The 50 Best TV Shows on Amazon Prime, Ranked (September 2021)

Starting with our #1 pick

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The 50 Best TV Shows on Amazon Prime, Ranked (September 2021)

Though Amazon Prime may not have as many original series as its streaming competitors, it does have a worthy catalogue, and offers the ability to add on a variety of niche services like Showtime, Starz, Britbox, and more.

Unfortunately, the current library of TV shows on Amazon Prime no longer includes older HBO titles, as well as some CBS or FX series (others do remain), but it does carry series that have aired on PBS Masterpiece as well as a number of UK and US TV classics, 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?)

For our list of the best movies on Amazon, go here, or here for the best Amazon original series. 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 Americans

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

Watch on Amazon Prime

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


2. 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

Watch on Amazon Prime

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


3. 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 Prime

Watch on Amazon Prime

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


4. The A Word

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Created by: Peter Bowker
Stars: Lee Ingleby, Morven Christie, Max Vento, Molly Wright, Greg McHugh, Vinette Robinson, Christopher Eccleston, Pooky Quesnel
Original Network: BBC

Watch on Amazon Prime

This wonderful UK series follows a relatable family navigating life with their son Joe (Max Vento) who is diagnosed with autism. Initially, parents Paul (Lee Ingleby) and Alison (Morven Christie) dismiss the then five-year-old’s communication issues and don’t believe anything is “wrong” with their son—despite their family’s attempts to suggest there may be a problem. The first season covers Alison and Paul accepting that Joe is different from the other children at his school, but that he is wonderfully unique in his own ways (like through his encyclopedic knowledge of 70s and 80s British albums, into which he constantly escapes, and his love of walking). Still, The A Word never shies away from the difficulties that the family faces, especially in Joe’s parents attempts to understand their often inscrutable son.

Taking place in the stunning Lake District, the foggy moors and windswept mountains may mirror the tumult of the character’s inner lives, but the series is never dour. Running a short six episodes in each season (with a year or two break in between), The A Word is cheeky and clever, but most of all emotionally authentic. It’s a stunning character drama, one that deals with hard truths in matter-of-fact ways. Humor covers many wounds, expressing love is as foreign as taking flight, and understanding yourself and your own motivations remains a mystery to most. But there are many personal triumphs, too, especially regarding the show’s natural inclusions of many different disabilities, including deafness, different expressions of autism, and more. There’s always plenty of humor as well, and warmth, but it’s never saccharine. Characters are generally worried, unsure, and hopeful in turn, about pretty much everything. It’s real, and it’s grounded (characters also repeat outfits, dress comfortably in workout gear, and consistently wear the same coats—a very relatable touch).

And that’s really the core of it: The A Word is exceptionally authentic in everything it does. Beautiful? Yes. Emotionally sound? Absolutely. Funny? Very much so. But above all, it rings true, and leaves you a little better off than you were before. —Allison Keene


5. 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

Watch on Amazon Prime

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


6. 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 Prime

Watch on Amazon Prime

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


7. Catastrophe

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

Watch on Amazon Prime

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


8. Wayne

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Created by: Shawn Simmons
Stars: Mark McKenna, Ciara Bravo, Joshua J. Williams
Network: YouTube Premium / Amazon

Watch on Amazon Prime

I have praised Wayne enough in Paste’s digital pages that I worry people might start to suspect me of being on the series’ payroll, but truly, I just fucking love Wayne. To that end, let me just quote myself real quick:

To get you interested in the YouTube’s original comedy (now living on Amazon), all I really need to say is that it’s basically John Wick meets John Hughes, with Wayne (Sing Street’s Mark McKenna) as a kind of magnetically angsty cross between Ferris Bueller and Cameron Frye—you know, if instead of middle-class Chicago affluence and deep wells of self-interest, Ferris and Cameron had grown up in Brockton, Massachusetts with shit luck, no money, and a violent desire to make bad people pay, and if instead of a day playing hooky with cool girl Sloane in Cameron’s dad’s borrowed sports car, they’d helped a no-shit-taking neighbor girl (Del, played with deadpan genius by Ciara Bravo) kidnap herself away from an oppressively scary home situation by whisking her off on the back of a dinky motorcycle to Florida to steal a stolen sports car back.

I mean, seriously! Get on it. Wayne is great. —Alexis Gunderson


9. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Created by: Amy Sherman-Palladino
Stars:Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, Tony Shalhoub, Michael Zegen and Marin Hinkle
Original Network: Amazon Prime

Watch on Amazon Prime

It has its flaws, but Amy Sherman-Palladino’s tale of a 1950s housewife-turned-aspiring stand-up—starring the luminous Rachel Brosnahan as Midge Maisel—is a real charmer. Whether delivered at cocktail parties, in court, or on stage, Midge’s act, honed into a “tight ten” under the guidance of manager Susie Meyerson (Alex Borstein), is the series’ highlight: When Brosnahan gains steam, Midge’s raw, fast-talking fury becomes a performance, steering into the emotional skid and catching each laugh before it careens off the precipice. She’s a natural because her comedy is, yet Sherman-Palladino’s direction—treating the sets as set pieces, separated from life by the glare of the spotlight—maintains the border between life and art, permeable though it may be. As comedy, and on the subject of comedy, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has the feeling of a star turn, at once vulnerable and self-aware.

Though it has sustained some (perhaps rightful) backlash for being a fantasia of privilege, those fantasy aspects of Maisel are still really fun. It’s wry, witty, and occasionally deeply emotional. But for the most part, it comes down to having a lot of funny words and a lot of beautiful costumes, with the exceptionally charming Brosnahan pulling Maisel back from the brink of occasionally becoming a little too theatrical. In fact, everyone in this swirling, whimsical series is excellent, most especially the aforementioned long-suffering Susie (in particular Susie’s low-stakes kidnapping and her later assimilation into the wealthy Jewish getaway where Midge’s family has holed up for the summer in Season 2). Maisel is pure escapism with some occasional well-earned bite.—Allison Keene and Matt Brennan


10. Counterpart

Created by: Justin Marks
Stars: J. K. Simmons, Olivia Williams, Harry Lloyd, Nazanin Boniadi, Sara Serraiocco, Ulrich Thomsen
Original Network: Starz

Watch on Amazon Prime

The excellent Starz series Counterpart introduces us to a world that has been split in two for decades, as two parallel Earths sharing a single portal in Berlin unbeknownst to all but government spy agencies on either side. Counterpart explores what-if questions of making different choices in one’s life, and how things might have changed. It does so through the lens of Howard Silk (J.K. Simmons), who unexpectedly meets his “other” after his wife Emily (Olivia Williams) suffers an accident that puts her into a coma and her own secrets are revealed. But Emily also has an other … as do we all, and thus starts the Howards’ journey of self-discovery x 2.

Despite its sci-fi trappings, Counterpart has always been a deeply character-driven story about how our decisions affect us, giving a tantalizing look at how things might have been different with just a few zigs instead of zags over the years. In its second and final season, each of the Howards became trapped in each other’s worlds, but the story also expanded to see how the two Emilys lives diverged so dramatically—and what they could each learn from each other. Somehow, Counterpart manages to never be confusing, though, thanks especially to its excellent cast who made different versions of each character feel incredibly distinct (even when they were pretending to be each other). Its story is a deeply human one, told in extraordinarily interesting ways. —Allison Keene


11. The Underground Railroad

Created by: Barry Jenkins
Stars: Thuso Mbedu, Chase W. Dillon, Joel Edgerton, Fred Hechinger, Peter Mullan
Original Network: Amazon Prime

Watch on Amazon Prime

The 10-episode limited series, based on Colson Whitehead’s novel, is a fictional account of two runaway slaves, Cora (Thuso Mbedu) and her partner Caesar (Aaron Pierre), as they traverse the American South via a connection of literal hidden railroads. Helmed by Barry Jenkins, the series is lush and atmospheric while never shying away from the atrocities Cora and Caesar are running from, most notably the persistent slave catcher Ridgeway (Joel Edgerton), who stalks the duo relentlessly.

Each episode plays like a chapter in their journey, one stop on the railroad at a time, and Jenkins is deliberate in his worldbuilding. Georgia and South Carolina and North Carolina feel like different countries with different rules for how to treat Black folk: slaves in one, members of society in another, and illegal to exist in the open in the last. Jenkins fills every location with its own flavors. The first time we see the railroad, it feels like a huge sigh of relief—a literal bright light at the end of the tunnel.

It’s easy for a slavery drama to feel suffocating or paralyzing, and there are parts of The Underground Railroad that are designed to evoke discomfort and stagnancy. But Jenkins’ composition also allows us to examine every side of the story, every perspective at play. The series is urgent even in its slower moments. There is a thudding heartbeat at the center, proving that despite the trauma at the core of the story, the series is about perseverance. And in it is a tale ready to be deemed a classic. —Radhika Menon


12. Star Trek: The Next Generation

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Created by: Gene Roddenberry
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton
Original Network: CBS

Watch on Amazon Prime

The original series was pioneering. Deep Space Nine and Voyager had their moments. But TNG was head-and-shoulders the greatest Star Trek franchise (And one of the best sci-fi series of all time). Jean Luc Picard. Data. Worf. The holodeck. The Borg. Gene Roddenbury must not have had a cynical bone in his body, and 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


13. Downton Abbey

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Created by: Julian Fellowes
Stars: Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Laura Carmichael, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Joanne Froggatt
Original Network: PBS

Watch on Amazon Prime

The lush, swirling period piece Downton Abbey is never short on drama or 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 some of the 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 manage to always 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, and all capped off with one of TV’s most satsifying finales (and then, another hugely satisfying movie). —Bonnie Stiernberg


14. Victoria

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Created by: Daisy Goodwin
Stars: Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes, Nell Hudson, David Oakes, Rufus Sewell
Original Network: ITV / PBS

Watch on Amazon Prime

Examining the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign, Victoria has never gotten the same attention as its splashy cousin, The Crown. And yet, the series share many similarities. Both feature young women being pushed very suddenly into a royal role they had not been expecting, facing difficulties living under constant public scrutiny, and fighting to command respect from men who do no think them up to the task. Among the politics there are also two beautiful love stories at the center of Victoria; a chaste one between the young queen and her first Prime Minister, “Lord M” (as she calls him), and the other between Victoria and her future husband Albert. Both are unique in their own ways, especially in how the show allows Victoria and Albert to settle into both domestic bliss and the natural scuffles all couples face (augmented, of course, by their positions). The show truly blossoms in its second season, and continues from there to be an emotional and surprisingly cozy portrayal of the royal household, the people it employs, and a nation Victoria and Albert seek to modernize. Gorgeously costumed and compellingly crafted, Victoria is a wonderful series to fully immerse yourself in—one that will (for many Americans, at least) have you constantly on Wikipedia to learn more about the historical events it portrays. —Allison Keene


15. Bosch

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Created by: Michael Connelly, Eric Overmyer
Stars: Titus Welliver, Jamie Hector, Amy Aquino, Lance Reddick
Original Network: Amazon Prime

Watch on Amazon Prime

Adapted non-chronologically from Michael Connelly’s Hieronymus Bosch detective series and shot like a moody, sun-soaked noir, Bosch is officially Prime’s longest-running original series to date (and unofficially your dad’s secret favorite show). Starring a stoic, steadfast Titus Welliver as its eponymous hardboiled hero, Bosch is a senior Hollywood Homicide detective who loves jazz and is unforgiving in his pursuit of justice—both on the streets of Hollywood (the town) and within the corrupt confines of the LAPD, itself. The series does a fair job setting a tone that consistently challenges the all cops are heroes messaging that’s been baked into Hollywood (the industry) since the days of Dragnet. Yes, Bosch and his closest colleagues (Jamie Hector, Amy Aquino and Lance Reddick, just to name a few) are painted as Good Ones, but at least in their Los Angeles, whenever they’re stymied in their pursuit of justice, it’s not because the bad guys are particularly good at being bad. Rather, it’s because they’re a bunch of overworked civil servants stuck in a system that’s custom-built to protect the wealthy and promote the most privileged, and chew up anyone who doesn’t count as either.

Of course, recognizing the broken system for what it is doesn’t go very far in coming up with a way to fix it, but given where cop shows have been elsewhere in television for decades, managing to complicate the myth of American policing even a little isn’t nothing. That Bosch has been chasing complication since Season 1—and doing so with such a hauntingly sharp visual style, and such a stupendously solid ensemble cast? Better still. (And if nothing else, at least it’s given us one of the best title sequences in mystery series history.) —Alexis Gunderson


16. The Durrells in Corfu

Created by: Simon Nye
Stars: Keeley Hawes, Milo Parker, Josh O’Connor, Daisy Waterstone, Callum Woodhouse, Alexis Georgoulis, Yorgos Karamihos
Original Network: PBS

Watch on Amazon Prime

One of TV’s brightest gems has one of the strangest names, which means that the series may have passed you by. But it’s never too late to catch up! The Durrells in Corfu just completed its fourth and final season in the U.S., where we say goodbye to this English family living in Greece in the 1930s, just before the dawn of a new war. It sounds very posh, but in fact Louisa Durrell (the exceptionally charming Keeley Hawes) moved her four children from England after the death of her husband because they were struggling financially. Life is (or was, at this time) cheap in Corfu, where the family takes up residence in a wonderfully ramshackle and remote house right on the water—which also lacks electricity or other modern conveniences. The series is loosely based on the real story of the Durrells in a trilogy written by Louisa’s youngest son Gerry (portrayed in the series by Milo Parker). Like all good TV families, they love each other, constantly yell at each other, and also mildly insult one other.

But the less known about the gentle twists the final season takes the better. Suffice it to say that the family continue to have their adventures, but the feeling of things winding down is acute in these last episodes. For those returning to the series, you will be greeted with all of the easy-going, low-key, and whimsical touchstones that have made the show so good over the years. And if you are just now considering catching up, you are in for a treat. (Durrells has a total of 26 episodes, which is not an insurmountable number even in Peak TV!) And you will be the one urging people to get past the strange names of the title (which will no longer be strange to you) and give this wonderful show a chance. It is a soothing, deeply engaging alternative to the sound of fury of so many current dramas. There’s nothing supernatural or world-ending, there’s no excessive violence or gruesome horror. It’s just a quirky little family in an unfamiliar place who bring with them a heaping amount of laughter and joy. And in doing so, Durrells has made itself an essential watch.—Allison Keene


17. Star Trek: The Original Series (Remastered)

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Created by: Gene Roddenberry
Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig
Original Network: NBC

Watch on Amazon Prime

What began as a pitch by writer and producer Gene Roddenberry about a small spaceship exploring the galaxy has since grown into a worldwide cultural phenomenon inspiring millions of viewers (as well as astronauts, scientists and inventors) for more than half a century. A multi-billion dollar franchise spanning eight TV series, 13 films, countless books, comics, magazines and videogames—that all starts here. Four pinging notes ring out in the silence of space. The voice of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) suddenly echoes out among the stars, explaining his crew’s five-year mission via voiceover narration. Their vessel is the Starship Enterprise, which appears in all its glory, orbiting planets and traveling at high warp, faster than anything that 1960s audiences had ever seen, as fast as progress itself. An alien operatic soprano suddenly wails out, then the theme song by composer Alexander Courage, then the titles: STAR TREK. Everything about this new science fiction TV show would break the mold, from its diverse cast and thought-provoking plots to its art direction. At the end of Season Two, when word had spread that Star Trek was at risk of cancellation, NBC received hundreds of thousands of letter in protest from fans, including doctors, professors and even New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller.The Original Series would be canceled in 1969, the last episode airing fewer than two months before Apollo 11’s successful manned mission to the Moon. But its effect was permanent and immeasurable. Roddenberry had built a series that dared to face the unknown, overcome impossible challenges and stretch social conventions for the better. His dream of the future set the stage for a show that would boldly go where no other TV series had gone before. —James Charisma


18. Poldark

Created by: Debbie Horsfield
Stars: Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ruby Bentall. Beatie Edney, Jack Farthing, Heida Reed, Kyle Soller, Richard Harrington, Phil Davis, Warren Clarke
Original Network: BBC One / PBS

Watch on Amazon Prime

Lovers of sweeping, romantic sagas will delight at this Masterpiece presentation, which takes viewers back to the late 1700s following the American Revolutionary War. Ross Poldark, an officer in the British army, returns home to his family estates in Cornwall to discover that not only was he presumed dead, but his father has died, the woman he loves is marrying his cousin, and he has a mountain of debts and no obvious way to raise the funds. Based on the series of 12 novels by Winston Graham, Poldark stars Aidan Turner in the title role. As the heroic Poldark, he vows to sets things to right even as the odds seem insurmountable. And he doesn’t want to succeed out of some sense of upper-class pride, but for the people of Cornwall who have fallen on hard times.—Paulette Cohn


19. Animal Kingdom

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Created by: Jonathan Lisco
Stars: Ellen Barkin, Scott Speedman, Shawn Hatosy, Ben Robson, Jake Weary
Original Network: TNT

Watch on Amazon Prime

Unofficially known as “the rude boys of summer,” Animal Kingdom shares only a passing similarity with the movie on which is is based. The setup, now American, places Ellen Barkin’s Smurf as an all-powerful matriarch at the head of an all-male crime family of sons (and one grandson, who is our window into this world of shirtless beach goers who also pull heists), but that is more or less where the crossovers end. Animal Kingdom is a glossy, fun, and occasionally very tense show that pulls off some of the best action sequences on television when it comes to its many, many heists. The personal drama is high and sometimes ridiculous, but the show never falters from being incredibly entertaining and filled with twists. Smurf’s strange, controlling, definitely problematic relationship to her sons is what ties the show’s disparate plots together, but even when that dynamic begins to shift, there is still so much to explore and enjoy with the series. Come for the action, stay for the drama, and get ready to bask in the series’ eternal SoCal summer with a family whose fate you will absolutely become invested in. —Allison Keene


20. Good Omens

Created by: Neil Gaiman
Stars: Michael Sheen, David Tennant
Original Network: Amazon Prime

Watch on Amazon Prime

Neil Gaiman’s passionate fans can safely dive into this adaptation of Good Omens; since the author served as showrunner and handle the script himself, his vision comes through very much intact. The six-part series follows the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and the demon Crowley (David Tennant) as they team up to avert the apocalypse. It has sensibilities that recall the work of Terry Gilliam and the films of Powell and Pressburger. It’s funny, eccentric (sometimes downright hammy) and quite poignant, and it’s got a totally delightful script and a mostly amazing cast, including Frances McDormand as the voice of God and Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of Satan. But for all its virtues the standout feature of Good Omens is the incredible chemistry between Tennant and Sheen, who make sparks fly every time they appear onscreen together. Happily for us, that’s most of the show.—Amy Glynn


21. Alex Rider

Created by: Guy Burt
Stars: Otto Farrant, Stephen Dillane, Vicky McClure, Andrew Buchan, Brenock O’Connor
Original Network: IMDBtv

Watch on Amazon Prime (with ads)

This newest take on Alex Rider is something entirely different. More of a piece with what Teen TV has become in in the last decade—slick, serious, cinematic and mature, with a strong bent towards internationalism and diversity—it’s the kind of spy drama you can recommend indiscriminately to your adult friends. So what that its reluctant spy hero is a teenage boy? The show takes him seriously, which means their fictional version of the SAS takes him seriously, which means the deeply realistic bad guys out to literally kill him also take him seriously. And while that much seriousness has the tendency to drag lesser adult action series to an absolute standstill, the hyper-realistic teen antics Alex and his tiny circle of friends get up to, even in the midst of life-or-death situations, serve as useful tonal ballast that lends the series just enough warmth and humor to bolster the rest of the story’s inherent tension. (That the soundtrack is excellent definitely helps.)

And when I say tension, I mean tension. The story the Alex Rider team have chosen to take on for the show’s first season, which mostly comes from the second book of the series, Point Blanc, finds Alex (Otto Farrant) on a mission to embed himself at a mysterious boarding school for troubled, ultra-wealthy youths. Isolated high in the French Alps and run by a virulently racist South African expat named Dr. Greif (Haluk Bilginer), the shadowy Point Blanc academy becomes a point of SAS interest when Alex’s spy uncle is killed after his investigations into the “accidental” deaths of two otherwise unconnected global power players—which had turned up evidence that both died shortly after Point Blanc sent their now-perfect kids back home.

That said, there are a few elements of the series that jangle more than they should. Of course, Alex Rider is still a spy drama, and as such is obliged to have its characters make a lot of silly decisions for the sake of plot. But if watching 2020 torturously unfold for the last eleven months has convinced me of anything, it’s that the existence of rich teen Nazis with a chip on their shoulder and the will to wreck the world ought to be taken much more seriously than any of us might want to believe, and Treadstone-esque Alex Rider gets it. It’s a sophisticated spy thriller custom-made for the Bourne Identity set. More good news: It was just renewed for Season 2. —Alexis Gunderson


22. Little Dorrit (2008)

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Created by: Andrew Davies
Stars: Claire Foy, Matthew Macfadyen, Ton Courtenay, Andy Serkis, Eddie Marsan, Arthur Darvill

Watch on Amazon Prime

Most people discovered the exceptional talent of Claire Foy while watching The Crown, but those who watched the 2008 miniseries Little Dorrit (part of the BBC’s well-received run of adapting some lesser-known Dickens works by Andrew Davies) had an early heads-up. Like any grand Dickensian tale, Little Dorrit is a deeply emotional story full of labyrinthine twists. In the style of Bleak House which came before it, this miniseries has the time and space to explore all of Dickens many side characters and subplots, but the beating heart of the series is Foy’s Amy Dorrit. Gentle but determined, she works tirelessly to care for her father in debtors prison. There is a lovely, simmering romantic storyline here as well in the form of Matthew Macfadyen’s Arthur Clennam, as well as a wonderfully bizarre performance from Andy Serkis. The dizzying, cacophonous ending is a bit rushed given all that comes before it, but Little Dorrit is ultimately one of the most sweeping and engrossing miniseries of our age, too oft forgotten but well worth your time. —Allison Keene


23. The Expanse

Created by: Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby
Stars: Thomas Jane, Steven Strait, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Paulo Costanzo
Original Network: Syfy

Watch on Amazon Prime

In Syfy’s The Expanse, Mars and Earth are two superpowers racing to gain the technological upper hand, while those who live in the Asteroid Belt mine resources for the more privileged planets and become more and more prone to radicalization.

Sound familiar?

In its relationship to our own age of authoritarianism, the series offers a kind of storytelling that seems essential: It manages to paint a portrait of a divided universe without vilifying one group and raising the other to god-like status, as evidenced by the complexities of hardboiled detective Joe Miller (Thomas Jane) or U.N. official Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo). The Expanse shows us a possible future, a future in which women can be leaders without the bat of an eye, in which racially diverse groups can unite in common cause, but it is also a warning about keeping institutions in check, about recognizing inequality wherever it might exist, in order to avoid past mistakes. In other words, it’s must-watch television for our time. —Elena Zhang


24. Howards End

Created by: Kenneth Lonergan
Stars: Hayley Atwell, Matthew Macfadyen, Philippa Coulthard, Alex Lawther, Tracey Ullman, Julia Ormond
Original Network: Starz / PBS

Watch on Amazon Prime

The gorgeous four-part miniseries adaptation of E.M. Forester’s masterful Howards End stars Hayley Atwell as Margaret Schlegel, the older sister (and de facto matriarch) of a progressive and independent family living in early 20th century London. Margaret and her siblings are on the forefront of changing social mores, sometimes controversially so, and it defines her relationship with an older, wealthy widower, Henry Wilcox (Matthew Macfadyen), whose conservative values clash with hers. The story feels timely in many ways, although the genuine curiosity and politeness with which these issues are broached can seem lamentably foreign. The series, stunningly directed by Hettie MacDonald and wonderfully adapted by Kenneth Lonergan, is in many ways an atypical and refreshing period piece. Anchored by outstanding performances, the series shines in its quiet moments of personal fortitude and in confronting one’s own biases in endlessly intriguing ways. It is truly a must-watch. —Allison Keene


25. Undone

Created by: Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Kate Purdy
Stars: Rosa Salazar, Angelique Cabral, Constance Marie, Siddharth Dhananjay, Daveed Diggs, Bob Odenkirk
Original Network: Amazon Prime

Watch on Amazon Prime

Loops, quantum entanglement, and a lot of screwed-up people: Time travel shows have fully embraced the inverse relationship between narrative linearity and character troubles. The latest to do so is Undone, the rotoscoped Amazon series from BoJack Horseman creators Kate Purdy and Raphael Bob-Waksberg. It’s not just nonlinear—it’s antilinear. Linear storytelling is antithetical to its entire premise, as embracing atypical perception is its goal. The diverse (and neurodiverse) experiences of its characters—told through immigrant stories, multicultural backgrounds, and yes, those that can screw with the timeline—exist to create a message of complicated inclusion that makes the bold yet repetitive show completely unique. Thankfully, it’s also visually exciting enough to sustain most of its philosophical musings, with a central character charming enough to shoulder some head-shaking misfires.

Rosa Salazar plays Alma, a small-scale rebel—one who wouldn’t feel out of place in a Linklater film—who has a brush with death in a car accident. Afterwards, the ordinarily strict workings of time play hooky and she sees her dead dad (Bob Odenkirk) appear before her. He goes full Hamlet and tells her that he was actually murdered. Of course, Alma is the only one who can set things right thanks to her special abilities.

It’s a strange story, and it only gets stranger as we follow Alma down the rabbit hole. The characters, which include Alma’s sister Becca (Angelique Cabral) and mom Camila (Constance Marie) alongside her ghost pop’s existential Yoda (there’s even a “there is no ‘try’” moment), are more coherent than the tale they’re telling, which is the only way a show that’s attempting to be mysterious but not cliffhanger-y can keep you watching. Undone is ambitious to a fault, beautiful as all get-out, but more enjoyable when its focus doesn’t stray too far from its great lead performance.—Jacob Oller


26. Patriot

Created by: Steve Conrad
Stars: Michael Dorman, Terry O’Quinn, Kurtwood Smith, Michael Chernus, Kathleen Munroe, Aliette Opheim
Original Network: Amazon Prime

Watch on Amazon Prime

What if 007 dealt with his PTSD and the moral ambiguities of being a spy by revealing his deepest inner turmoil (and state secrets) at open-mic nights in Amsterdam? What if Q had trouble requisitioning his apartment with a single chair? And M sent him to work at a piping firm in the Midwest with an extra digit in his social security number? What if the American version of a Bond film replaced the car chases, femme fatales and slick gadgets with the dark humor of the Coen brothers, mixing deep ennui with side-splitting moments of levity? That’s Patriot in a nutshell. The stakes are high—keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of an Iranian extremist leader—but everything depends on our hero, John Tavner, (Michael Dormer) first navigating the mid-level corporate world of industrial piping. —Josh Jackson


27. Unforgotten

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Created by: Chris Lang
Stars: Nicola Walker, Sanjeev Bhaskar

Watch on Amazon Prime

In the compelling modern crime series Unforgotten, DCI Cassie Stuart (an always-excellent and recently ubiquitous Nicola Walker) and DI Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) doggedly pursue cold case murders and disappearances. Viewers get to see both sides throughout each season’s case: the detective work and the personal lives of those connected to it—one of whom is ultimately the perpetrator. One of the interesting things about Unforgotten’s perspective is that it largely deals with people who are middle aged or even elderly. Though their lives have seemingly moved on from these past crimes (and current partners or children may have no idea about it), scratch the surface and you’ll find the pain and angst over these tragedies still simmering underneath. Unforgotten is less of a crime thriller and more a cerebral whodunnit, investigating the emotional lives of those defined by these old wounds. It can be very quiet, but once it has its hooks in you, you won’t be able to stop bingeing each of its three, six-episode seasons (with another on the way). —Allison Keene


28. The Missing

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Created by: Harry Williams, Jack Williams
Stars: James Nesbitt, Frances O’Connor, Tchéky Karyo, David Morrissey, Keeley Hawes
Original Network: Starz

Watch on Amazon Prime

The Missing is an engrossing crime anthology series from Harry and Jack Williams that tells two very different stories of missing children; in the first hauntingly-filmed season, an English couple are on vacation in France when the father loses sight of their child. Blame, shame, and an obsessive search for truth dominate this incredibly-acted season that jumps through time to examine the toll taken by such a tragedy, yet done in beautifully human ways that never make it oppressive. In the second season, a missing child returns after many years, but the family is not quite sure that they believe she is who she claims to be (while hoping desperately that she’s telling the truth). Both iterations feature a common detective, Julien Baptiste, who is such a compelling character that he is getting his own spinoff. Though they can be difficult given the subject matter, both seasons of The Missing are well worth exploring. — Allison Keene


29. Mr. Robot

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Created by: Sam Esmail
Stars: Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Portia Doubleday, Carly Chaikin
Original Network: USA

Watch on Amazon Prime

Mr. Robot’s Elliot Alderson (Emmy winner Rami Malek) remains one of the most seductive characters on television. To set an hour-long drama more or less inside its own protagonist’s head is a bold gambit, and Elliot, his philosophical narration roiling beneath his placid surface, is a convincing guide through creator Sam Esmail’s tumult of hallucinations, memories, delusions, and dreams. If the draw in Season 1 was its (rarely seen on TV) anti-capitalism, Season 2 witnesses Mr. Robot emerge as a claustrophobic portrait of a young man’s psychological extremes, and that it works at all is thanks mostly to our desire to understand the cryptic, complicated, always compelling Elliot.

Beginning its fourth and final season with some big shifts for its characters (including at least one shocking death), Mr. Robot remained awe-inspiring for the ways in which it plays with the concept of what you can do on television. Few shows have ever delivered the same level of creative spark on a weekly basis, but that’s because Sam Esmail is only one man; the creator and auteur has truly made his mark on the TV landscape with each inventive choice. The season continues to focus on the increased threat presented by the mysterious Whiterose (B.D. Wong) and Elliot’s (Rami Malek) efforts to take her down, was a strong opening that delivered a few major twists. It’s all-consuming television that never takes its foot off the accelerator, except for the occasional moment of grieving that reminds us that these characters might be caught up in a crazy global conspiracy, but that doesn’t make them any less human. —Liz Shannon Miller and Matt Brennan


30. American Horror Story

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Created by: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk
Stars: Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Jessica Lange, Denis O’Hare, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Lily Rabe, Frances Conroy, Cheyenne Jackson, Emma Roberts, Taissa Farmiga
Original Network: FX

Watch on Amazon Prime

Even fervent fans of Ryan Murphy’s high-camp horror anthology American Horror Story would have a tough time defending its latter seasons, most recently “the emptily political” Cult. But the first three story arcs—Murder House, Asylum and Coven—pushed the bounds of scary storytelling on television and helped kick off a small-screen horror renaissance—as well as the anthology series explosion—when AHS first debuted around Halloween 2011. AHS’ evolution from a genuinely terrifying first season starring Connie Britton to the gore-porn fifth season that earned Lady Gaga a Golden Globe mirrors just about every major horror film franchise: a shockingly strong start, followed by unexpected space shenanigans, complicated continuity callbacks, distracting guest stars, openly humorous installments and the departure of key players (most notably Jessica Lange, Murphy’s muse for the second, third and fourth seasons after her breakout supporting turn in the first). This murderous medley of elements clutters the show, but can’t suppress the glee that a horror hound feels seeing so many well-known genre tropes recycled and repurposed by Murphy and his rotating cast of players, from the chameleonic Sarah Paulson, to Misery’s Kathy Bates. American Horror Story may be a big, bloody mess, but it’s clearly in love with the genre in its title. —Steve Foxe


31. The Boys

Created by: Eric Kripke
Stars: Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Antony Starr, Erin Moriarty, Dominique McElligott, Jessie T. Usher, Laz Alonso, Chace Crawford
Original Network: Amazon Prime

Watch on Amazon Prime

At no point did I ever expect to say The Boys was the best thing I’ve seen on TV all year, especially given that it’s been promoted with clips putting the focus on shocking acts of superheroes behaving badly. But the reality is The Boys is the first true surprise of 2019, walking a careful line between Robocop and The X-Files to deliver eight jaw-dropping hours of TV.

Based on Garth Ennis’ bloodsoaked comic book satire of the same name, Amazon’s The Boys takes place in a world where superheroes are modern celebrities. Thanks to a partnership with the ironically Amazon-like corporate juggernaut Vought International, over 200 supers bring in billions a year from movies, commercials, and every endorsement that comes within reach. When a superpowered being behaves a badly, Vought is there to pick up the pieces, sometimes of people’s families. The world we see in The Boys is a savagely cynical place, full of sociopathic superheroes, conspiracies, staggering violence, and debauchery.

Yes, it’s crass as hell and one of the most violent shows on TV right now. But deep down, when you push past the gore, sex, and horrors committed to screen, the thing that sticks with you is the show’s emotional core. That, and a truly shocking Season 1 final sequence that will leave fans of the comics reeling and new devotees binging through all available episodes. If you’ve grown tired of superhero stories, here’s one last essential tale to take out your frustrations on people who wear capes.—John-Michael Bond


32. Orphan Black

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Created By: Graeme Manson, John Fawcett
Stars: Tatiana Maslany, Dylan Bruce, Jordan Gavaris, Kevin Hanchard, Michael Mando, Maria Doyle Kennedy
Original Network: BBC America

Watch on Amazon Prime

Having one actor play several characters in a single show is nothing new, but that doesn’t take away from what Tatiana Maslany accomplished in BBC America’s Orphan Black. Maslany played a host of clones on a sci-fi show that’s not just for sci-fi fans. Her main character, Sarah Manning, is a young British mother living in Canada. A small-time con artist, she’s trying and failing to get her life together when she sees her doppelgänger commit suicide by stepping in front of a train. After stealing the woman’s purse and identity, Sarah the con artist becomes Beth the cop, scrambling to fool her partner and discovering more women who look just like her. Each one she comes across—the uptight suburban mom, the gay hipster scientist, the Ukrainian religious fanatic—feels like such a different character that it’s easy to forget that the same actress is behind them all. And though there are elements of sci-fi—human cloning and the Neolutionists who believe in scientifically improving themselves (one character has a tail)—most of the characters aren’t the type who would even watch sci-fi. The show is as much about identity and motherhood as it is the consequences of technology. But none of it would work without the humanity Maslany brings to each of the clones she portrays in the show. —Josh Jackson


33. Little Women (2017)

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Created by: Heidi Thomas
Stars: Emily Watson, Maya Hawke, Willa Fitzgerald, Katheryn Newton, Annes Elwy, Jonah Hauer-King, Angela Lansbury

Watch on Amazon Prime

Though it had the misfortune to air a little too close to Greta Gerwig’s adored film version to get noticed, don’t sleep on the BBC/PBS Little Women miniseries. Featuring four young stars on the rise as the unforgettable March girls, Emily Watson as their mother, Marmee, and the 92-year-old Angela Lansbury in an astoundingly good turn as Aunt March, Little Women—adapted by Heidi Thomas (Call the Midwife) and directed by Vanessa Caswill—has all the makings of a new beloved viewing tradition. The three-part miniseries is is a fitting tribute to the novel’s central themes: love, kinship, and the bravery of women, and is as bright, clever, and emotional and any excellent adaptation should be (it’s also one of the only adaptations that makes Amy less hateful and where Jo rejecting Laurie makes real emotional sense). A delightful if overlooked take on a classic, the women here may be little, but they are also strong, brilliant, and full of heart. —Keri Lumm and Allison Keene


34. Homecoming

Created by: Eli Horowitz, Micah Bloomberg
Stars: Julia Roberts, Bobby Cannavale, Stephan James, Shea Whigham
Original Network: Amazon Prime

Watch on Amazon Prime

Walter Cruz (Stephan James) is a young veteran who, along with his friend Shrier (Jeremy Allen White) and a few dozen more, has checked into the Homecoming facility to help adjust to civilian life. And it’s weird. Things are off, but we can’t really put our fingers on why. We also meet Julia Roberts’ Heidi Bergman, Walter’s caseworker, who immediately appeals to our need for stability—until we realize, thanks to a multi-year flash forward where she’s working as a waitress with only fuzzy memories of Homecoming, that she’s not stable at all. What the hell happened between now and then? And, wait, what exactly was going on then, anyways? Directed by Mr. Robot’s Sam Esmail, Amazon Prime’s Homecoming is a blessed 10 half-hour episodes. That alone should be enough to get you in the door. What will keep you there is a stunning story of purpose, justice, and the work ethic that powers both the evil of America and the forces trying to save it. You will be sucked into one of TV’s most compelling mysteries. —Jacob Oller


35. A Very English Scandal

Created by: Russell T Davies, Stephen Frears
Stars: Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw
Original Network: Amazon Prime

Watch on Amazon Prime

Whether it’s the Catholic Church or the casting couch, the idea of people in power taking advantage of people who aren’t is not exactly a revolutionary concept. But what makes this uproarious and charming biopic’s comedy of errors so compelling is the sheer absurdity of the lengths to which a high-ranking man will go to cover up his misdeeds and how poorly he and his cronies do so. (Thanks to Amazon Prime for an optional annotation feature to deepen the context of some scenes).

Hugh Grant, an actor who’s has had his own taste of scandal, is just the right bit of naughty as closeted MP Jeremy Thorpe (the way he sticks his tongue in his cheek when demanding anal sex might even be funny in a different political climate). And Ben Whishaw’s portrayal of the pure-hearted innocent (or, depending on who you ask, “innocent”) Norman Josiffe makes me want to hug him, especially after a dog is sacrificed instead of him. He just wanted his National Health Insurance card. —Whitney Friedlander


36. The Man in the High Castle

Created by: Frank Spotnitz
Stars: Alexa Davalos, Rupert Evans, Luke Kleintank, DJ Qualls, Joel de la Fuente, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Rufus Sewell, Brennan Brown, Callum Keith Rennie, Bella Heathcote
Original Network: Amazon Prime

Watch on Amazon Prime

The Amazon original series, based on the 1962 novel by Philip K. Dick, could have landed on a number of other networks—or perhaps even in cinemas—at any other time. But the dystopian drama, set in an alternate history where the United States loses World War II, seems destined for now. the show depicts a not-so-United States in the years following World War II. Germany has taken over the Eastern states. Japan has the West Coast. In between is the neutral zone set along the Rocky Mountains. When Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos), a woman in San Francisco, comes into possession of a newsreel-style film that depicts victory for the Allies, it sets her on a journey that will impact everyone around her. But the strangest thing about The Man in the High Castle is what happened in the U.S. less than six weeks before the second season’s premiere. Donald Trump won the presidential election. A stunned nation is now wrestling with “fake news” and “post-truth.” For anyone who woke up on Nov. 9, 2016, feeling as though they slipped into a parallel universe, the show took on new meaning. —Liz Ohanesian


37. Humans

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Created by: Sam Vincent, Jonathan Brackley
Stars: Manpreet Bachu, Emily Berrington, Ruth Bradley, Lucy Carless, Gemma Chan, Pixie Davies, Jack Derges, William Hurt, Marshall Allman, Sonya Cassidy, Carrie-Anne Moss
Original Network: AMC, Channel 4

Watch on Amazon Prime

This AMC series is reminiscent of both Ex Machina and Westworld with a story framed around the invention of “synths,” anthropomorphic robots, and the impact they have on the human world. Humans tackles some heavy themes, including memory, personhood, human (and non-human) rights and the fear of things we may not understand. Some of it is well-mined sci-fi territory, but Humans puts a fresh spin on the themes you might remember from old Twilight Zone re-runs. It also features an impeccable cast, led by Gemma Chan, William Hurt and a few others, who turn in some of the most human (and sometimes spooky) performances you’ll see anywhere on TV. The show is actually a remake of a Swedish series, and is one of the few remakes that manage to meet (and sometimes exceed) the quality of the original. —Trent Moore


38. The Bletchley Circle

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Created by: Guy Burt
Stars: Anna Maxwell Martin, Rachael Stirling, Sophie Rundle, Julie Graham, Hattie Morahan

Watch on Amazon Prime

Murder mysteries and the BBC go together like tea and crumpets (see also: Ripper Street, George Gently, Hinterland, this list). What sets this drama apart are the four women at the center of the puzzle, a quartet of former code breakers from the same WWII think tank as that in The Imitation Game (granted, these characters are fictional). Susan, Lucy, Millie and Jean reunite a decade later, in 1952, to track a serial killer. As they decipher the clues and patterns, the ladies must juggle their sleuthing efforts with their newly civilian lives—to avoid suspicion, de facto leader Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin) and co. tell their husbands they’re in a book club. Early women’s lib-meets-whodunit in this intriguing ensemble drama, which contrasts the murder investigations with post-war gender roles. —Amanda Schurr


39. Modern Love

Created by: John Carney
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, Dev Petal, John Slattery, Catherine Keener, Andrew Scott, Shea Whigam, Julia Garner
Original Network: Amazon Prime

Watch on Amazon Prime

Where can you find Anne Hathaway, Catherine Keener, Tina Fey, John Slattery, Jane Alexander, Dev Patel and the hot priest from Fleabag?

In Amazon’s delightful, surprising and poignant new eight-episode anthology series Modern Love. Based on the must-read and ever popular New York Times first person column of the same name, each installment stands alone with the vibrant city of New York with all its positives and negatives being the one recurring character. Like the column, the series explores all kinds of love — including romantic, parental, platonic and self. It examines, among other things, the tribulations of dating, the struggles of marriage, and the difficulties with raising children.

The Modern Love column ranges from 1500 to 1700 words. Getting published is highly competitive and a career pinnacle. It’s the brevity of the stories that pull the reader in. At that word count, there’s no room for filler or fluff. Every word is precise and with intent.

The episodes, which run from 28 to 34 minutes, follow the same approach. In a TV landscape full of bloated episodes, pointless dialogue and unnecessary scenes, the precise conciseness of Modern Love is nothing short of glorious. There’s no room for anything extraneous. The installments have the unique ability to instantly introduce a character to the audience and have viewers feel as if they know them intimately. I’ve watched shows for years where I feel like I know the characters less.—Amy Amatangelo


40. Grantchester

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Created by: Daisy Coulam
Stars: James Norton, Robson Green, Tom Brittney, Morven Christie, Tessa Peake-Jones

Watch on Amazon Prime

There are two things the UK is really great at producing: vicars and murder mysteries. So it holds that Grantchester—a story about a murder mystery-solving vicar—would itself be grand. Taking place in the 1950s in the village of Cambridgeshire, the setup is familiar: there’s a young, handsome vicar who has an intuitive way with people, and a gruff, hardboiled detective with whom he improbably becomes friends. The two solve Cases of the Week as vicar Sidney listens to jazz, questions his faith, and tries to stop being in love with his childhood friend Amanda, since they cannot marry. Detective Geordie Keating meanwhile is a no-nonsense WWII veteran with a heart of gold and his own domestic issues, both of which give some extra dimension to the show’s procedural aspects. Grantchester is often thoughtful, sweetly compelling, and lightly thrilling—it also includes cozy period details and a dog name Dickens. What more could you want? —Allison Keene


41. Brideshead Revisited (1981)

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Created by: Derek Granger
Stars: Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews

Watch on Amazon Prime (with ads)

It was almost 40 years ago when the BBC miniseries Brideshead Revisited captivated audiences with its portrayal of early 20th century British aristocracy and Catholic guilt. The 11-hour series earned an Emmy for the late Laurence Olivier and catapulted Jeremy Irons into a successful, Oscar-winning career. Based on the popular novel by Evelyn Waugh, when middle-class freshman and aspiring artist Charles (Irons) arrives to Oxford, he is befriended by the rich, spoiled party boy Sebastian (Anthony Andrews) who soon falls in love with Charles and introduces him to his severely dysfunctional upper-class family living in the grand estate of Brideshead. As their relationship grows so does Charles’ infatuation with Sebastian’s sister Julia (Diana Quick). But the real struggle comes from the siblings’ mother (Phoebe Nicholls) who is determined to guide her children into their proper places as Catholic royalty, much to the dismay of atheist Charles. A beautifully engrossing soap opera filled with a higher caste of desperate souls, Brideshead is always worth revisiting. —Tim Basham


42. The Wilds

Created by: Sarah Streicher
Stars: Sophia Ali, Shannon Berry, Jenna Clause, Reign Edwards, Mia Healey, Helena Howard, Rachel Griffiths
Original Network: Amazon Prime

Watch on Amazon Prime

On paper, The Wilds sounds like a ripoff of Lost, but with teenage girls: after a plane crash, a group of girls land on a mysterious island where they have to not only endure the unknown, but also each other. Like Lost, each episode explores the backstory of one girl, weaving in their pre-crash struggles with identity, heartbreak, abuse, and more with their on-island battle to survive.

The Wilds’s plotting makes for a strong thriller that lends itself to an easy binge, and the characters are well-drawn and multilayered. But the true triumph of the show is how it portrays the peaks and valleys of being an adolescent girl—they are angry at the hands they’ve been dealt, confused about values they’ve been taught to believe, and determined to reach their goals by any means necessary. They are strong but not impervious; they are catty, they are suspicious, and they are loving.

The Wilds is a show I absolutely wasn’t checking for, but after the first episode’s surreal beach-funeral-at-dusk acapella rendition of Pink’s “Raise Your Glass,” you’ll be hooked, too. —Radhika Menon


43. Transparent

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Created by: Jill Soloway
Stars: Jeffrey Tambor, Gaby Hoffmann, Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass
Original Network: Amazon Prime

Watch on Amazon Prime

There’s so much that could have gone wrong with Transparent from the start. For one, an out-of-context image of Jeffrey Tambor in a dress was 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. Unfortunately, allegations against Tambor have (rightfully) tainted the show’s legacy, a show and legacy which has only become more problematic with time. And yet, there is still some good here worth celebrating. —Mark Rozeman


44. Sneaky Pete

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Created by:Bryan Cranston
Stars:Giovanni Ribisi, Marin Ireland, Shane McRae, Peter Gerety, Margo Martindale
Original Network: Amazon Prime

Watch on Amazon Prime

In Sneaky Pete, Giovanni Ribisi plays Marius, a conman who, in a moment of tragicomic brilliance, fakes a bank robbery (albeit with a real gun and by scaring the bank customers) in order to avoid being killed by his pursuers. When he’s released from prison three years later, after listening to his cellmate Pete’s non-stop stories of his long-lost family, Marius assumes Pete’s identity. The result is a series whose humor is based on the interplay between truth and fiction, what is real and what is fantasy, and the gradual understanding of what constitutes “family”: Sneaky Pete’s revelations are unlikely to earn commendation from the Family Research Council, but for those of us who understand that families comprise people who love each in whatever structure works for them, it’s the ultimate show about family. —Lorraine Berry


45. The Fall

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Created by: Allan Cubitt
Stars: Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan, Valene Kane, Séalinín Brennan, Colin Morgan, Bronagh Taggart, Niamh McGrady, Sarah Beattie, John Lynch
Original Network: BBC

Watch on Amazon Prime

Let it be known that before he was Christian Grey, Jamie Dornan proved his acting chops and charisma as a disturbingly un-disturbable murderer in this superb psychological thriller. Dornan’s mild-mannered husband, father and grief counselor (!) is among the most terrifying onscreen serial killers in recent memory. Paul Spector is a stalker, as exacting and methodical as his eventual pursuer. Enter Gillian Anderson’s Stella Gibson, a British detective superintendent called to Belfast to look into a spate of gruesome murders. As the cat-and-mouse game intensifies, Anderson’s characterization is its own triumph: analytical, uncompromising, reserved, but brazenly sexual on her own terms, entirely unfazed by the politicking and dick-swinging of her male colleagues. That we know the identity of the killer from the show’s first frames, and yet can’t take our eyes off the screen is a testament to the stealth creep with which The Fall operates. —Amanda Schurr


46. One Mississippi

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Created by: Tig Notaro
Stars: Tig Notaro, Noah Harpster, John Rothman, Rya Kihlstedt
Original Network: Amazon Prime

Watch on Amazon Prime

Double mastectomy. Your mother dying. A life-threatening infection. Not exactly hilarious stuff. But comedian Tig Notaro’s deeply personal series about returning home after her mother’s death will make you cry and laugh at the utter absurdity of life. Particularly impressive is Notaro’s performance. She’s not an actress by trade, which brings a raw believability to her character. The people who inhabit Tig’s world from her emotionless stepfather to her clingy girlfriend pulse with a realism rarely seen on TV. They aren’t TV characters. They’re real people who will remind you of your own family and loved ones. One Mississippi didn’t receive the hype of Amazon’s other original series. But it deserved to and now’s your chance to rectify that. —Amy Amatangelo


47. The Tick

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Created by: Ben Edlund
Stars: Peter Serafinowicz, Griffin Newman, Valorie Curry, Brendan Hines, Yara Martinez, Scott Speiser, Jackie Earle Haley, Alan Tudyk
Original Network: Amazon Prime

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Ben Edlund tried two previous times to bring his cult favorite comic book to the screen, but it was the third attempt which found the right balance between goofy superhero fun and the real world malaise that no human, super-powered or otherwise, can truly escape. Peter Serafinowicz, as the titular blue hero whose seeming invincibility comes with a cheery outlook on life (he looks like he’d be a great hugger), delivers a beautifully committed performance, while the journey of initially reluctant sidekick Arthur (Griffin Newman) gives the show’s sillier moments greater depth. That, plus a strong ensemble cast enlisted to play the strangest sort of characters (Alan Tudyk, as one example, voices the sentient vehicle known as Dangerboat) make The Tick’s cancellation one of the sadder streaming service tragedies in recent memory. Hopefully one day, Edlund gets yet another shot at this story — and gets to bring this cast along. —Liz Shannon Miller


48. Red Oaks

Red Oaks 75.jpg

Creators: Joe Gangemi, Gregory Jacobs
Stars: Craig Roberts, Ennis Esmer, Jennifer Grey, Gage Golightly, Paul Reiser, Richard Kind

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Red Oaks arrived with a hell of a pedigree. It’s produced by Steven Soderbergh and David Gordon Green, Green directed the pilot, and it’s created and written by long-time Soderbergh associates Joe Gangemi and Gregory Jacobs. (Jacobs also directed Magic Mike XXL.) Other episodes are directed by people like Amy Heckerling and Hal Hartley. Set in a country club in New Jersey in the mid-’80s, the show openly evokes movies like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Caddyshack and The Flamingo Kid, and with a consortium of creators who understand both comedy and drama behind it, it falls into the same realm of bittersweet nostalgia as beloved comedies like The Wonder Years and Freaks and Geeks. —Garrett Martin


49. Invincible

Created by: Robert Kirkman
Stars: Steven Yeun, Sandra Oh, J. K. Simmons
Original Network: Amazon Prime

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These days, there’s plenty of superhero greatness soaring through TV programs. Robert Kirkman is the latest to enter the discussion, bringing another of his beloved comic book serials to television with Invincible. A coming-of-age story meets a classic superhero tale, this new animated adventure brings all the twists, turns, and frenzy we’ve come to expect from Kirkman’s episodic programs (you may recognize his name from The Walking Dead).

Invincible follows Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun), a seemingly dull 17-year-old kid. That is, until he finally inherits larger-than-life superpowers from his mega-cool dad Nolan (J.K. Simmons), also known by his hero name, Omni Man. Once he discovers his powers, the series becomes (a more brutal) Finding Nemo meets Iron Man, as the father and son learn how to grow from one another and coexist as heroes. And it’s not just these two bouncing into flight and sinking punches; two entire associations battle villains in the series, one of which is completely made up of sassy teenagers. The more heroes the better, right?

Invincible balances wild fight sequences with the actual logistics of these highly dangerous, orchestrated circumstances: these heroes wield their powers aggressively, of course, but they also have complex systems to evacuate areas and do damage control. Not only that, they reckon with their status as icons in society, and grasp what it means to “save” people. A flying start with stellar performances from both Yeun and Simmons, the future of Invincible is sure to excite. —Fletcher Peters


50. Carnival Row

Created by: René Echevarria, Travis Beacham
Stars: Orlando Bloom, Cara Delevingne, Simon McBurney, Tamzin Merchant, David Gyasi, Andrew Gower, Karla Crome, Arty Froushan, Indira Varma, Jared Harris
Original Network: Amazon Prime

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Reaction to this very, very odd and original series was a bit mixed, but one thing’s for damn sure: No other show in 2019 had this amount of fae-human sexytimes. And that was only one component of the quasi-steampunk Victorian fantasy set in an alternate universe where magic is real, science is fiction, and fairies, faun, and other fantastical creatures live amongst humans — who have no shortage of prejudice against those who are different from them. The allegories are a bit clunky, but the first season is definitely not boring; come for Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne’s charming love-hate banter, but stay for the romance between upper-class lady Imogen (Tamzin Merchant) and the socially ambitious faun Agreus (David Gyasi), which is so fun and nuanced, one suspects that Jane Austen snuck into the writers’ room. —Liz Shannon Miller



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