It seems like just yesterday that we were talking about the ever-steep climb in overseas co-productions and imports, but that was all the way back in February. In the approximately 39 years since then, we’ve seen plenty of TV trends in the calendar year of 2021.
One last entry for the list: some creative practices surrounding the premieres of various new network shows. Technically, some 2022 shows are getting sneak peeks here in the waning weeks of this year. Even without those, though, December would be chock full of shows angling to get some special attention in the already-crowded holiday rush.
We’ve got prequels, sidequels, continuations, adaptations, reimaginations, and remembrances. The biggest surprise is that this has become just another normal month in the endless ocean of new, intriguing TV.
(For one final time this year, a reminder that if this collection is somehow not enough to fill your viewing calendar, check out our roundups from February, March, April, May, June, and July, as well as August, September, October, and November.)
“Baking It” (December 2, Peacock)
Because the world can never have enough baking shows, here’s another to add to the list, along with a few twists. Maya Rudolph and Andy Samberg host this competition series where contestants compete in pairs to deliver the tastiest morsels of the bunch. The judging panel assessing these sweet treats? A quartet of “real-life grandmothers” who have plenty of experience making their own holiday concoctions for their families.
“The Pact” (December 2, Sundance Now/AMC+)
When the head of a local brewery dies under mysterious circumstances, his employees have to hide what they know about their boss’ demise. To complicate matters, one of those secret-keepers is married to a police officer assigned to investigate the case. Among the cast for the series, created by “Doctor Who” and “A Discovery of Witches” alum Pete McTighe, are Aneurin Bernard, Laura Fraser, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Eiry Thomas, Heledd Gwynn, Rakie Ayola, Jason Hughes, and Eddie Marsan.
“Santa Inc” (December 2, HBO Max)
Sarah Silverman voices the main character of this animated series about an elf dead-set on becoming the first-ever female Santa. The rest of the cast includes Seth Rogen (who, along with Silverman, is an executive producer on the series), Leslie Grossman, Gabourey Sidibe, Craig Robinson, Nicholas Braun, Maria Bamford, and Joel Kim Booster. “Shrill” creator Alexandra Rushfield also serves as showrunner for the season.
“Harlem” (December 3, Prime Video)
“Girls Trip” and “First Wives Club” writer Tracy Oliver is the creator behind this comedy about a group of four best friends hitting their stride while living in the show’s title neighborhood. Each with their own success in the worlds of academia, tech, fashion, and music, they’re trying to navigate ambition, romance, and everything else life throws at them. Meagan Good, Grace Byers, Shoniqua Shandai, and Jerrie Johnson star as the show’s central foursome.
“Mr. A & Mr. M: The Story of A&M Records” (December 5, Epix)
Over a nearly four-decade run, the record company started in 1962 by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss amassed a formidable collection of musicians. Profiling an outfit that was led by (among others) Carole King and The Carpenters, eventually drawing in The Police, Soundgarden, and Janet Jackson, this two-part doc’s interview subjects include Peter Frampton, Quincy Jones, and Sheryl Crow.
“Landscapers” (December 6, HBO)
Olivia Colman and David Thewlis play a couple thrust into the national spotlight when two dead bodies are found in their Nottingham backyard. Will Sharpe, already with this fall’s festival run of “The Electric Life of Louis Wain” to his credit, directs the four-part limited series. New episodes will arrive every Monday throughout the month.
“Abbott Elementary” (December 7, ABC)
“A Black Lady Sketch Show” alum Quinta Brunson writes and stars in this comedy about a group of teachers at a public elementary school in West Philadelphia. Among those playing other teachers and staff at Abbott include Sheryl Lee Ralph, Janelle James, Tyler James Williams, Lisa Ann Walter, and Chris Perfetti. This is the first of the network shows to offer up a pilot preview this month before premiering in full in the new calendar year.
“Welcome to Earth” (December 8, Disney+)
After Will Smith told audiences all about the majesty of our planet in “One Strange Rock” (may we never forget the fact that he ended that first episode by passionately invoking the show’s title), he’s reteaming with executive producers Darren Aronofsky and Jane Root for a more active look at all that Earth has to offer. Each of the six themed episodes will find Smith connecting with the outdoors, alongside experienced explorers, climbers, and all-around nature experts.
“And Just Like That…” (December 9, HBO Max)
It’s a somewhat reboot of “Sex and the City,” given that the quartet that powered the original show is down a member. But Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, and, yes, Sarah Jessica Parker are all back to make their way through New York almost 20 years later. Behind the scenes, original series creator Michael Patrick King is also returning, as are series writers Elisa Zuritsky and Julie Rottenberg. (Bestselling author Samantha Irby also wrote one of the ten episodes.) The release of the full season will extend into next February.
“Anne Boleyn” (December 9, AMC+)
The last few months of the queen’s life form the basis for this three-part series. Starring Jodie Turner-Smith as the legendary monarch, “I May Destroy You” breakout Paapa Essiedu also plays Anne’s brother George. Tracking her final moments of trying to keep the royal forces and executioner’s weapons at bay, the series also addresses her days as a mother and her rivalry with ascendant object of kingly affection Jane Seymour (Lola Petticrew).
“American Auto” (December 13, NBC)
Ana Gasteyer stars as a newly-minted car company CEO who, unfortunately, knows very little about how cars actually work. Among those playing the team of advisers and associates helping her learn the ropes are Jon Barinholtz, Harriet Dyer, Humphrey Ker, Michael B. Washington, Tye White, and X Mayo. This comedy, the latest from “Superstore” creator Justin Spitzer, will debut in full on January 4.
“Grand Crew” (December 14, NBC)
Former “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” team members Phil Augusta Jackson and Dan Goor are back with this comedy centered on a group of friends living in LA. Each with their own relationship status and professional preoccupations, they all meet regularly at their favorite bar to share their successes and mishaps. Nicole Byer, Justin Cunningham, Aaron Jennings, Echo Kellum and Carl Tart star in the series, which will slide into the January 4, post-”American Auto” timeslot.
“Close to Me” (December 16, Sundance Now/AMC+)
Connie Nielsen and Christopher Eccleston star in this drama about a woman trying to recover the memory she lost after an accident. As she pieces together the parts of her life all over again, a new picture of the past starts to come into focus. Episodes will premiere weekly on both streaming platforms through January 20 of next year.
“Finding Magic Mike” (December 16, HBO Max)
The wait for another proper installment in the “Magic Mike” franchise (trilogy? empire?) might be a lot shorter than we would have expected a few weeks ago. But until then, here’s another appetizer in the form of a competition among 10 ordinary guys put through a Magic Mike Live crash course in physical and dance training. Both Channing Tatum and Steven Soderbergh have put their executive producer stamp on the seven-episode season.
“Firebite” (December 16, AMC+)
After the capturing of an aboriginal man, two hunters set out to track down the band of vampires responsible in this Australian-set drama. Co-written and directed by Warwick Thornton, the series stars Yael Stone, Rob Collins, Callan Mulvey, and Shantae Barnes-Cowan. New episodes from the eight-episode season will be released every Thursday, continuing in 2022.
“MacGruber” (December 16, Peacock)
Hide your vans of explosives and break out the celery stalks: It’s time to go back to the Pentogon. Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, and Ryan Philippe reprise their roles from the 2010 cinematic masterwork of the same name, joined by new cast members including Sam Elliott, Laurence Fishburne, and new supervillain Billy Zane. This time around, MacGruber has to face another mysterious foe and save the world in the process. Wonder how many seconds he’ll leave on the timer before the giant bomb g–
“Station Eleven” (December 16, HBO Max)
Last year was either the perfect time or the absolute worst time to read Emily St. John Mandel’s hypnotic novel about the emergence of a flu pandemic and its generations-long effect on a crumbled society. Director Hiro Murai and showrunner (and “Maniac” and “The Leftovers” alum) Patrick Somerville have helped bring that eerily relevant world to life along the book’s original fractured timeline. Himesh Patel, Mackenzie Davis, Gael García Bernal, Caitlin FitzGerald, David Wilmot, Nabhaan Rizwan, and Enrico Colantoni play people either trying to make sense of a growing threat or trying to preserve some semblance of normalcy after most of the world has been effectively wiped away.
“With Love” (December 17, Prime Video)
Former “One Day at a Time” co-showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett is a writer and creator on this five-part series that follows a family at the center of an ever-growing romantic web. As siblings Lily (Emeraude Toubia) and Jorge (Mark Indelicato) each prepare for a Christmas Eve of big steps, the series kicks off a journey through a single calendar year. Each episode is built around a different holiday, as all the members of the Diaz family as they balance all the relationships in their life.
“1883” (December 19, Paramount+)
With ”Yellowstone” slowly conquering the cable landscape, it was only a matter of time before some sort of prequel made its way to streaming to try to do the same. It arrives with the one-two punch of Sam Elliott and Tim McGraw, who help tell the story of the Dutton family ancestors who set out west, with their eyes on the brand new land of Montana. Faith Hill, Billy Bob Thornton, Isabel May and LaMonica Garrett round out the main cast of the show, which also sees “Yellowstone” boss Taylor Sheridan returning as creator.
“The Book of Boba Fett” (December 29, Disney+)
With days to spare, Disney manages to fit one last new “Star Wars” venture in under the calendar wire. This one isn’t completely a “new” series, given that the great Temuera Morrison is returning to play another member of the Fett family. This show will find the legendarily cool bounty hunter in his big post-Sarlacc comeback, tracking down scum while returning to settle business on Tatooine. The rest of the cast for the series has been kept under wraps, but Ming Na-Wen is a co-star on the series, which will also return composer extraordinaire Ludwig Göransson.
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