No need to stare at the yule log all December — though the TV midseason is typically as bare as a tree in winter, this year's end-of-year lineup is surprisingly robust. Disney+'s conjured up a new take on Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians books, while Peacock has brought Adrian Monk out of self-isolation for one Last Case.
Mysteries abound this month, as Mandy Moore meets Dr. Death in Season 2 of that anthology series and Paramount+ tries its hand at cult docuseries with Born in Synanon. There's plenty of lighter fare, too, thanks to the final season of Letterkenny and Netflix's latest snappy YA adaptation. And it all starts with a Cary Grant movie turned biodrama making its Stateside debut.
Here are the December shows the Primetimer staff is most excited about, plus a whole batch of additional premieres, so be sure to read to the end. And in case you were thinking of putting us on the naughty list for leaving out more seasonal offerings, we're running a separate guide to this year's best holiday movies on Friday, December 1.
Premieres December 7
The story of Cary Grant is one that requires a four-part retelling; at least, according to Archie creator and writer Jeff Pope, who initially thought to tackle this chronicling via a feature-length film. But the more he learned about Grant, born Archibald Leach, the clearer it became to Pope that he needed narrative space to render more than a hagiography. The Philomena director did consult extensively with Grant’s ex-wife and fellow actor Dyan Cannon, as well as their daughter Jennifer Grant. All that work has resulted in a captivating limited series that isn’t afraid to explore the less glamorous and more painful parts of Grant’s life.
Archie enlisted four actors to portray Grant through the most pivotal stages of his life. Jason Isaacs, who plays the iconic actor in middle age, shares his debonair air but required a little movie magic, i.e., a prosthetic chin dimple, to complete the look. Laura Aikman also stars as Cannon, while Harriet Walter plays Elsie Leach, Grant’s mother, who he believed was dead until learning the truth when he was 31. — Danette Chavez
Premieres December 7
Now that The Summer I Turned Pretty has become a bona fide hit for Prime Video, Netflix is throwing its hat into the YA love triangle ring with My Life With the Walter Boys. Based on the WattPad novel by Ali Novak, the coming-of-age dramedy follows 15-year-old Jackie (Nikki Rodriguez) as she moves from Manhattan to rural Colorado after her family dies in a tragic accident.
As Jackie grieves, she develops a friendship with two very different brothers — the booksmart Alex (Ashby Gentry) and bad boy Cole (Noah LaLonde) — but she struggles to navigate her blossoming feelings for each of them, creating all sorts of tension in the Walter home. The promise of teenage romantic drama is enough of a sell, but the cast of up-and-coming actors and "Dawson's Creek meets Friday Night Lights" vibe, as creator Melanie Halsall describes it, seals the deal. — Claire Spellberg Lustig
Premieres December 8
Culprits has already won over UK-based critics, who describe the heist thriller as "slick, chic" and "at the top of its genre." This month, the show makes its U.S. premiere via Hulu. Developed by filmmaker J Blakeson, this eight-episode series follows the crew of a heist job who, several years later, find themselves hunted by a mysterious assassin. Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, who was one of the best parts of the generally misbegotten Candyman remake, and Gemma Arterton, who starred in Blakeson's previous film, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, lead the series. — Joe Reid
Premieres December 8
Whether or not Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub) will really stay retired after his Last Case remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that his reunion with Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard), Captain Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine), and Randy Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) will be a good time. Series creator Andy Breckman has reteamed with series director Randy Zisk for the Monk movie, which has all the suspense and poignant humor of the original USA show.
Shalhoub hasn’t lost a tightly wound step as the ultra-perceptive detective, who must help his step-daughter Molly Evans (Caitlin McGee) solve her fiancé’s murder (boy, romance is really never easy for anyone in Monk’s circle). James Purefoy joins the hall of Monk villains, though, as billionaire Rick Eden, he’s more loaded than most. — DC
Premieres December 12
Another month, another cult documentary on streaming, yes, but damned if this one doesn't have plenty of intrigue to offer. Synanon was a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program founded in the 1960s that had metastasized into a violent cult by the '70s. Filmmaker Geeta Gandbhir (who won an Emmy as an editor on Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke) follows Cassidy Arkin, who was born into the cult in 1974, as she and her mother seek out former Synanon members to get a better understanding of how far things went. "There was something in the process of making this film that I wasn't prepared for," Arkin says in the trailer, which promises some shocking revelations. — Joe Reid
Premieres December 12
When Netflix announced it would be following the U.S. Women's National Team throughout the 2023 FIFA World Cup, no one could have imagined that the resulting docuseries would be just four episodes long. That truncated length comes as a result of the USWNT making its earliest-ever exit from the tournament, ending the players' hopes of winning a third consecutive championship.
But while the team's disappointing showing doesn't offer the most uplifting conclusion, it makes Under Pressure far more interesting. What could have been a triumphant celebration of the most decorated team in women's soccer instead becomes an examination of what went wrong during the World Cup campaign, and an inside look at the toll the pressure and expectations took on veterans, including Alex Morgan and Lindsey Horan, and rookies alike. — CSL
Premieres December 20
The first book of Rick Riordan's YA series Percy Jackson and the Olympians was adapted into a 2010 Chris Columbus movie, but it never kickstarted the film series that its studio, 20th Century Fox, might have hoped. Now Disney, having acquired the Fox properties, is making a go of the novels as a TV series, with Riordan and Jonathan E. Steinberg (Black Sails) producing.
The eight-episode first season follows Percy (aka Perseus), a demigod and the son of Poseidon. Percy and his pals (the daughter of Athena, a satyr) must embark on a quest to retrieve Zeus' stolen thunderbolt, along the way encountering figures from Greek mythology played by the likes of Jay Duplass, Megan Mullally, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Lance Reddick (as Zeus) in his final television appearance. — Joe Reid
Premieres December 21
Hot on the heels of Netflix docuseries Bad Surgeon: Love Under the Knife comes Dr. Death Season 2, a scripted take on the story of disgraced "miracle man" Paolo Macchiarini. Paolo (Edgar Ramírez), a charming Italian surgeon, is renowned in the field of regenerative medicine, but when his transplant patients begin dying, his colleagues come to suspect that he's misrepresented his research.
Meanwhile, shortly after journalist Benita Alexander (Mandy Moore) falls for Paolo, red flags emerge in their relationship, and she takes it upon herself to investigate his personal and professional dealings. What Benita and the other surgeons discover is bone-chilling, which makes this true story the perfect candidate for the Dr. Death anthology treatment. — CSL
Premieres December 26
Jared Keeso’s genial comedy comes to an end after 12 seasons — not bad for a series that began its life on YouTube before being picked up by Canadian programmer Crave (Hulu acquired the U.S. streaming rights in 2019).
At once laid-back and ribald, Letterkenny easily bridged any culture divide between rural Canada and the U.S., but it also frequently showed the same life-affirming streak as that other breakout from up north, Schitt’s Creek. We’ll miss Wayne (Seeso), Shoresy (also Seeso, who also stars in the character’s spin-off), Daryl (Nathan Dales), Katy (Michelle Mylatt), and Squirrelly Dan (K. Trevor Wilson), but it certainly sounds like Season 12 is going to be action packed (or, as action packed as Letterkenny gets): the small town of Modean contends with the arrivals of a comedy night, country music hit, and a new nightclub. — DC
Premieres December 29
Money Heist creator Álex Pina has teamed up with his Sky Rojo collaborator Esther Martínez Lobato for this stylish jaunt into the past of stylish thief Berlin (Pedro Alonso). These are his pre-Casa de Papel days, when he worked with people who hadn’t also adopted the name of a city as an alias.
But Berlin was every bit as ambitious in his youth — as the spin-off begins, he’s preparing to steal $44 million worth of jewels, with the aid of a few key players: his buddy Damián (Tristán Ulloa) and lock-picking sidekick Roi (Julio Peña); cybersecurity whiz Keila (Michelle Jenner); requisite loose cannon Cameron (Begoña Vargas); and last but not least, Bruce (Joel Sánchez), a master of gadgets and weaponry.
Money Heist was a huge hit for Netflix; its fifth installment alone nabbed 900 million hours viewed. Arriving just before the end of the year, when viewing options are limited, Berlin could break out in similar fashion. — DC
Blood Coast (Netflix): Series premiere, December 6
Doctor Who: The Giggle (Disney+): Holiday special, December 9
Los Farad (Prime Video): Series premiere, December 12
Chris Rock and Kevin Hart: Headliners Only (Netflix): Documentary premiere, December 12
The Crown (Netflix): Season 6, Part 2, December 14
Archer: Into the Cold (FXX): Series finale (for real), December 17
Trevor Noah: Where Was I (Netflix): Comedy special premiere, December 19
What If…? (Disney+): Season 2 premiere, December 22
TOPICS: Mr. Monk's Last Case: A Monk Movie, BritBox, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Paramount+, Peacock, Archie, Berlin, Born In Synanon, Culprits, Dr. Death, Letterkenny, My Life with the Walter Boys, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Under Pressure: The U.S. Women's World Cup Team, Jason Isaacs, Mandy Moore, Tony Shalhoub