This may be the month of Christmas specials galore, but for those looking for less holiday-related fare, a bunch of beloved shows are coming back – and there is plenty to catch up on before these series return. The fan-favorite Vikings are back on History, for one, along with the equally fearsome Midge Maisel of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime. Or if the Great Unknown is more your speed, you’ll be set with Lost in Space on Netflix and The Expanse on Syfy. For more, you’ll have to keep reading for this month’s full offering of binge-worthy returnees.
What it is: In the mood for a meaty, generations-spanning period drama that has violence, politics, sex, and true-to-history recreations to spare? Look no further than Vikings, Michael Hirst’s brilliant follow-up to The Tudors. The heart of the series begins with the rags-to-riches tale of legendary Viking Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) and his rise to power before passing the narrative baton to his children.
Why you should watch it: Vikings is complex, calculated storytelling. Gorgeous, lush sets and production design, committed and gritty performances all around — it is a wonder that the program doesn’t garner awards acclaim on par with Game of Thrones (though it certainly has drawn comparisons). Season 6 premieres Dec. 4 on History.
Commitment: Approx. 58 hours (for the first five seasons)
What it is: In 1950s New York City, Midge Maisel’s (Rachel Brosnahan) husband, Joel (Michael Zegen), admits to having an affair and leaves her. Rather than getting back, she gets even, and decides to pursue his dream of becoming a stand-up comedian— which makes sense, because she was the funny one writing his jokes all along.
Why you should watch it: A runaway comedy hit upon its debut, Maisel won top honors at both the Emmys and Golden Globes for its first season — and only bowed this year to Amazon’s other awards-sweeper, Fleabag. But Brosnahan’s star-making performance (and her scene-stealing costars like Tony Shalhoub and Alex Borstein) continue to anchor a series that is smart, funny, and full of heart while also being absolutely timely. Season 3 premieres Dec. 6 on Amazon Prime.
Where to watch: Amazon
Commitment: Approx. 18 hours (for the first two seasons)
What it is: From creators Michele Abbott, Ilene Chaiken, and Kathy Greenberg, this Emmy-nominated series (decorated elsewhere by GLAAD for its landmark lesbian, bisexual, and transgender characters) charts the intersecting friendships and love lives of a group of queer women living in Los Angeles.
Why you should watch it: As heralded today as it is maligned, there’s no denying that The L Word made leaps for LGBTQ representation onscreen upon its 2004 premiere, even if it didn’t always hit its mark. While its first season was Certified Fresh for all its bombastic soapiness and memorable characters, critics didn’t follow it into its subsequent seasons, resulting in years without Tomatometer scores — and its sixth and final season was ravaged with a measly 8%. But the show still has its fans and its merits. Plus, its reboot is sure to revisit the components that first made us fall in love with these ladies while expanding and bettering itself where there is room to grow. Season 7, retitled The L Word: Generation Q, premieres Dec. 8 with returning stars Katherine Moennig and Jennifer Beals on Showtime.
Commitment: Approx. 70 hours (for the first six seasons)
What it is: Based on the series of novels by James S. A. Corey (the pen name of collaborators Daniel Abraham and T Franck), this space-hopping science-fiction series follows Earth-bound United Nations executive Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), asteroid belt-dwelling police detective Josephus Miller (Thomas Jane), and officer of an ice freighter Jim Holden (Steven Strait) as they uncover a conspiracy that risks intergalactic peace within disparate colonies and the survival of humanity as they know it.
Why you should watch it: We see enough social and political turmoil here on Earth to know that if and when we expand our humanly horizons to other planets in the solar system, tension is likely to continue. Here, it just makes for great TV with timely allegorical themes to spare. Season 4 premieres Dec 13 on Amazon Prime.
Commitment: Approx. 26.5 hours (for the first three seasons)
What it is: Creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage leave their mark on the Marvel Cinematic Universe with this hit Hulu series based on the comic of the same name, which follows a motley group of super-powered teens who unite to stop their supervillian parents.
Why you should watch it: By this point, you know what you’re getting with an MCU project, but Runaways still manages to have a few surprises up its sleeve. Led by a cast of a excellent young actors and featuring a unique spin on the hero-villain narrative (and exploring relationships between friends and family in the process), the streaming series is a welcome addition to the already well-trod Marvel empire. Its third and final season premieres Dec. 13 on Hulu.
Commitment: Approx. 20 hours (for the first two seasons)
What it is: A classic story of the sci-fi genre, 2018’s Lost in Space reboot finds new ways to tell the tale of the Robinson family, a clan of space colonists who must adapt to survive after their ship gets flung off course (living up to the series’ title) and crash lands on an alien planet.
Why you should watch it: The original Lost in Space is one of those series that every sci-fi lover should watch simply because of the influence it wielded over future series in the genre. But this new reboot — bolstered by state-of-the-art visuals, new characters, and uncharted territories — is an upgraded entrant to the canon that deserves a binge all its own. Part Swiss Family Robinson, part Star Trek, Lost in Space has something for everyone. We vote you make it your unlikely family binge this holiday season. Season 2 returns Dec. 24 on Netflix.
Commitment: Approx. 8.5 hours (for the first season)
What it is: You’ll find yourself yelling at your television in equal parts frustration and enchantment with this Penn Badgley–starring hit. The former Gossip Girl actor plays Joe Goldberg, an unassuming (albeit attractive) bookseller who moonlights as the psychotically obsessive stalker of NYU student and aspiring writer Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail).
Why you should watch it: You is just the latest example of a cancelled series finding second life on Netflix. While the thriller series cornered a niche audience upon its premiere on Lifetime, it was cancelled after one season. Then it hit Netflix late last year, became a word-of-mouth water-cooler hit, and was picked up for a second round, which should be intriguing enough to get you to at least hate-binge this soap-drenched stalker drama. Season 2 premieres Dec. 26 on Netflix.
Commitment: Approx. 8.5 hours (for the first season)
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