The 30 best shows on Amazon Prime Video (December 2019)

Gem Seddon
An image from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - one of the best shows on Amazon Prime Video

Now that you’ve forked out for a Prime subscription to get those Christmas presents in time for the big day, it’s the time to get acquainted with the best part: the shows. See, as well as getting an absolute steal on super-fast shipping, you also acquire access to oodles of streaming entertainment, and we’re here to clue you in on the best shows on Amazon Prime right now. It’s a tough call, mind, figuring out which Emmy winner, HBO classic, or Amazon Original you should watch. There’s a lot to wade through, which is why we’ve made that task much easier by doing it for you!

No matter what your preferred genre, there’s enough top-notch telly here to keep you busy for months. In the mood for a gripping, just-one-more-episode-before-bed drama? Get going on Justified, The Americans, and The Good Wife. There’s loads for sci-fiers too with Orphan Black, Humans, Buffy, and Battlestar Galactica. For a good chuckle, Catastrophe, Veep and Parks and Recreation are absolute musts. And, well, and there’s a bunch that don’t slot so easily into categories. How do you categorise something like Homecoming outside of being an original headspinner? In any case, this selection caters to a whole host of tastes, to ensure that everyone has a series to start bingeing right now. So go on, get cracking on this list of the best shows on Amazon Prime. 

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30. Elementary

Region: UK

Season(s): 1-5

The show: It’s Sherlock Holmes but not as you know it. This long-running network stab at Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic detective refreshes the stuffy persona typically associated with the character. Jonny Lee Miller plays the devil-may-care Holmes who relocates from England to Manhattan with his tail between his legs following a rehab stint. Upon his arrival, he learns that his father has hired a companion for him, Dr. Joan Watson (the brilliant Lucy Liu), a former surgeon seeking redemption after accidentally losing a patient. The duo soon become partners, helping the NYPD solve their toughest crimes.

Why it’s worth a watch: Somewhat overshadowed by the BBC’s Cumberbatch-starring Sherlock event series, Elementary rightly deserves its time in the spotlight. Miller is a delight, relishing in the role of a seedier, less morally-upstanding version of the do-gooding detective. Boiled down, it’s a procedural crime series but don’t let that put you off. Throw in the chemistry between Miller and Liu and it’s one of the most enjoyable cop shows around.

29. House

House

Region: UK, US

Season(s): 1-8

The show: Hugh Laurie turns off the charm and into curmudgeonly doctor Gregory House, an MD who specializes in diagnostic medicine along with making light of everyone’s woes. Don’t mistake him for a practitioner with a good bedside manner; all he cares for is cracking the case and popping pills to alleviate his chronic pain. Across the seasons, House investigates a bundle of weighty topics as the Doc and his rotating students attempt to solve the mysteries of the human body. 

Why it's worth a watch: Laurie's performance is the epitome of a lovable antihero. He's brusque, selfish and inconsiderate. You still can't take your eyes off him. And, like all long-lasting shows, the format evolved from an 'illness of the week' procedural to a solid medical mystery serial, weaving in House's own trials and tribulations. It’s the perfect series to kickstart your fall bingefest.

28. Vikings

Region: UK, US

Season(s): 1-5

The show: A rough 'n' tumble period piece that's not a million miles away from Game of Thrones, Vikings serves up a similar amount of blood-drenched violence, but none of the rampant nookie. Travis Fimmel leads the series as noted Norse figure Ragnar Lothbrok, a lowly farmer who becomes a respected warrior. That's after years of sailing the seas of Europe, of course, along with his wives and chums, in search of vulnerable countries to ransack. 

Why it's worth a watch: The story itself is terrific, and along with its glorious production design, you’ll be drawn in and unable to stop yourself from one more episode. It's less concerned with the intricate political ties of the aforementioned HBO series, yet does err heavily on the side of fantasy. These are not the vikings you've read about at school; these are far more devious.

27. Orphan Black

Region: US

Season(s): 1-5

The show: Orphan Black mixes futuristic genetic technology with family drama and thrilling action - who knew those components would make for gripping TV? Well, they do. The show follows Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany), a young woman whose life is changed forever when she witnesses her doppelgänger commit suicide at a train station. That moment sets her on a complex journey to uncover the truth behind her identity, which is full of twists and turns that are, at times, dizzying.

Why it's worth a watch: Maslany's nuanced turns as a series of clones are nothing short of breathtaking. You may find yourself scanning the credits for the actresses who play Sarah's sisters and then slap yourself silly when you twig. Keep your eyes peeled for the moments when the clones impersonate one another. Thank goodness she finally won an Emmy for her flawless turn!

26. Mr. Robot

Region: UK, US

Season(s): 1-3 (US), 1-4 (UK: new episodes dropping each week)

The show: Mr. Robot came out of nowhere to become 2015's big watercooler hit. It's about hackers, yes, but the technology wunderkind at the heart of this story is unlike any other onscreen depictions. Rami Malek plays Elliott Anderson, a computer genius who joins the ranks of the mysterious Mr. Robot under the pretense that their band of digital vigilantes will free society from the grip of corporate America.

Why it's worth a watch: Paranoid and tense, Robot rolls out like a thriller cooked up in the mind of David Fincher then siphoned through the bizarre lens of David Lynch. Its creator Sam Esmail showcases his eye for detail here, that ropes in styles of all kinds to craft an entirely unique thriller.

25. Catastrophe

Region: Worldwide

Season(s): 1-4

The show: Being a first-time parent isn’t a picnic. Especially when your partner is from another country. And you don’t really know them that well... or have indeed only met them once. Throw these factors into the pot and you get the beginnings of one of Amazon’s most seriously underseen comedies. Sharon Horgan stars as an Irish schoolteacher in London who embarks on a week-long affair with Rob Delaney’s Boston ad exec. Their efforts to stay together after they discover they’re pregnant are what drive the series into hilarity and, at times, heartache.

Why it’s worth a watch: Funny as hell, do it for ya? Horgan and Delaney, who also wrote the entire show together, make their experience relatable and humourous without resorting to silly gags. Plus, Carrie Fisher’s cameo as Delaney’s mom is divine. Her little dog Gary even cameos with her!

24. Damages

Region: US

Season(s): 1-5

The show: Feeling a little glum that Glenn Close still has not won an Oscar? Console yourself with her sublime performance as Patty Hewes, a criminal prosecutor with no scruples, who’d happily sell out her own grandmother if it meant getting a leg up. The series starts as Patty’s company, Hewes and Associates, hires Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne), fresh out of law school with plans to change the world. Every season charts the relationship between teacher and protegee alongside a season-long criminal case. It’s unlike any crime show you’ve watched. 

Why it’s worth a watch: Continuing to get better with each season, the pure, babbling madness of Damages is that it’s impossible to lock down who’s good and who’s bad. With moral compasses this thoroughly skewed, that’s not even the point, as the real joy comes from watching Close and Byrne go head-to-head as one of the small screen’s best pair of frenemies.

23. The Man in the High Castle

Region: Worldwide

Season(s): 1-4

The show: Imagining what the world might be like had the allied forces lost the second world war is terrifying. It’s an idea so frightful that sci-fi mastermind Philip K. Dick scratched out his 1962 novel based on that concept, from which this Amazon Original series takes its inspiration. The world no longer looks the same. Under Nazi rule the sprawling North American continent has been divided into three territories, and it's inside those borders that this gripping story of a small Resistance group unravels. 

Why it's worth a watch: As an alternate history, not necessarily a distorted reality, the show is gripping. It makes for such compulsive viewing because it bears so many recognisable emblems from the real world. As well as a few choice slips into genre territory...

22. Downton Abbey

Region: US

Season(s): 1-6

The show: Who doesn’t like watching a bunch of incredibly wealthy people from 20th century Britain swan about on an estate? Downton Abbey captivated the TV landscape when it debuted in 2010, capturing the hearts and minds of, well, millions of viewers. The fictional Crawley family lead the story, as their lives are interwoven with real-life historical events. The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 kicks things off with World War I coming to serve as a major plot point. All the while the drama and politics of the Crawleys - and their arsenal of servants - becomes all the more intriguing.

Why it’s worth a watch: A British corset drama. An exceptional aristocratic affair. Whatever you want to call it, Downton Abbey is a darn good soap opera. With more twists, turns, and plot revelations that you’d expect from a period piece about a well-to-do English family, this is a compelling binge-watch in disguise. Watch all six seasons now before the movie drops in September.

21. Sneaky Pete

Region: UK, US

Season(s): 1-3

The show: After his release from prison Marius (Giovanni Ribisi) decides to get creative with his new-found freedom. Instead of picking up where he left off, which is at the mercy of gangster Vince (Bryan Cranston) for the $100,000 he owes, Marius opts to take over the life of his cellmate Pete who remains behind bars. Pete’s estranged family welcome “Pete” back into the fold as if nothing’s happened, and Marius starts to discover that his new clan might be a source of further strife. 

Why it’s worth a watch: Its well-written scripts and fantastic performances are what have turned Sneaky Pete into one of those sneaky shows that wheedles its way into your mind and refuses to let go until you’ve watched just one more episode. This is top-notch viewing that’s a relentlessly bingeable mix of crime, comedy and drama.  

Continue to Page 2 for more of the best shows on Amazon Prime Video

20. Parks and Recreation

Region: UK, US

Season(s): 1-7

The show: One of those series that’s slowly cemented itself as a comedic classic. Parks and Recreation is worthy of cult status, treading the line between mockumentary and sitcom perfectly. That’s in large part because of its razor-sharp writing. Amy Poehler leads the cast as Leslie Knope, deputy director of the fictional Pawnee parks and recreation department, who goes above and beyond to do what’s right, with the help of her colleagues.

Why it's worth a watch: Who doesn’t like to laugh and feel all warm and fuzzy, too? Reminiscent of Modern Family’s early seasons - back when it was consistently funny - it balances the gags with genuine affection and warmth. There’s no other show that maintains the same level of quality throughout seven whole seasons. Yes, it’s better than Friends. 

19. Friday Night Lights

Region: UK, US

Season(s): 1-5

The show: Small-town America under the floodlights on a Friday night. That’s the heart of the aptly named Friday Night Lights, which follows a group of troubled teens, their desperate parents, and the struggling teachers trying to teach them a few things in a Texan town, where the end of the work week finds everyone flung together for the big game. Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler take the lead as a married couple; he’s the high school football coach and she’s principal at the next school over. Of course, there’s more to it than football, yet the sport is the perfect analogy for living large in a small place, with the drama of everyday living and the dynamics of wanting to break free making for excellent television. 

Why it’s worth a watch: You might remember the 2004 movie of the same name, yet the show deepens the story. In fact, that’s why director Peter Berg chose to develop the series, mining the book on which it’s based for more knowledge of its real-life characters, creating a series that’s bingeable as hell. 

18. Six Feet Under 

Region: US

Season(s): 1-5

The show: One of HBO's finest achievements attempts to make sense of death by chronicling the lives of a family who own and run a Pasadena funeral parlor. Just because The Fishers are forced to contemplate mortality on a daily basis, doesn't mean they're any better at coping with it. They struggle to derive meaning from death and choose to instead celebrate the joy of life. Each episode opens with a different person’s moment of death, which inspires the Fisher family’s individual journeys.

Why it's worth a watch: Aside from the fact that its last ever episode will make you BAWL, it’s a simple drama that brings to light the troubles we all struggle with, through the lens of those closest to death. The Fishers aren’t perfect, either, making them all the more relatable. Eldest son Nate (Peter Krause)'s acerbic wit is an intoxicating blend of self-affirming mantras. He'll make you laugh and break your heart.

17. Dead Like Me

Region: UK, US

Season(s): 1-2

The show: From Bryan Fuller, one of the creative forces behind Hannibal and American Gods, comes Dead Like Me. This series tones down the violence and ups the comedy, considerably, with the silliness and seriousness we put on our lives providing the main source of amusement for a bunch of death’s lackeys. As its title implies, the show follows a dead girl named Georgia Lass (Ellen Muth). Her supposedly premature death was due to her destiny as a grim reaper, a role she grows to love thanks to her quippy colleagues.

Why it’s worth a watch: A criminally underseen show that’s hilarious and heart-warming. The mixed bag of characters, all struggling with their afterlife predicaments, remain utterly relatable despite their being dead. If you like your dramedies to err on the unusual, morbid side (Six Feet Under fans take note!) then this short-lived series is a must-see.

16. Futurama

Region: UK

Season(s): 1-7

The show: A new series from The Simpsons creator Matt Groening? There was a lot riding on Futurama when it dropped in 1999, and luckily, his trademark humour made the leap to this irreverent and clever animated comedy about a misfit bunch of pals who work for an intergalactic FedEx. The show’s premise, ripe for fish-out-of-water gags, finds pizza delivery boy Fry fall into a time machine only to wind up living in the year 3000. Along with the delivery crew of Planet Express he explores the universe and the whole gang pass comment on the state of society and popular culture with deft wry humour.

Why it's worth a watch: It’s tough to pin the success of this gem on one component: the writing, the vocal cast, the constant snipes at modern living, it all unites to create one of the best animated series on Netflix. But, if we had to pick? Fry's robot best friend Bender is pure comedy gold. He is the perfect amalgam of American Dad's Roger and The Simpsons' Homer. Drunk, sharp-tongued with a raspy laugh, and constantly with a cigar on the go.

15. Justified

Region: US

Season(s): 1-6

The show: Another killer small-screen series featuring Timothy Olyphant, who diversifies his skill set by playing Raylan Givens, a U.S. Marshal forced to return to his backwater Kentucky hometown after his quickdraw antics attract the attention of his superiors. Upon his arrival, things get worse when he gets embroiled with the dealings of the Crowder family, in particular his old pal, Boyd (Walton Goggins).  


Why it's worth a watch: If old-school westerns and their outlaw-knows-best type of morality are your thing, then Justified is a must-see. Hell, even if they’re not, this is riveting telly! Givens has a particularly special brand of justice that makes for great viewing: doing whatever he decides at any given moment. Saddle up folks, and leave your judgement at the door.

14. Fleabag

Region: UK, US

Season(s): 1-2

The show: A BBC original that’s thankfully made its way onto Amazon Prime, Fleabag is the best show around that you’re not watching - yet. Phoebe Waller-Bridge pillaged her own one-woman theatre show to create the TV series, expanding the production into a small-screen format that luckily never shakes its theatrical origins (there’s a lot of brilliant fourth-wall breaking). The story revolves around the experiences of Fleabag, a woman living life on her own terms in London. Despite possessing a savage wit, her day to day isn’t quite the barrel of laughs you’d expect, which makes this a bittersweet watch from the get-go as Fleabag deals with the heart slam of grief. 

Why it’s worth a watch: On the surface it might sound like any other comedy series - but it’s in a world of its own. Dabbling with most modern day topics through Waller-Bridge’s immensely likeable persona, there’s laughs to be had in every moment, bringing a wholly new style of black comedy to television. 

13. The Good Wife

Region: UK, US

Season(s): 1-7

The show: Now is as good a time as any to start watching one of the best network dramas of all time. Or, perhaps now is a good time to start re-watching it, because The Good Wife is so good you’ll end up seeing it more than once. The show kicks off with the downfall of Alicia Florrick's (Julianna Margulies) marriage, as her politician husband is caught cheating with a prostitute. That’s the firing shot, but it’s Alicia’s subsequent rise, as she returns to practice law, that makes the series so compelling.

Why it's worth a watch: Even though it appears to be a standard courtroom show, it’s anything but. The Good Wife departs from the procedural format and details the operatic goings-on in Alicia's private and public life, and how the two often become entwined. Its well-rounded cast of supporting characters and unexpected subplots that continue to bubble up are what makes this a unique wedge of criminal television. Oh, and did I mention that one of those occurrences includes a serial killer in love with Alicia? Yeah, this show has a wicked sense of humour. 

12. Battlestar Galactica

Region: US

Season(s): 1-5

The show: Reboots are tricky. Paying homage to what came before, whilst breaking out into new territory, and maintaining a fanbase is easier said than done, but Battlestar Galactica manages all this in its pilot alone. With mankind crippled and struggling to live following an attack by the Clyons that obliterates billions - think Skynet but even worse - it’s up to a small group of survivors to band together. Their quest to find a planet named Earth is just the beginning of the story.

Why it’s worth a watch: A sci-fi reboot earning loads of critical acclaim and snagging loads of awards? It can’t be true, can it? As well as becoming a firm fan favourite right from the off, Battlestar is a rare beast that’s not satisfied with only playing up to genre tropes. Sure, there are recognisable sci-fi elements, yet the show is about the human story.

Read more: 5 ways to do the Battlestar Galactica movie right

11. Veep

Region: US

Season(s): 1-2

The show: The Vice President of the United States has *got* to wield a decent amount of power, right? Well, actually, no. That’s the genius of Veep. Its continued success over the years lies in its simple premise: highlighting the inane day-to-day responsibilities of Veep, Selina Meyers. Those closest to the Veep, and those she keeps at arm’s length, are both subjected to her never-ending torrent of witty barbs as she tries to attain more power and make the President look like an ass. 

Why it’s worth a watch: From its opening scene right through to its newer episodes, the series never fails to make the best of its ensemble cast. Yet the spotlight and kudos goes to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who has won the Emmy award for Best Actress in a Comedy SIX TIMES since the show began. She’s spectacular.

Continue to Page 3 for more of the best shows on Amazon Prime Video

10. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Region: Worldwide

Season(s): 1-3

The show: Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino hits another home run with a show that’s, on the surface, cut from an entirely different cloth. The late 1950s are a tough time for women everywhere, including those like Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) on the Upper West Side, who remains under the thumb of her husband. A devoted wife who supports her husband’s desire to be a stand-up comic, it’s soon revealed that Midge herself has quite a gift for the gag on-stage. The show won five Emmys and two Golden Globes in its first year, with Brosnahan snagging the same Globe the following year.

Why it’s worth a watch: There is so much to love about Maisel. If you’re a fan of rich storytelling that’s not gloomy and doesn’t involve murder (c’mon, a LOT of prestige television is pretty downbeat) then you’ll get a kick out of this. Brosnahan is one of the best actors working today, bringing heart, warmth, humour and a fire in her belly to the role of Midge. The best scenes are the after-hours debriefs with her friend/manager Susie, played by Family Guy’s Alex Borstein. But make no mistake: this isn’t a fluffy series. It’s an R-rated show, with swears and nudity.

9. Homecoming

Region: Worldwide

Season(s): 1

The show: Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail takes a well-loved podcast and turns it into a TV series. Homecoming is technically created by its podcast authors, Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz, yet its got Esmail’s stamp all over it; no surprise as he does direct every episode. Julia Roberts stars as Heidi Bergman, a counselor at a facility called Homecoming who helps veterans transition back into civilian life. Or so she thinks. The show flits back and forth between Heidi’s first day on the job, to a point in the future, where she’s back home with her mom, working as a waitress with a foggy memory of her time at Homecoming.

Why it’s worth a watch: Nabbing an A-list star like Roberts might be what draws your attention to a series like Homecoming. While this is her first dip into “event” television, and she is excellent, she’s not the only element that deserves acclaim. Esmail and co. have delivered one of 2018’s best shows, that ropes in film scores from the 1970s and 1980s to add that era’s level of paranoia to Bergman’s suspenseful journey. It’s masterful. And you will be on the edge of your seat the entire time.

8. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Region: UK

Season(s): 1-7

The show: When his 1992 movie about a cheerleading vampire slayer flopped, writer Joss Whedon couldn’t let Buffy languish in pop culture history in its campy coffin. So he did what any genre-loving creator would do! He revived it, and spawned one of the most successful female-led fantasy shows of all time, with Sarah Michelle Gellar taking over as the vamp-stabbin’, monster-huntin’ badass. Not only is Buffy tasked with saving the world from the apocalypse (multiple times) and preventing several baddies from destroying her hometown of Sunnydale, she also grapples with typical teen angst. 

Why it’s worth a watch: While the “monster of the week” format stakes its claim in earlier seasons, Buffy’s complex life and those of her best friends, Xander and Willow, extend beyond that into rich, layered storytelling that is brilliant serial television. Without a doubt a genre staple, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a must-see for anyone with a love of good vs. tales that give the middle finger to convention.

Read more: 21 years of the slayer: how Buffy defined a generation of TV and movies

7. Hannibal 

Region: US

Season(s): 1-3

The show: Anthony Hopkins brought a terrifying Hannibal Lecter to the public's attention, only for subsequent sequels to make him a boring caricature. In the hands of creator Bryan Fuller, Mads Mikkelsen twists that perception back toward pure evil. This version of events goes back to the beginning, with Lecter working in cahoots with the FBI and in particular, forensic profiler Will Graham to crack cases.

Why it's worth a watch: With some breathtaking cinematography, and a hyper-stylised set design, Hannibal transcends the guff that came before. Interspersed with the more traditional police work is Lecter’s penchant for haute cuisine, which was telegraphed in the movie, yet here it becomes a key component of his lifestyle. His cooking skills are shown in such intricate detail that you’ll be utterly fascinated and absolutely horrified by their implications. Its central villain is someone to truly fear.

Read more: "The outfits represent outrageous self belief disguised as formality" - the clothes are The Best Bit of Hannibal

6. Twin Peaks

Region: US

Season(s): 1-2

The show: David Lynch and Mark Frost placed a stone-cold whodunnit story within the rainy climes of the Pacific Northwest, spawning a cult classic in the process. The mystery begins when the body of popular teen Laura Palmer is found washed up on the beach. With a cast of characters that range from the downright chipper, such as Kyle Maclachlan’s Agent Dale Cooper, to the utterly sinister, ahem, paging the Log Lady, this is Lynch at his best.

Why it's worth a watch: Dark, twisted, and uncomfortably funny, it's unlike any other murder-mystery you've ever seen. Perfect for pausing, rewinding, and analysing, it’s a puzzle that you’ll almost solve… but can you ever really be sure when you’re dealing with the dreamscape of Lynch?

Read more: The 19 best Twin Peaks moments to watch with damn fine cherry pie

5. The Expanse

Region: US, UK

Season(s): 1-3

The show: Sci-fi with a gritty edge. That’s what ALL good sci-fi is like, right? The Expanse is worlds apart from every other show in the genre. Set hundreds of years in the future, it tackles the reality of a future where mankind sprawls into the universe, taking command of everything it lays its hands on. Mars is now its own military power, and at odds with Earth. Their squabbles lay the foundation for an imminent war, which forms a tense backdrop for the show’s main story, of a ship’s captain (Steven Strait) and a detective (Thomas Jane), who unite to solve the case of a missing young woman.

Why it’s worth a watch: The world-building is as close to realistic as you can imagine. Forget the typical sci-fi signifiers; there’s no weird portals to other dimensions, mad extraterrestrials, or weaponry that defies physics. What you’re left with is a damn good story that’s set to receive a season 4, courtesy of Amazon who picked it up for a final season.

Read more: The Expanse is the smartest sci-fi series on TV, but its insightful human factor makes it unmissable

4. The Wire 

Region: US

Season(s): 1-5

The show: Uncompromising in its premise, David Simon constructs a densely-plotted, thematically-rich morality play that takes place in the U.S. murder capital, Baltimore. What sets it apart from other police dramas is its relentless investigation of what justice truly means; does the cop holding the gun and wearing the badge stake a claim in righteousness more so than the crook? It's in this blurry grey area that the show has its strongest components.

Why it's worth a watch: That fine line between good and bad is slowly unpacked throughout each successive season, which delves into different aspects of Baltimore’s corrupt cityscape. No other show has ever come close to accomplishing this with such balls.

3. Deadwood

Region: US

Season(s): 1-3

The show: Starring an award-winning Ian McShane as the foul-mouthed Al Swearengen, the old west gets the R-rated revamp you never knew it needed. Much like Thrones brings violence and nudity to fantasy, Deadwood does the same to the lawless post-Civil War era of the west. David Milch's canceled-too-soon series takes place in the town of Deadwood, South Dakota at a time when every man took matters into his own hands. Misfits, thieves, weirdos, they’re all eager to make their fortune, or even better, steal it. Swearengen is at the centre of things as the owner of the Gem Saloon.

Why it's worth a watch: This richly-textured drama might bungle the historical accuracy of its 1870s pilfering, but more than makes up for it with attention to detail. Characters this well-drawn don't come around that often, even if they’re not exact replicas of their real-life counterparts.

2. The Americans

Region: UK, US

Season(s): 1-6

The show: All good art is never appreciated in its own time. The Americans seemed to be headed that way, snubbed repeatedly at the Emmys, the Globes, until it finally nabbed two of the former for its show-stopping series finale. It’s not like the FX show needed awards: its devout fanbase continued to tune in week-after-week for this thrilling tale of a soviet family living undercover in the US as a regular American family. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys star as the KGB officers posing as the married couple, whose suburban homestead happens to be next door to an FBI counterintelligence officer.

Why it’s worth a watch: When society looks back at some of its greatest ever TV shows, The Americans will be near the top of the list. A deep-rooted look at marriage, it’s also a damn good thriller that traces the couple throughout the 1980s, with career-best performances from Russell and Rhys. Seriously, if you haven’t watched this, drop everything and get going. 

1. The Sopranos 

Region: US

Season(s): 1-6

The show: A pioneer in the golden age of television, The Sopranos threw out the rulebook when it came to hard-hitting drama. How will viewers sympathise with a mob boss who's also a serial murderer, cheater, and extortionist? Easily, because he's also quite charming, funny, and likeable despite his vast shortcomings and shady moralising, unlike some of his co-workers, who range from idiotic to scheming.

Why it's worth a watch: What sets this apart from other mob shows is the attention to detail. The traditions of the gang will draw you in, because it all seems so unusual. They’re crooks, philanderers, thieves... but they know loyalty. James Gandolfini breathes life into the Soprano family lynchpin, Tony, a grizzled anti-hero who ties together this epic modern tale of what it means to be family.