As winter drags on, curl up by the fire and binge on some of the best espionage shows available for streaming.
Here are our favorites:
The Americans (FX)
A drama about two Soviet KGB agents who go deep undercover in the American suburbs during the Cold War. Known as “illegals,” the sleeper spy-couple live seemingly normal lives during extended periods of inactivity between covert missions.
According to the International Spy Museum, some of the devices and methods portrayed were actually used by Soviet spies in the 1980s; other details ring false, like the impossibly high number of operations the sleeper agents are asked to perform.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors accused 11 residents of the United States of deep-cover spying for Russia…in 2010. An old saw about the strangeness of life and fiction comes to mind. Two seasons available to stream; Season 3 currently airing.
(How to watch: Amazon Instant Video, Hulu)
An animated comedy about a cadre of super-suave master spies motivated by all-too-human desires and weaknesses. These not-so-intelligent intelligence operatives are not the agents you’d want at the watch, but they’re great fun to watch.
The spy-tech and culture-reference details are all over the map, but it’s still a fun satire of the murky world of espionage. One interesting note: During the sixth season, the show’s producers ceased using the spy agency name “ISIS” in response to news organizations’ use of that acronym to refer to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Six seasons available to stream; availability varies by site.
(How to watch: Some seasons available on Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu)
Burn Notice (USA Network)
The show opens with ex-CIA operative Michael Westin in Miami, having just received his “burn notice”—essentially, he’s been fired and excommunicated by The Company, and he doesn’t know why. In the show’s long arc, Westin works to restore the agency’s trust in him and his status as an operative; in the meantime, he partners with two old friends—a semi-retired agent and an ex-IRA firebrand—to work jobs as a private eye and equalizer-for-hire in South Florida.
Westin’s snappy voiceover offers fun how-tos for the spy-curious, many of which you can find in this highly entertaining “Ask a Spy” video series. Seven series available to stream.
(How to watch: Some seasons available on Amazon Instant Video, Netflix)