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May 16, 2022
Prime Video has become a serious contender to Netflix in recent years, especially in its original content. Here are our best Amazon original TV shows.

Here’s our ranking of the best Amazon original TV shows in Prime Video’s streaming catalog. Streaming’s importance in the multimedia landscape has grown exponentially over the past decade, and that’s largely down to an increased focus upon original content. Old favorites and box sets no longer suffice in such a crowded market, meaning every streaming service worth their salt must offer original, exclusive content featuring high production values and famous faces in order to keep those subscription fees rolling in. The major success of House of Cards and Stranger Things propelled Netflix to the top of the streaming pack, but other platforms have since followed suit.

Arguably the red brand’s biggest contender is Prime Video. Incorporated into Jeff Bezos’ Amazon Prime premium shopping tier, Prime Video’s rise is demonstrated perfectly by the recent purchase of MGM, swallowing major franchises such as James Bond in the process. Prime Video’s growth can also be felt in its impressive roster of original TV shows – a diverse range encompassing all genres and styles, some comfortingly familiar, others strikingly subversive. Big things lie over the horizon too, with Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power lined up for a Middle-earth extravaganza in September 2022.

As Amazon’s original TV show content continues to expand and evolve, we take a glance back and decide which series are worth taking to the checkout, and which should request a refund. These are our very best Amazon original TV shows.

The Legend Of Vox Machina

Adapting the Vox Machina campaign of Critical Role’s Dungeons & Dragons livestreams, The Legend of Vox Machina began as a crowd-funded animation project before gathering record-breaking momentum and catching the eye of Amazon Prime Video, which immediately commissioned season 2. Predominantly covering the demonic Briarwood arc, The Legends of Vox Machina season 1 complimented Critical Role’s usual cast with big names like David Tennant (General Krieg), Indira Varma (Lady Allura), Stephanie Beatriz (Lady Kima) and Rory McCann (Duke Vedmire), and set season 2 up for the Chroma Conclave’s arrival. Delighting newcomers and Vox veterans alike, The Legend of Vox Machina‘s crass humor, inclusive warmth and deceptively deep characterization lived up to the hype. Where else are you going to find epic fantasy battles one moment, and a randy gnome singing about his “beads of love” the next?

The Tick

Arguably high among the most underrated of Amazon’s original TV shows, The Tick was ahead of it time in terms of gleefully subverting the superhero genre. Written by Ben Edlund (who created the character back in 1986), Amazon’s live-action The Tick TV series stars Peter Serafinowicz (SpacedShaun of the Dead) as the titular blue-suited hero who possesses super-strength and invulnerability, while Griffin Newman plays his awkward sidekick, Arthur. Capturing the surreal quality of The Tick’s comic book parodies, Amazon’s adaptation has irreverent fun with its well-meaning but socially-oblivious lead protagonist – a lovable idiot who’s buttery in all the right places. Although The Tick went over well with critics and viewers, Amazon cancelled the super sitcom after only two seasons, but even though he couldn’t sTick around, Tick burrowed his way into audience hearts nonetheless.

The Man In The High Castle

Partially adapting the 1962 Philip K. Dick novel, Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle takes place in an alternate history where World War II was won by the Axis powers of Nazi Germany and Japan, altering the global landscape completely. Inhabitants of this bleak dystopia ultimately discover films proving the existence of parallel worlds, and realize the Nazis didn’t win in every timeline. Benefiting from having Ridley Scott as an executive producer and starring a cast headed by Alexa Davalos, Rupert Evans, and DJ Qualls, The Man in the High Castle set a high standard for Amazon original TV shows moving forward. Premiering in 2015 and running for four seasons – an impressive feat in streaming terms – The Man in the High Castle suffered a critical misstep in its sophomore year, but remains widely praised for its high-concept storytelling, and richly detailed depiction of an alternate post-WWII reality.

Sneaky Pete

Another of the first Amazon original TV shows to garner widespread attention, Sneaky Pete stars the oft-underrated Giovanni Ribisi as Marius Josipović, who becomes the proverbial cuckoo in the nest after exiting prison and assuming his cellmate’s identity, going so far as to assimilate into poor Pete Murphy’s family. Created by David Shore and Bryan Cranston (yup, Heisenberg himself), Sneaky Pete ran for three seasons between 2015 and 2019, attracting consistently strong reviews at a time when Amazon was still finding its feet in the streaming originals game. Renowned for its tension building and constant twists, Sneaky Pete is ideally cast (Margo Martindale proves an especially valuable addition) and never takes itself quite seriously enough to stop having fun. Despite getting cancelled after season 3, Amazon revealed Sneaky Pete‘s opening day was its second-highest for a streamed original series at that time.

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Undone

Created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy, Undone saw Amazon take a bold step into the realm of animation as a dramatic art-form. Starring Rosa Salazar, Undone begins when a near-fatal car accident triggers Alma’s ability to bend time. Alma ventures into the past, seeking the truth about her father’s death, but ends up uncovering much more than she bargained for. Though Undone never quite courted mainstream attention, the gorgeous rotoscope-style animation, emotive storytelling and ethereal tone made for a unique viewing experience that critics and audiences alike adored. Undone season 2 finished airing in April 2022 and although – at the time at writing – season 3 is yet to be confirmed by Amazon, enough loose threads remain dangling to continue the trip. Undone is a perfect example of an ambitious TV project you’d never find on regular TV, and can only happen because of the creative leeway provided by streaming platforms.

The Underground Railroad

Barry Jenkins’ 2021 miniseries The Underground Railroad puts an innovative spin on history by depicting the Underground Railroad – a real life escape route used by 19th century Black slaves in the United States – into an actual, literal train that serves the same heroic purpose. Inspired by the Colson Whitehead novel of the same name, Amazon Prime Video’s The Underground Railroad follows Cora (Thuso Mbedu) during her courageous bid for freedom, pursued by villainous slave-catcher Arnold Ridgeway (Joel Edgerton). As powerful as it can be harrowing, Cora’s story is stunningly presented by Jenkins, both in visual and narrative terms, earning The Underground Railroad a Golden Globe win among a slew of other prestigious nominations. Similar to Undone, the unconventional nature of The Underground Railroad‘s structure (episodes run anywhere between 20 and 77 minutes) speaks to the creative freedom streaming platforms like Amazon Prime Video can offer compared to conventional TV networks, and Barry Jenkins certainly wields that flexibility to his advantage.

Catastrophe

First broadcast on regular UK television, Catastrophe is available to US viewers exclusively through Amazon Prime Video – and has gradually evolved into one of the streamer’s premier sitcoms. Starring Sharon Horgan as Sharon and Rob Delaney as Rob (wait a second…)Catastrophe‘s premise is deceptively simple – American man on a business trip shares a romantic fling with an Irish woman he meets in London, only for said Irish woman to fall pregnant. Rob tries to do the honorable thing by marrying her, and navigating this shock pregnancy provides surprisingly fertile ground for both nail-on-the-head romantic comedy and heartfelt relationship drama, sustaining Sharon & Rob’s catastrophic liaison for four seasons between 2015 and 2019. Catastrophe‘s straightforward setup is complimented by an unusual honesty about love, parenthood and marriage, and there’s no discernible dip in quality along the way. Featuring Ashley Jensen (Ugly BettyExtras) and Carrie Fisher (Star Wars) in supporting roles, Catastrophe earned recognition at the BAFTAs, Emmys and Satellite Awards.

Reacher

Amazon Prime Video’s Reacher isn’t the first live-action adaptation of Lee Child’s famous literary action hero, but Alan Ritchson’s incarnation certainly slams something worthwhile onto the table. Premiering in February 2022, Reacher draws from The Killing Floor, where the titular ex-military police officer is arrested for a murder you’ll be amazed to hear he did not commit. Jack’s investigative instincts kick in, and he embarks on an 8-episode effort to uncover the truth amidst a tangled web of conspiracy and death. More faithful to Child’s books and more effective in its execution than Hollywood’s 2012 movie and its sequel, Ritchson’s performance proves the gem in Reacher‘s crown. Riding a wave of popular momentum, Amazon quickly confirmed season 2 was in production.

Filled with hard-hitting action and nail-biting criminal intrigue, Reacher captures the character’s lonely spirit in the context of a modern TV series, refusing to shy away from his innate physical and social awkwardness (see Tom Cruise for an example of the opposite) but just leaving Ritchson likable enough to keep audiences onside. The numbers are certainly reflecting those positive reactions; Reacher ranks as one of the most successful Amazon original TV shows yet.

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The Wheel Of Time

As a big-budget fantasy epic based on a beloved book series, The Wheel of Time was supposed to become Amazon’s Lord of the Rings… before Jeff Bezos went ahead and stumped up for the actual The Lord of the Rings. Nevertheless, The Wheel of Time turns Robert Jordan’s famed novels into epic high-fantasy live-action drama. Rosamund Pike plays Moiraine of the Aes Sedai, who embarks on a journey to locate the Dragon Reborn of prophecy – an immensely powerful channeller destined to save the world from a dark incoming threat. Filled with magic and mayhem, The Wheel of Time takes plenty of deviations from its book source material – some of which fare better than others – but succeeds in recreating the visually-stunning environments, detailed world-building and sense of high-stakes adventure Amazon was so clearly aiming for.

Despite falling short of early comparisons to Game of Thrones and attracting criticism for prioritizing eye-popping bombast over character focus, Amazon green-lit The Wheel of Time season 2 before the premiere even started streaming, demonstrating the platform’s faith in this blossoming fantasy franchise.

Invincible

The Walking Dead‘s immense success made adaptations of Robert Kirkman comic books a sought-after commodity, and though perhaps not as contagious as his zombie fare, Invincible represents another victory. Mark Grayson is the son of Omni-Man – a world-famous superhero from another planet, analogous to DC’s Superman. After finally awakening powers of his own during adolescence, Mark is delighted to enter the family business and learn the ropes from his father, but as he ventures deeper toward vigilantism, an apocalyptic conspiracy emerges with Omni-Man right in the middle. Beautifully animated and boasting an impressive main voice cast of Steven Yeun, J.K. Simmons and Sandra Oh, Invincible is a story about family and growing up wrapped in the guise of a comic book superhero series… and a particularly violent comic book superhero series at that.

Released in March 2021 and clocking in at a palatable 8 episodes, Amazon has already given Invincible the go-ahead for two additional seasons, which will inevitably dig deeper into the Viltrumite race Omni-Man hails from, as well as his broken relationship with Mark and Invincible’s fledgling superhero career. Invincible will not be the last violently subversive superhero entry on this ranking of Amazon’s best original TV shows.

Good Omens

David Tennant and Michael Sheen indulging in supernatural-themed bickering – what else needs to be said? Based upon the book of the same name by Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett, Good Omens stars Crowley the demon (Tennant) and Aziraphale the angel (Sheen) as two surprising allies determined to locate the accidentally lost Antichrist and prevent a rapidly-approaching Armageddon, having both grown rather fond of Earth over centuries spent on our humble planet. Full of the original novel’s quirk and charm, Good Omens is clearly propelled by the chemistry of its leads. Tennant and Sheen are a golden pairing, and their onscreen collaboration could make a 90-minute infomercial about washing detergent exciting. They’re ably aided by a string of notable guest stars that includes Benedict Cumberbatch, David Morrissey, Derek Jacobi, and Reece Shearsmith. There are also other actors who haven’t appeared in or been linked to Doctor Who.

Filled with heavenly fun, the witty banter of Gaiman & Pratchett, and plenty of hearty laughs, Good Omens proves faithful enough to its source material to keep existing fans happy (Gaiman serves as executive producer) and Good Omens season 2 is now in the pipeline. Development of supporting characters and pacing came in for measured criticism, but considering Good Omens‘ madcap story was once considered impossible to render in live-action, this Amazon original TV show does more than enough to convince St. Peter he should open up.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

One of the more established entries in Amazon’s original TV show catalog, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel effortlessly blends period drama with heartfelt comedy. Starring Rachel Brosnahan in the title role, Midge Maisel is a New York housewife who accidentally embarks on a stand-up comedy career after splitting from her husband. Across four seasons, Mrs. Maisel’s story branches out from its comic roots to explore themes of sexism, motherhood, and breaking social convention. Though Brosnahan stands apart as the undoubtedly marvelous Mrs. Maisel, this Amazon original TV show’s supporting cast – a list that includes Alex Borstein, Jane Lynch and Michael Zegen – help elevate the stand-up mayhem into a snappy, genre-hopping tale of empowerment.

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Boasting Emmys, Golden Globes, and various other strangely-shaped statues denoting outstanding TV achievement, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season 5 will bring Midge’s journey to an inevitably rousing conclusion, and though later seasons might’ve proved less innovative, expectations remain justifiably high. Whoever gets the last laugh, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has unquestionably done enough to ensure its place as an all-time Amazon classic thanks to charming characters and a vibrant depiction of 1950s/1960s New York.

The Expanse

The Expanse didn’t take off as an Amazon original TV show, initially airing on the Syfy network with Amazon only receiving a piece of the streaming action between seasons 1 & 3. Jeff Bezos enjoyed The Expanse so much, however, he stepped in when Syfy wielded its axe of cancellation, and the Rocinante finally made Amazon Prime Video its permanent, exclusive home for The Expanse seasons 4, 5 & 6. Faithfully adapting the original books by James S.A. Corey, The Expanse takes place in a future where humanity has long colonized the solar system, and tensions are boiling over between Earth, Mars, and those based outside the inner planets, known as Belters. That three-way dynamic becomes even more complicated when an ancient alien substance called the Protomolecule appears, and mysterious godlike entities from elsewhere in the universe begin stirring…

Many have hailed The Expanse as the defining sci-fi TV series of the 2010s, and it’s not difficult to see why. Stunning space battles and a realistic, weathered aesthetic keep Holden’s Rocinante crew within touching distance of plausibility, while the slow-build political drama simmers at an almost operatic level. Central protagonists may bond over lasagna, but they each share a unique, fully-realized arc that invites viewers to join the Roci family for the ride. Though The Expanse stopped expanding with season 6, the finale overtly sets up a future continuation.

Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge has popped up everywhere from James Bond to the galaxy far, far away in recent years, and that’s entirely down to the success of Fleabag. Based upon a one-woman show Waller-Bridge performed in 2013, Fleabag spends two seasons following the title character from one hilariously awkward encounter to the next, charting her flailing professional life, romantic fatalities, and complicated family. Simultaneously capable of laugh-out-loud humor and poignant, all-too-relatable twinges of sadness, Fleabag speaks to a generation like few sitcoms before it, transcending cultural barriers along the way. Created, written by, and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, it’s no surprise that Fleabag marks the birth of a star both behind and in front of camera.

Praised endlessly for its wit, intelligence, and human performances, Fleabag will go down as a timeless and inimitable comedy not because of the army of awards and accolades under its belt, nor the queue of industry figures lining up to pat Phoebe Waller-Bridge on the back. Fleabag deserves its acclaim because of the deeply intimate relationship Waller-Bridge crafts between her character and the viewer – a dynamic of disassociation that perfectly reflects the complex perils of modern existence. Deep stuff for a TV show where “Arsehole Guy” is an official character name.

The Boys

Based on the already popular comic book series by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, Amazon Prime Video’s The Boys adaptation rapidly became a superhero smash hit without a DC or Marvel character in sight (er… sort of) and now represents a major tentpole in Amazon’s original TV content. With Eric Kripke (Supernatural) on showrunner duty, The Boys takes place in an R-rated world where Compound-V has given rise to a genetic breed of super-powered subjects – most of whom are absolutely awful. The Boys twists Marvel and DC’s traditional depiction of superheroes into a depressingly realistic realm of marketing, optics, and corruption, where the world’s biggest heroes are truly diabolical behind closed doors. One side includes Homelander (Antony Starr), Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), and The Deep (Chace Crawford). The other features Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), Hugh Campbell (Jack Quaid) and Kimiko Miyashiro (Karen Fukuhara). Whenever they clash, someone gets covered in blood. It’s usually Hughie.

Unflinching in its social commentary, The Boys packs all the comic book action and Ennis-inspired gross-out moments you’d expect, but adds a surprising degree of emotional drama. One minute The Boys is abusing sea life, the next a young boy is losing a parent. Immense popularity and a league of positive reviews have prompted Amazon to expand The Boys into a multi-faceted franchise incorporating numerous spinoffs. The Boys season 3 arrives on Amazon Prime Video in June 2022.

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