30 Nov 18
So how is 2018, the Year of Maximum Streaming TV, going out — with a bang or a whimper? Well, that depends on what you think of Emmys’ latest favorite show returning for a second season, a genre thriller featuring a telepathic dinosaur and a brand new take on everyone’s favorite animated classic featuring angst-ridden rabbits. Oh, and Netflix wheels out a beauty-pageant revenge comedy, an adaptation of John Grisham’s first go as a nonfiction writer, and a night to remember with the one and only Bruce Springsteen. We’re leaning towards “bang,” in other words. Here’s what you’ll be streaming up until the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve. (You can find network and cable TV recommendations for the month here.)
Champaign, ILL (YouTube Premium, Dec. 12th)
Ronnie and Alf (Adam Pally and Sam Richardson) think they’ve got it made, living as errand boys for their rap superstar buddy Lou (Jay Pharaoh): pick up cognac, hold onto the weed if the five-oh rolls by, enjoy all the secondhand spoils of wealth, etc. It’s a moocher’s paradise, until their boss unexpectedly kicks the bucket. Cue the anti-Entourage gang returning to their childhood homes in the Illinois suburbs, trading Bentleys for bicycles and gold bottles for Gatorade. Richardson and Pally remain two of TV comedy’s most reliable scene-stealers — if you’re not watching Detroiters, get with it, people — so if the idea of a hip-hop Crosby-and-Hope duo is your idea of hilarious, you’re in for a treat.
Dumplin’ (Netflix, Dec. 7th)
Willowdean (Patti Cake$‘ Danielle Macdonald) has had it with her prima donna momma Rosie (Jennifer Aniston) flaunting her past as a pageant queen all over creation, so the girl decides to register for the local competition out of spite. She ignites a mini-revolution of positivity and self-esteem, inspiring other town misfits to join her crusade and redefine the tired old standards of inner and outer beauty. Featuring new music from Dolly Parton (!), as if the rest of this was not enough to get you to press “play.”
The Innocent Man (Netflix, Dec. 14th)
Just when it seemed like we’d hit a critical mass of true-crime series, lord of the airplane-read paperback John Grisham shows us how its done. The novelist’s 2006 book investigated the sad account of Ada, Oklahoma, a small town where a pair of murders during the Eighties rocked the community. Now, the man himself revisits the case for Netflix, poking holes in the state’s case against the men locked up for these heinous crimes. The series then contrasts those two slayings with a more recent Ada crime, the 2005 murder of a teenage girl at the hands of her mother’s ex. The truth is a lot darker and more complicated than it seems.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season 2 (Amazon, Dec. 5th)
Back with an armful of Emmys in tow, Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) continues her No. 1-with-a-wisecrack ascent to the top of the stand-up game. The new hit show from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino goes into its sophomore season with Midge continuing to wedge her foot in the door of the comedy boys’ club, searching for a new Mr. Right and wrestling with her loving if overbearing family. Expect side trips to Paris and the Catskills as well. To put Sherman-Palladino’s ongoing success in a comedian’s tongue: she’s killing it up there.
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (Netflix, Dec. 7th)
Motion-capture actor-turned director Andy Serkis marshaled all of his technological know-how for this quasi-live-action treatment that casts youngster Rohan Chand against a menagerie of computer-generated fauna voiced by the likes of Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Tom Hollander. (Bad luck, King Louie fans, but the horn-blowing orangutan is nowhere to be seen.) Though the film excises the songs that made Disney’s The Jungle Book a family favorite, it replaces them with grave-faced maturity, violence and a visual sophistication that all but submits itself as a challenge to the upcoming Lion King remake.
Runaways, Season 2 (Hulu, Dec. 21st)
Say what you will about Marvel’s recent slate of Netflix shows (RIP, Daredevil) — none of them featured a telepathic dinosaur. One of Superhero TV’s more offbeat projects goes once more unto the streaming breach, with the diverse super-team of super-teens must once again take up the fight against the villainous coalition known as “The Pride.” Their nemeses — who also happen to be the Runaways’ parents [gulp] — have concocted some nefarious new endgame this year, which has something to do with a frame-job for the murder that concluded the first season. Also: New romances, new threats and, thankfully, the same ol’ Old Lace.
Springsteen on Broadway (Netflix, Dec. 16th)
He was on Broadway — and now he’s on your laptop! Springsteen’s yearlong residency at the Walter Kerr Theatre was devoted to creating a more intimate experience than the Boss’s arena shows, blending stirring live performances with free-form storytelling and reminiscing from his autobiography. Crowds got a front-row seat as an enduring legend spilled his guts on his fraught relationship with his parents, his romance with wife Patti Scialfa and his activist tendencies — now anyone with wi-fi can check it out. Did we mention that it’s Bruce Springsteen on Broad-goddamn-way?!
Tidelands (Netflix, Dec. 14th)
This Australian import pulls a tricky switcheroo, starting as a crime thriller before mutating into a bizarre work of sci-fi. Reformed criminal Cal (Charlotte Best) wants nothing more than to build a quiet, dignified life for herself in her hometown of Orphelin Bay. A murder in this small fishing village, however, complicates her plans. And complicating that complication is the minor detail that many of the town’s denizens are half-human, half-siren hybrids known as “Tidelanders.” Corpses begin piling up, naturally. Best of luck staying on the straight and narrow!
Vanity Fair (Amazon, Dec. 21st)
So you’re up for yet another comedy of manners featuring upper-crust Brits behaving badly, you say? Amazon’s happy to oblige with this spiffed-up treatment of William Makepeace Thackeray’s 1848 novel about the ineffable Becky Sharp: heartbreaker, schemer, master manipulator and social climber par excellence. Watch her wind a devious path through the court of King George IV and the Battle of Waterloo, using little more than gossip and her wits! Anglophiles can count on the customary costuming of breathtaking elegance, some delectably devastating bons mots and a few mangled reputations to boot.
Watership Down (Netflix, Dec. 25th)
Whether this is your first encounter with the famed children’s novel or you’ve already been traumatized by the 1978 cartoon version, Netflix and BBC1 want to open some fresh emotional wounds. James McAvoy, Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton, Olivia Colman, John Boyega and Nicholas Hoult all lend their vocal talents to the story of a rabbit enclave that sets out for new territory when one of their own prophesies the destruction of their home. The producers have stated in no uncertain terms that their miniseries tones down the carnage for which the older film is now notorious, ensuring that the whole family has nothing to worry about except, y’know, the looming specter of bunny annihilation.