Amazon Originals to watch – and avoid
Amazon released a lot of Originals over the last few months, and there are still a few to come to tickle our fancy. Unfortunately, a few series and other content just didn’t sit well with us. Not everything the Galactic Empire of Amazon produces can be amazing, so let’s explore what you should watch right now, and the stuff you might want to skip past.
So forget your New Year’s resolutions, new gym membership cards, and holiday leftovers, and smash play on Amazon for a few favorites of ours – or just shake your fist at the screen when you see something not-too-great! Grr! Poor quality content! #firstworldproblems
Watch: Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams
UK viewers were already treated with this import of a show based on short stories by Philip K. Dick, famous for his book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which became Blade Runner – or at least became the inspiration behind Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece, because a lot of the story was just jettisoned. Dick wrote tons of great stories across the 60s and 70s, and some of the best are brought to life by the likes of Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner), Steve Buscemi (Ghost World), Terrence Howard (Four Brothers), and a bunch of other A-listers.
We’ve already seen the series, which starts on Amazon Video on January 12th: brainy, cerebral stuff with a few stories well worth seeing.
We wish we had some idea what’s going on in this thing, another British import airing weekly on Amazon Video. The writers behind McMafia somehow managed to make a Russian mafia family drama into this overly convoluted mess. James Norton (Grantchester) is wasted in a lead who mostly just meanders around. Luckily they only bought a miniseries – and it’s worth exactly none of your time.
Watch: I Love Dick
Don’t let the title fool you. This series isn’t totally naughty – but it’s still pretty cheeky. Kathryn Hahn (Transparent) falls in complete, obsessive love with Kevin Bacon (Mystic River). The story of everyone’s life, really. Except her husband does as well! Shocker! I Love Dick is a twisted romcom that goes in some left-field directions. Hahn is an utterly delicious delight in the main role, as a woman torn between fanatical lust and the harsh reality of her current marriage.
Avoid: Crisis in Six Scenes
Ugh. We’re actually fans of Woody Allen’s long history of iconoclastic filmmaking, but if you happen upon this 2016 miscarriage somewhere in your video docket, skip it. Not only does this self-indulgent miniseries – Allen’s first foray into television – go absolutely nowhere with any of its characters, it commits the cardinal sin of being bland. It’s the least Woody Allen thing that Woody Allen has ever Woody Allened! Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) is especially poor in a dead-eyed role trying to be existential, but winding up simply empty. Ugh.
Watch: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
A surprise delight of 2017 needing your attention right now, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a late-fifties story about a Jewish housewife (Rachel Brosnahan) attempting standup comedy as a hobby. What feels like a period drama morphs into a rich comedy bubbling with all the tragic hilarity human life has to offer. Tons of commentary is crammed into this show, from gender roles to busting social norms, which seems to go from strength to strength in its later episodes.
Avoid: Jean-Claude Van Johnson
We’re not fans at all of this supposedly “gut-busting” meta-commentary comedy from Jean-Claude Van Damme (Double Team), who plays a martial arts film star that becomes an undercover agent and then does a few other things which make sense. There are cheap laughs here, but the uncharismatic Van Damme unfortunately isn’t more watchable than usual. If you really want to check this out, just keep picturing Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread) in the karate-chopping lead role. You know full well he’d be up for it.
Watch: The Tick
If you missed this parodic superhero series last year, now’s the time to check it out. Based on the mocking comic book of the same name, The Tick is a sweet and genuinely hilarious series. Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead) in the lead is utterly versatile and comedically infectious. It’s hard not to be charmed, even if it’s obvious the budget was about five dollars and a styrofoam takeaway box for each scene. The rest of the first season airs this February after a little hiatus.