Amazon started out as a bookseller in the 1990s before developing into the commercial behemoth it is today. One of the features it uses to encourage membership is its Prime video service, which features original series and movies along with existing shows and films that it has made available. And no matter what your opinion is of Amazon, it’s hard to argue against the idea that some of its Prime productions are pretty impressive.
If you’re looking for something to stream during the holiday season — or after — and you have a Prime membership, here are some suggestions that you may want to try out.
Amazon’s Prime service offers a variety of features, including fast and free delivery of many of its products, Amazon Music and Gaming, unlimited photo storage, and perhaps best, its Amazon Prime video streaming. There is a 30-day free trial; discounts are available for students and those on government assistance.
Night Sky is one of the best least-known science fiction series around. The eight episodes star Sissy Spacek and J.K. Simmons as a retired couple who, in their youth, found an interplanetary doorway buried in their backyard and have been hiding it ever since. This is no Marvel action flick; it’s a thoughtful science fiction tale that, as it brings in more characters with agendas of their own, slowly ramps up to a climax that’s at once nail-biting and inspiring. Tragically, the series was not renewed, but in spite of that (and the somewhat cliffhanger ending), it is something you shouldn’t miss.
This alternative history series, which premiered in 2021, is alternately horrific and beautiful. It takes place in antebellum America, where an escaped slave named Cora (played wonderfully by Thuso Mbedu) experiences the range of human good and evil as she travels along the Underground Railroad — which, in this case, is literally a railroad that takes Black escapees through the states as they search for someplace to call home. It is often not easy to watch, but that doesn’t make it less important — and there are moments of human compassion and love as well.
If you’re a cat person and you don’t know about the illustrations of Louis Wain, you should. Wain was a Victorian-era artist who was, for a time, incredibly popular for his pictures featuring cats dressed and acting like humans (although some of his cat portraits were more realistic). This fictionalized story of his life, which first showed in 2021, is fascinating and, in many ways, tragic; how and why his art progressed from realism to charming fantasy to outright psychedelia is apparently still debated in art circles today. A stellar cast is headed by Benedict Cumberbatch as Louis.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
This 2022 prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films has very little to do with the original Tolkien tales but is a fun watch nonetheless. Some of the characters will be familiar to those who have experienced Tolkien’s universe; others were created especially for this series. They include Galadriel, who at this point in her life is a warrior elf; Nori Brandyfoot, a young Harfoot (i.e., Hobbit) who adopts a mysterious stranger; Halbrand, a human who is more than he seems; and a host of other characters. The story wanders a bit and can be a little predictable in parts, but the world-building is wonderful, and as the story proceeds, it becomes addictive to watch.
The original 1992 film of the same name told about the travails of a team of female baseball players during the World War II era trying to be taken seriously. This new 2022 series goes much further, showing how the players must negotiate their way not only past assumptions about the role of women but also through the restrictions on sexuality and the pervasive racial discrimination that existed at the time (and some of which still exist today). Led by a cast of excellent actors, the series shows how the characters make their way through external and internal barriers to find strength on the baseball field and in their own lives.
One of two detective shows listed here, this 2022 series is based on the Jack Reacher books by writer Lee Child. As some of the reviews of the show mention, the character and this series both come off as a bit retrograde — it features a tough, fightin’ man who battles the bad guys and plays the righteous vigilante. But as portrayed by Alan Ritchson, Reacher depends on his brains as well as his brawn and picks up an interesting crew of friends and colleagues who can give as well as they get. Although this isn’t usually a genre I follow, I enjoyed it way more than I expected to.
Speaking of detectives, there’s Bosch, one of the more popular detective shows on Prime and also based on a series of novels, this one by Michael Connelly. The original TV series, in which Harry Bosch (played by Titus Welliver) solved crimes as a detective in the Los Angeles Police Department, lasted for seven seasons; the new series continues to follow the same character as he leaves the police department to set out on his own as a private detective. Bosch is a 21st-century version of the film noir private eye: smart, taciturn, and honest, all of which get him into trouble with the less-than-trustworthy authorities.
Technically, Bosch: Legacy is not a Prime show; it runs on Amazon’s Freevee network, which is available to anyone willing to put up with the commercials.
While much of the science fiction media offered today is made up of a loud, often confused medley of superheroes and interplanetary warfare, some of the best sci-fi on the menu are quiet, weird, and challenging programs, such as the aforementioned Night Sky and Tales from the Loop, which premiered in 2020 and ran for one season. The Loop is an underground machine built to explore the mysteries of the universe, and Tales is made up of a series of stories about how the Loop and its artifacts affect the local inhabitants in strange and unexpected ways. The stories are distinct in that each has its own beginning and end but are also subtly linked, making for a satisfying whole.