While there is no denying that Netflix and Hulu are the current leaders among the streaming services in terms of original programming, Amazon is working hard to close their third-place gap. Among the thirty or so and counting original shows that the service has introduced are acclaimed series like Transparent, Sneaky Pete, Mozart in the Jungle, and Patriot. Amazon’s unique “Pilot Season” set-up also lets its customers decide each year which of a class of potential new shows are continued and which are given the ax, making Amazon’s viewers a part of the service’s programming in a way that Netflix and Hulu’s aren’t.
It is becoming increasingly important for a service to have quality original programming that people can’t find anywhere else in order to entice customers. Original shows are essentially locked in for life and aren’t beholden to fickle licensing agreements, so the more a service can have, the better.
Amazon is aware of this and has been doubling down on its efforts to provide an attractive lineup of unique original series that will make the service stand out from, but also gain ground on, Netflix and Hulu– as well as fend off the other guys trying to claw their way in.
Here are the 16 Amazon Original Shows You Didn’t Know Were Coming.
16. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan
Author Tom Clancy has had just as much success with adaptations of his books as he has with the books themselves, especially in terms of movies and video games. One place that the late author’s work hadn’t been adapted is television, but that’s about to change with this upcoming series focusing on Clancy’s most popular character.
Jack Ryan has been portrayed in movies by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and most recently, Chris Pine. Stepping into the role for the character’s TV debut is The Office‘s John Krasinski, who will play Ryan in his early days as an up-and-coming CIA agent. It’s not Krasinski’s first time in the world of action and political espionage, as he also had a role in Michael Bay’s 2016 movie about the Benghazi incident.
Other notable actors who are confirmed to make appearances on the show are Peter Fonda, Timothy Hutton, and The Wire‘s Wendell Pierce. While there is no solid release date at this time, the show is expected sometime in 2017.
15. The Tick
After the character’s humble beginnings as a mascot for a New England comic book store’s newsletter, Ben Edlund’s The Tick first saw mainstream popularity when he was turned into a beloved animated series on Fox for three seasons in the mid-90s. In 2001, the network brought the character back for a live-action show starring Patrick Warburton as the titular hero. Despite positive buzz, ratings were abysmal and the show only lasted nine episodes.
While Edlund has stayed prolific for the past decade and a half, with writing credits on such acclaimed shows as Firefly, Venture Bros., Supernatural, and Gotham, he has inevitably found himself coming back to his most famous creation. This time, he’s taking a crack at another live-action adaptation of The Tick, creating, writing, and executive producing the latest iteration of the character for Amazon.
The test pilot aired in 2016 and was picked up for a full season to begin this summer. Peter Serafinowicz, who recently appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy as Denarian Saal, will be donning the big blue suit and antennae this time around.
14. Jean-Claude Van Johnson
A lot of aging actors have taken on self-aware roles where they play characters that mirror their own careers and reflect on their legacies in interesting ways– Michael Keaton in Birdman, Warwick Davis in Life’s Too Short, and Matt LeBlanc in Episodes being some noteworthy examples. Jean-Claude Van Damme, who was one of Hollywood’s top action stars in the late-80s into the mid-90s, is actually doing that for the second time in his career.
Van Damme first portrayed a fictionalized version of himself in the 2008 film JVCD, and is taking a similar path with the upcoming Amazon series Jean-Claude Van Johnson. In the show, which received a series order after last year’s pilot, Van Damme plays himself–a n aging action star who can still handle fight like a 25-year old– only he’s also a hitman who is mostly only in movies so he can get close to his targets.
In addition to still being able to deliver the action goods, Van Damme has matured into a pretty solid actor with great comedic timing. The show’s director recently confirmed that we should be able to expect five new episodes by year’s end.
13. Danger & Eggs
Beginning life as a twelve minute short film, Shadi Petosky and Mike Owens’ hilarious Danger & Eggs is finally getting the full series treatment that it deserves. With a look and vibe comparable to modern cartoons like Adventure Time and The Amazing World of Gumball and also reminiscent of wacky ’90s shows like Rocko’s Modern Life, Danger & Eggs is about the bizarre adventures of BFFs D.D. Danger and giant egg Phillip.
Despite success in doing animation work for Yo Gabba Gabba! and other shows and movies, Petoski has spoken of her struggles to pitch a show of her own, claiming to have had over a dozen development opportunities fall through before Amazon picked up Danger & Eggs.
Here’s hoping that the show– featuring the voice talents of SNL‘s Aidy Bryant– is the breakthrough success that Petoski has been dreaming of.
Based on the popular podcast of the same name that focuses on real-life historical events with a horror bent, the Amazon TV series Lore is going to be one of the more interesting programs on the service. Said to be unscripted and combining historical footage and interviews with re-enactments of the stories being told, the first season of the show will take on ten different stories of real-life horror.
The podcast is largely a one-man show, edited, recorded, and narrated entirely by creator Aaron Mahnke. But the series, while still definitely creatively driven by Mahnke, will obviously have a bigger cast and crew, including Walking Dead producer Gale Ann Hurd, Marco Polo producer Ben Silverman, and X-Files writer Glen Morgan. The cast is made up of lesser-known actors– likely a deliberate choice so as to give the stories a more authentic feel without the distraction of big-name stars.
11. Too Old to Die Young
Nicolas Winding Refn is one of the more interesting filmmakers working today. While his films– the most well-known of which are Drive and Only God Forgives, both starring Ryan Gosling– tend to either be adored or despised, there’s no denying that he is an ambitious and visually striking writer/director. If nothing else, you can expect his upcoming crime series, Too Old to Die Young, to be among the more original and challenging shows in Amazon’s lineup.
Miles Teller will star in the series as a police officer who finds himself on a twisted journey where he will navigate the Russian mafia, Mexican drug cartels, and even the Yakuza as he avenges the murder of his partner. Refn is said to be directing every episode of the series, co-writing it with noted comic book author Ed Brubaker. We’ve only seen the unsurprisingly weird teaser trailers so far as the show isn’t scheduled to hit until 2018.
10. Little Big Awesome
Streaming services– Amazon included– often become sort of dumping grounds for half-rate children’s shows past and present, and it can be difficult to know how to parse out the quality cartoons from the disposable ones. When a show’s staff includes writer/producer Ben Gruber (Teen Titans Go!, Spongebob), longtime animator Chris Prynoski (Beavis and Butt-head, the Guitar Hero video games), Emmy winner Ben Kalina (Niko and the Sword of Light, The Legend of Korra), and the voice talents of such legendary voice artists as Dana Snyder and Fred Tatasciore, there’s probably good reason to be optimistic. Such is the impressive pedigree behind Little Big Awesome.
The show, which follows jelly-like creature pals named Gluko and Lennon in their adventures in Bubble Land, is an ambitious mix of traditional animation, live-action, and even puppetry. After last year’s well-received, Emmy-winning pilot, Amazon ordered Little Big Awesome for a full season to begin airing soon.
9. Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams
Bryan Cranston will executive produce and star in this sci-fi anthology series based on the works of famed author Philip K. Dick– whose book, The Man in the High Castle, is already the basis for an existing Amazon series.
Electric Dreams will likely tackle Dick works that haven’t already been adapted– at least not in a big, mainstream manner– so we probably won’t see episodes based on A Scanner Darkly or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (which was the inspiration for Blade Runner). Among the confirmed stories being turned into Electric Dreams episodes are “The Impossible Planet” and “The Commuter,” and each of the ordered ten episodes will be based on its own, separate Philip K. Dick story.
In addition to Cranston, Electric Dreams is heavy on star power, featuring single or multi-episode appearances by Anna Paquin, Steve Buscemi, Greg Kinnear, and Terrence Howard. The show was originally shopped to AMC, who eventually pulled out, with Amazon officially picking it up in February. Expect it sometime in 2017.
8. Costume Quest
Frederator Studios, best known for Adventure Time, already has an animated series based on the Castlevania video game franchise coming to Netflix. But apparently, one cartoon based on a video game for a streaming service wasn’t enough, as they are also giving Double Fine’s action/RPG Costume Quest the animated treatment for Amazon in 2018.
The Costume Quest game series– which currently sits at two core installments and several expansion packs– is about kids who set out for an innocent trick-or-treat outing on Halloween night that turns sour when monsters invade the town and kidnap children. Luckily, the children are able to transform into real versions of whatever they are dressed up as and battle the monsters. It’s unknown if the series will follow the games’ plot, but the teaser image that has been released at least confirms a fairly similar art style.
Based on the book series Mollisan Town by Tim Davys, some of the creative forces behind last year’s raunchy animated film Sausage Party will be bringing the adult CG series Amberville to Amazon next year. The book is a dark crime comedy set in a word of living stuffed animals, with the main protagonist being a teddy bear who had been trying to leave his life of crime behind before being enticed back in by his former bosses.
Considering the success and critical acclaim of Netflix’s BoJack Horseman, it’s not a surprise that Amazon would try for a grown-up animated show of its own. Using a bestselling book series as the foundation and having the adaptation be done by the minds behind a hit movie is definitely a good start.
6. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
TV veterans Tony Shalhoub and Alex Borstein co-star with Emmy nominee Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards), who plays the titular character in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino. The March 17th pilot got such a strong response that Amazon went ahead and ordered two seasons of the series, the first time the company has done that in the history of its streaming service.
The story is set in 1950s New York and centers on Miriam Maisel, who is trying to make the transition from housewife to stand-up comedian after her husband leaves her for another woman. Even today, comedy is a male-dominated industry that women struggle to gain a foothold in– but in the ’50s, it was almost unheard of, which will definitely be at the crux of this inventive comedy.
5. The Romanoffs
It’s been two years since his critically-acclaimed Mad Men ended its award-sweeping run, and people have been anxious to see what creator Matthew Weiner has in store for a follow up. Turns out its this unusual Amazon series about the descendants of the real-life Romanov family who were Russia’s last ruling imperial family.
The family’s history is full of darkness and mystery; most notably the whereabouts of Anastasia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. After the Tsar and his family were murdered in 1918, the remains of Anastasia were never officially found. As a result, stories and theories ran rampant, including a popular one that suggested she survived and had assumed a new identity– which led to various people claiming to be her descendant.
As for the show, it is going to be an eight-part anthology series where each episode will revolve around a specific family who claims to be Anastasia Romanov’s descendant. These families can be scattered all over the world, and Weiner was reportedly given a $50 million budget with which to travel around and film the show where ever and however he sees fit. A release date is currently unknown.
4. The Last Tycoon
Amazon clearly has an affection for author F. Scott Fitzgerald, producing both a series about his relationship with his wife– Z: The Beginning of Everything— and this Kelsey Grammar-starring show based on his unfinished final novel, The Last Tycoon. The series, which was picked up for a full season following its June 2016 pilot, also stars American Horror Story‘s Matt Bomer and takes place in 1930s Nazi-occupied Germany.
This marks the third time the novel, published after the author’s death, has been adapted. It was also a 1957 play and a 1976 film starring Robert De Niro. The second episode and remainder of the first season is planned to begin soon and will also feature Jennifer Beals, Lilly Collins, and Once Upon a Time‘s Eoin Bailey.
3. Untitled David O. Russell Series
One of the advantages to getting a big-time Hollywood director to create a TV series is that he brings with him the clout to attract big-name Hollywood stars. In this case, that director is David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, Three Kings),he’s bringing Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore to his upcoming Amazon show– and those are just the names confirmed so far. Could Russell favorites like Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Mark Wahlberg be in the works?
Most about the show is pure speculation at this point, with the only confirmations being the first two actors, the mafia backdrop, and that Russell plans to write and direct every episode. Speculation points to there already being two eight-episode seasons in the works, and that the production budget exceeds $150 million. Until more details are announced, all we can really do is look forward to it.
Kevin Bacon has always had a strange relationship with Tremors, at times remembering it fondly and other times claiming it to be one of the most embarrassing moments of his career. That said, the actor is returning to the Tremors world for the first time since the original– he wasn’t in any of the five sequels— to reprise the role that he played 25 years ago. The actor is even serving as executive producer of the upcoming Amazon series.
Fans of the franchise that have stuck with it over the various sequels and previous 2003 TV show are unhappy at the news that the upcoming Amazon Tremors series essentially pretends that the universe didn’t actually continue past the first movie, instead picking up Kevin Bacon’s character 25 years in the future. It also seems as though Tremors mainstay Michael Gross will be sitting the new show out. Whether disregarding the franchise’s hardcore fans will hurt the show’s chance of success remains to be seen when the show begins airing later this year.
1. The Departed
To get this out of the way up front, nobody involved in the amazing Oscar-winning Martin Scorcese film will be involved in the Amazon series based on The Departed. It also doesn’t take place in Boston, instead being set in Chicago and centering on a Latino gang drug war. Still, the basic conceit that was present in both The Departed and the Chinese film, Infernal Affair, on which The Departed was based will be the focal point of the show, which is about shifting allegiances and the sometimes blurry lines between criminals and law enforcement.
The show will also be about undercover informants who are working within the criminal world and have to make hard choices between doing what is legally right and doing right by the criminal friendships they have formed.
The show is being spearheaded by Jason Richman, who created the acclaimed but short-lived ABC show Detroit 1-8-7. There is no confirmed time frame for the release of The Departed.
Which Amazon show are you most looking forward to? Sound off in the comments!