The 75 Best TV Shows on Amazon Prime, Ranked (February 2020)

Starting with our #1 pick

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The 75 Best TV Shows on Amazon Prime, Ranked (February 2020)

Though Amazon Prime may not have as many original series as its streaming competitors, it does feature a robust catalogue of titles and offers the ability to add-on a variety of niche services like Showtime, Starz, Britbox, and more. Crucially, it also has a large library of older HBO titles as well as shows that have aired on PBS, all included with your Prime subscription (of note: you can also subscribe to video only, but why not get the benefit of free 2-day shipping as well?)

As Amazon continues to expand its library, it also may be on the brink of losing a fair portion of it once HBO Max launches in May and Disney+ possibly absorbs FX. For now, Amazon offers a truly great array of TV shows that are well worth a binge or two or ten. And we will continue to update the list as the platform’s selections change. (For the best movies on Amazon, go here. And for more on details on a variety of add-on services, visit our streaming guide).

Below, you’ll find out list of recommendations starting with #1. For those of you who want to dive deeper into our picks and what Amazon offers, keep scrolling. But for the best of the best, we’ve put it right up front for you. Happy viewing!


1. The Wire

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Created by:   David Simon  
Stars: Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn, Idris Elba, Domenick Lombardozzi, Ellis Carver, Andre Royo, Wendell Pierce, Rhonda Pearlman
Original Network: HBO 

Series mastermind David Simon conceived of 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 with unforgettable characters about the eternal struggle between aspiration and desperation, ambition and resignation. In other words, the fight for the American Dream. —Nick Marino


2. The Sopranos

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Created by: David Chase
Stars: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Robert Iler
Original Network: HBO 

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


3. Band of Brothers

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Created by: Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg 
Stars: Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, Scott Grimes, Donnie Wahlberg, Kirk Acevedo, Eion Bailey, Michael Cudlitz
Original Network: HBO 

Many years ago there was a blog called “Pop Culture Torture,” and one of the challenges was for a writer to watch all Band of Brothers episodes in one day and document it. By the fourth hour he was an emotional wreck, and by the fifth he was starting to sob just at the opening theme. Such is the immense power of this World War II epic, which fictionalizes the experiences of “Easy” Company from the 1992 book of the same name. The show also features some of the real heroes talking about their experiences before and after episodes, and when you learn which characters are based off of them it just brings everything together in overwhelming ways. The careful attention to detail and weaving in of historical moments will ultimately make this series your definitive understanding of the war and everything surrounding it. So don’t binge it, but do watch—it is one if the all-time greats. (One that happens to star a massive cast of recognizable young male actors in small roles who almost all became A-list movie stars). Follow-up HBO series to watch after this one include The Pacific, which deals with that theater of the war, and also David Simon’s Generation Kill, another outstanding miniseries that focuses on a Marine recon division during the first 40 days of the Iraq War. —Allison Keene


4. The Americans

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Created by: Joseph Weisberg 
Stars: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Holly Taylor
Original Network: FX, 2013-2018

Over the course its six-season run, The Americans completed a remarkable evolution, beginning and ending as a blisteringly suspenseful spy drama. Of course, by the time Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields’ masterwork reaches its devastating conclusion, with deep-cover KGB agents Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (the magnificent Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) surveying what they’ve lost, and gained, in the process, The Americans is about so much more than safe houses and dead drops. It is at once a parable of family, faith, and nation; a pitch-dark examination of the Cold War’s moral calculus; a coming-of-age tale (twice over); a wrenching depiction of friendships formed and betrayed; and an indelible portrait of an American marriage. FX’s pet project was worth every ounce of patience it demanded: We may well remember it as the last great drama of the Golden Age of Television. —Matt Brennan


5. Cheers

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Created by: 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
Original Network: NBC

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. The fact that Sam decides to “stay with the bar” makes perfect sense—it is of course his one true love. —Jim Vorel


6. 30 Rock

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Created by:   Tina Fey  
Stars: Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, Jack McBrayer, Scott Adsit, Judah Friedlander
Original Network: NBC

The spiritual successor to Arrested Development, 30 Rock succeeded where its competition failed by largely ignoring the actual process of creating a TV show and instead focusing on the life of one individual in charge of the process, played by show creator Tina Fey. 30 Rock never loses track of its focus, and creates a surprisingly deep character for its circus to spin around. But Fey’s not the only one who makes the series so outstanding. Consistently spot-on performances by Tracy Morgan—whether frequenting strip clubs or a werewolf bar mitzvah—and Alec Baldwin’s evil plans for microwave-television programming create a perfect level of chaos for the show’s writers to unravel every week. 30 Rock doesn’t have complex themes or a deep message, but that stuff would get in the way of its goal: having one of the most consistently funny shows ever on TV. Suffice to say, it succeeded. —Sean Gandert


7.The Twilight Zone

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Created by: Rod Serling
Stars: Rod Serling
Original Network: CBS

It is, in the estimation of any sane person, one of the greatest science fiction series of all time without a doubt, with its myriad episodes about technology, aliens, space travel, etc. But The Twilight Zone also plumbed the depths of the human psyche, madness and damnation with great regularity, in the same spirit as creator Rod Serling’s later series, Night Gallery. Ultimately, The Twilight Zone is indispensable to both sci-fi and horror. Its moralistic playlets so often have the tone of dark, Grimm Brothers fables for the rocket age of the ‘50s and ‘60s, urban legends that have left an indelible mark on the macabre side of our pop culture consciousness. What else can one call an episode such as “Living Doll,” wherein a confounded, asshole Telly Savalas is threatened, stalked and ultimately killed by his abused daughter’s vindictive doll, Talky Tina? Or “The Invaders,” about a lonely woman in a farmhouse who is menaced by invaders from outer space in an episode almost entirely without dialog? Taken on its own, a piece of television such as “The Invaders” almost shares more in common with “old dark house” horror films or the slashers that would arrive 20 years later than an entry in a sci-fi anthology. —Jim Vorel


8. Frasier

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Created by: David Angell, Peter Casey, David Lee
Stars: Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves, John Mahoney, Peri Gilpin, Moose
Original Network: NBC

Many classic sitcoms are paeans to blue-collar family life, but Frasier was the odd show that made cultural elites and eggheads somehow seem like lovable characters to a mass audience. Both Frasier and his brother Niles can be infuriatingly snobbish, but audiences soon found that when their petty jealousies were directed at each other, they could also be hilarious. The show quickly became an off-hand representation of the idea of “smart comedy” on TV, but it was also still a sitcom full of relationship humor. Viewers waited a hell of a long time in particular for the long-teased relationship between Niles and Daphne to finally come to fruition (seven full seasons). Frasier, on the other hand, is never really lucky in love, but he was always better as a semi-depressed single, turning his probing mind on himself. —Jim Vorel


9. Six Feet Under

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Created by: Alan Ball
Stars: Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose
Original Network: HBO 

Six Feet Under is a television show that attempts to find reason and order in death, but then every episode totally fails. Through the eyes of the Fisher family’s 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. Somehow, though, 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


10. Fleabag

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Created by: Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Stars: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Sian Clifford, Jenny Rainsford, Bill Paterson, Olivia Coleman, Brett Gelman, Hugh Skinner
Original Network: Amazon

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


11. Deadwood

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Created by: David Milch
Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, John Hawkes, Jim Beaver, Brad Dourif, Paula Malcomson, William Sanderson, Kim Dickens, Keith Carradine
Original Network: HBO 

Few shows sound as profanely inspired as Deadwood, which has also been referred to as “Shakespeare in the mud.” It deserves every kudos. The extraordinarily compelling Western is 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. (A recent movie on HBO also helps sew things up in a satisfying way after the original series’ sudden ending). —Sean Gandert and Allison Keene


12. Twin Peaks

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Created by:   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
Original 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 the 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 strangeness 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 permeated 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. Twin Peaks: The Return, continues with wild surrealism and resistance to narrative confirm the visionary nature of Lynch’s original, including one of the most visually stunning episodes of all time. —Robert Ham


13. Parks and Recreation

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Created by: Greg Daniels, Michael Schur
Stars: Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Rashida Jones
Original Network: NBC

Parks and Recreation started its run as a fairly typical mirror of The Office, but by its second and third seasons, the student became the master. As it became fleshed out with oddballs and unusual city quirks, Pawnee has become the greatest television town since Springfield. Parks flourished over the years with some of the most unique and interesting characters in modern comedy. And the beloved series accomplished the near-impossible by going out on top in 2015. Comedies, in particular, have a difficult time knowing when it’s time to take a bow. But Leslie Knope and her merry band of friends kept us laughing (and crying) right up until the series finale, which offered a powerfully good farewell to one of the most creative and beloved network series in history. —Ross Bonaime and Amy Amatangelo


14. NYPD Blue

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Created by: Steven Bochco, David Milch
Stars: Dennis Franz, David Caruso, James McDaniel, Nicholas Turturro, Sharon Lawrence, Gordon Clapp, Jimmy Smits, Kim Delaney
Original Network: ABC

Detective Andy Sipowicz. That’s really all you need to know about NYPD Blue. In the recovering alcoholic who suffered more than Job, Dennis Franz created one of television’s best and most iconic characters. By the end of the series’ 12-season run, Sipowicz could have spent an entire episode saying nothing at all, and we still would have known exactly what he was thinking. The landmark show may be remembered for pushing the boundaries of network television (hello, naked behinds!) or for how David Caruso infamously departed the series after the first season, but its true genius was in the way that it seamlessly and authentically wove the characters’ personal lives with the cases they were investigating. While watching, we felt immersed in the 15th Precinct. Gritty, heartbreaking, thought-provoking and, at times, hilarious, the series set the bar high for all cop dramas that would follow. If you can only watch one episode, I would direct you to “Heart and Souls,” which aired November 24, 1998 and is one of the finest episodes ever about death. I still get chills thinking about it. —Amy Amatangelo


15. The Night Manager

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Created by: Stephen Garrett
Stars: Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Debicki, Olivia Coleman, Alistair Petrie
Original Network: AMC

John le Carre stories are usually morose or opaque, as spies are seen either trapped in dark and cold worlds or dealing with the monotony that makes up most of their days (witness Gary Oldman’s slow, emotionless swim to fill the days of his “retirement” in the 2011 film adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). But not The Night Manager. In this visually stunning and exceptionally compelling miniseries, we have bona fide movie star Tom Hiddleston looking dashing in linen suits—or sometimes nothing at all—as he goes undercover in the world of yachts and fresh lobster salads to take down Hugh Laurie’s Dickie Roper, the worst man in the world—the type of person who learns of a sarin gas attack and thinks “business opportunity.”

But all the glitz and double crossing isn’t all that sells this production. Attention must also be given to the supporting cast. Tom Hollander’s Lance “Corky” Corkoran could have been your typical nefarious character who’s onto our hero, but instead he’s an addict in desperate need of Roper’s attention, which is all the more delicious. The fact that Olivia Coleman was very pregnant while shooting made the obsession that her character, agent Angela Burr, had with taking down Roper much more real and dangerous. Most impressive of all might be breakout star Elizabeth Debicki, who played the beautiful, if dead-eyed, Jed Marshall who knows she made a deal with the devil and doesn’t quite know how to get out of that web. —Whitney Friedlander


16. Enlightened

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Created by: Mike White and Laura Dern
Stars: Laura Dern, Mike White, Luke Wilson, Diane Ladd, Sarah Burns, Timm Sharp
Original Network: HBO 

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 characters’ 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


17. Mozart In the Jungle

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Created by: Paul Weitz, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman 
Stars: Gael Garcia Bernal, Lola Kirke, Bernadette Peters, Malcolm McDowell
Original Network: Amazon, 2014-2018

Based on the salacious memoir by noted oboist Blair Tindall about the down-and-dirty world of the New York classical music scene, Mozart in the Jungle plays like a rock-and-roll tell-all where the players are equipped with violins and woodwinds instead of guitars and drums. Acting as Tindall’s stand-in is Hailey Rutledge (Lola Kirke) an ambitious, if reserved oboist who finds herself thrust into the high-stakes, cutthroat world of a major New York symphony orchestra in the months before its season-opening performance. Kirke’s charming and grounded protagonist provides a nice anchor when paired with the show’s more wonderfully outlandish characters, which includes turns from Saffron Burrows, Bernadette Peters, and Malcolm McDowell. The series’ true star, however, is Gael Garcia Bernal as the ensemble’s eccentric and flamboyant new conductor who struggles to reconcile his experimental tendencies with the symphony’s more rigid, conservative structure. Even as it gathers up more emotional depth and complexity throughout its short run, Mozart in the Jungle is the kind of fun and vibrant experience that one would have no trouble bingeing in a day or two. —Mark Rozeman


18. Friday Night Lights

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Created by: Peter Berg
Stars: Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Taylor Kitsch, Jesse Plemons, Aimee Teegarden, Michael B. Jordan, Jurnee Smollett
Original Network: NBC

Who ever thought football, a sport infamous for its meatheads and brute force, could be the cornerstone of one of television’s most delicate, affecting dramas? Heart-rending, infuriating, and rife with shattering setbacks and grand triumphs—Friday Night Lights is all of these, and in those ways it resembles the game around which the tiny town of Dillon, Texas, revolves. “Tender” and “nuanced” aren’t words usually applicable to the gridiron, but they fit the bill here, too. Full of heart but hardly saccharine, shot beautifully but hyper-realistically, and featuring a talented cast among which the teenagers and parents are—blessedly—clearly defined, the show manages to convince episode after episode that, yes, football somehow really is life. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. —Rachael Maddux


19. Generation Kill

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Created by:   David Simon, Ed Burns, Evan Wright
Stars: Alexander Skarsgård, James Ransone, Lee Tergesen, Jon Huertas, Stark Sands
Original Network: HBO 

One of David Simon’s lesser-known but most impressive projects, Generation Kill is based on the true story of a Marine reconnaissance division during the first 40 days of the Iraq War. A kind of miniature, modern Band of Brothers, Generation Kill introduces us to a dizzying number of soldiers that we will, by the end, come to know like family. The miniseries is blisteringly honest, funny, difficult, and haunting. Over a decade after it was made, its truths are (perhaps sadly) still incredibly relevant—politically, positionally, and personally. Boasting an outstanding cast (many of whom you’ll recognize from a variety of other projects), Generation Kill is must-see television. And when it’s over, like the soldiers it portrays, you’ll be left wondering what comes next that will matter this much. —Allison Keene


20. Carnivàle

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Created by: Daniel Knauf
Stars: Michael J. Anderson, Clancy Brown, Tim DeKay, Clea DuVall, Toby Huss, Nick Stahl
Original Network: HBO 

One of the strangest, deepest, and most beautiful series ever on television, Carnivàle takes place in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression of the 1930s and follows a young gifted man who seems to be able to manipulate the forces of life and death. A superhero story this is not, although there is a lot of spiritually-tinged lore that becomes more prominent in the show’s second (and final) season. This outstanding series explores life in a sideshow caravan full of societal outcasts who have created their own makeshift family, but there are so many interesting, heartbreaking, and even spooky stories that are also broached along the way. Carnivàle is a puzzle box show that is about so much more than that, as its mysteries and connections run deep. The attention to production design and care taken in telling the stories of these forgotten people is truly something special, if you dare to take a peek behind the curtain. —Allison Keene


21. Catastrophe

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Created by:   Rob Delaney, Sharon Horgan
Stars: Rob Delaney, Sharon Horgan
Original Network: Amazon

Catastrophe is one of the decade’s best series. It’s one of the medium’s funniest comedies, with humor that cuts to the core of life’s daily hassles. It’s an achingly honest show about marriage, parenting, and the daily slog of raising a family—particularly when your children are young.  The series revolves around a happenstance couple—American Rob and Irish Sharon—who decide to get married and live in London after Sharon gets pregnant in the wake of their one-night stand. It is, as the title says, a (beautiful) catastrophe.

The series’ greatest gift is its dark, dark humor. On TV, children are often treated as an accessory or a character trait not as beloved tiny humans who have an enormous impact on your life. That never happened on Catastrophe. The series’ look at marriage, particularly a marriage in the thick of raising small children, was equally realistic. As it ended its incredibly short four-season run (each season running a brisk six episodes with a fantastically bracing credits sequence), Catastrophe was as sharp, as biting, as witty as ever. Few shows have the luxury of going out on such a creative high. —Amy Amatangelo and Allison Keene


22. Veep

Created by: Armando Iannucci
Stars: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, Reid Scott, Timothy Simons, Matt Walsh, Kevin Dunn, Gary Cole 
Original Network: HBO 

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 also be the funniest person on TV; 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


23. The Good Wife

Created by: Robert King, Michelle King
Stars: Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry, Archie Panjabi, Graham Phillips, Makenzie Vega, Josh Charles 
Original Network: CBS

Are network dramas supposed to be this good? Julianna Margulies stars as the title character Alicia Florrick, who (in a storyline ripped from many, many headlines) is subjected to public humiliation when her husband, Peter (Chris Noth), the District Attorney of Chicago, is caught cheating with a prostitute. The scandal forces Alicia back into the workforce, and she takes a job with 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 that both embrace and defy genre conventions. 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, delighted by 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 game-changing fifth season. Many series start to fade as they age, but The Good Wife peaked late in its mostly glorious seven season run. —Amy Amatangelo


24. Justified

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Created by: Graham Yost
Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts, Erica Tazel, Natalie Zea, Walton Goggins
Original Network: FX

Look, we’ll keep it simple: Award-worthy guest stars (Margo Martindale, Mykelti Williamson, and Neal McDonough) were the rule not the exception on this Kentucky-based gem. Combine that with the best ensemble on television (anchored by Timothy Olyphant, Walter Goggins and Joelle Carter), firecracker writing from show-runner Graham Yost with a dependable stable of wordsmiths, and the feature-film quality direction and cinematography from Francis Kenny, Michael Dinner and others, and what do you get? An instant classic that improbably translates Elmore Leonard’s twisted humor, Western deconstruction and damaged psyches into hour-long gems episode after episode. —Jack McKinney


25. Curb Your Enthusiasm

Creator:   Larry David  
Stars:   Larry David, Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman
Original Network: HBO 

Set aside the recent revival for a a moment: Larry David pulled off the rare successful second act in television comedy. Curb Your Enthusiasm was Seinfeld-ian 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 the eight seasons of its original run. 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 “Super Dave” Osborne. 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

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