Netflix has announced that their budget for new content in 2017 will land in the neighborhood of $6 billion – that’s billion, with a B. As if locked in a streaming-video arms race, competitors such as Amazon Prime and Hulu have beefed up their offerings for the year to come as well. If you felt cowed by the sheer volume of available streaming options in 2016, we’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news: 2017’s only going to be bigger. The bad news: See the good news.
With online video approaching public-utility status on par with running water or indoor electricity, there will be more to choose from than ever before. Here is what’s worth a look or three, streaming-wise, in January – from a vintage buddy-cop franchise to the kid-friendly grotesquerie of Lemony Snicket and friends. Find a comfortable position on the couch. You are going to get a lot of quality time this year with this particular piece of furniture over the next 12 months.
Frontier (Netflix, Jan. 20th)
Jason Momoa will soon be known to millions as everyone’s favorite deep-sea do-gooder Aquaman in the upcoming Justice League movie – but first, he’ll take on the lead of this Netflix period drama, playing a half-Irish/half-Native American 18th century trapper. The renegade is looking to challenge the Hudson Bay Company and their stranglehold on Canada’s fur trade; surprisingly, they do not take too kindly to fresh competition on the block. You can guess what happens next. It’s a natural companion to FX’s Taboo series starring Tom Hardy; fans of hunky shirtless dudes causing problems for historical monopolizing corporations, you’re in a for a very good month indeed.
Jackass: The Movie (Hulu, Jan. 1st)
Stupid, puerile, disgusting, sophomoric, brilliant – watching Johnny Knoxville and his merry band of masochistic idiots staple their testicles together may kill brain cells, but the endorphin rush you get watching them is totally worth it. An electrifying sense of anarchy runs through this film and its magnificent sequel (both available to stream this month), with every life-threatening stunt unfolding on a much grander scale than their TV series could afford. Knoxville, Steve-o, Bam Margera, Wee-Man and the rest of the gang jam their dicks in mousetraps, ride shopping carts into oblivion and display a reckless physicality that would make Buster Keaton wince. Their films are, in a nutshell, moronic modern triumphs.
Jen Kirkman: Just Keep on Livin’? (Netflix, Jan. 3rd)
She’s a Massachusetts native who cut her teeth as a regular panelist on Chelsea Lately and utility performer with the Drunk History Players; her memoir I Can Barely Take Care of Myself became a surprise bestseller. But at her core, Jen Kirkman is stand-up comic, and this new special brings her “dysfunctional life of the party” persona to viewers uncut and unfiltered. Her set touches on menstruation aggravations, spiteful meditation, and the proper way to catcall a woman (it’s best done while driving into a cornfield, FYI); there’s a despairing world-weariness to Kirkman’s delivery of lines like “I didn’t ask to be born and I’m afraid to die, so that’s the shit I live with every day.”
Just Add Magic, Season 2 (Amazon, Jan. 13th)
Finally, the perfect way to nurture your child’s nascent interests in both cooking and black magic. A trio of preteen girlsdiscover an ancient recipe book with instructions for whipping up “Shut ‘Em Up Shortcake” and “Mind-Peering Peppermints.” Why yes, their delicious treats do have peculiar side effects, why do you ask? The finale of the widely-enjoyed first season (Amazon has said it’s their most popular kids’ program) saw the burgeoning chefs attempting to put a stopper in death, and the upcoming sophomore outing will pit them against one of their former enemies, who’s returned stronger and angrier. Even the parents who wouldn’t let their kids near Harry Potter have to admit this is a squeaky-good time for youngsters.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix, Jan. 13th)
Thrill to the adventures of quick-witted orphans Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire, as they battle with Neil Patrick Harris’ dastardly Count Olaf for possession of their substantial inheritance. The generation of kids raised on Daniel Handler’s verbose, blackly comic novels have been waiting for a decent adaptation ever since that less-than-stellar 2004 movie starring Jim Carrey stopped the franchise dead in its tracks. Their yelping pleas have apparently not gone unheard, dear reader – judging from the trailer and the casting (including the Tick himself, Patrick Warburton, as the voice of our ever-so-humble narrator Snicket), this series seems to have nailed the giddy gallows humor and Gothic-lite tone of the books to a tee.
The Lethal Weapon Movies (Hulu, Jan 1st)
Why wouldn’t viewers want to spend a day bombing around Los Angeles with world-weary senior cop Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and rookie narc Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson, providing a reminder of why he used to be so unilaterally beloved)? With smokin’ barrels and even hotter one-liners, this seminal buddy-cop franchise follows the partners taking down a heroin operation, getting tangled up in a South African smuggling ring, landing themselves in a phony Internal Affairs investigation and cutting a swath through the Chinese criminal underground. Nobody’s too old for this shit.
One Day at a Time (Netflix, Jan. 6th)
One of the gajillion socially-conscious sitcoms developed by Norman Lear in the Seventies, the original One Day at a Time focused on divorced mother Ann Romano and the trials of raising her two teenage daughters. This remake retains the basic setup and adds another layer of timely relevance: Ann is now a Cuban-American mother (Justina Machado) who left her life as a military wife to raise her daughter (Isabella Gomez) and tween-aged son (Marcel Ruiz). Thankfully, she’s got her Cuban-born mom (Rita Moreno) around to pick up a little slack and provide insights from the old country. We’ll take a ready-made show for first-generation Americans in search of a little representation over cheap nostalgiasploitation reboots any day of the week.
The Path, Season 2 (Hulu, Jan. 25th)
Things were looking up for Eddie (Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul) at the conclusion of the first season of Hulu’s psychological thriller. He fled the cult of Meyerism (which bears no resemblance to any real “religions,” nope, no sir), and the new season sees him joining a support group and processing his trauma at the hands of the movement’s mesmerizing leader Cal (Hugh Dancy). Just as soon as he’s out, naturally they drag him back in. A trio of strong performances (including Michelle Monaghan as Cal’s zealous, conflicted wife) and a taste for the weird made this show into one of the streaming service’s more successful original works. It’s a cult drama in both senses.
Sneaky Pete (Amazon, Jan. 13th)
Marius (Giovanni Ribisi) has just caught a lucky break. It’s his first day out of the clink, and the inveterate con man realizes he’s a dead ringer for his cellmate Pete. So he plans on talking his way into the family and their bail-bond business under the guise of their prodigal son. Every good grift, of course, eventually comes to an end. Ribisi takes on one of his most demanding roles in years; the strong supporting cast includes Bryan Cranston (who executive-produced the pilot), Hell or High Water‘s Marin Ireland, and character actor extraordinaire Margo Martindale.
Z: The Beginning of Everything (Amazon, Jan. 27th)
F. Scott Fitzgerald may be the one taught in high school classrooms, but his wife Zelda lived an extraordinary life all her own. Christina Ricci takes on the embodiment of Jazz Age decadence in this 10-episode bio-series that tracks her early years through to her romance with F. Scott, their ascension to socialite-superstar status and the couple’s eventual estrangement. Really, the ur-flapper’s life has everything that a good prestige drama needs: triumph, tragedy, snappy hairstyles, liquored-up love affairs and beaucoup wordplay.