What to watch now that Amazon Prime Video has launched in Canada
Transparent and The Man In The High Castle are among the company's buzzworthy original shows.
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It isn't fair, dammit. That has to be what the Canadian broadcast competition is saying now that Amazon Prime Video is officially here.
Enjoyed for years in America, the UK and elsewhere, Amazon is a streaming service not unlike Netflix — it's not just another competitor in an already crowded content field. It's as if the NHL expanded with a new team and it was packed with all-stars.
Like Netflix, Amazon has courted and partnered with seasoned storytellers and is in business with the best. Canadians got a taste of what all the fuss was about when Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle were reasons to subscribe to Shomi. Once that streaming service served notice it was pulling the plug, the clock began ticking as to when Amazon would crack the Canadian market.
That day has arrived. First out of the gate is The Grand Tour, a reality motoring series starring notorious Top Gear trio Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.
Beyond that show, here's a grand tour of seven smart Amazon originals Canadians will want to test drive:
Phoebe Waller-Bridge dares you to look away from Fleabag. Based on Waller-Bridge's one-woman play, this six-part British series has to be binged to be believed. The pitch-perfect black comedy stars Waller-Bridge as an audaciously unlikable young woman trying to survive the mean streets of modern London.
Set in the '80s, Red Oaks is about a young college student (played by Welsh actor Craig Roberts) who works summers as a tennis pro at the snooty Red Oaks Country Club. Richard Kind and Jennifer Grey play his separating parents, Paul Reiser plays the rich jerk who runs the club, and Gina Gershon plays the rich jerk's wife. Stealing scenes from them all is Canadian Ennis Esmer (The Listener) who aces his role as the club's charm-dog tennis pro. "Not a sendup of the 1980s," wrote the New York Times, "but a surprisingly straightforward extension of the genre." Season 2 is even better than the first.
Shot in Vancouver, The Man in the High Castle spent a year as the best show filmed in Canada that Canadians couldn't (legally) see. The premise is an instant grabber: suppose Hitler had won. The drama is set in the early '60s with the U.S. divided on both coasts by Germany and Japan. Story, acting and art direction all keep you panting for the next episode. Season 2 — without the guidance of veteran executive producer Frank Spotnitz ("The X-Files") — has just begun.
Woody Allen stooping to television? Well, Amazon offered complete creative control. Crisis in Six Scenes is the result, and it is no Annie Hall. Miley Cyrus is more Whiny Cyrus as a '60s activist who takes temporary shelter in the home of an older TV writer and his therapist wife. Allen the actor gamely tries to revive his cowardly, nervous movie shtick, but the real delight is seeing Elaine May shake off the rust.
Still seeking that Mad Men fix? Good Girls Revolt comes close. The series follows a group of young newsmagazine researchers as the women's movement gains momentum in the late '60s. Genevieve Angelson, Anna Camp and Erin Darke play the smart women fighting for bylines and fair wages in a man's world. Toronto-born Chris Diamantopoulos (Silicon Valley) stands in their way as their workaholic editor. Created by former journalist-turned-executive producer Dana Calvo (Narcos).
Fans familiar with stand-up comedian Tig Notaro will want to explore One Mississippi. The "traumedy" finds Notaro confronting her family's shocking past secrets as well as her own mortality. Notaro, a real-life breast cancer survivor, found powerful allies in producing this very personal series with comedy peers Diablo Cody and Louis C.K.
Goliath stars Billy Bob Thornton as a lawyer who has seen better days. William Hurt, Olivia Thirlby, Maria Bello and Canadian Molly Parker are among the excellent cast. Premiering in October, this eight-episode drama is written and executive produced by David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro (The Practice).
Amazon has also ordered some terrific pilots to series, including the saucy I Love Dick from Transparent showrunner Jill Soloway (and starring Kevin Bacon), a more explosive reboot of the comic-book fantasy The Tick, and Jean Claude Van Johnson, an action movie spoof starring self-effacing strongman Jean Claude Van Damme.
— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.
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