I used to be a pop culture guru. There wasn’t an actor I couldn’t identify, show I couldn’t name, or theme song I couldn’t sing along with. These days, however, it’s almost impossible to be an expert on pop culture because there’s just so much out there. Anyone with a cell phone can be a “celebrity” now. Anyone can self-publish their book, release their music, or launch a podcast. There are something like 4,210 streaming services, all with “original content” that you’d have to spend $123,027 dollars a month to see, which is ironic, considering people are dumping cable because it’s too expensive.
Even though there are countless phenomenal books, podcasts, television shows, and movies out there, folks still tend to gravitate to the lowest common denominator and watch shows like Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, Love is Blind, and Keeping up with the Kardashians.
I like to think that perhaps folks are watching these shows simply because they don’t know there are better options out there. While I realize there’s no way that’s true, I’d like to think it’s true so I don’t jump off my roof. So, as a public service, I’d like to recommend a service that you might not know about, or have just dismissed as not as good as streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or any of the other 50 streaming services that are out there.
First and foremost, a major benefit of Amazon Prime is that it gets you free shipping and returns on many of the products you order from the site. An Amazon Prime membership also saves you time when ordering, as your information is saved and you can simply click a button and order whatever’s in your cart.
In addition to these benefits, there’s some good content available on Amazon Prime. Let me qualify this by saying I’m giving 10 really good reasons to watch Amazon Prime, based on what I’ve seen. These might not be the 10 best, since I’m basing this only on what I’ve watched. Shows like Hunters, The Man in the High Castle, and Good Omens look fantastic, but aren’t on the list because I haven’t watched them yet. However, the following are definitely 10 solid reasons you should give Amazon Prime a shot. I’ll start from the bottom and work my way up the main reason I think you should plunk down some money and get Amazon Prime.
Without further ado, here’s the list!
Reason Ten: Some Decent Movies
Sure, Amazon Prime doesn’t have the best selection of movies, but if you look around, you’ll be surprised by what you find. Relatively recent hits like A Simple Favor, A Quiet Place, and Creed II are available for free. Some older movies that were pretty good are also available, including Clue, totally underrated comedy Rat Race, sci-fi thriller Super 8, the utterly fantastic The Lincoln Lawyer, and almost every James Bond movie ever made. These movies change, as they do with most streaming services, but there’s always a decent enough selection that you can kill an evening or two watching them.
Reason Nine: Some Better-Than-Decent Television Shows
In addition to a decent selection of movies, Amazon Prime is also home to a very good selection of television shows. It’s widely known that I’m a superfan of the NBC show Chuck, starring Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski. You can watch all five seasons on Amazon Prime. Sure, the show is cheesy, but Chuck is a love letter to all fans of everything nerdy. You’ll be constantly amazed by the pop culture references, clever cameos, and nifty twists and turns that Chuck offers up.
In addition to Chuck, there are bunches of shows that people have recommended I watch. Hunters, The Man in the High Castle, Fleabag, and Good Omens are more recent Amazon Prime offerings that I haven’t had a chance to watch yet, while older classics like Psych, Monk, The Twilight Zone, Burn Notice, Quantum Leap, 30 Rock, and House are also available. These shows alone will keep you busy for months, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to great television shows available.
Reason Eight: Loads of Funny or Die Content
Sure, you can see a lot of this content online, but Amazon Prime does you a favor by grouping it all together. The highlights of the Funny or Die content available on Amazon Prime are probably the brutal, but hysterical Zack Morris is Trash and the consistently funny A Very Special Episode, in which a narrator tears into the ridiculousness of different “very special episodes” of popular 90s sitcoms.
In addition to the preceding two series, there are others, including Totally Real Movies (Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a must watch), As Seen on TV (Modern Office with Christina Hendricks and Don Cheadle as Captain Planet are highlights), and Laugh about the Music (watch The Ballad of G.I. Joe if for no other reason than the amazing celebrity cameos; the casting is better than the actual G.I. Joe live-action movies).
There’s almost too much content to name that Funny or Die puts out. What I’ve listed is only a fraction of it. You could probably spend three or four straight days just watching the bite-sized videos (none are more than six or seven minutes) and getting your laughs in.
Reason Seven: Hanna
Reviews of Hanna are split online, but my wife and I enjoyed this Amazon Prime “Original” that’s not really original because it’s based on a 2011 movie of the same name that starred Saoirse Ronan and Eric Bana. Both the movie and the series are about a young girl living with Erik, the only man she has ever known, as her father, in a remote part of a forest in Poland. Erik once recruited pregnant women into a CIA program, code name UTRAX, where the children’s DNA was enhanced in order to create super-soldiers. Erik falls in love with Hanna’s mother and flees with baby Hanna. That’s where things start in the series.
I thought the series was pretty decent. There’s enough character development to make you give a damn about the two characters and their plight. Esme Creed-Miles plays Hanna as a realistic teenager raised in the woods; she doesn’t understand the things a “normal” teenager would, but she wants to, and she makes typical mistakes a teenager would make. The only difference with Hanna is that she can fix her mistakes by beating the living hell out of the problem. The show does a great job of balancing the fighting and action with actual story that makes you care about Hanna.
There’s only been one season of Hanna, so if you choose to invest in it, you won’t be wasting a ton of time. A second season is in the works, and it should be amazing.
Reason Six: Goliath
Okay, I’m really torn on putting this as high as I did because the first season of Goliath is absolutely amazing, season two is not great, and season three is somewhere in between. However, I think the first season of this show, which stars Billy Bob Thorton as a disgraced lawyer who’s trying to find his way back from a very dark place, is worth the price of admission alone.
In the first season of Goliath, Thorton’s character Billy McBride finds himself in the dumps, working as an ambulance chaser during the day and getting drunk at night. The first episode begins when another lawyer approaches him to represent someone whose husband’s boat blew up. The dead man’s wife has taken money to keep quiet, while his sister thinks foul play was involved. The crazy part is that the guy worked for a company called Borns Tech, Billy’s former employer. The script, cast, and story are all amazing. There are enough twists, turns, and drama for five shows.
Unfortunately, season two gets into some bizarre territory. I won’t “spoil” any of it, but it’ll test your loyalty to the show to watch. The third season does a decent enough job righting the ship and correcting some of the miscues in the second season. There’s a fourth season on deck, and apparently, acting powerhouses J.K. Simmons and Bruce Dern will be joining the cast. Give this show a shot, but be ready for a less-than-stellar middle…you’ll be glad you did.
Reason Five: Jack Ryan
Halfway through the list we have Jack Ryan, a standard, but still pretty darn good action/suspense/political intrigue show starring John Krasinski as the titular Jack Ryan. In the first season of the show, Ryan, a CIA analyst, is forced to leave his desk job after discovering a string of dubious bank transfers, which are being carried out by a rising Islamic extremist named Suleiman. The show has just enough action, paced decently enough, to be more than a mindless Michael Bay-esque explosion-fest.
The second season is a little less impactful, and puts Jack in the middle of political warfare in a corrupt Venezuela. The plot is a little less believable and, while still decent, isn’t as strong as the first season. I still recommend the series for the strength of the main players and the good storytelling.
Reason Four: Sneaky Pete
I’ll be honest, I only watched the first season of Sneaky Pete because by the time the second season had come out, I had forgotten all of the twists, turns, backstabs, cons, and double-crosses that had happened in the first season. I will say, however, that the first season of this incredible show is not to be missed.
In the first episode of Sneaky Pete, we’re introduced to Marius Josipović (Giovanni Ribisi), a released convict who adopts the identity of his cellmate, Pete Murphy, in order to avoid his past life. You see, Pete’s family hasn’t seen him in a long time, so they don’t really know what he looks like. Pete also makes the mistake of telling Marius, a ridiculously talented conman, about the fortune his family has. When Marius gets out of jail, the con is on, Marius becomes Pete, and the fireworks begin almost from the get go. The show is also aided by the fact that Bryan Cranston, who is also co-creator of the show, is the over-the-top bad guy in the first season.
If you like dialog- and plot-driven shows like Better Call Saul, do yourself a favor and check out Sneaky Pete. This show is made for binging, because it’s filled with clever plot twists and sharp turns you won’t see coming. Just when you think Marius has the upper hand, something happens that pulls him back into another con. If the second and third seasons are half as good as the first, you’re in for a real treat.
Reason Three: The Boys
What would happen if Marvel’s Avengers, DC’s Justice League, and the Watchmen had an orgy and a television show was born from the debauchery? Well, you’d have The Boys, a show about a world where superheroes are far-from-perfect Internet celebrities, influencers, and marketing machines, and the high-tier heroes are employed by a multibillion-dollar conglomerate that highlights their good deeds while covering up their shady sides.
Ironically, the “heroes” in this show are really the antagonists. What else would you expect from a drug-addicted version of The Flash (A-Train); a drunken Wonder Woman (Queen Maeve); a moronic, perverted frat boy version of Aquaman (The Deep); a mute, ultra-violent version of Batman (Black Noir), and a super-powered, but narcissistic psychopath version of Superman (Homelander)? The true (anti)-hero of this show is Hughie Campbell, who comes to hate “The Seven” superheroes within 15 minutes of the first episode. I won’t spoil why, but believe me when I tell you that it’s over-the-top insane. Hughie is eventually recruited by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and “The Boys” a group dedicated to not only revealing that The Seven are a bunch of scumbags, but taking them (and the higher-ups that support them) down in the process.
This show is not for little kids, like most Marvel movies. The Boys is equal parts funny, violent, brutal, disgusting, clever, emotional, vulgar, and insane. The first season is incredible, and does a great job of giving you some of the backstories of the characters while keeping you interested by dangling other threads. If you like your heroes to be red, white, and blue good guys that do no wrong, this isn’t the show for you, but if you’re looking for something a little edgier, give The Boys a shot.
Reason Two: Bosch
I might be a bit biased on this one because I’ve read every one of Michael Connelly’s novels about L.A. detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch. Bosch, the Amazon Prime series, gets pretty much everything right as far as the book goes: the casting is spot on, the stories are excellent, and the show just has the “feel” of the books.
For those of you who have read the books and are worried that the show is simply a retelling of those stories, rest assured that they’re not. For example, the first season of the show takes pieces and parts from the Michael Connelly novels City of Bones, Echo Park, and The Concrete Blonde. However, Connelly and the other writers have done a great job switching up and combining plots, changing characters, and mixing up enough that the show feels fresh, but will reward people who’ve read the books.
For those of you who haven’t read the books, Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver) is an old-school detective in Los Angeles. He’s former military and the son of a prostitute and…well, someone else who’s identified in the books after a while, so I won’t spoil it. Harry’s credo, “Everybody counts or nobody counts,” pushes him to do whatever is right, whether the victim is white, black, rich, poor, a politician, or a prostitute. Welliver plays the role to perfection, with a tension that makes you think Bosch could snap at any time.
The show is great because you really get to know Harry and his family. While he may be a little clichéd as an anti-authoritarian detective, there’s a lot more to the character, which you’ll learn as the series progresses. Bosch is about to release a sixth season; do yourself a favor and binge the first five seasons and catch season six when it releases!
Reason One: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
I have to say, I wasn’t expecting much when I watched the first episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. When I looked at the description and saw that it was about a 1960s spoiled Jewish housewife who becomes a comedian, I wasn’t exactly excited. However, some people whose opinions I respect recommended it, so I decided to give it a shot. I’m glad I did.
In three seasons, there’s never a wholly bad episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I laughed, sometimes uncontrollably, nearly every episode. The pilot of the show was Amazon Video’s most popular ever, and critics love the show as much as I do. The show has won bundles of Emmys, SAG Awards, and Golden Globes, and rightfully so…it’s fantastic.
So, why is a show about a housewife in the 60s so funny? Well, the main reason is the cast. Rachel Brosnahan absolutely shines as Miriam “Midge” Maisel (née Weissman), a spoiled housewife who copes with her unfaithful husband Joel (Michael Zegen, who does a perfect job of walking the tightrope between likeable and unlikeable) by doing standup comedy. Midge is “discovered” by Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein, as perhaps one of the top five funniest people I’ve ever seen on television), an employee of the dingy club where Midge first performs. Susie becomes Midge’s manager and the two of them create a comedic pair that could match wits and one-liners with any duo in comedy history. The cast is rounded out by Marin Hinkle as Rose Weissman (née Lehman), Midge’s mother; Tony Shalhoub as Abraham “Abe” Weissman, Midge’s father; Kevin Pollak as Moishe Maisel, Joel’s father; and Caroline Aaron as Shirley Maisel, Joel’s mother. There are some other great casting choices that pop up through the first three seasons, but I won’t spoil them for you.
While the cast and the dialog are the clear stars in this show, the story is better than I expected. While the show is funny, it has its emotional moments, as well, as Midge has to deal with the prospect of divorce and handling being a mom and a travelling comedian. Even the jaded Susie has a pretty emotional story arc dealing with her ailing mother and crummy upbringing.
I really can’t believe how much I like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. While other shows on this list deliver bigger thrills, plot twists, and “wow” moments, Mrs. Maisel delivers a more consistent, high-quality product every single episode. If you invest in Amazon Prime and only watch one show, watch this one and you’ll almost get your money’s worth.
Sure, it might be easy to just plop down on the couch and watch some brainless reality show about idiots who keep wild animals as pets or people who marry each other after knowing each other for 12 minutes, but I’d like to think we’re better than that. There’s some great, clever, entertaining television and movies available on Amazon Prime that you’re really missing if you don’t have the service. It might be steep for a year’s subscription, but if you order from Amazon frequently, that covers a good portion of the cost. Even if you support brick-and-mortar stores and don’t use Amazon very much, the library of entertainment they have is well worth the price.