So what’s hitting the airwaves this holiday season? There’s a new series from Idris Elba; the revival of a queer cult classic, a night of charity hosted by a wicked Broadway legend; and a reverent salute to a titan of golden age television. Plus: The gajillionth version of Dicken’s Christmas classic, now with 100-percent more gloom, doom and Andy Serkis! Here’s what you need to tune into for the month of December. (Your best streaming options for the month will be up tomorrow.)
A Christmas Carol (FX, Dec. 19th)
You’ve got room for one more riff on Charles Dickens’ classic tale of a miser’s redemption, right? Peaky Blinders creator Steven T. Knight sure hopes so, dishing up this grim, grimy vision of Victorian London with Guy Pearce as a perma-frowning Ebenezer Scrooge. Everyone knows the drill — ghostly visitations, change of heart, yadda yadda yadda — but in this interpretation, Knight renders the spectral hallucinations visited upon Scrooge as something closer to nightmarish, complete with O.G. (Original Gollum) Andy Serkis as the representative of Christmas Past. It’s the dark, revisionist holiday cheer you didn’t even know you needed.
Dare Me (USA, Dec. 29th)
Novelist Megan Abbott has carved out her own niche in the publishing world by turning a feminist eye on the hard-boiled tradition of crime literature. Now she’s making the jump to TV, adapting her own work for this series delving into the (possibly literally) cutthroat cheerleading circuit. High school athletics are bona fide royalty in this show’s small Midwestern suburb; all holders of the pom-poms are virtually untouchable. Cue the arrival of a new coach (Willa Fitzgerald) and a shocking crime full of mystery and soapy intrigue. Gimme an M-U-R! Gimme a D-E-R! Put it together and what’s that spell?
A Home for the Holidays with Idina Menzel (CBS, Dec. 22nd)
Who wants to see luminaries of Broadway and the music industry come together to belt out carols and wax rhapsodical on the sentimental magic that hits every December? We do! Idina Menzel, a.k.a. the thousand-horsepower voice behind Rent, Wicked and Frozen, hosts this annual special that’s raised funds and awareness for kids in the foster care system. Even better, she’s bringing along pals Ne-Yo, Adam Lambert, and Kelly Rowland to join her in song. ‘Tis the season, folks.
In the Long Run (Starz, Dec. 6th)
A family man (creator/star Idris Elba) living in London’s diverse Hackney neighborhood circa 1985 tries to navigate racial tensions that have started to flare up; it’s also the exact moment that his quiet household is turned upside-down by the arrival of Valentine (Jimmy Akingbola), his brother who stayed in Africa until their mother kicked him out. The part-time DJ must get acclimated to both adulthood and an assimilated society as he makes himself at home, adjusting to the life of an immigrant as his new nation adjusts along with him.
The L Word: Generation Q (Showtime, Dec. 8th)
The original run of this groundbreaking Showtime drama amassed a loyal cult fanbase — and a decade after its last episode aired, the series returns to advance the conversation on representation once again. Shane (Katherine Moennig), Bette (Jennifer Beals), and Alice (Leisha Hailey) have entered new phases of their lives, relocating from bougie West Hollywood to hipper-than-hip Silver Lake. Watch as they figure out how to make it through adulthood (and new haircuts) with the steadfast support of each other’s friendship. Welcome back!
Live in Front of a Studio Audience (ABC, Dec. 18th)
The first run of this nostalgia-bait project involving the re-staging the classic Norman Lear sitcoms — complete with an in-house crowd, just like in the olden days! — was such a success that ABC’s giving it another whirl. This time around, a surprise cast of big-name stars will enact one episode of All in the Family and one of Good Times; Jimmy Kimmel will share hosting duties with Lear himself on this fascinating hybrid of small-screen theater and homage to the history of the medium. You never know what famous names will show up.
Toast of London (IFC, Dec. 4th)
From BBC’s Channel 4 comes this daffy comedy built around Steven Toast (Matthew Berry, British humor’s secret weapon), a vainglorious stage actor with a sketchy background and a dodgy future. In between pursuing gigs at the expense of his remaining dignity — the pilot sees him auditioning at a prison for the Holocaust-denying producer who’s been stuck there — he tries to repair the shambles of his interpersonal relationships. Whether you’re familiar with Berry’s impressive back catalog (see: Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, the brilliant Snuffbox) or not, you don’t want to sleep on this one.
Work in Progress (Showtime, Dec. 8th)
Self-proclaimed “fat, queer dyke” Abby McEnany knows who she is, how she comes across — and how to control that image. The intimately autobiographical series she co-created with Tim Mason explores her path forward from her hard-earned sense of inner acceptance, from fatalistic therapy sessions to a possible new romance with a transgender waiter (played by The Politician’s standout Theo Germaine). The Matrix‘s Lilly Wachowski is a co-showrunner, co-writer and executive producer, as well as a perfect fit for a program exploring fluid sexuality and the spectrum of gender with levity and candor.