By Thomas Mitchell
Top streaming in December (from left): Lily Collins in Emily in Paris, Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren in 1923 and Matt Okine in Christmas Ransom.Credit:Stéphanie Branchu/Netflix, James Minchin III/Paramount+, Every Cloud Productions/Stan Entertainment
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. December is the month of giving, so consider this stacked streaming wrap our gift to you. While the end of the year is in sight, there are plenty of bumper TV shows to sink your teeth into.
This month’s highlights include the return of Emily In Paris on Netflix and new homegrown comedy Colin From Accounts on Binge. Over on Stan, things are feeling festive as Miranda Tapsell and Matt Okine team up for Christmas Ransom. Action fans will be pumped about the return of Jack Ryan on Amazon Prime, while Fleishman Is In Trouble on Disney+ is one for lovers of literary adaptations.
Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to tell us what you’re watching.
Find out the next TV, streaming series and movies to add to your must-sees. Get The Watchlist delivered every Thursday.
Clockwise from main: Jenna Ortega in Wednesday, Colin Donnell in Irreverent and Lily Collins in Emily In Paris.Credit:Vlad Cioplea, Netflix, Stephanie Branchu
Our top recommendation on Netflix is Wednesday, which gets ★★★★.
Gothic-horror director Tim Burton’s TV directorial debut is a 21st-century reboot of The Addams Family. The Addams’ daughter Wednesday (a superbly deadpan Jenna Ortega) is the focus of this re-imagining. It’s a typically Burton-esque outsider/fish-out-of-water tale that weaves in a supernatural sleuthing storyline. After an incident at her high school, Wednesday is sent to board at the Nevermore Academy, a macabre Hogwarts-style institution where the student cohort is made up of vampires, sirens, werewolves and gorgons. Nevermore is in the town of Jericho, inhabited by “normies” with a history of witch burning, and where mutilated bodies keep appearing in the local woods; local sheriff Galpin (Jamie McShane) is convinced it’s the work of the school’s students. But Wednesday, who has begun having grisly psychic visions suspects someone – or something – else is to blame. Then there’s the mysterious secret about her parents (here played by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luiz Guzman) who met and fell in love at Nevermore decades earlier. Wednesday and her trusty ‘companion’ Thing are on the case. Kylie Northover
What else to watch on Netflix:
If you’re looking for a new Aussie comedy … Irreverent is Netflix’s second big local release of the year, following Heartbreak High. Think SeaChange and Northern Exposure, but with crocodiles thrown in. The show follows a criminal mediator who flees the US and lands on the Gold Coast after stealing the identity of an American reverend who was on his way to a posting in Far North Queensland. From December 4. Louise Rugendyke.
If you’ve been wondering what Emily is up to … well, it turns out she’s still in Paris. Lily Collins returns as everyone’s favourite fashion influencer in the third season of Emily In Paris. This time, she finds her career and romantic life at a crossroads (isn’t it always?) and must decide whether to stay in Paris or return to America. From December 21.
If you relished Knives Out … the eagerly awaited sequel, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, lives up to the hype. Daniel Craig returns for the second in a promised series of Benoit Blanc whodunits. This time, the game is afoot after an invitation to a mysterious weekend party on a private island off the coast of Greece, owned by billionaire “disrupter” Miles Bron (Edward Norton). The new cast also includes Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr, Janelle Monae, Dave Bautista and Kathryn Hahn. It’s irresistibly entertaining. From December 23. Jake Wilson
Clockwise from main: Harriet Dyer and Patrick Brammall in Colin From Accounts, Steve Coogan in Chivalry and Richard Branson.
Our top recommendation on Binge is Colin From Accounts, which gets ★★★★.
Created by husband-and-wife team Patrick Brammall and Harriet Dyer, the eight-part series is an unashamed romcom for people who probably don’t usually like romcoms. Dyer is Ashley who, on a whim, flashes her nipple at Gordon (Brammall) one morning when he lets her cross in front of his car. He promptly runs over a dog, binding the unlikely pair together as they care for a high-needs terrier – and pay off the $12,000 vet bill. Brammall and Dyer are terrific; their snarky banter is a treat. Their bumpy journey is sharply written and has more in common with the Rob Delaney-Sharon Horgan series Catastrophe than it does with Bridget Jones. The pair are working again with frequent collaborator Trent O’Donnell (No Activity, The Moodys, The Letdown) and the supporting cast – Genevieve Hegney, Michael Logo, Helen Thompson and Darren Gilshenan – is first-rate. This is for those who like their romance peppered with relatable cynicism, swearing and pee jokes. Kylie Northover
What else to watch on Binge:
If you’re a Steve Coogan fan … Chivalry is his latest six-part series, created and co-written with Sarah Solemani. Coogan plays Cameron, an English film producer at a Hollywood studio who is making a film called A Little Death. The movie is in trouble because the old-school Euro arthouse director in charge has been accused of sexual harassment. Enter Bobby (Solemani), an indie feminist filmmaker on the rise, who has been drafted in by the studio to handle the reshoots in a bid to reposition the film so it’s not dead on arrival. To make a comedy about #MeToo takes a certain amount of boldness. To see in that the stuff of a romcom might require something closer to madness. Karl Quinn
If you like learning about the life of billionaires … Branson is a four-part docuseries that charts the two-week period before the Virgin founder is scheduled to make a historic flight as the first passenger to reach space in his own spacecraft. Richard Branson sits down for a conversation with filmmaker Chris Smith (Fyre, The Yes Men, The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann) to discuss his intergalactic ambitions. Ultimately, we end up with a portrait of a man driven by risk-taking in both business and his personal life. From December 2.
Clockwise from main: Ex Oxenbould, Bridie McKim and Matt Okine in Christmas Ransom, Bilal Baig in Sort Of and Adam Devine in Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin.Credit:Stan
Our top recommendation on Stan is Christmas Ransom.
Love, Actually and It’s A Wonderful Life might get you in the festive mood, but here’s a new Christmas film to usher in the silly season. Comedian Matt Okine plays a toy store owner who gets held for ransom on Christmas Eve. It’s up to some shoplifting kids and a pregnant security guard, played by Miranda Tapsell (The Sapphires, Top End Wedding, The Dry), to set things right. The cast also includes Ed Oxenbould (Puberty Blues), Chai Hansen (The Newsreader) and Christiaan Van Vuuren of Bondi Hipsters fame.
What else to watch on Stan:
If you enjoyed the first season of Sort Of … then prep yourself for round two. Kicking off a month after the quietly tumultuous events that closed the first season, this bracing, heartfelt Canadian comedy continues to deliver. Co-creator Bilal Baig plays Sabi Mehboob, a first-generation Pakistani-Canadian trying to balance family and religious tradition with being non-binary and yearning for love. With their father returning from expatriate work in Dubai, Sabi has a new problem to avoid confronting. The show’s perfect spin is that instead of generating oversized drama, Sabi is most comfortable expressing themself by caring for others, whether it’s their mother, friends, or the family they nanny for. Craig Mathieson
If you’re a sucker for Pitch Perfect … Bumper In Berlin is a six-part spin-off. Adam Devine reprises his role as Bumper Allen, the former leader of The Treblemakers. This time around, Bumper learns that one of his songs has become a hit in Germany and decides to move halfway around the world to revive his music career.
If you want something thrilling … The Reunion will keep you guessing right up until the final moments. The series, which stars Ioan Gruffudd and Ivanna Sakhno, follows three former friends who reconnect at their high school reunion. They’ve grown apart and lost touch, but they’re still bound together by a tragic secret involving the disappearance of a high school girl who went missing 25 years ago. From December 2.
Clockwise from main: John Krasinski in Jack Ryan, Alfred Molina in Three Pines and Kendrick Smith Sampson and Zoey Deutch in Something From Tiffany’s.Credit:Prime Video
Our top recommendation on Amazon Prime is the third season of Jack Ryan, which releases December 21.
It’s been an agonising wait for the next instalment of Jack Ryan, but the action-packed spy thriller returns after three years. John Krasinski is back as the famous CIA analyst-turned-spy. The second season closed with Ryan’s narrow escape in Venezuela; he’s alive, but his career is on life support. The CIA declares him a fugitive, which sends Ryan on the run. To clear his name, Ryan must infiltrate an international crime syndicate (classic stuff!) with a little help from his old colleagues, James Greer (Wendell Pierce) and Mike November (Michael Kelly). Our small screens are bloated with spy series, but Jack Ryan remains one of the better offerings – thanks, in no small part, to Krasinski’s likeability. Well worth checking out.
What else to watch on Amazon Prime:
If you love small towns with big secrets … Three Pines is an eight-part drama that follows Chief Inspector Armand Gamache (Alfred Molina) as he investigates unsolved cases in the wholesome Quebec village of the title. The more Gamache digs, the more secrets he unearths. He also has to face a few of his own ghosts. From December 2
If you can’t get enough festive cheer … Something From Tiffany’s is another charming Christmas romcom. The film stars Zoey Deutch as Rachel, who finds herself accidentally engaged to her boyfriend Gary (Ray Nicholson) after a ring mix-up. From December 9
If you need proof that animals are good for the soul … Wildcat is a touching documentary that highlights how animals can boost our mental health. Harry Turner has PTSD and depression after being discharged from the war in Afghanistan. He finds a second chance in the Amazon rainforest when he meets an American scientist and they foster an orphaned baby ocelot. From December 30
Clockwise from main: Murray Bartlett in Welcome to Chippendales, Claire Danes in Fleishman Is In Trouble and John David Washington, Christian Bale and Margot Robbie in Amsterdam.Credit:Erin Simkin/Hulu, Matthias Clamer/FX, Merie Weismiller Wallace/20th Century Studios
Our top recommendation on Disney+ is Welcome To Chippendales, which gets ★★★★.
This is the wild story of America’s famous male strip show told through the prism of Steve Banerjee (Kumail Nanjiani), the gas station manager come nightclub entrepreneur who turned a dying club into a million-dollar beefcake business. In truth, it’s really about the American dream and capitalism in a microcosm. White Lotus star Murray Bartlett plays Nick De Noia, the Emmy-winning choreographer who turns the Chippendales from a random bunch of disrobing recruits into full-scale production. The most interesting thing about Welcome to Chippendales is the way in which it surfs the edge of the wave, perilously close to sleaze but never making the misstep. Nanjiani and Bartlett, in particular, deliver such complex and resonant performances that you’re easily drawn into their orbit. But watching the pair beam at one another is also one of the series’ great delights; from moment to moment they dance between admiration and loathing. This is not the first outing for the Chippendales story, but it’s the most polished of the lot. It’s also perhaps the most elegantly simple. Michael Idato
What else to watch on Disney+:
If you’re in the mood for a sharp-edged marital drama … Fleishman Is In Trouble is based on Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s successful 2019 novel. Readers of the book will instantly recognise the pithy, satirical tone. The limited series is narrated by Libby Epstein (Lizzy Caplan), a writer turned suburban mother reporting from inside the feverish frontal lobe of her one-time college friend, Dr Toby Fleishman (Jesse Eisenberg), a liver specialist set into a tailspin when his recently divorced wife, theatre agent Rachel (Claire Danes), never returns from a yoga weekend to pick up their two children. Surfing the hook-up apps after 14 years of marriage but prone to obsessing over what he’d had with Rachel, Toby is also a poor detective plagued by an active imagination. Craig Mathieson
If you want a star-studded murder mystery … Amsterdam is the latest movie from acclaimed director David O. Russell (American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter). Set in the 1930s, it’s the story of three friends: a doctor, an attorney, and a nurse, played respectively by Christian Bale, John David Washington and Margot Robbie. Their friendship turns dark when they’re falsely accused of killing a US senator. Along the way, they meet a former army general (Robert De Niro), who helps them stumble across a dangerous conspiracy. Also stars Rami Malek, Taylor Swift and Michael Shannon. From December 7
If you love the National Treasure films … then you must tune in to National Treasure: Edge of History, the TV adaptation of Nicolas Cage’s famous film franchise. While Cage doesn’t appear in the series (sob!), Harvey Keitel returns as Peter Sadusky, an FBI agent determined to protect priceless American artefacts. From December 14
Clockwise from main: Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren in 1923, Jessica Brown Findlay in The Flatshare and Sylvester Stallone in Tulsa King.Credit:James Minchin III/Paramount+, 42 TV, Brian Douglas/Paramount+
Our top recommendation on Paramount+ is 1923, which releases on December 18.
Helen Mirren and Harrison Ford lend considerable star power to the latest instalment in Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone multiverse, following on from 1883. Set four decades later, the series focuses on the Dutton family’s next two generations as they struggle to survive historic drought, lawlessness and prohibition, and an epidemic of cattle theft. Mirren plays matriarch Margaret Dutton, who must lead the family alongside her husband, John (Ford). The casting is a masterstroke; with the two legendary screen veterans at the forefront, 1923 could become the franchise’s most potent series.
What else to watch on Paramount+:
If you’ve ever had annoying flatmates …The Flatshare will transport you back to the days of overdue rent, messy kitchens and cheap dinners. Based on Beth O’Leary’s bestselling book, the series follows Tiffany and Leon, a pair of cash-strapped London twenty somethings who share a bed. The catch: Tiffany and Leon have never met; if their plan works out, they never will. Tiffany works days, Leon works nights and it seems like they have the perfect system – until they fall in love.
If you want to see another side of Sylvester Stallone … Tulsa King hits the mark. The premise of this dark comedy is amusing enough: an old-school New York mobster gets out of jail after 25 years and is exiled to the sleepy, crime-bereft Midwestern town of Tulsa, where he begins to set up shop. Stallone is brilliant as the time-travelling Godfather, maintaining his cool as he navigates such curveballs as technology, gangsta-speak and legalised cannabis. A magnificent twist on the Mafia subgenre. Bridget McManus
If you feel the need, the need for speed … Top Gun: Maverick is good fun and has a spectacularly choreographed aerial climax. Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is being sent back to his old training school to prepare an elite group of young test pilots. The dialogue is as cheesy as ever and in an effort to add heft to every word, it comes with a preponderance of long looks and meaningful pauses. But if the film has a heart, it resides in the aerial combat scenes and the intricately calculated manoeuvres of jets carving their way across the skies. From December 22. Sandra Hall
Clockwise from main: Garry Oldman in Slow Horses, Will Smith in Emancipation and and Faysal Ahmed in Little America.Credit:Apple TV+
Our top recommendation on Apple TV+ is the second season of Slow Horses, which gets ★★★★½.
The new season of this corrosively comic British spy thriller is a masterclass in making a smooth transition from the first batch of episodes to the second. That is to say, it’s shot through with rancorous banter, wilful ambition, and magisterial mockery. “That boy would be out of his depth in a puddle,” Gary Oldman’s disgraced spymaster, Jackson Lamb, says of an MI5 bright young thing, and the insults soar even if the spooks delivering them are shaky. Lamb’s outcasts at London’s Slough House, MI5’s decrepit dumping ground, remain in exile. The death of a former agent from the Cold War era starts out as a routine investigation, but despite the booze, cigarettes and MSG, Lamb has his suspicions. From December 2. Craig Mathieson
What else to watch on Apple TV+:
If you’re ready to re-embrace Will Smith … the actor returns in his first major film role since The Slap That Shocked The World. Emancipation tells the triumphant story of Peter (Smith), a man who escapes from slavery and relies on his wits, unwavering faith and deep love for his family to evade cold-blooded hunters and the unforgiving swamps of Louisiana on his quest for freedom. From December 9
If you need a hit of inspiration … Little America returns for a second season, spotlighting the inspirational, heartfelt and varied experiences of immigrants living in the US. This season will offer eight incredible stories inspired by real people from around the world, including a Belizian woman who works for a Hasidic family in New York and a Korean man who makes hats for a black church community in ’80s Detroit. From December 8
SBS On Demand
Clockwise from main: Ansel Elgort in Tokyo Vice, Patrick Jhanur and Angus Thompson in Latecomers and Alone Denmark.Credit:HBO Max, Photography By Renata, SBS
Our top recommendation on SBS On Demand is Tokyo Vice, which gets ★★★.
Based on the bestselling book by journalist Jake Adelstein, Tokyo Vice is a well-paced adaptation that pulls you into the seductive underbelly of Japanese organised crime. The first episode is directed with customary assurance by Michael Mann (Collateral, Heat, Miami Vice). Beyond that incentive, it’s a visually seductive thriller that offers a compelling view of Japan’s dark side, from its criminal underbelly to its prejudice and misogyny. If you like polished and propulsive crime dramas in exotic settings, Tokyo Vice will tick all your boxes, plus Baby Driver star Ansel Engort puts in a strong performance as the expatriate American journalist investigating Tokyo’s yakuza. From December 7. Paul Kalina
What else to watch on SBS On Demand:
If you’re searching for heartfelt and hilarious TV … Latecomers is a romantic comedy that busts myths about disability and sex in unexpected ways. Launching on the International Day of People with Disability, this taboo-smasher is the work of Angus Thompson and Emma Myers, who both have cerebral palsy, and carer Nina Oyama, who appeared with Thompson on The Angus Project. Rude, raucous and sweet, it comes with a heavy layer of sarcasm. Bridget McManus
If you can’t wait for the Australian version of Alone … start prepping your survival instincts by bingeing the latest series out of Denmark. In this extreme survival experiment, ten Danes are dropped off in the Norwegian wilderness to test how long they can survive on their own. From December 5
Clockwise from main: David Tennant and Michael Sheen in Staged, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in 1972 and Sam “the Bandit” and Alise “the Beast” Willoughby.Credit:ABC, Identity Magazine
Our top recommendation on ABC iview is the third season of Staged, which releases December 6.
The world may have emerged from COVID lockdown, but this joyous BBC comedy hasn’t gone away. British actors David Tennant and Michael Sheen are still connecting via their laptops for another six episodes of delectable exchanges and comic escalation. Special guests in previous seasons have included Dame Judi Dench (delivering a frank motivational speech, sweary bits and all), Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Palin, Samuel L. Jackson, Cate Blanchett and Ewan McGregor, so be prepared for more surprising faces this time around.
What else to watch on ABC iview:
If you’re curious about our First Nations’ political history … Still We Rise marks 50 years of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra. This is a sobering recap of more than five decades of First Nations protest. An abundance of archival footage, from street marches to television interviews, and of the embassy itself during the early struggle to remain on site, serves to remind how hard and smart the battle was, and continues to be, fought. The absence of present-day commentary allows the powerful words of activists to be heard. From December 8. Bridget McManus
If you like revealing documentaries about sporting champions … Ride: Two World Champions. One Brutal Fairytale captures the fairytale couple of BMX racing, Sam “the Bandit” and Alise “the Beast” Willoughby. The boy from South Australia met the girl from Minnesota when they were 17 at the 2008 world championships in China, and they’ve been inseparable since. But as the title of Serge Ou’s documentary suggests, their love story has not been without challenges. When Sam walked Alise down the aisle at their 2019 wedding in California, where they now live, the footage went viral. After a fall in 2016 that left him paralysed, Sam accomplished this feat with knee braces. Today, he is the BMX race national coach for the Australian Cycling Team and Alise’s coach as she dominates the circuit. Bridget McManus
If you’re a Courtney Barnett fan … Anonymous Club is an intimate documentary filmed over three years touring the US and Asia. The shy, chronically overthinking Grammy winner reluctantly shares her experience of creating and performing. It’s not surprising the gifted lyricist can articulate so precisely her feelings of guilt at being less than elated when she seemingly has it all. Her search for meaning and purpose, and a genuine connection to her audience, comes through strongly, as does her power and musicality on stage. Bridget McManus
Other free streamers
Clockwise from main: Benedict Cumberbatch in Inseparable, the cast of Baywatch and Wentworth Miller in Prison Break.
Our top recommendation on other free streamers is Short on Time Short Films on 10Play, which gets ★★★½.
Not every story needs hours or weeks to tell. These pithy 10-20 minute films embrace a diversity of production values and range from high drama to farce. The selection includes the winner of the 2020 Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film, The Neighbour’s Window, which tells the story of weary parents with toddlers who become obsessed with the carefree young couple in a neighbouring building, whose activities can be very clearly seen, especially when they get binoculars. At the other end of the scale is Brutal Relax, a lo-fi horror film in which a man seeking quiet time at the beach has to deal with a zombie attack. If you like Benedict Cumberbatch or David Mitchell, view them in different contexts. In Inseparable, Cumberbatch plays a family man wrestling with a terminal illness. In The Dark Room, Mitchell swans around the house of one Augustus Pike (played by Matthew Baldwin), narrating the curious tale of a man who discovers a way to relieve himself of the crippling embarrassment that has dogged him since he was a child. John Mangan
What else to watch on other free streamers:
If you want bronzed lifeguards in red swimsuits … let’s wind the clock back with a bit of Baywatch. The 1990s series about a bunch of lifeguards patrolling the beaches of Los Angeles became a global phenomenon thanks to the hairy (and heroic) David Hasselhoff, not to mention Pamela Anderson as his bubbly offsider, CJ Parker. 9Now
If you like shows about brothers behind bars … Prison Break is a family drama with a difference. Wentworth Miller stars as an engineer who gets himself sent to a prison he helped design in order to save his brother from a death sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. 7Plus
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Find out the next TV, streaming series and movies to add to your must-sees. Get The Watchlist delivered every Thursday.
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