Late last year, Netflix finally offered subscribers the option to download movies and TV shows for offline viewing. But that was ho-hum news for Amazon Prime subscribers, as Prime has long provided the same option. If you have a phone or tablet that can run the Prime Video app, you can get many (if not most) TV shows to go.
There's a difference, of course, between streaming and downloading. The former requires a cellular or Wi-Fi connection, something that's not always available -- or always reliable. In my gym, for example, the Wi-Fi often gets overloaded, to the point where streaming simply doesn't work. And the cell signal isn't strong enough to pull in video. (Never mind what movie streaming does to my data plan.)
If you plan ahead, though, you can download some shows via Wi-Fi for offline viewing. (How many? According to Amazon, "Depending on your location, you can have a maximum of either 15 or 25 total Prime Video titles downloaded at a time across all devices associated with your Amazon account.") That way it won't matter if you have no service (like on an airplane), and it won't blast through your monthly data allotment.
Before I give you my list of must-watch TV shows (most of which aren't available on Netflix, incidentally), keep in mind that Prime's selection changes from month to month. Not every title listed here will be available indefinitely -- though movies tend to be much more ephemeral than TV shows.
Speaking of which, check out my list of must-download Amazon Prime movies as well!
This is officially the decade that's redefining modern-romance television. Look no further than Hulu's "Casual," Netflix's "Love" and "Master of None" (all great shows, by the way), and this British import from Amazon. Actually, it's not a British show in the traditional sense, nor is it a traditional show in any sense. After a one-week stand results in an unplanned pregnancy, American ad-exec Rob decides to do the right thing and move to London to be with schoolteacher Sharon. What ensues is a brutally honest, occasionally cringe-worthy and frequently hilarious look at modern love and, in season two, parenting.
One huge perk of being a Prime subscriber: access to many HBO shows. And there are some pretty obvious choices for this roundup: "Band of Brothers," "The Sopranos," "Veep," "The Wire" and so on. By all means, have at 'em. But allow me to make the case for "Deadwood," far and away the best western ever to hit the small screen. Three glorious seasons, not a bad episode in the bunch. (Why HBO canceled it remains a mystery. Shame, HBO. Shame.) Just be prepared for some seriously adult language and occasionally shocking violence -- yep, it's an HBO show, all right.
Can't understand what all the fuss was about? I mean, really, a show about English aristocrats and their servants? Living in a big old Edwardian mansion? In the 1920s?! Bo-ring! Except "Downton Abbey" is anything but. Packed with characters you can't help but love (or love to hate -- Thomas!) and overflowing with rich tales, the show is as binge-worthy as they come. Even if it still doesn't sound like your cup of Earl Grey (see what I did there?), just try one episode. You'll be hooked, I guarantee it.
OK, one more from HBO. Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie make up the eponymous two-man band, otherwise known as "New Zealand's fourth most popular folk parody duo." Come for the laugh-out-loud comedy and good-enough-to-buy-the-album songs, stay for the cameos from the likes of Aziz Ansari, Jim Gaffigan, Will Forte and Kristen Wiig. If you don't find this show funny, well, we can't be friends anymore.
Missing "Mad Men"? This is its spiritual successor. Set in 1969 and based on a true story, "'Revolt" tells the story of women fighting to get credit for their work at a national news magazine. Don't let that rather dry-sounding premise dissuade you; this smart, beautifully produced series feels like a slice of the cultural revolution brought to life, and it's packed with breakout performances.
The only downside: Amazon canceled the series after its first season, despite critical acclaim and a 4.7-star rating from over 27,000 viewers. Criminal. And ironic. But mostly just criminal.
It's abundantly clear I have a man-crush on Timothy Olyphant, because I dug him in "Deadwood" and like him nearly as much here -- perhaps because the two characters are similarly bad-ass. As a Federal marshal who gets reassigned to his hometown in Kentucky, Olyphant faces down criminals both bumbling and devious. I found the first two seasons of the show absolutely stellar, with the plots starting to feel a little forced in the subsequent four. But I still definitely recommend getting acquainted with Raylan Givens.
Look, I'll just come out and say it: This show is weird. It's work. It'll hurt your brain. It may frustrate you with its slow pace and seemingly pointless supporting characters. It's also one of the most original TV shows I've ever seen, and absolutely essential viewing for anyone who digs hackers, corporate intrigue and/or Big Brother conspiracies. Bonus points for the accurate, real-world tech that's both shown and referenced (Apple and Google exist in this series!), something you almost never see. For now, only the first season is included with Prime; the second should get added once season three kicks off in October.
Talk about a can't-miss pitch: Russian sleeper agents posing as an American family in Reagan-era Washington, D.C. And "The Americans" does not miss, no, sir. It's an edge-of-your-seat drama that's also a slow burn, with some fascinating history lessons thrown in for good measure. I'd argue that, as with "Justified," the show starts to run out of steam after the first two seasons, but my wife says I'm bonkers. Either way, don't miss this riveting period-piece.
This is the show I typically watch on long flights, because it's sort of comfort-food television: a great, almost old-fashioned courtroom drama, without lots of crazy plot twists or outlandish characters. Instead: thoughtful writing and (mostly) likable characters. Julianna Marguiles was Emmy-nominated five times for her titular role, and Emmy-awarded twice. The show racked up tons of other Emmy nods as well. I won't say this is a show you binge-watch, because it rarely delves into cliffhangers, but it's still top-notch television that's well worth your time.
OK, those are my recommendations for the best shows you can watch on the go. Hit the comments and let me know what gems I missed!