Chestnuts are roasting by an open fire this December, and that means it’s time for you to cozy up with popcorn and a weighted blanket and get to binging these 11 must-watch, freshly reviewed returning series. Whether it’s a Christmas special from a beloved, dearly departed network show (Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist), the final installment of an Emmy-nominated comedy (Pen15), or a highly-anticipated reboot of a timeless classic (And Just Like That), there’s plenty here for you to dig into.
What it is: The premise here is simple, but it works: Five friends (whose ineptitude goes beyond just social cues to pretty much every facet of day-to-day life) run an Irish bar in the titular city and have one misadventure after the next along the way.
Why you should watch it: You don’t become the longest-running live-action comedy of all time by sitting on your laurels and getting lazy about the laughs. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia lays them on thick and fearlessly week to week for 14 seasons strong. That’s a lot to binge — so get to it! Season 15 premieres Dec. 1 on FXX.
Commitment: Approx. 56 hours (for the first 14 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 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 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. Season 3 premieres Dec. 1 on Netflix.
Where to watch: Netflix
Commitment: Approx. 20 hours (for the first two seasons)
What it is: A routine MRI goes awry for the titular Zoey Clarke (Jane Levy) when an earthquake shakes her mind beyond repair. She exits the clinic with the ability to hear people’s innermost thoughts, all communicated through music.
Why you should watch it: Actors don’t come packaged much more charming than Levy, and her triple-threat skills are put to fabulous use on creator Austin Winsberg’s Emmy-winning series. Flanked by musically gifted co-stars like Pitch Perfect vet Skylar Astin and Glee-turned-Broadway star Alex Newell — not to mention industry pros Mary Steenburgen, Lauren Graham, and Peter Gallagher — this showstopping series hits all the right notes. After being canceled by NBC earlier this year, it returns with a Christmas special Dec. 1 on the Roku Channel.
Commitment: Approx. 20 hours (for both seasons)
What it is: Based on Anthony Horowitz’s hit YA book series and adapted for the screen by creator Guy Burt, Alex Rider stars breakout Otto Farrant as the titular teen spy. Hired by M16, Rider is tasked with uncovering the nefarious underbelly of a lux corrective academy for ultra wealthy teens.
Why you should watch it: Suspense and action are served in spades in this well-reviewed adaptation. Better yet: It’s the kind of espionage fun that the whole family can enjoy together. Season 2 premieres Dec. 2 on IMDb TV.
Where to watch: Amazon
Commitment: Approx. 6 hours (for the first season)
What it is: You’ve never seen a coming-of-age comedy like this. The premise is simple: Two best friends, Maya Ishii-Peters and Anna Kone, are new to middle school and learn a lot about their friendship, their bodies, their families, and the world they live in along the way — all to laugh-out-loud effect.
Why you should watch it: In talking about Pen15, everyone is always quick to mention how incredible the illusion of 30-something creators Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle playing tweens of the early aughts is, but it really is good enough to mention yet again! It’s not a physical illusion (these actors still very much look like grown women playing half their age), but their performances and the world-building around them make for one of the most transporting comedies on TV. We’re cringing in adolescent awkwardness right alongside them. The second half of its second and final season premieres Dec. 3 on Hulu.
Commitment: 9 hours (for season 1 and the first half of season 2)
What it is: We couldn’t help but wonder, do you actually need a plot summary of Sex and the City? Its foursome of leading ladies, its fashions, its storied love interests, its endless one-liners, and, yes, its sex appeal has made this series from creator Darren Star one of the most iconic of all time. Michael Patrick King now takes the reins for its years-in-the-making reboot, which checks in on Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis 10 years since we’ve last seen them.
Why you should watch it: Few series before or since has set the cultural zeitgeist ablaze quite like Sex and the City. Say what you will about its later seasons and two feature films, but Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda helped define a generation of 20- and 30-somethings looking for love in the Big Apple. And Just Like That, its highly anticipated reboot sans Kim Cattrall’s Samantha Jones, premieres Dec. 9 on HBO.
Commitment: Approx. 52 hours (for all six seasons and both films)
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 disrupting the intergalactic peace within disparate colonies and the survival of humanity as they know it.
Why you should watch it: If the last year and a half has taught us anything, it’s that we have 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. Fortunately for The Expanse, it makes for great, cult-favorite TV with timely allegorical themes to spare. Its sixth and final season premieres Dec. 16 on Amazon Prime Video.
Commitment: Approx. 56 hours (for the first five seasons)
What it is: Based on the book series by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, Netflix’s hit Henry Cavill starrer, The Witcher, charts the violent adventures of Geralt of Rivia, a magically gifted monster slayer.
Why you should watch it: Subversively fantastical, darkly humorous, and ambitiously larger-than-life, The Witcher ranks as one of Netflix’s best fantasy series and makes for a fine answer to the likes of HBO’s Game of Thrones. With Cavill’s chiselled leading man physique and charisma on full display, it also boasts an ensemble of memorable, empathetic characters with excellent performances and production value to match. Season 2 premieres Dec. 17 on Netflix.
Where to watch: Netflix
Commitment: Approx. 8 hours (for the first season)
What it is: Niecy Nash stars as Desna Simms, the takes-no-prisoners owner of a nail salon in the swampy town of Manatee County, Florida. She’s flanked by a scene-stealing assortment of coworkers and patrons. The drama flares, however, when she and her employees turn to organized crime and start laundering money.
Why you should watch it: Full of camp, high-stakes crime drama, and firecracker scripts, Claws is loads of fun. Plus, we’ll take any excuse to see Nash execute her perfect blend of humor, brawn, and heart as its top-billed player. Season 4, its last, premieres Dec. 19.
Commitment: Approx. 22.5 hours (for the first three seasons)
What it is: This fashion-forward, fish-out-of-water romantic comedy follows Emily, a Midwest marketing executive who’s hired to work abroad by a French firm in hopes that she’ll provide them with an American perspective. They comically get more than they asked for.
Why you should watch it: As divisive as it was, there’s no denying that Emily and Paris was on the show on everyone’s tongue upon its debut last year. Though her Emily is often aloof to the consequences of her actions, Lily Collins is charming as all get out, and Ashley Park (previously of Broadway’s Mean Girls fame) is a scene-stealing sidekick. Season 2 premieres Dec. 22 on Netflix.
Where to watch it: Netflix
Commitment: Approx. 5 hours (for the first season)
What it is: Cobra Kai charts the reopening of The Karate Kid’s infamous Cobra Kai dojo by none other than Johnny Lawrence himself. It makes for a modern-day twist on the classic 1980s film franchise, and now with its home on Netflix (after an original launch on YouTube Premium), it’s become a runaway, Emmy-nominated hit with fans new and old.
Why you should watch it: Nostalgia has been the name of the game through what has otherwise been an insurmountably difficult year. Luckily, Cobra Kai, from creator Robert Mark Kamen, has it in spades. Featuring committed performances from Karate Kid original players Ralph Macchio as Daniel and William Zabka as Johnny, this reboot feels as comfortable and entertaining as ever, and it’s further brought to life by a cast of young actors finding their footing in the discipline of karate. Season 4 premieres Dec. 31 on Netflix.
Where to watch: Netflix
Commitment: Approx. 15 hours (for the first two seasons)