Article Lead Image

Screengrab via kickassvideosus/YouTube

The best TV shows on Amazon Prime

Binge and then do it again.


David Wharton


Posted on Jun 27, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 1:16 pm CDT

School’s out, the beach is calling, and most of your favorite shows have wrapped up their run until the fall. And hey, we get it—sometimes you just want to stay in out of the heat and find something new to feed that TV addiction of yours. Thankfully, the Amazon Prime catalog has plenty to offer, including numerous exclusive shows you can’t find on Netflix or Hulu. Whether you’re in the mood for costume drama, cultured serial killers, or Reagan-era intrigue, we’ve selected five shows perfectly suited for devouring your free time this summer.

1) Downton Abbey (2010 – 2015)

In a TV landscape where breakout hits tend toward the action-packed, violent, and fantastical—think The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones—you wouldn’t think a British costume drama about life in a Yorkshire country estate could become a water-cooler phenomenon. But that’s precisely what happened with Downton Abbey, which gained critical praise, a string of Emmys, and plenty of popular buzz even among folks who previously couldn’t have told you where PBS was on their channel lineup. Downton follows the lives, loves, and betrayals of the aristocratic Crawley family, as well as the estate’s servants who make sure their silver is polished and their corsets properly cinched up. It’s got the appeal of a good old-fashioned soap opera, but with the class of a proper British upbringing and Dame Maggie Smith.

2) Justified (2010 – 2015)

Based on the Elmore Leonard short story Fire in the Hole, FX’s Justified stars Deadwood’s Timothy Olyphant as U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens. He’s a lawman who would have fit in well in the Old West—soft spoken, but deadly when he needs to be—who’s stuck trying to enforce the law in an era when gunfights generate more paperwork and fewer dime-novel narratives. After gunning down a mobster in Miami, Givens is shipped back to his old stomping grounds of Harlan County, Kentucky, which his bosses figure will keep him out of the spotlight and away from controversy. Unfortunately Raylan then spends six seasons finding every bit of trouble Harlan County has to offer, including criminals both local and imported—most particularly Boyd Crowder (The Shield’s Walton Goggins), a charismatic and ever-present thorn in Raylan’s side. With six seasons the chew through, you’d be entirely Justified in calling in sick to work for a week or so.

3) Hannibal (2013 – 2015)

It’s one of the great TV tragedies that Bryan Fuller didn’t get to bring his epic seven-year plan for Hannibal to fruition, but at least we got three amazing seasons—and given that this was a network television show, that was already beating the odds by a country mile. Hugh Dancy stars as Will Graham, a gifted but troubled criminal profiler, opposite Mads Mikkelsen as the brilliant Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a respected colleague and a monster lurking in plain sight. Mixing original storylines with material culled from the acclaimed Thomas Harris novels that spawned the characters, Hannibal contains some of the most simultaneously brutal and beautiful imagery you’ll ever see on television, as well as brilliant character work by its two leads and a supporting cast that includes Laurence Fishburne, Gillian Anderson, and Caroline Dhavernas. It’s one of those shows that seemed to defy the odds with its very existence, but that didn’t make the fall of the ax at the end of season 3 any less painful. Still, it’s a meal absolutely worth indulging in… preferably with a nice Chianti.

4) Banshee (2013 – 2016)

Produced by Six Feet Under’s Alan Ball, Banshee follows former convict Lucas Hood, a man eager to track down his former lover/accomplice who bolted with $15 million in diamonds and left him to stew behind bars for a decade and a half. His search takes him to the small town of Banshee, Pennsylvania, and down an even more unlikely path. A series of unfortunate events soon finds Hood entering Banshee under the guise of the town’s new (and, unbeknownst to the populace, recently dead) sheriff. Hood pursues his own ends while trying to keep his ruse intact, a task that becomes ever more difficult the longer he wears the badge; especially when it puts him at odds with Kai Proctor, an ex-Amish local crime lord. Produced for Cinemax, Banshee is a twisty, steamy melodrama packed with enough sex and violence to give even HBO a run for its money.

5) The Americans (2013 – )

Speaking of people who aren’t who they say they are, let’s dial the Wayback Machine back to the Cold War for a tale of an average American family with one whopper of a secret: Husband and wife Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) are actually Russian spies. Working deep undercover in 1980s suburbia, the Jennings must work to maintain their cover while gathering intelligence for their Soviet masters… all while also dealing with all the usual challenges of a family raising kids. Especially when the kids are grade-A all-Americans who have no idea their folks are a pair of Russkie snoops. Communism is definitely more than just a Red herring in this Peabody Award-winning series that proved just how much of a badass Keri Russell can be, regardless of which haircut she happens to be sporting at the moment. It’s got action, family drama, nail-biting suspense, and ethical quandaries aplenty. (Adding a certain verisimilitude to the proceedings is the fact The Americans was created by Joseph Weisberg, who worked as an actual CIA officer before finding success as a writer.)

Share this article
*First Published: Jun 27, 2016, 11:50 am CDT