Even at the best of times, people can get awfully tetchy at this time of the year. Be tolerant of them. Do not engage in Socratic dialogue with them about the this and that of the holiday season. Perhaps they just haven’t seen Ted Lasso (AppleTV+) yet. Me, I’m saving the episodes I haven’t seen for Christmas Day.
The coming days will bring bad news, no doubt, and we are morally obliged to be of good cheer. Make the best of it and instead of moving through it all with gritted teeth, find solace and humour. If you are wearing a mask outside, which you should, make the best of it and hum or sing to yourself. It’s one of the good things about wearing a face mask. Me, I’ve recited great swathes of 19th-century ballads to myself while roaming the cold, empty streets.
Even if you won’t be gathered in groups, just watch TV and savour the good, the fun and the flaky, in our commitment to consolation and good cheer. In the next few days you will find a fine list of content in this section to binge-watch over the holidays. Here, a round-up of new, new-ish and favourites to take you through.
Bridgerton arrives on Friday on Netflix. This is, note you, the new Shonda Rhimes series – the first to launch since her megadeal with Netflix was announced. Sometimes called the “Queen of Steam,” Rhimes has entertained a generation with Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and other series. Here, surprisingly she’s produced a period-drama set in Regency England with a lot of frocks, hats, gowns and romantic entanglements. Based on early episodes, it can be reported that it’s a hoot – a faux-modern romance with a diverse cast and focusing on Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), who is, of course, busy looking for a husband while having fun in her search. Total tosh, in a good way.
The Masked Dancer starts Fox/CTV on Sunday and is, obviously, a spin-off from the wildly and inexplicably popular The Masked Singer. Craig Robinson will host and Ken Jeong, Paula Abdul, Brian Austin Green and Ashley Tisdale will act as panelists. Celebrity contestants dance in costume, declaring war on the fun-less year we are ending.
Death to 2020 comes to Netflix on Dec. 27th from Black Mirror creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, and is some type of dark, star-studded spoof of the year. It is said, anyway. Samuel L. Jackson, Hugh Grant, Lisa Kudrow, Kumail Nanjiani and Tracey Ullman play characters explaining it all.
Equinox is Scandinavian noir with a supernatural twist that starts Dec. 30 on Netflix. The gist is this: “In 1999, 21 high-school graduates vanish without a trace. Twenty years later, Astrid discovers the unsettling truth behind the disappearance of her sister Ida and her classmates.” Astrid (Danica Cucic) is in adulthood a late-night radio host who gets calls from someone who asserts he knows what happened and suggests the missing are alive in another dimension. For those missing the German drama Dark, Equinox is as moody-Scandi and gently spooky as all get-out.
For the Record, now on CBC Gem, is fluff, but good fluff. An odd collaboration between CBC and Universal Music, it’s an anthology of stories – mostly 10 or 15 minutes long – in which the characters’ stories are tied to a song in the Universal catalogue. The best is The Broken Hearts Tour, in which an aunt (Anna Hopkins) tries to persuade her teenage nice (Alexandra Beaton) that love is for suckers. But the niece has a crush on a pop star and, you know, it all works out.
Finally, since this list started with Bridgerton, a faux period-piece, take note that Pride & Prejudice, the original 1995 BBC series, is airing in a marathon on some PBS stations on Dec. 27th. (On WNED, starting at 5 p.m. ET.) That means Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth as Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, two people who brave obstacles to, ah, realize they are made for one another. It is widely considered the perfect Jane Austen adaptation.
This column will return next week. Enjoy the holidays, no matter how you celebrate. Be careful, wear a mask and always be good and kind to each other.
Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter, with film, TV and streaming reviews and more. Sign up today.