The top 10 shows on Amazon Prime Video
- The Grand Tour
- The Marvelous Mrs Maisel
- The Man in the High Castle
- American Gods
- The Tick
- Sneaky Pete
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Rejoice binge-watchers! Amazon Prime has finally reached New Zealand shores, so there’s no better time to take advantage of Amazon’s streaming service. You’ll soon feel like a kid in a dairy, with the lollies overwhelming you and sending you square-eyed. Here’s what we recommend you gorge on first.
Primarily, The Grand Tour represents the presenters from Top Gear giving the BBC a great big middle finger. Unwilling to let a dour public service broadcaster stifle their unique (often politically incorrect) creativity, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May hooked up with Amazon and took their automobile-based shenanigans out on the road. The result is a familiar format, a mix of pre-recorded television films and live-audience segments that they present to an audience of about 300 people in a large tent. As always, it is a pretty hilarious concoction of weird challenges taken on by the members of our triumvirate, along with (slightly) more serious critiques of the hottest cars available to super-rich racing enthusiasts. Trust me, even if you have only a passing interest in four-wheeled conveyances, the A1 banter will keep you hooked.
Now here’s a no-brainer watch for fans of The Gilmore Girls. This period comedy-drama series, also created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, has been showered with Golden Globes and other awards since airing last year. As you’ve probably already surmised, it centres on Miriam “Midge” Maisel. She’s a housewife living the 1950s dream, thanks to a stylish apartment in New York’s Upper West Side, two kids and a (hackish) comedian hubby. However, when Midge discovers a hidden talent for stand-up comedy, it soon throws that safe reality into disarray. A fish-out-of-water quest to make a name for herself ensues and Midge is whisked from comfortable Upper West Side living into the edgy nightclubs and cafes of Greenwich Village. She has the raw talent to earn herself a spot on the Tonight Show couch, but standing in her way are disapproving Jewish parents, a colourful cast of industry “frenemies” and the sexism of the era. Nevertheless, Midge is effortlessly charming and watching her make jaws drop is marvellous TV.
A truly terrifying vision of an alternate timeline, The Man in the High Castle imagines what the world would be like under the boot heel of a thousand-year Reich. In this Philip K. Dick-inspired dystopia, 1960s America is nowhere near united. Hitler’s goose-stepping hordes control everything east of Oklahoma, all land west of Idaho belongs to Japan, and a vertical stripe of neutral zone runs through the Rockies. You’re about to sign up for a thriller filled with double agents, a desperate fight to rekindle the fires of resistance and some salient (and sadly topical) reminders of the horrors of fascism. Season one starts us off with the Colorado collision course of Julianna, a San Franciscan in search of her sister’s killer, and a fledgeling New York resistance recruit named Joe. The twists and binge-watch addiction start early, folks. There’s stuff I guarantee you’ll Nazi coming.
What if every deity ever thought up by humanity was manifest by via sheer faith and attention alone? What if they immigrated with their believers, upon the discovery of each new continent? That’s the central concept of American Gods, a cracking TV adaptation of a Neil Gaiman novel that weaves Americana and fantasy with ancient and modern mythology. In the centre of this madness is Shadow Moon, an ex-con freed early due to his wife’s tragic and somewhat suspect death. While journeying home to handle the burial arrangements, our indigent jailbird falls into the employ of a crafty, charismatic conman named Mr Wednesday (which is Ian McShane in his element). When he’s offered a look behind the veil into what makes reality tick, Shadow slowly realises he’s somehow a key piece in a chess game played by the older gods and the newer, whiz-bang deities, who a world obsessed with technology have worshipped into being.
Never in my wildest dreams could I have ever predicted that The Tick, a niche cult-hit cartoon from 1994, would be given the live-action TV treatment. I just never dared to hope that an exec would understand the brilliance of this Saturday morning staple that makes fun of other superheroes. That’s very much what you get in this reboot. In a world where superheroes and villains are blasé, Arthur, a shy and powerless bean counter, gets thrust into the middle of an apocalyptic battle between good and evil. Confident that a global supervillain is running the city from a protected position of assumed death, Arthur is widely derided as a kook. The one anthropomorphic ectoparasite on his side is The Tick, a lantern-jawed, near-indestructible hero who screws up about as much as he saves.
To say Billy McBride is going through a rough patch is quite an understatement. Once a powerful and much-feared lawyer, he’s since divorced and been told to hit the road by the firm he helped build. The mighty have fallen very low indeed. Billy is a down-on-his-luck, alcoholic ambulance chaser. Fortunately, a chance at redemption, or at least the opportunity to get some sweet revenge on the former colleagues that ditched him, arrives in the form of a wrongful death case. However, the path back from disgrace isn’t going to be an easy one. A minefield of trumped-up arrests, harassment and death threats surround the truth of this case. This Amazon original about the little guy taking on a conspiracy woven by billionaires is as gripping as hell. Goliath boasts an excellent cast, led by Billy Bob Thornton’s standout performance which earned him a Golden Globe.
No, this isn’t a TV serialising of the movie Mel Gibson made in 2000 – you know, the one where he shamelessly cut and pasted Braveheart into the American Revolutionary War? What we have instead is a pitch-black comedy about John Tavner, a sketchy intelligence officer who’s not into it anymore. His brother and old man are deep into politics and the spy game respectively, and it’s this pressure, along with the need to fund a wife who’s out of his league, which keeps John punching that clock. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking Patriot is just an out-and-out spy thriller. There are some Cohen brothers quirk and weird plot divergence going on here. What starts as a mission to undercut Iranian nuclear ambitions (via some undercover derring-do) delightfully derails into random comedy and a series of unfortunate events. Ultimately, Patriot is an odd duck that centres less on Mission Impossible and more on home-grown deceptions, familial obligations, awful amateur folk music and wonderfully weird supporting characters.
Marius (Giovanni Ribisi) is a jailbird grifter who desperately wants to turn over a new leaf. His counterproductive means to achieve this clean slate – steal the identity of his cellmate, Pete. It has been 20-odd years since real Pete last visited his elderly family members, and so the switch goes without a hitch. Yes, sir, it’s all smooth sailing until Marius realises he’s willingly integrated himself into a family with eccentricities extreme enough to get him killed. Fortunately for us in the audience, when a professional liar gets caught in a lie, they build a bigger lie. So, watching Marius try to dig himself out of many different holes makes for damn good viewing. Better yet, Pete’s family are a fascinating bunch of crooks who may know more than they’re letting on. And who isn’t excited about watching Brian Cranston play a recurring gangster antagonist?
Absolutely not a documentary about home appliances, Bosch is, in fact, a good old-fashioned police procedural that draws inspiration from the detective novels written by best-selling author Michael Connelly. Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch is a hard-boiled detective who’s been with the LAPD for 20 years (and he’s seen his fair share of military action, too). If that sounds like a cliché from the get-go, that’s because it is – Bosch is an unapologetic love letter to pure procedurals like Dragnet. There are thin subplots on offer, but the heart of Bosch is its in-the-trenches crime-solving. Grilling perps, sniffing through financial records, combing scenes, tailing suspects and getting upset whenever the case goes cold. Go in expecting a frenetic, Jack Bauer pace, and you’re going to be disappointed. Commit to a long-term investment, and the solid acting, gritty atmosphere and rousing, suspenseful turns will woo you.
When writer Aaron Mahnke launched his podcast Lore in 2015, it became the most listened to item on iTunes. Now, the audio programme has leapt to the TV as an anthology, and like the original article, focuses on deciphering a person’s darkest fears by identifying the real-life events that trigger them. The format here is pretty unique – a blending of animations that complement some truly addictive storytelling and narration. However, be warned, as this isn’t for the squeamish. The executive producers of this have strong roots in the horror genre, thanks to their prior involvements in The X-Files and The Walking Dead. Lore is unsettling at best.
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