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.
While never as culturally important 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 setting allows the show’s writers to explore all sorts of fertile avenues, giving the show a satirical bent 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.
A steamy one-night stand 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 said hook-up leaves the other party pregnant? Not so dreamy. That's the setup for Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan's sitcom, equal parts hysterical and cringeworthy yet still capable of tugging on your heartstrings.
Moving to London might be culture shock for Boston native Rob, but it's no picnic for Irish teacher Sharon either – expect prodding parents, unsubtle school kids and a cool clique of antenatal mummies. Don't miss a foul-mouthed Carrie Fisher (R.I.P.) as the mother-in-law from hell, either.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (S1-3)
Finished Mad Men and hankering for a grown-up TV show in a similar vein, also set in mid-century Manhattan? The Marvelous Mrs Maisel might be the ideal series for you. Rachel Brosnahan stars as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, an effervescent middle-class housewife with what she thought was the perfect 1950s New York lifestyle: husband, kids and a beautiful Upper West Side apartment. When things take an unforeseen turn, she stumbles onto a stand-up comedy stage – and discovers she has something of a talent for not only making people laugh, but for hitting upon life’s truths while doing it.
The Shield (S1-7)
A long-running cop show where the hero isn’t just a somewhat flawed detective (“Oh, he likes a bit of a drink, you know…”) but an out-and-out murderer, racist, womaniser and thief, The Shield pioneered the kind of nuanced TV that we take for granted today. Yes, Michael Chiklis’ Vic Mackey is a horrible person, possessed of all the worst traits we associate with bent coppers, but he’s feared by criminals and respected by his colleagues (many of whom aren’t upstanding examples of humanity themselves). So is his brand of corrupt law enforcement a necessary evil?
Debuting in 2002, the series does look its age – some of the camerawork and editing in particular feels jarring compared to today’s telly – but once you get over its quirks and settle in, The Shield’s brisk storylines and moral quandaries will swiftly draw you in.
The X-Files (S1-11)
Every episode of the iconic series about FBI agents investigating paranormal goings-on has been available on Amazon Prime Video for some time – including the final two “reunion” seasons funded in part by Amazon’s vast coffers. Disney+ might have the two feature-length movies, which aren’t included in Amazon Prime Video at the moment, but it doesn’t have those two latter-day batches of episodes.
TV has come a long way since the 1990s, and the way Mulder and Scully’s supernatural cases and conspiracy tales are presented does feel quite antiquated when compared to more sophisticated modern drama series – but if you’re watching, you’re probably driven by nostalgia, and there’s some great stuff in here once you submit to its internal logic.
The Americans (S1-6)
1980s nostalgia-fests in film and TV often neglect to mention one thing: the Cold War was still well underway, meaning hundreds of millions all over the world felt like they were just minutes away from potential nuclear obliteration.
And it’s this climate of fear, mutual distrust and competing ideologies that The Americans recreates so well, as it follows the trials and tribulations of two Soviet sleeper agents embedded in US suburbia, posing as a married couple. To their friends, their neighbours and even their own children, they’re regular apple pie-loving yanks, but when duty calls they’re planting bugs, photographing secret documents and assassinating double agents for the Russkies.
Oh, and the marriage we mentioned? It’s no more than a sham, a professional union of convenience to aid their cover… or is it? The complex, strained and evolving relationship between the leads is one of the series’ most powerful aspects, making The Americans more than just a standard espionage drama.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (S1-7)
After Buffy’s forgettable cinematic debut, nobody was expecting much from the small screen adventures of a vampire-snuffing cheerleader. Boy, were we wrong.
Joss Whedon changed the face of television with his memorable story arcs and emotional, earth-shaking series finales while raising the bar for the genre, as Buffy suffers all the agonies of High School – with vampires thrown in. Standout episodes feature a swim team of Fishmen, a vengeful goddess, the ghastly Gentlemen and a corrupt mayor who turns into a giant snake.
The Office (U.S., S1-9)
It may have started life under somewhat uninspired circumstances – US remakes of UK series rarely withstand the dreaded Hollywood “glow up” without losing their fundamental appeal – but The Office swiftly developed its own identity. It might work differently to Ricky Gervais’s original series, but it works all the same.
With Steve Carell in a star-making turn as cringey boss-from-hell Michael Scott and the excellent supporting cast delivering great moments even into the Carell-free final few dozen episodes, it’s hard to think of a transatlantic TV reimagining that’s worked better. You’ll find all nine seasons (that’s 188 episodes by our count) on Amazon Prime.
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 (S1-5)
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.