It’s been another great year for streaming, with many new platforms confidently stepping up to the plate. We hope our picks over the months have given you the right blend of quality and volume in a streaming world that could easily overwhelm. So here we are heading into December, and these are the three services we’d pick for the best content to round out the year:
We kick things off with the glossy Shantaram set in 1980’s Bombay. Starring Charlie Hunnam, who was last on the small screen in Sons of Anarchy, playing Dale an Australian bank robber who has escaped prison and fled to India. Despite falling in with some shady characters, Dale looks to help the poor and needy of Bombay using his medical knowledge as he tries to build a new, redemptive life for himself. All episodes available 16th December.
We see a welcome return with Season 2 of Slow Horses. As with the first season the great Gary Oldman captivates in every scene, but that is not to say this is to the detriment of the strong ensemble cast. In this season an ex-MI5 agent is found dead, apparently through natural causes, however a note on his phone suggests foul play. Soon enough links to the cold war and Russian sleeper agents start to emerge, leaving the team needing to take drastic action to prevent carnage.
Another show also making a welcome return is Little America (S2). This is an utterly charming anthology series depicting the lives of different immigrants to America. It is crammed full of heart, warmth and humanity. It might get a little sentimental on occasion but the holiday season is a time for that.
Given Christmas is coming up Apple TV+ duly gets into the, er… spirit of things, with Spirited. A retelling of A Christmas Carol, this has the potential to become a much loved classic. A Christmas Carol with Spirited. Why? Well firstly you’ve got Will ‘Elf’ Ferrell alongside the impossible-not-to-like Ryan Reynolds. There are “huge musical numbers”, add in Octavia Spencer, and there’s a recipe right there for Christmas gold! Available now.
A show that seems to attract a lot of controversy, The Crown, dons its tiara for season 5. Admittedly this season looks at the 1990s, a particularly tumultuous period for the British royal family. As with previous series there are plenty of famous faces popping up in various roles (sometimes surprisingly so). In the main it is a very solid drama, inspired by actual events, perfect if you like a bit of pomp and pageantry in your life.
Firefly Lane (S1&2) almost manages to out Hallmark, Hallmark. With this saccharine-sweet drama, that follows two friends growing up together in the 1970s to 30 years forward. Taking in the full gamut of love, loss, motherhood, divorce, career and finding love later in life. This will not be for everyone, but as a show it knows what it is and is rightly proud.
There has been a real scramble to find ‘the next Game of Thrones’ (and that’s excluding House of the Dragon). The Witcher stakes a strong claim to being the heir, as it too is based on a series of novels. Following on from the original series we have the prequel The Witcher: Blood Origin. Released on December 25, it promises to be full of swords, sorcery, elves and quests.
A really neat series (that has crept under the radar) is Wednesday. This 8 part series sees Wednesday Addams (yes, of The Addams Family) sent away to a spooky boarding school (the wonderfully named Nevermore Academy). It is part teen coming-of-age school drama, part monster mystery, with some withering put-downs from Wednesday (brilliantly played by Jenna Ortega)
There’s plenty of movies to enjoy on Netflix. First up, don’t let the cutesy title of movie, Emily the Criminal fool you, this is a pulse-quickening crime thriller. Aubery Plaza is Emily, a woman grappling with debt, who struggles to get a job due to a past conviction. Unwittingly she becomes drawn into a fraud ring, despite making money, can she leave to pursue her dreams of being an artist?
If you are looking for a classic ‘brain-on-the-shelf’ action movie, then train your sights on Sniper: Rogue Mission. It’s quite the ensemble of what you would expect: a corrupt agent, department being shut down, ‘getting the band back together’, explosions, guns. All in all, very much by the numbers – but similar to Firefly Lane it knows exactly what it is, and is unabashed by itself.
We head next to Norway for Troll. In Scandinavian mythology, it is believed that trolls live inside caves or rocks. Therefore excavating rocks (in say, a mountain) is generally considered to be a very bad idea in case a troll is awakened…needless to say, that is exactly what happens in this movie and a powerful, angry troll is released. As a concept, it is probably a bit twee to non-Scandinavians, but look beyond that and it’s a very well put together film.
The notorious novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover gets an impressive update. Not unsurprisingly it is pretty hot under the collar, but it doesn’t just stop at mere titillation and is a very faithful adaptation of the source text. It explores themes of love, lust, class, and a search for meaning. There have been many bad versions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and it could easily have become ‘sexy Downton’ but this adaptation has a precision and sincerity that make it a very worthwhile watch.
Legal drama Reasonable Doubt stars Emayatzy Corinealdi as Jax Stewart. Jax is a maverick and fearless defence attorney who is more than happy to take on the legal system. Of course because this is TV, her personal life is very much at odds with her powerful career. The eagle-eyed among you will remember Corinealdi from her spell as Candace Brewer in Ballers and she brings a similar steely, iron-willed performance here.
The sci-fi/supernatural thriller Kindred looks set to bring a December chill down your spine. Dana James is a young black woman who is an aspiring writer. Having moved to LA she finds herself being dragged back in time to a 19th century plantation only to suddenly return to the present. From the looks of it, the show will stick closely to Octavia E. Butler’s acclaimed novel of the same title, and will leave a lasting impression. All episodes from December 13.
The first season of The Cleaning Lady, premiered at the very start of 2022, so to get season 2 within the same calendar year is a real treat. The premise is that Thony De La Rosa is in the US on an expired visa so that her son, Luca, can receive medical treatment for a life-threatening illness. Despite being a doctor, due to her illegal residency status she has to work as a cleaner. Upon witnessing a murder by an organized crime gang, Rosa starts to work for them to clean down crime scenes and so removing evidence as well as using her medical knowledge to treat injured gang members. The finale to the first season is explosive and season 2 continues with that energy. All episodes now available.
We head over to Gilead for season 5 of the epic The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s difficult to add anything further to the plaudits that have already been given to this show. Nonetheless you’ll be hard pushed to find something with so much tension and dramatic moments in recent memory.
So there we go, plenty to see you through December and the festive period. We’re looking forward to see what 2023 has to offer as ‘the golden age of TV’ shows no sign of slowing down!