• Mon. Mar 4th, 2024

What’s worth streaming in December 2023: Not much new, yet still a lot to watch

What's worth streaming in December 2023: Not much new, yet still a lot to watch


December is an odd month for streaming, with only a handful of new releases to look forward to.

However, there are new episodes of quite a few very good shows that premiered in November, mostly on Hulu and Apple, and Netflix has its annual batch of Oscar hopefuls — making December a month to potentially splurge on a few services.

As we’ve mentioned before, there are higher prices and fewer new shows these days, and that trend won’t change anytime soon. Smart consumers are whittling down the number of services they watch, and focusing on quality where they can find it.

So churn, baby churn — add and drop services month to month, a strategy that takes some planning, but pays off. Keep in mind that a billing cycle starts when you sign up, not necessarily at the beginning of the month.

Each month, this column offers tips on how to maximize your streaming and your budget, rating the major services as a “play,” “pause” or “stop” — similar to investment analysts’ traditional ratings of buy, hold or sell, and picks the best shows to help you make your monthly decisions.

Here’s a look at what’s coming to the various streaming services in December 2023, and what’s really worth the monthly subscription fee:

Apple TV+ ($9.99 a month)

Apple
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has almost nothing new to offer in December, but a handful of ongoing shows will make it a worthwhile subscription anyway.

The only new release of note is “The Family Plan” (Dec. 15), a generic-looking action-comedy movie starring Mark Wahlberg as a former assassin trying to keep his family safe from his enemies while on cross-country road trip. Snore.

The real draws are new episodes every week of Apple’s two best dramas: the alt-history space thriller “For All Mankind” (which despite some terrible wigs appears to be back in stride, after some wobbly plotlines last season) and the dysfunctional-spy thriller “Slow Horses” (still as smart, snarky and tense as ever). There are also new eps of the surprisingly fun kaiju/conspiracy thriller “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” — which so far has satisfied by delivering at least one Godzilla-type titan per episode, along with actually interesting human characters — and the “Bridgerton”-esque period romance “The Buccaneers” (season finale Dec. 15).

And keep an eye out for the streaming debut of Martin Scorsese’s epic “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which doesn’t have a release date yet but should be coming to Apple soon, with Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” to follow sometime in the new year.

Who’s Apple TV+ for? It offers a little something for everyone, but not necessarily enough for anyone — although it’s getting there.

Play, pause or stop? Play. Even though its price has soared, Apple is still cheaper than most, and it delivers value this month. (Remember, you can get three free months of Apple TV+ if you buy a new Apple device.)

Hulu ($7.99 a month with ads, or $17.99 with no ads)

Much like Apple, Hulu doesn’t have much new in December, but enough ongoing series to make it worthwhile.

Most notably, the Canadian small-town comedy “Letterkenny” (Dec. 26), which has based a jaw-dropping amount of laughs almost entirely around its unique and utterly filthy pitter-patter dialogue, drops its 12th and final season on, appropriately enough, Boxing Day. Hulu will also say goodbye to the animated spy spoof “Archer,” which concluded its 14th season in October and will drop a super-sized finale, “Archer: Into the Cold,” on Dec. 18, a day after it airs on FXX.

There’s also the British heist thriller series “Culprits” (Dec. 8); “We Live Here: The Midwest” (Dec. 6), a documentary about queer and trans families facing daily challenges in their communities; and “Science Fair: The Series” (Dec. 11), a three-part docuseries following kids competing in the world’s most competitive science fair.

More: Here’s what’s coming to Hulu in December 2023 — and what’s leaving

But the real reason to watch Hulu is for new, weekly episodes of “A Murder at the End of the World” (finale Dec. 19), a slick, contemporary take on an Agatha Christie-like murder mystery that plays on tropes and clichés of the genre, yet somehow still works, and Season 5 of “Fargo,” Noah Hawley’s Midwestern noir that — thanks in large part to this season’s stars Juno Temple, Jon Hamm and Jennifer Jason Leigh — has recaptured the quirky, violent magic of its brilliant first couple of seasons.

Deeper dive: Check out the Irish dark comedy “Obituary,” about a struggling newspaper obituary writer who gets paid by the story, and suddenly realizes she can earn a decent salary by killing off bad people in her quaint small town. The setup is a bit like “Dexter,” but the tone is very different, along with a lack of gore. It’s a quirky and quick six-episode binge, and will scratch a very specific itch for those with a fetish for thick sweaters and tweed, or those who miss Apple’s “Bad Sisters.”

Who’s Hulu for? TV lovers. There’s a deep library for those who want older TV series and next-day streaming of many current network and cable shows.

Play, pause or stop? Play. But only for the cheaper, ad-supported plan. As good as “Letterkenny,” “Fargo” and “A Murder at the End of the World” are, they’re not worth $18 a month.

Netflix ($6.99 a month for basic with ads, $15.49 standard with no ads, $22.99 premium with no ads)

It’s movies that are the big draw for Netflix
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in December.

Two sure to generate Oscar buzz are “Maestro” (Dec. 20), a lush and intimate biopic of legendary composer Leonard Bernstein, starring Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan, and “May December” (Dec. 1), a provocative drama from director Todd Haynes about an actress (Natalie Portman) who travels to meet a woman (Julianne Moore) who was at the center of a decades-old, Mary Kay Letourneau-like scandal who she’ll portray in an upcoming movie — and then things get messy. Both are drawing critical raves.

On the popcorn side, there’s “Leave the World Behind” (Dec. 8), director Sam Esmail’s apocalyptic thriller starring Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke and Kevin Bacon, and “Rebel Moon — Part 1: A Child of Fire” (Dec. 22), the first installment in a big-budget sci-fi epic from director Zack Snyder, about a woman living on a peaceful space colony who must gather a crew of heroes to defend it from an invasion. The two parts of “Rebel Moon” cost $166 million to make, according to Vanity Fair, but it’s only getting a limited theatrical release, so Netflix better hope it’s a huge streaming hit.

Also: Here’s everything new coming to Netflix in December 2023 — and what’s leaving

The sixth and final season of “The Crown” (Dec. 14), which has petered out in quality, will conclude with six new episodes. While the first half of the season was dedicated to the breakup of Charles (Dominic West) and Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) and her tragic death, the second half jumps to the early 2000s for a pair of royal weddings (Charles and Camilla’s as well as William and Kate’s), as the aging Queen Elizabeth (Imelda Staunton) reflects on her legacy. There’s also the comedy documentary “Kevin Hart & Chris Rock: Headliners Only” (Dec. 12); the sports documentary “Under Pressure: The U.S. Women’s World Cup Team” (Dec. 12); the first half of Season 1 of the South Korean WWII horror thriller “Gyeongseong Creature” (Dec. 22); and the “Money Heist” spinoff “Berlin.”

Deeper dive: Take a look at “Blue Eye Samurai,” a visually spectacular animated revenge drama set in feudal Japan that dropped in November, featuring the voices of Maya Erskine, Darren Barnet and George Takei. Hyper-violent, with a surprising amount of sex to go along with twisty palace intrigue, it’s reminiscent of “Game of Thrones” at its pre-dragons best.

On the lighter side is “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off,” a charming anime adaptation of the cult-favorite comic book and movie, that spins off in a much different direction through time and space. The entire cast of the movie (Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Kieran Culkin among them) return to provide voices, and it’s a lot of fun — an excellent mental sorbet after the heaviness of watching “Blue Eye Samurai” or Max’s “Scavengers Reign.”

Who’s Netflix for? Fans of buzz-worthy original shows and movies.

Play, pause or stop? Play. At least one of those movies will be worth watching, and it’ll still be cheaper than the price of going to the theater.

Disney+ ($7.99 a month with ads, $13.99 with no ads)

Disney+ has three more Doctor Who specials to celebrate the long-running sci-fi series’ 60th anniversary: “Wild Blue Yonder” (Dec. 2) and “The Giggle” (Dec. 9), on the heels of November’s “The Star Beast.” The specials, featuring the return of writer/showrunner Russell T. Davies and fan favorite David Tennant as the 14th Doctor, will lead up to a new season in 2024, starring Ncuti Gatwa (“Sex Education”) as the 15th Doctor — who will mark his first full episode with “The Doctor Who Holiday Special: The Church on Ruby Road” (Dec. 25).

There’s also the fantasy series “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” (Dec. 20), based on the hit series of YA novels; Season 2 of Marvel’s animated “What If…?” featuring a multiverse of superhero mashups; the animated movie “Diary of a Wimpy Kid Christmas: Cabin Fever” (Dec. 8); the streaming debut of “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (Dec. 1); the docuseries “Science Fair: The Series” (Dec. 11), which will also stream on Hulu; and the season finales of Tim Allen’s “The Santa Clauses” (Dec. 6) and ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” (Dec. 12).

Who’s Disney+ for? Families with kids, hardcore “Star Wars” and Marvel fans. For people not in those groups, Disney’s 
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 library can be lacking.

Play, pause or stop? Pause and think it over. Disney actually has a lot to offer this month.

Amazon’s Prime Video ($14.99 a month, or $8.99 without Prime membership)

Dad-core action dramas are right in Prime Video’s wheelhouse, and one of its better ones, “Reacher” (Dec. 15), is back for a second season. Based on the novels by Lee Child, Alan Ritchson stars as an oversized investigator who punches his way into and out of trouble as he probes the mysterious murders of members of his former Army unit. It’s not going to win any Emmys, but it’s a fun watch.

Amazon
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also has a new Eddie Murphy movie, the holiday comedy “Candy Cane Lane” (Dec. 1), where he plays a suburban dad who makes a deal with a mischievous elf so he’ll win the neighborhood Christmas decoration contest — which, of course, backfires, and Season 2 of the docuseries “Coach Prime” (Dec. 7) following Deion Sanders during his much-hyped first season coaching the University of Colorado football team, which started the season strong but then crashed back to earth.

More: Here’s everything coming to Amazon’s Prime Video and Freevee in December 2023

Meanwhile, Wes Anderson’s latest movie “Asteroid City” (Dec. 12) makes its streaming debut, along with DC’s superhero flop “The Flash” (Dec. 26).

Who’s Prime Video for? Movie lovers, TV-series fans who value quality over quantity.

Play, pause or stop? Stop. “Reacher” is good, dumb fun, but unless you already subscribe to Prime for shopping, there’s no reason to start now.

Paramount+ ($5.99 a month with ads, $11.99 a month with Showtime and no ads)

Paramount has a sleighload of holiday fare, including 20 curated programming carousels featuring movie favorites, kids specials and holiday-themed episodes of your favorite sitcoms.

There’s also Season 2 of the hit comedy “Ghosts UK” (Dec. 8), and new episodes every week of the painfully cringey home-renovation satire “The Curse” and the pulpy Western “Lawmen: Bass Reeves,” which, frankly, should be better.

There’s an intriguing original movie, “Finestkind” (Dec. 15), a crime drama about two half-brothers (Ben Foster and Toby Wallace) from opposite sides of the tracks who reunite on their father’s fishing boat during one fateful summer. Jenna Ortega and Tommy Lee Jones co-star, and, of course, Taylor Sheridan is listed as a producer, because he pretty much is Paramount+ at this point.

On the sports side, college football gets set to wrap up, with Georgia vs. Alabama in the SEC championship (Dec. 2) and the Army-Navy game (Dec. 9), and there’s a full slate of NFL games, college basketball and UEFA Champions League matches.

Who’s Paramount+ for? Gen X cord-cutters who miss live sports and familiar Paramount Global 
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 broadcast and cable shows.

Play, pause or stop? Stop. The lineup isn’t bad, but there’s nothing compelling enough to pay for (or at least nothing you couldn’t watch in a sports bar).

Peacock ($5.99 a month with ads, or $11.99 with no ads)

After 12 years, Tony Shaloub revives his iconic detective character in “Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie” (Dec. 8), as the obsessive-compulsive detective must solve a case involving his step-daughter, who’s preparing for her wedding.

“Dr. Death” (Dec. 21), based on a hit true-crime podcast, is back for a second season. There’s a new cast and a new killer doctor this time around, as Edgar Ramirez stars as “Miracle Man” Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, and innovative surgeon whose methods are, well, not great, with Mandy Moore playing an investigative journalist trying to expose him.

Peacock also has the streaming debut of the horror movie “The Exorcist: Believer” (Dec. 1), and a full slate of sports, including NFL Sunday Night Football, college basketball, winter sports and English Premier League soccer.

Who’s Peacock for? Live sports and next-day shows from Comcast’s 
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 NBCUniversal are the main draw, but there’s a good library of shows and movies.

Play, pause or stop? Stop. Things like a “Monk” movie and “Dr. Death” are nice as bonuses, but by themselves they’re not enough to warrant a subscription.

Max ($9.99 a month with ads, $15.99 with no ads, or $19.99 ‘Ultimate’ with no ads)

There is … (double-checks list) … absolutely nothing new worth recommending on Warner Bros. Discovery’s
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Max in December, which is pretty pathetic for the former HBO.

There are a handful of season finales — “The Gilded Age” (Dec. 17) and “Bookie,” “Julia” and “Rap Sh!t” (all Dec. 21) — new eps of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” and a smattering of new standup comedy specials and documentaries, but it’s honestly a little shocking how empty the programming cupboard is.

Deeper dive: On the bright side, Max may have the most fascinating yet unsettling show of the year in “Scavengers Reign,” a gorgeously animated sci-fi drama about a handful of people marooned on a faraway planet that’s inhabited by fantastical creatures and organisms that mostly want to eat them. There are elements of “Alien” and “Annihilation,” with truly icky body horror juxtaposed against a stunningly detailed alien ecosystem, and the big bad is a nightmarish creature that looks like what would happen if you crossed Bobby from “King of the Hill” with a psychic space slug (trust me on this). It’s really good — but maybe don’t watch it right before going to bed.

Who’s Max for? HBO fans and movie lovers. And now, unscripted TV fans too, with a slew of Discovery shows.

Play, pause or stop? Stop. “True Detective” Season 4 is coming in January, check back then.



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