Some say that December is the perfect time to catch up on a bevy of great TV for the year. While there are plenty of shows vying for your precious remaining 2017 hours, that certainly isn’t stopping networks of all kinds from trying to strike gold with a hit before the calendar turns.
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Admittedly, this month’s selection is slimmer than usual (someone has to make room for all the holiday specials!), but there’s still enough to highlight for our monthly roundup of new shows. (Wondering if you’re all caught up with the big shows from the past few months? Our August, September, October, and November previews are here to help guide you.)
“All Def Comedy” (December 1, HBO)
“All Def Comedy” made its HBO debut last year as a late-fall special, but Tony Rock is back to host an ongoing standup series throughout the month, culminating in a two-part finale on the 29th. Comics Deon Cole, DeRay Davis, Jess Hilarious, Gary Owen, and JJ Williamson lead the lineup for the six-episode season.
“Cash Cab” (December 4, Discovery)
Calling this is a “new” show is a little bit of a stretch. But when one of the most beloved cable game shows of this century makes a triumphant return after a half-decade hiatus, it’s worth taking note. This time around, trusted driver Ben Bailey is back with some notable guest riders, including Scott Bakula, Gilbert Gottfried, Dave Foley, Jeff Garlin, Matthew Perry, and Brooke Shields.
“Stripped” (December 5, Bravo)
The latest addition to the Bravo corral of unscripted series is a show that follows people after they’ve been separated from all of their earthly possessions. Is the setup a little exploitative? Will this be a trivialization of poverty, a condemnation of materialism, or some bizarre combination of both? The original show was apparently a hit in Scandinavia — we’ll see how all this translates stateside.
“Happy!” (December 6, Syfy)
We seen a few imaginary friends shows on TV this year, but it’s a safe bet that none of them come close to Happy. Christopher Meloni stars as hitman and vice aficionado Nick Sax, who finds himself dogged by a relentlessly cheerful Pegasus figure voiced by Patton Oswalt. It comes from veteran comics writer Grant Morrison, so we’re expecting some dark twists (and more than a little bit of craziness) to ensue.
“Knightfall” (December 6, History)
When History goes in for a scripted series, give them credit for never going halfway. At the close of the year, the network is looking to add another major historical epic to its roster to complement its long-running hit “Vikings.” Switching millennia and areas of the continent, this new series centers on the origins of the Crusades, from the the royal class that helped sanction them to the arms of the Church that helped sustain them. Get ready for violence, palace intrigue, and lots of googling “Knights Templar.”
“The Fake News with Ted Nelms” (December 13, Comedy Central)
Comedy Central might not be a place that needs another news satire right now, but darned if “Daily Show” alum Ed Helms isn’t going to try to add his spin to the mix. This is being billed as a one-off special, so we’ll see if a satirical approach that doesn’t have to respond to the day’s news can succeed where other attempts may have not.
“Jean Claude Van Johnson” (December 15, Amazon)
One of the quintessential action heroes of the late ‘80s and ‘90s, Jean-Claude Van Damme hasn’t shied away from meta-commentary on his own popularity and chosen profession. In a similar vein to the 2008 film “JCVD,” the outsized star is playing another fictionalized version of himself, drawn into fights with nefarious forces as an anonymous contract agent. There will be punching. There will be splits.
“A Christmas Story Live!” (December 17, FOX)
Following the success of “Grease Live!” Fox is back in the televised musical event game, this time staging a live version of “A Christmas Story,” the musical based on the ‘80s holiday classic. This won’t have the same directing team behind the reimagining of Rydell High, but a Tony Award-winning crew and cast members Matthew Broderick, Maya Rudolph, Jane Krakowski, Ana Gasteyer, and Chris Diamantopoulos make this worth checking out.
“Gunpowder” (December 18, HBO)
HBO is back in the Kit Harington business, airing this Gunpowder plot-based miniseries that premiered earlier this year in the UK. Harington plays Robert Catesby (an actual ancestor of Harington’s), alongside a cast that includes Liv Tyler, Mark Gatiss, Peter Mullan, and Tom Cullen as Guy Fawkes himself. (Also, anyone concerned that this is a sanitized version of history apparently need not worry.)
“The Last Post” (December 22, Amazon)
Legendary British TV writer Peter Moffat is back with another period piece miniseries, this time focusing on a volatile time in the mid-1960s, where British soldiers and their families stationed in Yemen deal with the various pressures of life on a remote, isolated base. Judging by the trailer, this is less a vindication of colonial occupation and more a self-aware look at the role that troops in the region played in relation to the local populace and themselves.