The holidays are a busy time, but somehow TV gets slightly (oh so slightly) less frenetic. Sure, there’s a flurry of holiday programming coming your way. There will be a ton of year-end wrap-up specials (honestly, where do they even begin?). And some of our favorite shows are returning this month (we bow to you, The Crown).
But December is a good time to binge on what you many have missed and catch up on shows you’re behind on. (I don’t about you, but my DVR is all set with being at 99% full all the time). Even during this micro-lull, though, there are still five new shows you can’t miss this month:
Christopher Meloni stars as Nick Sax, a corrupt cop turned even more corrupt hitman. After a near-death experience, Nick sees Happy, an animated, blue, and endlessly cheerful winged horse, voiced by Patton Oswalt. Happy sends Nick on the right path of solving crimes instead of causing them. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, this comedy may seem like a raunchier, darker, modern-day Jessica Rabbit. But we’re thrilled to have Meloni back on series TV and intrigued by this programming direction for Syfy.
2. Jean Claude Van Johnson
Executive Producers: Dave Callaham and Ridley Scott
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kat Foster, Phylicia Rashad, and Moises Arias
Premiere Date: December 15 on Amazon
From James Van Der Beek to Matt LeBlanc, we’ve had celebrities play versions of themselves before. But this is something different. Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Jean-Claude Van Damme, an aging actor enjoying semi-retirement. But here’s what you didn’t know—acting is just his cover (which would actually explain a lot). Operating under the alias “Johnson,” he’s an undercover contractor. First up, he stars in an updated version of Huckleberry Finn while simultaneously taking down a drug cartel (as you do). The series is created by Dave Callaham, who also wrote The Expendables and knows a little bit about making older Hollywood action heroes shine.
Stars: Peter Sarsgaard, Molly Parker, Tim Blake Nelson, Bob Balaban, Michael Chernus, Jack O’Connell, Christian Camargo, and Scott Shepherd.
Premiere Date: December 15 on Netflix
Errol Morris, the documentary filmmaker behind The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War, tells the 60-year story of one man’s journey to learn the truth about his father’s death, a death tied to the Cold War and LSD experiments (you know, holiday stuff!). Based on a true story, this six-part series is a mixture of fact and fiction. Morris interviews real-life people, but actors also re-enact some pivotal moments.
Executive Producers: Ollie Madden, Matthew Read, and Ronan Bennett
Stars: Kit Harington, Peter Mullan, Mark Gatiss and Live Tyler
Premiere Date: December 18 on HBO
Perhaps you’ve forgotten about the anti-Catholic sentiment pervasive in England during the 17th century and the foiled plot to assassinate King James I. Fret not. Jon Snow is here to tell you all about it. This three-part miniseries follows events in 1605 that lead to Guy Fawkes Day. Kit Harington stars as Robert Catesby, the man who led the Gunpowder plot, and—fun fact—Harington is the real-life descendant of this historical figure.
5. The Last Post
Executive Producers: Peter Moffat
Stars: Jessica Raine, Jessie Buckley, Jeremy Neumark Jones, Amanda Drw, Ben Miles and Stephen Campbell Moore
Premiere Date: December 22 on Amazon
This six-part miniseries aired on BBC One in October and now comes to America courtesy of Amazon. But what you really need to know is it’s from Peter Moffat, who wrote the spellbinding The Night Of and the BBC series Undercover. Here, Moffat delves into his own childhood growing up with a father in the Royal Military Police. The series, set in the 1960s, looks at the toll it takes on the officers, their spouses and their families to be stationed in British-controlled Yemen.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal) or her blog .