Homebound: 10 Amazon Prime Video Comedies to Make Staying in Easier
Comedy isn’t just escapism; it can double as social commentary. The best satirists use the genre to parody institutions, as well as class pretensions. Others find in comedy a chance to entertain and enlighten. The 10 Amazon Prime Video selections here offer both options.
P.G. Wodehouse, one of the great British humorists of the 20th century, is heralded for his intricate plots and beloved characters. He’s best known for the famous London duo of Bertie Wooster, sweet man-about-town, and Jeeves, his extraordinary valet. But another superb creation is the eccentric, muddleheaded Earl of Emsworth (a perfect Timothy Spall), oblivious to everything but his pig, the Empress of Blandings. In a gorgeous pastoral setting, besieged by his sister (Jennifer Saunders of “Absolutely Fabulous”), various goofy imposters and comedic idiots, “Blandings” is the scene of light and frothy screwball comedy.
The series not only makes classic music sexy, but it shows all the eccentricities of musicians. When handsome and spirited Rodrigo (Gael García Bernal) takes over as conductor of the prestigious New York Symphony, he ushers in the age of whimsy and imagination. Co-starring Bernadette Peters, Saffron Burrows, Lola Kirke and Malcolm McDowell and based on oboist Blair Tindall’s 2005 memoir, the four-season original sparkles.
This is a when you have lemons, make lemonade set-up. American Rob (Rob Delaney) meets an Irish teacher Sharon (Sharon Horgan) in London for a one-night stand. But when she becomes pregnant, both their lives are upended — and they end up taking an unexpected life journey together. Funny and honest, the show doesn’t hide their foibles, which makes the effort that much more endearing.
This deadpan, understated dark comedy is inspired by the life of comedian Tig Notaro. It doesn’t shy away from painful events, like her mother’s death. But when Tig, recovering from breast cancer, moves from LA to her Mississippi in search of sanity, she comes to terms with her family and herself in ways both humorous and moving.
Any mention of Amazon comedies must include its Emmy-winning “Maisel.” The story of Miriam Maisel, the nice Jewish girl eager to become a stand-up comic in the conservative ’50s, is smart, funny and telling. It’s also a fantastic, against-all-odds story of female friendship between droll Rachel Brosnahan as the title star and her strong, take-no-prisoners agent Susie (Alex Borstein). The supporting cast, art direction and costumes are excellent. Audiences are rooting for her success.
6. Clue / Murder by Death
Based on the board game, the “Clue” movie cast is amazing: Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull and Lesley Ann Warren. It’s a send-up of the genre, while paying homage to the cherished game. Similarly, “Murder by Death,” written by Neil Simon, parodies famous detectives — Sam Spade, Nick and Nora Charles, Miss Marple, etc. — in a whodunit where they pit their wits against a deranged millionaire (Truman Capote) who has brought them together for one unforgettable night.
The 12-episode British series stars John Cleese and Prunella Scales as hotel owners in the seaside town of Torquay. Cleese is Basil Fawlty, the snobby, sarcastic proprietor who gets into the most ludicrous situations — when he’s not actively insulting his guests. Co-written by Cleese, who made his name in “Monty Python,” and Connie Booth, in 2019, the show was voted the best British comedy ever by Radio Times. The comedy, both verbal and physical, is delivered at lightning speed. Don’t hesitate to check in.
This isn’t for everyone, but it is a clever political statement. It looks like a hard-boiled 1980s cop show, but shot in Romania. And that’s the point. It pretends to be a lost Romanian series to promote communism, produced during the Cold War, then dubbed. It’s effective and weirdly interesting; so is the mystery the two cops pursue.
Any time comedy is mentioned, “Some Like It Hot” is usually invoked. The American Film Institute selected “Some Like It Hot” as the No. 1 film comedy of all time. Three reasons: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. The two men are musicians on the run from the Chicago Mob. They meet up with Monroe — but disguised as women playing bass and sax in an all-girl band. It’s a gender-bending romantic comedy that takes place in 1929, with some deliciously subversive moments. One of the great exchanges: “Why would a guy want to marry a guy? Security!”
10. Bored to Death
Jonathan (Jason Schwartzman), a lonely writer who drinks too much white wine, embarks on a second career — as a private detective. This offbeat comedy produces the kind of characters, and situations, you only find in New York. Jonathan is joined by his oversexed, pot-smoking editor (Ted Danson) and his lazy, emotionally needy cartoonist friend (Zach Galifianakis). Together, they embark on Philip Marlow-like adventures, but with a very hip Brooklyn 21st-century twist.