[Warning: General spoilers ahead.[
Long holiday weekends can be tricky, especially with a pandemic still brewing. Wherever you are, and however you choose to spend it, we wish you all the best. And if you find yourself looking for something to watch, and your interests are all over the place, we feel that, and we got you. Here’s a rundown on some things old, new, traditional, and not-so-much to keep your viewing occupied over the next few days.
It seems odd to say we’re a month into holiday romcom season, but here we are. If you’re looking for our recent picks, check out my TV Goodness column here. You can also find the full listings for each network, as follows: Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Hallmark Movies Now, Lifetime, Netflix, and UP Television.
Coming up this weekend for the newbies, you can choose the long-awaited sequel to The Nine Lives of Christmas, The Nine Kittens of Christmas, again starring Brandon Routh, Kimberley Sustad, and Gregory Harrison in a feline holiday adventure–airing on Hallmark Channel (and W Network for our Canadian readers) Thanksgiving night at 8 pm/7c, or the fourth entry in the Come Home for Christmas franchise, Time for Them to Come Home for Christmas, starring Jessy Schram and Brendan Pernny, which airs Sunday on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries at 10 pm/9c.
For something standalone, check out Bethany Joy Lenz and Tyler Hynes in An Unexpected Christmas, written by Hallmark regular Paul Campbell. The film follows Lenz and Hynes as a former couple forced to maintain the ruse that they are still together when they both land in his hometown at Christmas. She immediately NOPEs that until he makes her an offer that could potentially salvage her work assignment and possible promotion, in exchange for one teeny, tiny request. That goes as well as you’d expect. It airs Friday at 8 pm/7c on Hallmark Channel (and W Network in Canada). There are also premieres double-running this weekend at 6 pm/5c and 8 pm/7c on Hallmark Channel so check the links above for the full lineup.
Hallmark Movies Now is streaming the new Every Time a Bell Rings. In the film, Erin Cahill, Brittany Ishibashi, and Ali Liebert star as estranged sisters tasked with fulfilling their late father’s last wish for a Christmas scavenger hunt to find a prized family heirloom. Along the way, they find something much more important. Wes Brown, Lyndie Greenwood, Dee Wallace, and Ryan Sands also star in the movie that filmed on location in Natchez, Mississippi.
For something a little edgier, Netflix’s Love Hard stars Nina Dobrev as Natalie, a writer who makes a living chronicling her terrible dates until she’s talked into actually trying a dating app with genuine intentions. She immediately connects with Josh, a sweet, too-good-to-be-true guy on the other side of the country. After a series of hours-long conversations about everything and anything, he throws out the comment that he wishes she was there for Christmas, and so she goes.
And then she finds out that she’s been catfished. Josh is everything he seemed to be except for the fact the packaging is different. He’s not played by Darren Barnet. He’s played by Jimmy O. Yang. What could go completely off the rails as a Lifetime cautionary tale instead becomes a sweet family comedy on the order of While You Were Sleeping, as Natalie decides to stay, at first for the promise of connecting with the real “Josh” akak Tag (Barnet), and then for the recognition that Josh and his family represent something that’s been missing from her life for a while. Full disclosure: there are a couple of “OMG don’t do THAT” moments but they’re thankfully fleeting. It’s a fun watch.
Double up your series faves
If Jeremy Renner is your thing, you’ve got two new series options–at extreme ends of the spectrum. Mayor of Kingstown on Paramount+ is a gritty, pulls-no-punches portrait of a prison town being run from the outside by a facilitator played by Renner. It’s two episodes into its first season of ten and was co-created by Taylor Sheridan (whose juggernaut Yellowstone is too dark for me) and Flashpoint’s Hugh Dillon.
Beginning Wednesday, you can also find Renner back in the saddle as and in the titular Hawkeye on Disney+, starring alongside Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop in a six-episode holiday-themed season that finds the duo taking on the bad guys in NYC at Christmas. Steinfeld has her own head-spinning dual series run, wrapping up the third and final season of Apple TV+’s Dickinson, which is also streaming now.
Revisit old friends
Two popular series are back with brand new installments this month. Over on Peacock, the Psych boys–including Timothy Omundson–are back with their third film, This Is Gus, set as Shawn and Gus try to make sure Gus’s fiance, Selene, is divorced before they marry and baby Guster arrives and Lassiter figures out his next act. It’s streaming now.
On USA this Saturday at 9 pm/8c, Nash Bridges is back with a one-off that’s potentially a pilot for a reboot in a new crime that brings Nash and Joe (Cheech Marin) up to date working alongside a modern, and modernly diverse, set of detectives, including a millennial captain whose way of doing things is more talk and less action. I was a sucker for the original and I’ve dug Don Johnson’s resurgence with The Watchmen and Knives Out, so rebooting Nash was a no-brainer.
You never want to ding a series by comparing seasons (although that’s a sport for some), but the second season of Locke & Key, out now on Netflix is markedly better than the first. A lot of that is to do with the expanded role of Aaron Ashmore, but there’s also just a better rhythm across the board, and the young cast that headline as the Locke kids are just ridiculously talented.
The short version, if you’re unaware of the show: The widowed Nina (Darby Stanchfield) moves her three kids–teenagers Tyler (Connor Jessup) and Kinsey (Emilia Jones) and grade schooler Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) back to the family homestead and the kids soon discover that the house holds an array of secrets, including magical keys hidden around the house that do extraordinary things like allow them to roam around their psyches, release the physical manifestations of their fear, visit ghost realms, and more. And then they learn there are consequences, which their father paid the price for. The first season fills in a lot of the lore and backstory and the second season rolls into it with the agreement that you already know what they’re talking about. Both seasons are ten episodes.
I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t just plug this for grins. If you’ve never seen it, get on that. It’s so, so much more than a sci-fi romp about intergalactic bounty hunters, although it’s that, too. It’s one of the most extraordinarily diverse casts you’ll see on television with a ton of humor and heart. I love these people. Full stop. I wrote A LOT about it over its five-season run. Start here. Stream every episode now on Syfy.com
Same as above, I wrote a lot about this series that ostensibly followed a time traveler trying to avert a plague and instead delivered some of the most poignant, intricately woven storytelling with a ridiculous cast. I wrote A LOT about it, too. Start here. Stream all four seasons now on Hulu.
We want this one to get a second season somewhere, so give it a watch. This tale of a found family of real estate professionals trying to help ghosts and spirits find their peace so they can find theirs, too, is so, so good. Start our coverage here. Watch the ten-episode first season on Syfy.com and fuboTV.
I’m going to be salty about this cancellation for a while. It’s another genre tale about an agency trying to track down pieces of alien debris that let loose an array of supernatural issues grounded in the concept of humanity. Start here for our coverage and stream the whole season on fubo TV.
I was all in on the OG (which is available now on Paramount+) for several seasons and then came back for the final run, but the new one piqued my interest when William Peterson and Jorja Fox decided to come back. My local CBS affiliate has been in a standoff with my cabler so I’ve had to chase the new episodes down on streaming, and they’ve been worth it. The new season deftly mixes the history of Grissom, Sara, and Hodges (Wallace Lanngham) and introduces new characters played by Paula Newsome, Matt Lauria, Mandeep Dillion, and Jay Lee. It’s seven episodes into its ten-episode season, airing Wednesdays at 10 pm/9c with streaming following on CBS and Paramount+.
If you’ve sat this one out til now, or were of the camp, “it can’t be THAT good,” well, it really, really is. If you want to a dip a toe in the feel-good-with-an-edge story of an American soccer coach spinning his folksy charm and winning over a British soccer team on and off the field–without jumping into a full two-season commitment, check out the one-off Christmas episode, “Carol of the Bells” from Season 2. You need no background or understanding of the show’s arcs to enjoy the delightful, uber-sweet hat tip to the holidays. If you don’t like it, then the show’s not your thing. No harm, no foul. If you do, then you’ll dig the other episodes that await your discovery. My “why you should watch” the Apple TV+ series is here.
This is another one you might have skipped because it looked kind of grim. That’s a fair point. But, it’s also exquisitely acted on all fronts, and it finally netted Julianne Nicholson a well-deserved and long-overdue Emmy. The murder mystery/family drama drops Kate Winslet into a Pennsylvania town as a weary police detective working a case that hits close too home while still navigating the trauma of a son who died by suicide, the custody battle for her grandson, and a war of wills with her mom, played by Jean Smart. My preview of the HBO Max drama is here. And an ancillary rec is Nicholson’s earlier 2016 one-season drama, Eyewitness, where she was also excellent.
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