Since the last time we were here, Disney launched its streaming service (best known at the moment for featuring “Baby Yoda”, who isn’t actually Yoda), and life seems to go on pretty much the same as usual: Netflix is still here and still doing what it was doing before: trying to make up for its diminishing catalogue of U.S. licensed content by placing more emphasis on international content (and viewers outside the U.S.) and building up the already huge library of content it owns outright.
One recent piece of Netflix news is that the service elected not to pick up a third season of its reboot of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Netflix’s reluctance to let shows run beyond two or three seasons has become familiar enough that MST3K’s Jonah Ray reacted to the cancellation by tweeting the names of eight other prematurely-cancelled Netflix shows. Sometimes a show cancelled by Netflix can find a home somewhere else, but the nature of the Netflix contracts makes that tricky: before One Day at a Time got picked up by a pay TV network, the producers were stymied by the fact that they weren’t allowed to shop it to rival streaming services. We have yet to find out if the new streaming services will let shows run longer, or if the concept of the long-running hit show will become a thing of the past; but for now, that’s a trade-off creators have to consider when signing up with Netflix: it’s easier to get a show picked up for a full season, but harder to get a long, retirement-making run.
Netflix in December: What you should watch
A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby (Dec. 5)
In the month when it’s almost literally Christmas every day, Netflix’s first original Christmas movie is actually the third in a series that began with 2017’s A Christmas Prince and continued with 2018’s A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding. This year, Rose McIver is still married to the hunky ruler of a Ruritanian kingdom (Ben Lamb). Now she’s about to have a baby. Complications ensue when a 600-year-old peace treaty with another kingdom goes missing, and she learns from an ancient book that her first-born child will be have a curse on its soul unless the treaty is signed by midnight on Christmas Eve. Now she must solve the mystery, renegotiate the treaty, and choose a name for the baby. I can’t wait to see what the plots will be like if they continue this series for a few more years.
Astronomy Club: The Sketch Show (Dec. 6)
This six-episode sketch comedy series is significant as Netflix’s first new collaboration with Kenya Barris, creator of black-ish. Barris was one of several high-profile TV producers Netflix recently signed up for huge, exclusive deals, with a particular priority on getting people away from Disney-owned ABC: Barris got a reported $100 million to leave Disney for Netflix, and brought one of ABC’s top comedy executives to his new company, Khalabo Ink Society. Barris’s deal will allow him to create shows and also produce shows created by others. The Astronomy Club is a top New York City improv comedy team which has already done a digital-only sketch show for Comedy Central; this bigger-budgeted show will add a framing device parodying reality TV. The potential advantage of Netflix for prolific producers like Barris is that, free from the need to compete for time slots, they can theoretically produce as many new shows as they want, even though Netflix shows don’t run as long as a hit show on ABC. If these deals work out, other top creators might decide that the chance to build a Netflix empire is worth that trade-off.
Fuller House, Season 5 (Dec. 6)
This is the last season of the Full House sequel series—an impressive run, by Netflix standards. It also managed to reflect a surprising number of important trends. It was one of the first in what has turned out to be a booming business in sitcom revivals; series creator Jeff Franklin was forced out as showrunner when his behaviour came under new scrutiny in the post-#MeToo era; and longtime cast member Lori Loughlin turned out to be implicated in a major scandal over rich parents who allegedly paid bribes to get their children into college—which is why Loughlin won’t be in any episodes this season. The series’ primary cast is still the same, headed by Candace Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin and Andrea Barber living in Bob Saget’s now-unaffordably-expensive San Francisco home, and this may be the last chance to see the Tanner family and hear their catchphrases. Just don’t get your hopes up for an appearance by the Olsen Twins.
Ultraviolet, season 2 (Dec. 19)
Everything about this series makes it seem like a typical U.S. mystery procedural: it’s about a team of sleuths who solve crimes the police can’t handle; it’s loosely based on a book (The Skeleton Crew) about real-life mystery solvers. What’s unusual about it is that it’s a typical American procedural produced in Poland, in Polish. Creator Wendy West (Dexter) originally sold this premise to the Fox network; when they passed on it, the studio, Columbia/Sony, took it to Polish TV, with West giving notes to the staff writers through a translator. It provides an intriguing look at how the increasingly international world of television production could result in some surprising new homes for genres, like the procedural, that are becoming rarer in America.
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 1
The young director Mikhail Red made this thriller, which its studio is billing as “the first Philippine Netflix Original.” Based on a true story (as Netflix originals so often are), it’s about a group of high school students who decide to kidnap their rich, popular classmate. The plan does not go well.
A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish (2019)
American Made (2017)
Crocodile Dundee (1986)
Dinner for Schmucks (2010)
Eastsiders (2012): Season 4
Look Who’s Talking Too (1990)
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Terminator Genisys (2015)
The Duchess (2008)
The Greatest Showman (2017)
The Lovely Bones (2009)
The Shape of Water (2017)
The Terminal (2004)
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 2
Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir: Season 3: Part 1
Continuing the story of two French teenagers who are actually superheroes.
One of Netflix’s attempts at a Disney-style kids’ sitcom, about a rich celebrity (Bryana Salaz) sentenced to community service leading a bunch of inner-city middle schoolers on a wilderness club, which means lots of studio interiors trying to look like forests and mountains.
Leaving Netflix Dec. 2
Lady Bird (2017)
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 3
Especial de Natal Porta dos Fundos: A Primeira Tentação de Cristo(Netflix Film)
CHRISTMAS SPECIAL ALERT: Porta dos Fundos, the hugely popular Brazilian YouTube comedy channel, does a mildly sacrilegious Christmas special every year. Netflix picked up the rights to last year’s special (see below) and in this new special, Jesus gets an awkward surprise party when he turns 30.
Haddish (Kids Say the Darndest Things, Tuca & Bertie) got in touch with her father’s Jewish background by studying for a Bat Mitzvah, intended to coincide with the premiere and subject matter of this new stand-up special.
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 4
From French writer-director Ladislas Chollat, a culture-clash film about a struggling hip-hop dancer (Rayane Bensetti) who ends up teaching in a Paris ballet academy.
Produced by Caracol Televisión in Colombia, this comedic telenovela (also known in English as The Road to Love) stars Katherine Escobar Farfán as a young expectant single mother, disowned by her family of macho truck drivers, who tries to prove that she can make it on her own as a trucker.
Magician Justin Willman returns for a new season of his reality show, focusing on the reactions of everyday people when he performs magic tricks in front of them. Willman claims all the reactions are unscripted and real (he doesn’t have real magic powers, though).
About a Boy (2002)
Baby Mama (2008)
Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)
Cinderella Man (2005)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
Notting Hill (1999)
The Blacklist (2013): Season 6
The Bone Collector (1999)
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 5
See introduction for details
Balthazar Murillo stars in this Argentine eight-episode series, which tells the story of the real-life soccer star Carlos Tévez (Balthazar Murillo) and the harsh Buenos Aires neighbourhood where he grew up.
Greenleaf: Season 4
Oprah’s OWN network is one of many that has done unexpectedly well with serialized drama. This show, about a megachurch Bishop (Keith David), his large family, and their many secrets and lies, has won two NAACP Image Awards for Lynn Whitfield as the Bishop’s wife, and features occasional appearances by Oprah herself as Whitfield’s sister.
CHRISTMAS SHOW ALERT! Proving that you can’t escape Christmas romance by moving to Europe, this six-episode Norwegian series stars Ida Elise Broch as a 30-year-old single woman who starts a frantic search for a romantic partner she can show off to her friends and family at Christmas dinner.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
One of the most unexpectedly successful of the recent flood of reboots, and one of the few big blockbuster movies that Netflix is getting—mostly because the studio, Columbia/Sony, doesn’t have its own streaming service yet.
The story of an infectious disease that turns people into vampires, this is a grim horror series in the vein (sorry) of The Walking Dead, based on the IDW comic book, and starring Ian Somerhalder, who seemingly couldn’t quit vampires after his many years on The Vampire Diaries.
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 6
See introduction for details
A Brazilian remake of the early-2010s Mexican series Niño Santo; both shows share the premise of three young doctors who find themselves in a remote village where people are anti-vaccination for mysterious and supernatural reasons.
Netflix’s first true-crime docu-series of the month is about Henry Lee Lucas, a small-time killer who became a celebrity in the 1980s when he confessed to hundreds of unsolved murders, briefly becoming known as the biggest serial killer of all time—and eventually teaching the world to understand why you can’t always believe a confession.
See introduction for details
Prolific British TV presenter Stacey Dooley hosts this reality competition series, subtitled “Britain’s Next Make-Up Star,” where contestants are taken to different locations and asked to demonstrate their skill in making people look really good really fast.
Writer-director Noah Baumbach has assembled another all-star cast for this semi-autobiographical comedy-drama (his second for Netflix, after 2017’s semi-autobiographical comedy-drama The Meyerowitz Stories). Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver star as a show business couple whose marriage falls apart, the supporting cast includes Laura Dern, Alan Alda, and Ray Liotta, and Randy Newman did the score.
Spirit Riding Free: The Spirit of Christmas
CHRISTMAS SHOW ALERT! A Christmas special for Netflix’s successful computer-animated series about Lucky, a girl who loves horses; this time she needs to get home for Christmas despite bad, horse-unfriendly winter weather.
Based on the manga by Sōichirō Yamamoto, this anime series features more stories of Nishikata, who constantly tries and fails to retaliate against a classmate named Takagi for all the pranks she plays on him.
CHRISTMAS SHOW ALERT! Paul Freixas created and directed all three episodes of this Spanish miniseries, about four sisters whose secrets and resentments are revealed when they get together at Christmastime. Each episode will take place during Christmas dinner at a different time in their lives, allowing the actors to play young, middle-aged and old.
Netflix’s second original Taiwanese Mandarin-language series stars Eugenie Liu as Angie, the daughter of a crime boss who decides to leave the family business and take an equally dangerous job as a bodyguard.
Alexandra Breckenridge (This is Us) plays Melinda, who needs to get away from city life after a personal tragedy, and accepts a job as a midwife/nurse practitioner in a small California town where things aren’t quite as she expected. Based on the long-running romance novel series of the same name by Robyn Carr.
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 8
Light of My Life
Casey Affleck wrote, directed and starred in this drama film about a man whose daughter is one of the last surviving females on Earth.
RuPaul’s Drag Race Holi-Slay Spectacular
CHRISTMAS SPECIAL ALERT! Last year’s RuPaul Christmas special with former contestants competing for the title of “Drag Race Christmas Queen.”
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 9
CHRISTMAS SPECIAL ALERT! Netflix seems to be quietly encouraging the idea of sitcoms and dramas doing special Christmas episodes—common in the U.K., but rare in the U.S., where most shows go dark as Christmas approaches. This sitcom, whose first 10 episodes appeared in July, will check back in with Tia Mowry (Sister, Sister) and her family at Christmastime, before dropping its next batch of episodes in January.
Shameless (U.S. version): Season 9
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 10
Chris Hemsworth and Michael Shannon star in this 2018 film about the Afghanistan war.
Netflix viewers may know Wolf from her short-lived 2018 show, The Break With Michelle Wolf, which aimed to dig deeper than the usual politically-aware talk show (including a memorable segment lampooning those other talk shows). This is her first stand-up special since the show was canceled.
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 12
CHRISTMAS SPECIAL ALERT! Last year’s Christmas special from the Brazilian comedy troupe (see above for their newer special) is a parody of The Hangover where the apostles wake up after having a bit too much wine at the Last Supper.
Jack Whitehall: Christmas with my Father
CHRISTMAS SPECIAL ALERT! A special Christmas episode of Netflix’s successful reality-comedy series Jack Whitehall: Travels with my Father, where a young comedian travels the world with his grumpy old dad. This time they travel to the London Palladium, and Jack tries to get his father interested in an old-fashioned comedy/variety Christmas show with celebrity guests.
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 13
Scorsese? Baumbach? Never mind those directors: with this film, Michael Bay makes his Netflix debut. Ryan Reynolds stars as the leader of a team of super-secret agents. There will probably be explosions.
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 14
RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars: Season 4 (2018-9 season)
Leaving Dec. 14
The Good Wife (seasons 1-6)
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 15
Northern Rescue: Season 1
Netflix picked up the international streaming rights to this CBC series starring William Baldwin as a widowed search-and-rescue commander who moves his family back to Canada.
Star Trek (2009)
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 17
Chieng, a correspondent for The Daily Show since 2015, makes his Netflix stand-up debut with a special that deals with his perspective as someone who grew up around the world: he was born in Malaysia, raised in Manchester, the U.S., and Singapore, and got his University education in Australia.
Leaving Dec. 17
The Fall (seasons 1-3)
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 18
Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer
A three-part documentary series about the convicted Canadian killer Luka Magnotta and the people who tried to track him down based on internet videos he posted, first of animal abuse, then first-degree murder.
Josh Safran (Quantico) originally created this drama, about music-loving people looking for love in Los Angeles, for the Fox network (under the title Mixtape). When Fox passed, Netflix picked it up, making it one of the few new pieces of Disney-owned content on the service.
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 19
After The Raid
Documentary about the aftermath of a major Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid in a small town in Tennessee.
Ultraviolet: Season 2
See introduction for details
Gaspard Ulliel stars in this French series as a man who finds a mysterious box that gives him the power to go back and revisit a failed relationship.
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 20
Based on Anthony McCarten’s play, this film is about the events that led to the shocking resignation of Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) and his replacement by the current Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce). Fernando Meirelles (City of God) directs, from a screenplay by McCarten.
The latest contender to be the new Game of Thrones is this fantasy series, starring former Superman Henry Cavill as a “witcher,” someone blessed or cursed with the ability to hunt and kill monsters. Based on the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski.
Pet Sematary (1989)
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 24
Anime series about a poor orphan and a rich runaway who become a successful singer-songwriter team.
This Mexican fantasy-comedy film has a rather complicated premise: the late singing/acting star Pedro Infante (played by Omar Chaparro) is sent back to Earth in the body of a Pedro Infante impersonator (also played by Chaparro). If there’s a U.S. remake, it will probably be with Elvis Presley.
Crash Landing on You
Romantic comedy series about a rich South Korean woman who has a paragliding accident and crash-lands in North Korea (hence the title), where a handsome officer helps her escape the authorities, and the two fall in love.
John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch
CHRISTMAS SPECIAL ALERT! The popular comedian bills this variety special as “A musical children’s special from a man with neither children nor musical ability.” Starring a group of plucky singing kids, as well as guest stars including David Byrne and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Continuing Netflix’s modernized, serialized reboot of the 1960s series, the Robinson family continues to be lost in space, but a different part of space, and this time, they can’t even find their Robot, who is also lost in space.
Conclusion of the latest season of the Japanese reality hit, with the time-honoured format of six strangers picked to live in a house together.
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 25
All the Money in the World (2017)
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 26
Pro tip: Don’t call a movie The App, because it’s almost impossible to Google. Anyway, this is about an actor whose life is ruined by a dating app.
An eight-episode French historical drama about the deadly 1897 fire that broke out at an aristocratic charity event in Paris, told through the experiences of three women (Audrey Fleurot, Julie de Bona, Camille Lou) from different backgrounds and classes.
Animated spinoff of the Fast & Furious movie franchise, in which a bunch of teenagers (including the cousin of Vin Diesel’s character) are recruited to fight evil through racing.
The first season of this thriller, based on a novel by Caroline Kepnes, starred Penn Badgley as Joe, a handsome stalker and serial killer in New York. In the second season, based on Kepnes’s sequel, he’s moved to Los Angeles. Kepnes is currently working on more novels in the series, so we can expect to see Joe stalking people in other cities before they’re done.
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 27
Netflix’s second original series from Turkey stars Beren Saat (Fatmagul) as a young artist who discovers that she may have a mysterious, possibly supernatural connection to an archeologist’s discoveries.
Kevin Hart became a flashpoint for the wars over “Cancel Culture” earlier this year when he was fired as Academy Awards host due to his old homophobic tweets. A few months later, he was injured in a car accident. Now he’s back with a six-part docu-series about his life, his comedy career, and his eventful 2019. Expect it to start arguments over whether this proves or disproves the existence of Cancel Culture.
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 28
Hot Gimmick: Girl Meets Boy
Live-action film, based on the early 2000s manga by Miki Aihara, about a high school girl who is blackmailed by a rich boy into becoming his servant.
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 30
Creator Heather Wordham’s unique take on the teen sitcom continues with the story of Alexa (Paris Berelc), who has to juggle school, basketball, friendship and romance while also being a cancer survivor.
Adaptation of Shūichi Asō’s manga series about a teenage boy with psychic powers.
Coming to Netflix on Dec. 31
Not to be confused with The Aristocrats, this comedy showcase features six comedians doing “wild and unfiltered” sets that Netflix is hoping will be offensive, but not so offensive as to get them in trouble.
Based on the Spanish comic book by Pepo Pérez and Santiago García, this superhero comedy focuses on Javier (Quim Gutiérrez) a twenty-something loser who accidentally gets superpowers, but is still the same screw-up he was before he got powers.
Suits: Season 9
Final season of the long-running USA Network series.
Yanxi Palace: Princess Adventures
A spinoff of the massively popular “Story of Yanxi Palace” series.