The arrival of streaming services arguably ushered in the Age of the Binge Watch – a new era of TV in which you, the viewer, retreats to a comfortable hidey hole with a bumper bag of Kettle Chips, a gallon of tea and a burning desire to consume episode after episode of an addictive television series until you’re not sure what day it is.
Amazon Prime Video is packed with TV box-sets that are perfect for this kind of thing – and we’ve picked our favourites here: comfy sitcoms, riveting space operas, involving crime dramas, sweeping historical sagas and more. Each of these series should keep you entertained for many hours, by which time they’ll probably be countless more added to the service – so do be sure to check back periodically for updates.
Happy bingeing, folks.
Dan Harmon’s beloved sitcom about an American community college (regarded Stateside as a sort of lower quality vocational alternative to university) is packed with exactly the sort of knowing pop culture references, clever subversion of cliché and OTT characters that TV geeks adore.
Little wonder it has grown into a cult favourite and source of quotable lines and memes (the true mark of a cult series if ever there was one). Find out what all the fuss is about by binging the entire thing: all six seasons are available for streaming on Prime Video.
The Boys (S1-2)
What if superheroes were not only real, but as messed up and prone to bad behaviour as the rest of us? That’s the question posed by this superb comic book adaptation, in which the world’s most famous costumed crusaders are owned and controlled by Vought, a ruthless corporation that keeps their “foibles” – which range from voyeurism to alcoholism to outright murderous psychopathy – under wraps in order to keep the coffers filling up.
When one outrage leaves a young man hellbent on revenge, he discovers a group of like-minded vigilantes, all burning with a desire to bring down Vought once and for all. Effortlessly blending humour, action and drama, The Boys is among Amazon’s finest original series – and has recently returned for a second season.
The Fall (S1-3)
Equal parts police procedural and psychological thriller, The Fall is focussed on a pair of compelling characters: Gillian Anderson’s icy detective and Jamie Dornan’s obsessive serial killer.
Anderson is as fantastic as ever, but Dornan is superbly cast and surprisingly affecting as an outwardly normal, caring family man with a horrifying sickness lying just beneath the surface. Dark and disturbing, but seriously involving to watch. All three seasons are available here.
The Expanse (S1-4)
A space opera that leans heavily into what fans lovingly refer to as “hard sci-fi” (aka science fiction based strongly on real-world physics and perceived realism rather than space magic), The Expanse is set in a reasonably near future in which humanity has successfully colonised the solar system, only to fall into a cold war-like state as separate factions vie for control of stellar space. We’re introduced to this dangerous world of political turmoil, corporate greed and cold, cold vacuums through the ragtag crew of the Rocinante, a frigate not strictly aligned with any of the region’s major players.
The Expanse will likely appeal to anyone who appreciates sprawling, critically-acclaimed and morally complex dramas – it’s like Game of Thrones with rail guns and zero-g instead of dragons and Valyrian steel. Better yet, it’s all available to stream in beautiful 4K UHD – provided you have a TV with the prerequisite number of pixels, natch.
Harry Bosch is ex-special forces, contemptuous of authority and grappling with a troubled past – and also one of the best detectives in the LAPD’s Hollywood homicide division. We wouldn’t blame you for thinking this show based on Michael Connelly’s series of novels sounds cliched, but Bosch (an Amazon original series) is actually a surprisingly innovative take on the police procedural. Each season tells an over-arching story, usually about a single major case, while a handful of intriguing subplots bubble along in the background – some, like Bosch’s search for the man who murdered his sex worker mother decades previously, don’t get resolved for several seasons.
Titus Welliver heads up a colourful cast of recognisable character actors, each of whom gets his or her chance to grab the spotlight occasionally. But this is Bosch (and Welliver’s) show ultimately, and the gruff, complex cop makes for a fascinating focal point.
Don’t let the fact that Vikings is funded by The History Channel fool you into thinking that this series is all that bothered about facts and veracity. While some of its characters were real people and the broad sweep of its plot (sort of) lines up with actual events surrounding the Norse invasions of Britain, this is right up there with The Tudors in the “history riotously sexed up for mainstream entertainment” stakes.
And fear not: it’s certainly entertaining, packed to the gills with scheming, bloodshed, romance, betrayal, a smattering of magic (or is it just madness) and the occasional grand battle or siege. It’s often silly too, but that’s a small price to pay for this much fun.
Mad Men (S1-7)
Mad Men is, on the face of it, a drama series about people who work in advertising in 1960s New York, and it succeeds on that level thanks to a fantastic cast of characters, an intriguing plot and an almost absurd amount of attention to period detail.
But really it’s a show about America, identity, consumerism, freedom, family and, without wanting to sound too pretentious, about what it is to be a human being in our modern capital-driven world. You could probably call it existentialist if you were feeling fancy, and you’d be well within your rights – but it’s devilishly witty, moving and entertaining with it. It may be the most painstakingly crafted television series of all time, and it’s certainly among the finest. You can watch every episode on Amazon Prime.
The Walking Dead (S1-9)
The zombie apocalypse scenario has now been covered so many times that when the dead do eventually start clawing their way out of the ground in a shambling tide of brain-hungry terror, it’ll scarcely be worth mentioning.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t make cracking TV, though, and if you’re one of the few people who hasn’t yet seen The Walking Dead, there are a full nine seasons' worth of horrific violence, bad decisions, cannibalism, baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire and more to enjoy!
Seinfeld (S1-9 – except 2)
Forget Friends: for us, Seinfeld is the definitive New York-set (but clearly Hollywood-filmed) sitcom about a bunch of buddies just working their way through this crazy little thing we call life.
An inventive, absurd and hilarious examination of the trivialities of the modern world, never relying on slapstick or coddling its 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.
Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, this six-season series stars Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens, a modern-day US Marshal who brings an Old West sensibility to his job. Sent back to his hometown after falling foul of his superiors, he’s quickly dragged into a feud with an old friend turned new enemy, played with career-defining aplomb by Walton Goggins.
Justified manages to successfully mix long-running plotlines with monster-of-the-week style self-contained episodes, making it prime binge-fodder.
Parks and Recreation (S1-7)
The show that propelled Amy Poehler and Chris Pratt to 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 mundane workdays of the least consequential department (Parks and Rec) of the city council of fictional 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 truly hit its stride, but Parks and Recreation is a true must-see.
Bob’s Burgers (S1-9)
Bob Belcher is an average guy striving to make a living for his family by doing what he does best: cooking burgers. Compared to the Griffins or the Smiths, the Belchers might seem (relatively) normal, but perhaps it’s the relatability of their daily struggles and conflicts that makes this show so enjoyable.
It's less surreal and smart than Rick and Morty and more story-driven than Family Guy, but Bob’s Burgers has carved out its own unique spot amongst its animated peers. Well worth a look if you've grown tired of Family Guy's endless cutaway gags.
Amazon spent a long time (and a lot of money) trying to “do a Netflix” by creating its very own prestigious, award-winning TV shows; Transparent was the moment it got it right. For a start, this is really bold – it tells the story of a sixty-something divorcee announcing to his three grown-up 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 humorous, with a sharpness of wit that’s still rare even in this golden age of TV. The bickering between the three siblings (each of whom is plagued by their own individual problems and peccadillos) is as funny as it is believable. Amazing telly.
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (S1-7)
The late Anthony Bourdain was never more watchable than in this long-running CNN series – part travelogue, part culinary culture guide – in which he journeys to hitherto-overlooked countries and regions in search of unique things to munch. He generally finds much more than just tasty tacos or deep-fried sea urchins on his travels, though.
If the idea sounds a bit “Rick Stein on a gap year”, the execution is far more effective. Bourdain’s empathy, curiosity and adventurous spirit shine through over the course of seven series (there are several more that haven’t yet been added to Prime Video). A true feast of eye-opening, mouth-watering TV.
The Handmaid’s Tale (S1-3)
Margaret Atwood’s bestselling sci-fi novel gets the big budget telly treatment here, with Mad Men’s Elizabeth Moss outstanding in the leading role. Moss plays Offred, one of thousands of “handmaids” who serve as breeding stock to the ruling class in a brutal theocratic near-future United States, now renamed the Republic of Gilead. Assigned to a senior member of the government who has not been able to conceive with his own wife, Offred’s role is more maid than concubine – but even in a place as authoritarian as Gilead the powerful are able to do pretty much as they please.
The producers have expanded the scope and plotlines of Atwood’s book while retaining its essential feminist premise, making this a grimly involving look at patriarchy taken to the terrifying conclusions of its twisted internal logic.