What We Do in the Shadows
Outstanding horror-comedies are few and far between – for every An American Werewolf in London, there are five Scary Movies – but this Kiwi mockumentary (directed by and starring Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi as well as Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement) about a group of dysfunctional vampires house-sharing hits the spot dead-on.
With plenty of laughs mined from the awkwardness of being a neurotic immortal living in the modern world, it errs on the comedy side of the line, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without the occasional genuine bit of creepiness. If you’re as much fan of This Is Spinal Tap as you are of The Lost Boys, here’s a movie that you certainly won’t think, er, sucks.
The world doesn’t seem short on wry, quirksome comedy drama series exploring the crushing ennui of modern life, but Amazon has furnished us with another one – and it’s a delightful surprise.
Starring Maya Rudolf and Fred Armisen as a married couple struggling with an encroaching middle-aged itch, Forever starts off as one kind of show and quickly transforms into another. Funny, smart and affecting, it’s Amazon’s best new original series in a long time.
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.
While never as beloved as The Simpsons, Matt Groening’s “other” cartoon sitcom series is arguably more consistent in terms of quality. All 10 seasons of Futurama are currently streaming on Amazon Prime, so it’s a great time to dive into the adventures of Fry, a slacker cryogenically frozen for 1000 years, then thawed out to continue his life in the future. The sci-fi setting allows the show’s writers to explore all sorts of fertile comedy avenues, giving the show a satirical flavour that keeps it fresh and (for a network series) fairly edgy even today. Unlike The Simpsons, Futurama hasn’t been kept on life support long past its use-by date, so you can dive in safe in the knowledge that things aren’t going to go south halfway through.
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.
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.
Bob’s Burgers (S1-10)
Voiced by H. Jon Benjamin (the man behind Sterling Archer's vocal cords), Bob Belcher is an average bloke trying to make a living for his family by doing what he does best: cooking burgers. Compared to the Griffins or the Smiths, the Belchers are (relatively) normal, though full of enough quirks and uniquely delivered dialogue to provide plenty of laughs. It's less surreal than Rick & Morty and more story-driven than Family Guy, but it's carved out its own unique spot amongst its rivals and deserves to stand up there with them. Well worth a look if you've grown tired of Family Guy's endless cutaway gags.
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.
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.