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Everything you should watch over the holidays

It’s the perfect time of the year to gather your family, consider what you’re grateful for and watch way too much TV. Even if you’re already a television connoisseur, there’s a good chance you haven’t been able to keep up with all of the great viewing options available today. Below, check out our collection of the best bingewatching options this year. And once you’ve exhausted this list, check out our recommendations from the past few years.

Black Mirror Season 3

The Twilight Zone of our era is back on Netflix with a bigger budget, more episodes, and plenty of familiar faces aboard. This season, Black Mirror explores scenarios where your entire life is based your social media score; a game company that’s developed all too realistic augmented reality; and your mind can be backed up forever. It’s an eclectic mix of stories, as always, but that unshakeable feeling of dread and techno-anxiety that the series is known for is still around. This time around, there’s even — dare I say — hope?

Watch if you like: The Twilight Zone; The X Files; 1984
Where to watch: Netflix

Atlanta

You probably remember Donald Glover from Community, which he left abruptly to pursue a music career. Now he’s getting back into TV with Atlanta, an authentic look at what it’s like to be young and black in the American south today. He stars as a perpetual loser who’s managing his cousin’s fledgling rap career, all the while trying to make ends meet. Atlanta is genuinely funny, but it’s also unafraid to be genuinely poignant at times. Ultimately, it’s brave and refreshing television.

Watch if you like: Louie, Donald Glover, Do the Right Thing
Where to watch: FX

High Maintenance

After finding success as a web series about the adventures of a New York City weed dealer, High Maintenance managed to outdo itself with its first official season on HBO. For the most part, the show uses the weed delivery man (AKA The Guy) as a way to connect completely disparate stories. One episode deals with a young, gay hipster who’s in a fundamentally destructive relationship with his roommate, while another tells a love story between a dog and the world’s best dog walker. It’s one of those “dramadies” that manages to be both uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time, but its sheer originality helps it stand out from the crop of shows about Brooklyn twentysomethings.

Watch if you like: Girls, Bored to Death, David Linklater films
Where to watch: HBO

BrainDead

If it seems like this election has been insane, perhaps it’s because there are tiny space ants invading the brains of our politicians pushing them towards extremist beliefs. At least, that’s the explanation given by BrainDead, a biting political comedy that isn’t afraid of having heads explode (literally). It’s like The West Wing meets The Good Wife (it’s from that show’s creators) meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And it also has Tony Shalhoub delivering one of the funniest performances this year as a raging southern conservative. Need I say more?

Watch if you like: The West Wing, House of Cards, Scanners, Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Where to watch: CBS, Amazon Prime

Halt and Catch Fire

It’s not too often a show completely turns itself around, but that’s exactly what Halt and Catch Fire did in its second and third season. It starts out in the early 1980s, focusing on a group of tech wizards who have the moxie to build an IBM compatible PC for a small Texas computer firm. Exciting, right? Its early tech nostalgia was cool, but obviously an attempt at recreating the magic of Mad Men. Eventually, though, Halt and Catch Fire wisely learned to focus more on its characters and offer up a more expansive view of the tech industry. It’s as much about the creative process as it is about trying to figure out out what’s on the horizon for tech. (My suggestion: Watch the pilot and the latter bits of the first season, the good stuff really starts in season two.)

Watch if you like: Hackers, Mr. Robot, the ’80s
Where to watch: Netflix, AMC, iTunes, Amazon

Westworld

Chances are, you’ve already dived into Westworld. HBO didn’t waste any time hyping it up, because once Game of Thrones ends it needs another smash hit genre piece. A pseudo-reboot of the original Michael Crichton film, Westworld is set in a futuristic theme park where the very rich live out their Wild West fantasies with the help of incredibly realistic humanoid robots.

It’s ultimately an exploration of human nature: What would you do if you could play a complete villain in what’s ostensibly a very realistic video game? And at what points do the robots, who are routinely abused and have started going “off script,” become human? It’s well worth watching, with some of the best cinematography and production design you’ll see on TV this year. And even if it can’t satisfactorily wrap up its many mysteries, it’s worth basking in the tremendous performances of Thandie Newton and Evan Rachel Wood, two bots rebelling against the system controlling them.

Watch if you like: Person of Interest, Blade Runner, Battlestar Galactica
Where to watch: HBO

Channel Zero: Crystal Cove

You wouldn’t expect a show based on a Creepypasta — viral horror stories made popular by sites like Reddit — to actually be good, but somehow writer Nick Antosca ended up crafting one of the creepiest horror series in years. Crystal Cove centers on a child psychologist who’s trying to unravel the mystery behind a series of murders in his hometown (something he’s personally connected with). But, fundamentally, it’s about the existential dread of children’s TV shows and the power they can hold over kids. Channel Zero is more about psychological dread and slowly creeping horror than straight up jump scares, but I assure you the monster designs will work their way deep into your nightmares.

Watch if you like: Hannibal, Stephen King, Stranger Things
Where to watch: Syfy

Tickled

On the face of it, a documentary about competitive tickling competitions sounds pretty light. But as Tickled director David Farrier investigates, he quickly gets wrapped up in an exploitative online industry that’s taking advantage of young, good-looking men. It’s one of those documentaries that’s so strange, you’d think it would be made up if it weren’t completely true.

Watch if you like: Documentaries, The Witness
Where to watch: iTunes, Amazon

Days

A young high school kid joins the soccer team and is terrible at it — but through sheer determination he ends up playing an essential role in the team. There are plenty of sports anime shows out there, but Days’ strong handling of its characters and overall sweetness make it a joy to watch. Personally, it evokes the camaraderie and carefree days of playing soccer in high school. But it’s also a genuinely fascinating and inspiring exploration of the power of will.

Watch if you like: Sports anime, Friday Night Lights
Where to watch: Crunchyroll

Luke Cage

Luke Cage is what happens when Marvel actually lets people of color handle one of their properties It has a style and vibe that’s completely unlike anything else from Marvel’s superhero factory. Mostly, that’s all due to Mike Colter’s towering lead performance (we saw him first in Jessica Jones last year), the show’s love of Harlem and its keen musical soul. Its original score is by Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, and there are plenty of choice cuts and tremendous live musical performances throughout. If you’ve ever wondered what a superhero show could look like when crossed with energy of a blaxploitation film, this is the show for you.

Watch if you like: Comics, music, blaxploitation films
Where to watch: Netflix

Honorable mentions:

  • Fireplace for Your Home (Netflix): Now in 4K!
  • American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson (FX): You need to see this dramatic reenactment of the O.J. Simpson trial. Trust me.
  • O.J. Made in America (ESPN, Hulu): This nearly eight-hour documentary dives deeper into the O.J. trial than ever before.
  • Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon): Few shows get the joy and pain of creating music as right as this.
  • Food Wars (Crunchyroll, Hulu): This food competition anime is incredibly addictive.
  • Thunderbolt Fantasy (Crunchroll): A wuxia fantasy epic with puppets. Puppets!
  • Pee Wee’s Big Holiday (Netflix): This might just end up being a holiday classic.
  • Goliath (Amazon): A reminder that David E. Kelly (The Practice, Ally McBeal) can still make a damn fine law series.

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About Ms. A. C. Kennedy

Ms. A. C. Kennedy
My name is Ms A C Kennedy and I am a Health practitioner and Consultant by day and a serial blogger by night. I luv family, life and learning new things. I especially luv learning how to improve my business. I also luv helping and sharing my information with others. Don't forget to ask me anything!

Check Also

What we’re watching: ‘Raw’ and ‘Feast of Fiction’

Welcome back to Video IRL, where several of our editors talk about what they've been watching in their spare time. This month we're kicking things off with some seasonally-appropriate horror fare, that you can catch right away on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Then it's time for a Gundam throwback before Kris Naudus points out a couple of YouTube food channels perfect for binge eating or binge watching.

Them / Raw


Timothy J. Seppala

Timothy J. Seppala
Associate Editor

To get into the Halloween spirit, I've been watching at least one horror movie a day since the end of September -- the lower the budget, the better. Problem is, so many of the American low-budget or indie horror offerings on Amazon and Netflix are crappy Paranormal Activity clones, cheap-thrill gore-fests or uninspired found-footage "documentaries." Whether it's by design or coincidence, I've found that French horror movies have held my attention the most lately. Specifically, 2016's Raw, as well as Them, from ten years prior. They're more psychological thrillers than straight-up horror, but that didn't stop me from being more on edge while watching them one afternoon than I was during A Haunting in Saginaw, Michigan, late at night. Both start with a car crash, but they couldn't finish any more differently.

Raw, recently added to Netflix, tells the tale of a vegetarian girl in her first week at a prestigious veterinary school. During a hazing ritual, she's forced to eat a raw rabbit kidney. She immediately gets sick, throws up and wakes herself up that night scratching a full-body rash to near bleeding. This bout with food poisoning is just the beginning, though, and soon protagonist Justine finds out she has a taste for forbidden fruit. As the remaining 70-ish minutes unfolded, I lost track of how many times I clasped my hands over my mouth, agape in shock, to stifle my shouts of "OHMYGODWHATTHEFUCKISEVENHAPPENING?!"

But French director Julia Ducournau balances every body-horror scene either with something pedestrian twisted into being unsettling (like a horse on a treadmill) or with something that makes you ask how far Justine can go before someone confronts her about her new diet. And those questions keep coming right until the credits roll. I can't say I enjoyed watching Raw, but it was a hell of a ride.

The same goes for Them, currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Its focus is narrow, centering on a young couple living in a cavernous farmhouse, terrorized over the course of a night by unseen horrors. The camera never quite gives away who (or what) the perpetrators are, and revealing the twist would be a sin. As with Raw, its atmosphere and overall creepiness won me over straightaway. The scariest part? Realizing that I've probably driven past a shot like the final scene countless times and not thought twice about it. If you're willing to read subtitles, both of these should make you shiver and scream more than The Conjuring 2 on HBO Go could ever hope to.

Mobile Suit Gundam The 08th MS Team


David Lumb

David Lumb
Contributing Editor

I'd heard that a lot of anime had left Hulu, but I scanned their selection anyway looking for classic shows I'd missed, like the original Mobile Suit Gundam. They don't have that -- but they did have a series I didn't finish the first time it aired on Toonami, the 1996 classic Gundam side story The 08th MS Team. Unlike the franchise's other show released the year before, the massively successful Gundam Wing, 08th ditches the brand's typical pretty-boys-in-unbeatable-robots for a grounded and sobering story about the people who get caught up in wars -- desperate soldiers, civilians and guerrillas alike. It's dirty, honest, utterly humane and gorgeously animated.

It's also a little preachy and melodramatic, and it shows its age with odd sexist moments. While it's still the Thin Red Line of the Gundam universe, I remember it far more fondly from when my 14-year-old self grazed the series on its first American airing. There's something sad in seeing an old favorite for the flawed media it always was. Much like Waypoint's Rob Zacny, I've grown up and seen a lot since I first caught the show as a starry-eyed teen. I still think The 08th MS Team is a wonderful little 12-episode miniseries with a big heart, but I won't revere it so highly -- and will think a little harder about who I recommend it to.

Feast of Fiction / Binging with Babish


Kris Naudus

Kris Naudus
Senior Editor, Database

Back in March, I came home from a trip only to discover that my oven didn't work. The cooking gas in my building had been shut off due to a leak. My building management seemed to be on it, so I made do with a combination of microwavables, toaster oven and Seamless. Unfortunately, weeks and months went by, calls to the city were made and permits were issued, but, even as I write this in October, gas still has not been restored to my building. My landlords eventually threw their collective hands in the air and began installing electric ranges in every apartment, so a few weeks ago I was finally able to cook for myself again.

I am so jazzed to be able to make food. Hot food! Scrambled eggs! Steak! Cookies! I started reading food blogs and cookbooks, and shopping to refill my pantry. I'm halfway through Kenji Alt-Lopez's The Food Lab, a huge 900-page hardcover that talks about the science of how food cooks. On the lighter side, I've also been reading food-themed comics like Delicious in Dungeon and Food Wars. And the latter title (which is also an anime) ended up sucking me into a YouTube hole of food videos that I've been obsessed with ever since.

You see, the very first chapter of Food Wars features the "Gotcha" Pork Roast, a bacon-wrapped potato loaf that hero Soma Yukihira makes to save his family restaurant. It looks pretty tasty, so I searched for recipes and pics online and stumbled onto Jimmy Wong and Ashley Adams' Feast of Fiction, a series that demonstrates how to make various foods seen in cartoons, video games and comics. If you ever wanted to taste Steven Universe's beloved Cookie Cat ice cream sandwiches or Kirby's super-spicy curry, there's an episode for you. One thing I really enjoy is how they also incorporate crafts into it, showing how to make paper wrappers for your Reptar chocolate bars or genuine-looking Ecto Cooler Hi-C boxes.

I've been marathoning through the episodes, which the YouTube algorithms have definitely picked up on at this point, throwing food show after food show into my suggestions. One that caught my eye was Binging with Babish. Where Feast of Fiction mostly sticks to the realm of kids' cartoons, anime and video games, Binging with Babish is a little more mainstream, covering foods from popular media like Mad Men, Seinfeld and House of Cards. Still, there's a bit of overlap -- both Babish and Feast have done their own takes on the Ultimeatum from Regular Show and Krabby Patties from SpongeBob SquarePants. But the recipes are different, and I watch the shows for the personalities. Feast of Fiction is pretty silly (and there's a cute dog), while Binging with Babish is a little more subdued. Not that Babish can't be ridiculous as well -- the Moist Maker is one of the most ridiculously complicated sandwiches I have ever seen, basically asking you to cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner.

Sadly, I still haven't done a lot of actual cooking since getting my stove back. I'm having too much fun watching other people do it instead, with the added bonus that I don't have to clean up the mess.

"IRL" is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they're buying, using, playing and streaming.

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