Christmas comes early this month for fans of Marvel, Guillermo del Toro, and USA’s Psych with their long-awaited returns to the small screen — and that’s not to mention The Librarians and two season 2 installments of some of our favorite Netflix series. Catch the full breakdown with December’s binge guide below.
What it is: S.H.I.E.L.D. is the kind of agency you want in your corner of the ring. Led by fan-favorite Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg, who caused uproar upon his character’s death in 2012’s The Avengers), Marvel Comics’ fictional Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division fights the behind-the-scenes battles that the average human wouldn’t dare face (see: Project Centipede and more). It’s wild, it’s crazy, and it’s a heck of a fun time for Marvel superfans.
Why you should watch it: While at first a series that was at its best when calling back to the movies that put the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the map (it maintains continuity with these releases, as well), ABC’s Emmy-nominated hit entered its fifth season with a two-hour December 1 premiere as entirely its own entity. Sure, it’s part of the same world, maintains the franchise call-backs, and tonally checks all the boxes of what we look for in a Marvel romp, but you don’t have to be a die-hard lover of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and co. to fall for S.H.I.E.L.D.’s knack for extraterrestrial adventure and now-beloved ensemble of characters built over its nearly 100 episodes and counting. The cast also includes Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Iain De Caestaecker, and Elizabeth Henstridge.
Commitment: Approx. 66 hours
What it is: With Netflix’s romantic comedy series, the second season of which premiered in full December 1, it’s all in the name. That’s because there’s nothing, well, easy about modern love. Easy season 1 follows eight couples living and loving in Chicago.
Why you should watch it: The best of television is often character-driven, and Easy gives you plenty of characters to work with. While this Windy City-set series focuses on people and relationships that occasionally overlap, each episode largely stands on its own as a singular meditation on a given couple’s romantic dynamic and exploration of intimacy. No two are the same. And with “Drinking Buddies” writer-director Joe Swanberg at the helm, the whole thing goes down easy. While some have soured to the quiet naturalism overtaking many an indie screen big and small, few filmmakers can seduce with negative space like Swanberg. Plus, it’s just a hoot to see some of our favorite talents (from Judy Greer to Aubrey Plaza to Dave Franco to Orlando Bloom) pop in for a quick half-hour installment.
Where to watch it: Netflix
Commitment: Approx. 4 hours
What it is: As if you haven’t wondered by Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and Gus Guster (Dulé Hill) have been up to for the last three years? Psych: The Movie reunites the oddball detective duo in San Francisco (a.k.a. “psychphrancisco”) for the holidays after an unknown assailant targets one of their own. Of course, you can expect the shenanigans typical of this pairing to ensue.
Why you should watch it: No, Shawn is not a real psychic, but he’ll have you rooting for him anyway. The original USA series, which premiered back in 2006 and wrapped in 2014, followed Shawn as he utilized his impressive observational skills and memory as a Santa Barbara–based crime consultant to trick people into thinking he’s the real deal. But the series succeeds because it does just the opposite: It never tries to be something it’s not. Putting affable goofiness to the forefront is what earned Psych it’s devoted “Psych-O” fan base and is what ensures the laughs are going to be hearty with the December 7 film premiere. Catch up now so you can spot all the Easter eggs and call-back guest stars!
Commitment: Approx. 90 hours
What it is: While The Crown as a whole will ultimately chart Queen Elizabeth II’s life from her 1947 wedding to Philip, Duke of Edinburgh through to the present day, season 1 of this sprawling royal drama covers the first eight years of that period of the early days of her reign. Golden Globe winner Claire Foy stars as the titular queen while a robust John Lithgow supports as her first prime minister, Winston Churchill.
Why you should watch it: As one of the most decorated series of the 2016–17 season, The Crown should be mandatory viewing for anyone with not just an interest in world history and the British monarchy, but an interest in first-rate prestige TV. Exquisitely acted, written, directed, and designed, The Crown marked upon its premiere Netflix’s most expensive series to date — and it proves well worth the investment. We can wait to see what’s realized in season 2, which premieres December 8.
Where to watch it: Netflix
Commitment: Approx. 10 hours
Why you should watch it: With its world history, slapstick comedy, and Indiana Jones by way of The Goonies style, adventure runs high in this long-running TNT series, which makes it a particularly fun escapist highlight this month. Season 4 premieres December 13.
Commitment: Approx. 22.5 hours
What it is: In Dreamworks and Guillermo del Toro’s animated series for Netflix, Jim Lake Jr. (voiced by the late Anton Yelchin) is given his sword-in-the-stone moment and, upon finding a mystical amulet, becomes the Trollhunter. With that title comes the responsibility of protecting the troll civilization that lives under his town from impending war with their evil counterparts from the Darklands.
Why you should watch it: If The Shape of Water isn’t enough del Toro for you this holiday season, then Trollhunters should do the trick. It captures the filmmaker’s unmatched finesse with magic and otherworldly beasts and through first-rate animation infuses it with a childlike wonder and family-friendly appeal. Season 2 features the voice talents of Yelchin (who finished his work on the series’ second installment), Mark Hamill, Lena Headey, David Bradley, Kelsey Grammer, Steven Yeun, Anjelica Huston, Jonathan Hyde, Amy Landecker, and Charlie Saxton. Catch it in full December 15.
Where to watch it: Netflix
Commitment: Approx. 9.5 hours