Traditionally, December is when network television begins to hibernate for the winter, which means that this is a month for midseason finales and non-network outlets taking advantage of the programming vacuum. That means holiday specials, streaming series, and more Very Special Events — more than enough to keep us occupied as the weather gets colder and we spend more time inside (and in front of our televisions). Here are ten to mark on your calendar.
December 1: Did you know Netflix gave Rob Schneider a TV show?
Just when you thought Netflix could do no wrong, the streaming site gave a sitcom to Rob Schneider. Real Rob is another entry in the comedian-plays-a-fictional-version-of-himself genre of television. All eight episodes will premiere at once, challenging even the strongest of binge-watchers’ stomachs. — Pilot Viruet
December 3: NBC kicks off holiday special season…
The Wiz Live! is NBC’s third annual foray into old-school live musicals, a deliberate throwback to network television’s earliest days, when live programming was much more widespread and network executives hoped to lure in audiences with one-off specials. After NBC’s hit production of The Sound of Music and the less successful Peter Pan, The Wiz is a pivot towards the contemporary, boasting a cast that includes Mary J. Blige, Uzo Aduba, Common, and David Alan Grier.
December 4: …and Bill Murray keeps it going
On the other end of the holiday programming spectrum is Murray’s Sofia Coppola-directed Christmas special for Netflix. A Very Murray Christmas features everyone from George Clooney to Jason Schwartzman stopping by the Carlyle Hotel. Co-written with Arrested Development‘s Mitch Glazer, it’s an old-school format reimagined for a new-school platform.
December 4: Epix releases Marc Maron’s latest special
Maron has kept up his neurotic, caustic stand-up act even as his neurotic, caustic podcast persona has become his greater claim to fame — and his IFC show Maron ate up a significant chunk of his time. This Friday, Epix airs the WTF host’s first hour since Thinky Pain in 2013; recorded at Chicago’s Vic Theater, Marc Maron: More Later takes his angry-yet-introspective material out of the garage.
December 6: The Leftovers departs once again
HBO’s latest high drama has had a knockout second season, returning Damon Lindelof to critics’ good graces and closing out its penultimate episode with one of the most genuinely shocking reveals in recent memory. It’s anyone’s guess how the finale will play out as the Guilty Remnant executes its attack on Miracle, but Sunday’s finale will doubtless be as cryptic, moving, and flawlessly acted as the show (which still hasn’t officially been renewed) it’s sending off.
December 9: A sorta-Empire Christmas
The Fox drama’s midseason finale airs this Wednesday, but the network has no desire to let its biggest hit’s time slot go to waste. Enter Taraji and Terrence’s White Hot Holidays, a one-hour special co-hosted by the series’ two stars and featuring performances from the likes of John Legend and Mary J. Blige, who’s really owning the holiday beat this year.
December 11: Transparent‘s second season arrives
Amazon’s gorgeous, messy critical hit will release its season premiere tonight, but the full ten-episode run doesn’t arrive until next Friday. (The streaming service will also release the second installment of its less universally beloved, but still solid Mozart in the Jungle on December 30.) The Pfeffermans will continue to lead their chaotic lives, and we’ll continue to watch — starting with Sarah’s wedding to Tammy.
December 14: Syfy premieres Childhood’s End and The Expanse
This month, Syfy moves away from its typical Sharknado-heavy programming to premiere two interesting and ambitious new programs. Childhood’s End, based on Arthur C. Clarke’s famous novel, begins its six-episode miniseries, starring Mike Vogel, Julian McMahon, Yael Stone, and more. The series is about what happens after a peaceful alien invasion leads the way to a perfect society — but explores the downside to utopia. Directly after is the premiere of The Expanse (which you can already watch here), about the tensions between Earth, Mars, and the Asteroid Belt — and the possibility of war. — Pilot Viruet
December 18: Bill Burr goes animated
Burr is the latest comedian to sell out Madison Square Garden, and adult animation gave Netflix what is arguably its best series to date. Combining the two, then, seems like a smart move for the streaming service — though its short run (just a half-dozen episodes) and premiere date (just a week shy of Christmas) indicate this isn’t exactly high priority for them. Still, Laura Dern and Justin Long round out the voice cast of this ’70s-set sitcom starring Burr as the resident Archie Bunker type, and anything Dern’s involved with is something worth trying out.
December 18: Netflix gets into true crime with Making a Murderer
Not to be outdone by Amazon’s offerings, Netflix has another series premiering this month. This ten-episode show is no doubt the result of the popularity of HBO’s The Jinx and the Serial podcast, but it has the possibility of even more twists and turns. Making a Murderer was filmed over 10 years and follows “a DNA exoneree who, while in the midst of exposing corruption in local law enforcement, finds himself the prime suspect in a grisly new crime.” — Pilot Viruet