Tube Talk: Prime time prime viewing

By Paula Hendrickson

Ever since Netflix broke through with House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, a slew of new original series have debuted on streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

While Netflix and Hulu subscribers sign up specifically to stream shows and movies, I’ve come to realize that a staggering number of Amazon Prime members don’t take full advantage of the streaming services available to them. Maybe they watched the Emmy-winning Transparent, but probably not much else.

As someone who doesn’t do a lot of shopping – online or otherwise – I used to scoff at friends and family who raved about the Prime free shipping because I would never save enough to shipping fees to offset the annual subscription fee. But I really wanted to see Transparent and some other shows, so I subscribed.

Oddly enough, the first show I watched wasn’t Transparent, it was Alpha House, a 2013-14 political comedy created by Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau starring John Goodman, Matt Malloy, Mark Consuelos, and Clark Johnson as four Republican senators sharing the same house in Washington D.C. (Senator roommates may sound strange, but that part of the show is based loosely on the long-time living arrangements of a group of Democratic senators – including Dick Durbin of Illinois.)

Why was Alpha House my first pick? It was a rare chance to see Johnson – who’s spent more time directing than acting since the end of Homicide: Life on the Street – back on screen. In a comedy no less.

The fact that we’re approaching an election didn’t hurt, since the show milks laughs from partisan machinations that at one point leave one of the housemates asking what their party’s position is supposed to be on an issue. I was really hoping there would be a third season of Alpha House timed to our presidential election, but perhaps producers couldn’t think of ways to satirize current events without totally jumping the shark.

Yes, Transparent is good (even if most of the characters are so self-involved you want to slap them, repeatedly). Mozart of the Jungle has won some awards, too. Bosch is based on Michael Connelly’s best-selling novels. A friend keeps telling me I have to watch The Man in the High Castle. And Mad Dogs is from producer and Rockford native Shawn Ryan.

But my current favorite is the London-set Catastrophe, which may be the unlikeliest love story ever as Irish-born Sharon and the American Rob – played by series creators/writers Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney – quickly move from strangers to parents. Its six-episode second season debuted earlier this month, and I’m trying so hard not to binge and watch it all at once. This is a show I want to savor a bit since it could be another year before we have any new episodes.

There are even more original productions to watch, and other programs and movies, too.

If you’re already paying for Amazon Prime anyway, make sure you get your money’s worth: check out a couple of Amazon’s original shows.

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