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The 50 Best TV Shows on Amazon Prime Right Now

November 2017

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25. Downton Abbey
Creator: Julian Fellowes
Stars: Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Jessica Brown-Findlay, Laura Carmichael, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Siobhan Finneran, Joanne Froggatt, Thomas Howes, Rob James-Collier, Rose Leslie, Phyllis Logan, Sophie McShera
Network: PBS

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Downton Abbey is never short on drama and general strife. The ensemble series is extraordinarily well-acted (as evidenced by Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Joanne Froggatt, Jim Carter and Brendan Coyle all receiving Emmy nominations), and there’s perhaps no easier way to describe the second season’s plot twists than fucking nuts, a term we strongly feel the saucy Dowager Countess would approve of. Amnesia? Yup. Temporary paralysis? Got it. Murder conviction? Oh, big-time. In less capable hands, these stories would’ve likely flown off the rails and veered into the completely ridiculous, but the talented cast of Downton Abbey handle it with aplomb. As the seasons progressed, many more tragedies would befall the Crawley family, making for some of most compelling television in recent memory. Bonnie Stiernberg

24. Star Trek: The Next Generation
Creator: Gene Roddenberry
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton
Network: Syndicated

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The original series was pioneering. Deep Space Nine and Voyager had their moments. But TNG was head-and-shoulders the greatest Star Trek franchise. Jean Luc Picard. Data. Worf. The holodeck. The Borg. Gene Roddenbury must not have had a cynical bone in his body, and at least while I was watching his characters explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before, I didn’t either. Josh Jackson

23. Flight of the Conchords
Creators: James Bobin, Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie
Stars: Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, Rhys Darby, Kristen Schaal, Arj Barker
Network: HBO 

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When I hear the words “musical comedy,” I tend to think of old Broadway standards like My Fair Lady or Singin’ in the Rain. No offense to those shows, but I’m very glad that Flight of the Conchords was a musical comedy of a very different kind. Starring Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, the show is the story of an awful two-man band from New Zealand who have an incompetent manager (the wonderful Rhys Darby as Murray Hewitt) and literally one fan (the hilarious, obsessive Kristen Schaal) as they try to make it big in New York. Despite their repeated failures, there’s something both sincere and casual about their approach, which stands in stark contrast to the tense, cynical neuroses you might expect. Each episode is punctuated by two or three songs which range from “very good” to “classic” hits If You’re Into it and Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymoceros are two terrific examples of the latter. This is a show that you sink into, and that sweeps you along in its own relaxed rhythms, dispensing the sort of calm, surprising laughs that feels almost therapeutic. Shane Ryan

22. Doctor Who
Creators: Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, Donald Wilson
Stars: Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith 
Network: BBC

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Originally launched in 1963, The Doctor returned to the TV screen in 2005, traveling through time and space in the TARDIS, an antiquated and surprisingly spacious blue police box. The special effects may have gotten marginally better, but the camp has stayed the same. With Russell T. Davies at the helm and David Tennant playing the 10th doctor, the show was never better. Soon, there’ll be a new Doctor—Jodie Whittaker, the first woman to play the role—to continue, and evolve, the tradition. Josh Jackson

21. Bored To Death
Creator: Jonathan Ames
Stars: Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis, Ted Danson, Heather Burns
Network: HBO 

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Those of us who watched Season One and immediately fell in love with the ridiculous, weed-laden, NYC misadventures of Brooklyn writer/part-time faux detective Jonathan Ames (Jason Schwartzman) and his pals Ray (Zach Galifianakis) and George Christopher (Ted Danson) felt like we were a part of something special;something off the grid, but better than practically anything on TV. This was especially true for writers, because we really love movies and shows about writers. So when Jonathan stared at the words on his computer screen—the beginning of his second novel—and announced to Ray “I’m at a good stopping place,” we knew what that meant, and we were delighted to be in on the secret. Creator Jonathan Ames, no doubt, drew from his own personal experiences as a novelist and comic memoir writer (those Super Ray drawings are that much more meaningful now) to create a world where a struggling artist has to get a little (or a lot) creative if he’s going to make things happen in his life. With some brilliant performances from Danson, Galifianakis and Heather Burns (and some great appearances from Patton Oswalt, Jenny Slate, Oliver Platt and countless others) Bored to Death gave us an unforgettable, though brief, TV adventure. Shannon M. Houston

20. Catastrophe
Creators:   Rob Delaney, Sharon Horgan
Stars: Rob Delaney, Sharon Horgan
Network: Amazon

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What if you got pregnant from a one night stand? What if you lived in London and the father of your future child live in Boston? It would probably be a catastrophe. The result for Catastrophe, however, is an absolutely charming series about two people (played by Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan) trying to make the best of a tough situation. The comedy finds humor in the achingly honest portrayal of life, marriage and parenting. I laughed out loud when Rob says to Sharon, “Frankie wants to show you the poop that he just did. Before you say ‘no,’ it’s pretty amazing.” When I had my first child, I couldn’t get over how much time I spent talking to my husband about poop (honestly it’s the truth about parenting that no one tells you.) Needless to say, this show gets me. And even if it doesn’t get you in the same way, I guarantee you it will make you laugh. It’s simultaneously hilarious and grounded. How often does that happen? Amy Amatangelo

19. Fleabag
Creator: Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Stars: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Sian Clifford, Jenny Rainsford, Bill Paterson, Olivia Coleman, Brett Gelman, Hugh Skinner
Network: Amazon

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TV and cinema have proffered plenty of variations on the theme of whip-smart women struggling with emotional crises while also making questionable romantic and sexual decisions. But almost none have had the raw wit and impressive depth of the BBC-born, Amazon Prime-fostered Fleabag. Writer/performer Phoebe Waller-Bridge is heartbreaking and hilarious in the role of a silver-tongued Londoner still reeling from the deaths of her mother and her best friend but stifling any negative emotions through her endless barrage of witty rejoinders and bad behavior.

Over these half-dozen half-hours, the titular Fleabag finds her steely exterior roughly chipped away as her relationships start to crumble around her, revealing just how lonely she really is. Fleabag strikes every note with poise and self-possession, never getting too maudlin or too clownish and trusting in an incredibly strong cast (particularly Bill Paterson and Olivia Colman as her withering father and evil stepmother, and Sian Clifford as her tightly-wound sister) to maintain that equilibrium. The steady hand at the wheel is Waller-Bridge herself, in a dazzling, nuanced dual performance as the writer and star of each episode, resulting in gaspingly hilarious, achingly human television. Robert Ham

18. Sex and the City
Creator: Darren Star
Stars: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon
Network: HBO 

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Okay, bad news first: Darren Star’s Sex and the City was not a perfect show. Most of us who watched could not relate to the very specific demographic of women who were showcased. And, for a series whose beating heart was NYC, the show did not do well in its presentation of gay characters or characters of color (whenever they showed up). Hell, even the main character was problematic and difficult to root for at times, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), the not-so-eloquent writer who was better at choosing a pair of Manolo Blahniks than making decisions in her love life (Team Aiden). This was an infuriating show to experience sometimes, and that’s partly why we loved it. It remains a phenomenon, and as cliché as it may sound, it opened the door for more complex narratives about women and sex, and it did so unapologetically thanks in large part to Kim Cattrall’s role as Samantha Jones. And if Samantha was too much for you, Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) and Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) offered up their own unique perspectives, giving the foursome an original, entertaining, and important balance of personalities and feminist (or anti-feminist) outlooks. So when we talk about the impact of HBO, Sex and the City has to be a big part of the discussion. Whatever class issues, or race issues, or gender and sexuality issues Sex and the City might have swept under the rug (or addressed in a problematic way), it still functioned as a loud, oft-obscene call for agency among the marginalized. And it did all of this with some of the funniest dialogue and sex talk we’d ever heard. “My man has funky tasting spunk!” will go down in history as one of the most horrifying, incredible TV moments of all time, and that’s just the tip (ahem) of the legendary SaTC iceberg. Shannon M. Houston

17. The Good Wife
Creator: Robert King, Michelle King
Stars: Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry, Archie Panjabi, Graham Phillips, Makenzie Vega, Josh Charles 
Network: CBS


Are network dramas supposed to be this good? Julianna Margulies stars as the title character Alicia Florrick. In a storyline ripped from many, many headlines, the series begins with Alicia’s public humiliation. Her husband, Peter (Chris Noth), the District Attorney of Chicago, has been caught cheating with a prostitute. The scandal thrusts Alicia back into the workforce and she goes to work for her (very sexy) old law school friend Will Gardner (Josh Charles). But Alicia is not your typical “stand by your man” woman and The Good Wife is not your typical show. The brilliance of the series is that it deftly blends multiple and equally engaging storylines. Each episode is an exciting combination of political intrigue, inner-office jockeying, family strife, sizzling romance and intriguing legal cases. The series features a fantastic array of guest stars and creates a beguiling and believable world where familiar characters weave in and out of Alicia’s life just like they would in real life. You’ll be fascinated by Archie Panjabi’s mysterious Kalinda Sharma. Delight in Zach Grenier’s mischievous David Lee. Marvel at Christine Baranski’s splendid Diane Lockhart. And witness the transformative performance Alan Cummings gives as the cunning Eli Gold. But the real reason to stick with the series is to partake in the show’s later seasons. Many shows start to fade as they age, but The Good Wife , for the most part, finished strong. Amy Amatangelo

16. Veep
Creator: Armando Iannucci
Stars: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, Reid Scott, Matt Walsh, Timothy Simons, Sufe Bradshaw
Network: HBO 

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Veep satirizes the political world by distilling it down to what the public likes to watch most: the screw-ups. From foot-in-mouth moments to mis-sent documents to squeaky shoes, everything Selina Meyer (Julia Louis Dreyfus) does is scrutinized, turned into an offense, and spit back at her through the distorted prism of Twitter and never-ending public opinion polling. They never specify Meyer’s political party, and it’s no surprise that its fans span the political spectrum. Because the main thing Veep stays true to is shining a light on the people more desperate to be near power than to make any real social impact. Dreyfus may be the funniest person on TV right now. She’ll truly commit to a bit, and she has a habit of taking them beyond surface level cute into the truly disastrous and unflattering. Selina Meyer doesn’t walk into glass doors, she shatters them and stands in a pile of glass with bleeding cuts all over her face. She takes bad advice, wears terrible hats, gets a Dustin Hoffman haircut, and can’t go abroad without committing terrible international faux pas. And Selina is at her best as a character when she’s at her most terrible,full of ego, more concerned with being liked than passing legislation, and blaming her staff for her mistakes. Selina’s bag man Gary (Tony Hale) is a glorious sad sack, and Dan Egan (Reid Scott) is so coldly ambitious his every misstep feels like a victory. But for every unknowingly selfish thing each person says, Veep’s ace-in-the-hole is Anna Chlumsky’s Amy, whose Olympic-level reaction faces land everyone else’s jokes. And the smaller recurring roles offer cameos from some of America’s best improvisers. Through and through, it’s a comedy nerd’s dream team. Erica Lies

15. Louie
Creator:   Louis C.K.  
Stars:   Louis C.K.  
Network: FX

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When life gives you lemons, you can make lemonade. But as comedian-turned-divorced dad Louis C.K. has proven on a week-to-week basis, you don’t have to be happy about it. Louie offers a painfully real but hilarious look at Louis C.K.’s fictional, jaded version of himself and explores the humor in divorce, aging and parenthood. The show became more ambitious with each season, abandoning much of its former structure by Season Four and moving closer towards continuity and multi-episode arcs. The stories often felt like short films rather than episodes of TV show. But through all the changes, Louie retained the surrealism and dark humor that has consistently made it one of the best shows on TV. Tyler Kane

14. Pride and Prejudice
Creator: Simon Langton
Stars: Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle, Susannah Harker, Julia Sawalha
Networks: BBC, A&E

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Riders make their way through a 16mm-colored countryside, Colin Firth makes his way into a lake, and Austen makes her way onto TV in what remains the definitive adaptation of Austen’s work for the screen (the breathtaking opening three minutes of Joe Wright’s 2005 film adaptation aside). The music bounces from scene to scene with curlicue youthfulness. The acting prods the lines around it with sly good cheer. Though it all, the spirit of the adaptation by Andrew Davies can be found in his describing it so: “Let’s have Elizabeth on a hillside seeing these two tasty blokes galloping along, and something about them makes her skip down the hill.” And, for the implicit back and forth that inspires (let alone what follows), we follow, too. Evan Fleischer

13. Transparent
Creator: Jill Soloway
Stars: Jeffrey Tambor, Gaby Hoffmann, Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass
Network: Amazon

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There’s so much that could have gone wrong with Transparent. For one, an out-of-context image of Jeffrey Tambor in a dress is bound to attract some smirks. What’s more, on initial glance, the show’s content (marital discord, adultery, unplanned pregnancy) reads like a writers’ room whiteboard on a network soap. As creator Jill Soloway demonstrates, however, sometimes it’s all in the execution. Indeed, what’s immediately striking about the show, is how disarmingly intimate it all feels. In telling the story of an elderly parent’s decision to finally reveal her transgender lifestyle to her children, Soloway does not take any shortcuts in depicting the subsequent shockwaves the decision causes. In the process, she endows each character and plot development with the proper dramatic weight, without ever sacrificing a sense of levity. Maintaining such a tone is a proverbial tightrope act, and Soloway and her creative team somehow manage to keep their balance throughout each of the season’s ten episodes, without breaking a sweat. Hear that? That’s the sound of Amazon Studios throwing down the gauntlet in the online TV revolution. Mark Rozeman

12. Hannibal
Creator:   Bryan Fuller  
Stars:   Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas, Hugh Dancy
Network: NBC

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again;Hannibal airing on a broadcast network was nothing short of a minor miracle. After a stellar inaugural year, Bryan Fuller and company dared to up the stakes for their second go-around, taking major creative risks in the process. These risks came in the form of (among other things) sealing the protagonist in jail for a third of the run, killing off a major character, and ending the season with what I can only describe as the visual equivalent of a mic drop. Even in its weaker moments, the show always offered something memorable, whether it be an impressive visual, or an intense dialogue exchange. And while some viewers no doubt came to Hannibal purely for its inventive, if highly gruesome imagery (there’s certainly that in spades), chances are they ended up staying for the compelling writing, hypnotic performances, and luscious, evocative cinematography. Mark Rozeman

11. Roseanne
Creator: Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner
Stars:Roseanne Barr, John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert, Michael Fishman, Lecy Goranson and Johnny Galecki
Original Network: ABC

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Premiering near the tail end of the ’80s, Roseanne presented a monumental shift in the depiction of the American family. Like Married…with Children, which had debuted a year-and-a-half beforehand, it was a show with real bite, as evidenced by star Roseanne Barr’s stand-up material. Unlike the Fox program, however, the stories of Roseanne and Dan Conner (Roseanne Barr and John Goodman) and their rambunctious kids were almost always rooted in heart. In a landscape filled with pretty people and their petty problems, Roseanne chose to tackle the realities of a blue-collar family struggling to get by. Besides highlighting a side of America not seen since the heyday of Norman Lear, the show also used its primetime platform to discuss controversial issues of birth control, drug abuse and homosexuality. And though the show’s much maligned final season did not sit well with most audiences, one cannot deny that Roseanne was, like its titular character, bold and uncompromising. Now almost three decades after its premiere, with the world is economic and political upheaval, ABC is rebooting the show. Catch up before it returns but, pro tip, you can skip the final season. Seems like ABC (smartly) plans to act like it never happened. Mark Rozeman and Amy Amatangelo

10. Deadwood
Creator: David Milch
Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, John Hawkes, Jim Beaver, Brad Dourif, Paula Malcomson, William Sanderson, Kim Dickens, Keith Carradine
Network: HBO 

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Sure, Deadwood does a fine job within the revisionist Western sub-genre’s traditional trappings, but ultimately it’s less concerned with its setting and historical accuracy (though it has plenty to spare) than it is about accurately portraying humans. Why do societies and allegiances form, why are close friends betrayed, and why does humanity’s best seem to always just barely edge out its worst? These are the real concerns that make Deadwood a masterpiece. David Milch created a sprawling, fastidiously detailed world in which to stage his gritty morality plays and with it has come as close as anyone to creating a novel on-screen. With assistance from some truly memorable acting by Ian McShane, Brad Dourif and Paula Malcomson, Deadwood’s sometimes over-the-top representations never veer far enough from reality for its inhabitants to become “just characters.” Sean Gandert

9. Curb Your Enthusiasm
Creator:   Larry David  
Stars:   Larry David, Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman
Network: HBO 

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Larry David  pulled off the rare successful second act in television comedy;Curb Your Enthusiasm was almost as hilarious as Seinfeld, and thanks to HBO’s more laidback production schedules, it actually lasted longer than his first sitcom, running off and on from 2000 to 2011. (It’s still not officially cancelled, although David apparently is doubtful that it’ll return.) Curb was Seinfeldian in its rhythms, with David basically playing the George Costanza version of himself as an eternally perturbed and self-defeating schlemiel who just happens to be fantastically wealthy after creating a show called Seinfeld. A lot of cringe comedy forgets to actually be funny, but that was never a problem for Curb, which remained as funny (and cringeworthy) as ever over its eight seasons. And it’s not just the increasingly uncomfortable situations or David’s masterful escalation from annoyance to rage to embarrassment that made the show work so well;David surrounded himself with a fantastic cast, from regulars like Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin, JB Smoove and Susie Essman, to such recurring guest stars as Wanda Sykes, Richard Lewis, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, and Bob Einstein. Oh, and also there’s an entire season about a Seinfeld reunion, guest starring the original cast. Curb can be hard to watch at times, but it was always hilarious, and was HBO’s trademark comedy throughout the last decade. Garrett Martin

8. Six Feet Under
Creator: Alan Ball
Stars: Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose
Network: HBO 

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Six Feet Under is a television show that attempts to find reason and order in death, but then, in every episode, totally fails. Through the eyes of the Fisher family, proprietors and operators of a funeral home in Los Angeles, death is an inevitability stripped of all romance, and yet the series, as it follows the lives of eldest brother Nate Fisher and his loved ones, can never escape the fear at the core of even the most jaded people’s relationship with mortality. Opaquely funny, tender, heartrending and sometimes deeply uncomfortable, Six Feet Under balks, down to the marrow of its bones, at the idea that there is reason in death, and in turn, every episode begins with a functionally freak fatality, so much so that it’s nearly impossible to binge watch the series without concluding that death will find us when we least expect it, no matter what we do, or no matter how we hide. And yet, somehow Six Feet Under is never morbid, instead concerned with celebrating the lives of its ensemble however they happen to play out, sensitive to the fact that though they run a funeral home, they have as little insight into the meaning of life as anyone else navigating modernity at the turn of the century. Pretty much the polar opposite of Ball’s True Blood, Six Feet Under is—I’m not sure how else to put it—a TV show about life, all of it, and if you aren’t drenched with tears by the time it all ends, you should probably have someone check your pulse. Dom Sinacola

7. Enlightened
Creators: Mike White and Laura Dern
Stars: Laura Dern, Mike White, Luke Wilson, Diane Ladd, Sarah Burns, Timm Sharp
Network: HBO 

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Much like its volatile lead heroine, HBO’s Enlightened demonstrated a disorientating oscillation between intensely emotional naval-gazing and abrasive, cringe-worthy comedy. Having found the proper balance approximately halfway through the first year, showrunner/co-star Mike White found a groove. Perhaps more so than any show on TV, Enlightened’s episodes were driven less by plot and more by character’s interior lives. With its sunny, colorful visual palate masking an undeniable undercurrent of melancholy, the show was certainly never afraid to wear its heart (painfully) on its sleeve. Led by a career-defining performance from Laura Dern as the troubled protagonist, the show also milked great work from other series regulars, including White, Luke Wilson and Dern’s real-life mother Diane Ladd as Amy’s own long-suffering mother. And while one can mourn the episodes and story arcs that will never be, the show’s finale gives the entire series the poignant and conclusive crescendo it deserves. Mark Rozeman

6. Twin Peaks
Creators:   David Lynch, Mark Frost
Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Richard Beymer, Lara Flynn Boyle, Joan Chen, Eric Da Re, Sherilyn Fenn
Network: ABC


At its heart, Twin Peaks was a detective story, with Dale Cooper (Kyle Maclachan), a stalwart, by-the-book FBI agent, descending upon a small logging town of Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of a young woman. But since this was a TV series conceived using the weird and wonderful visions of David Lynch, it wound up being so much more. Like its nearest antecedent, Blue Velvet, it explores the weirdness that lies beneath the surface of Anytown U.S.A., including a lot of soap opera-like psychosexual drama and assorted oddball characters like The Log Lady (Catherine Coulson) and agoraphobic Harold Smith (Lenny Von Dohlen). The horror of the show came in with the supernatural underpinnings of this storyline, with the killer of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) potentially being an otherworldly force that goes by the name of Bob. Through Lynch’s lens and through the guise of actor Frank Silva, that spirit haunted every last scene in the show, no matter how outlandish and far-reaching it got. With the help of Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting score and the atmosphere created by the set designers, you spent the entirety of the two seasons waiting for something terrible to happen to everyone on screen. And it only made those moments when things did go sour feel that much worse. Lynch and company have a lot to live up to with their companion series premiering this May on Showtime. Robert Ham

5. Cheers
Creators: James Burrows, Glen Charles, Les Charles
Stars: Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Kirstie Alley, Rhea Perlman, Nicholas Colasanto, John Ratzenberger, Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammer, George Wendt
Network: NBC

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Like many long-running sitcoms, the Cheers of the 1990s was really a fundamentally different show than it was in the 1980s, less about the dating life of Ted Danson’s Sam and much more of an ensemble device, full of characters who were by this point beloved by all. The final years of Cheers were when all these characters got to shine, especially Rhea Perlman as Carla and Kelsey Grammer, who joined the cast full-time before spinning off into Frasier. The finale episode received mixed reactions at the time, but nostalgia has pushed it into favorable territory, especially given the happy endings that most characters receive. Sam decides not to get married and stays with the bar. It is, of course, his one true love. Jim Vorel

4. The Americans
Creator: Joseph Weisberg
Stars: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Holly Taylor
Network: FX

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Since its debut in 2013, creator Joe Weisberg’s portrait of Soviet spies posing as an American couple in the Washington, D.C. suburbs has plumbed new depths, and added new layers, with each subsequent season: Once a crafty spy game run through with frissons of marital disenchantment, The Americans has emerged as a bold and artful exploration of faith, family, and our differing definitions of “freedom.” Featuring a slew of superb supporting turns, from the likes of Noah Emmerich, Holly Taylor, Frank Langella, Margo Martindale and Dylan Baker, the series’ impeccable fourth season—now streaming on Prime—witnesses Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (the sublime Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) confront the specter of meaninglessness itself, and The Americans elaborates the subtly forceful visual language to match. The Americans demands consideration alongside The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad and Mad Men as one of the best dramas to air on American television so far this century. Matt Brennan

3.The Twilight Zone
Creator: Rod Sterling
Network: CBS

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From the bitter social critique of “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” in Season One with its eery comparison to Cold War America to the William Shatner-starring “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” about a salesman who discovers there’s something on the wing of his plane, it’s worth noting how well The Twilight Zone has aged. If you’re just going to watch one episode, we recommend “The Eye of the Beholder” from Season Two, which combines everything that makes this a cherished television series. The audience is dropped in media res as Janet Tyler lies hospitalized with gauze wrapped around her head. The camera movement and light is inventive and screens the audience from truly discerning what’s going on. The slow unwrapping of the gauze is possibly the most tense moment in the entire series, and the surprise that follows has left an indelible mark on television and audiences alike. Darren Orf

2. The Sopranos
Creator: David Chase
Stars: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Robert Iler
Network: HBO 

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For eight years, James Gandolfini crawled deep inside the complexities of Tony Soprano;loving father, son and husband, goodhearted friend, master of sardonic one-liners (“How do you vandalize a pool?”), troubled psych patient, serial adulterer, mob boss and brutal, remorseless killer;inspiring as much dumbfounded loathing and shuddering sympathy as any character in TV history. Murderers aren’t one-dimensional; they have feelings, aspirations, justifications, families. The Sopranos brilliantly and believably explored this dynamic, turning the crime-drama on its head and taking dysfunction to the extreme in the process. As unfathomable as their world was, the characters of this tragic, beautifully arcing modern epic were so real that they became like family to us, too. Steve LaBate

1.The Wire
Creator:   David Simon  
Stars: Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn, Idris Elba, Domenick Lombardozzi, Ellis Carver, Andre Royo, Wendell Pierce, Rhonda Pearlman
Network: HBO 


Series mastermind David Simon conceived The Wire as a modern Greek tragedy, a morality play set in a drug-infested urban war zone where conventional good guys and bad guys barely exist. Everyone is conflicted and compromised. We didn’t need The Wire to remind us that “the system”—the criminal justice system, the political system, the education system—is broken. But no other cultural enterprise (and certainly no television show) has shown us precisely how the infrastructure has collapsed, forcing us to consider the impossible decisions required for repair. Amidst the rubble of a failed city, Simon created an engrossing human drama about the eternal struggle between aspiration and desperation, ambition and resignation;in other words, the fight for the American Dream. Nick Marino

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