show above the many others that riff off a similar tune is its riotous roster of characters. Sleazy, feckless tennis coach Nash alone is worth the price of admission.
Co-written by the comedic dream team of Chris Morris and Peep Show creators Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, this jihadi-themed satire is still disturbingly relevant (and equally chuckleworthy) in 2016.
Like the politicians in Bain and Armstrong’s In the Loop, the Four Lions are a team of bigoted buffoons who stubbornly cling to an extreme belief (suicide bombing ‘moderates’) in the face of mounting evidence of their idiocy and their agenda’s contradictions.
While it rarely ventures beyond slapstick farce, Four Lions is well worthy of its frequent billing as a terrorism equivalent of This Is Spinal Tap.
The Big Sick
Silicon Valley star and stand-up comedian Kumail Nanjiani plays himself in this dramatisation of how he and his wife, the writer Emily Gordon (here called “Emily Gardner” and played by Zoe Kazan), met each other, fell in love and got married.
An enjoyable culture-clash romantic comedy revolving around Nanjiani’s desire to lead a normal American life while his Pakistani parents pressure him to enter into an arranged marriage with a woman he barely knows, The Big Sick really gets going when Emily falls seriously ill, forcing our hero to confront the two sides of his life – not to mention meet her parents, played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano.