Betwixmas television: The best TV series to binge between Christmas and New Year’s Eve
Christmas is well and truly upon us, and once the dust settles from staff parties, family gatherings, food, drinks and gift wrapping, we’re left with a lot of downtime.
Naturally this means kicking back, whacking on the telly and immersing ourselves in all the shows we’ve had on our watch list, but not quite had the time to get around to.
With a wide range of new releases this year – and even new streaming platforms – there’s more choice than ever to keep your TV schedule as full as your stockings this festive period.
From mythical medieval dramas to action packed spy shows, and even an animal kingdom documentary, here is a list of the binge-worthy shows that will keep you glued to your sofas this Christmas:
His Dark Materials (BBC iPlayer)
The final series of the drama based on Phillip Pullman’s trilogy is now out, meaning you can binge all three at once. His Dark Materials follows Lyra, an orphan living with scholars at Jordan College, Oxford. In a world governed by the Magisterium, a religious and political body which represses peoples ties to magic and daemons, Lyra is subject to a witch’s prophecy that she will change the world, and the series follows efforts to liberate the people.
Slow Horses (Apple TV)
Apple TV’s delightfully shabby spy thriller has two seasons to binge. It follows the fortunes of Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman) head of Slough House, a hub for MI5 rejects, and his crew of slightly rubbish spies. Based on the series of books by Mick Herron, this is fast-paced, sharply written and brilliantly funny, with a stellar cast that includes Kristen Scott-Thomas, Jack Lowden, Saskia Reeves and Samuel West as a magnificently oily MP.
This family drama focuses on the aftermath of the death of Stephen Richards, the patriarch of a multi-million pound cosmetics empire. When the will is read that reveals he’s left his entire business to his estranged children from his first marriage – much to his new family’s dismay – the stage is set for fireworks.
The Witcher (Netflix)
Based on a series of books by Andrzej Sapkowski, the Netflix show follows Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), monster-hunter for hire, as he defeats all manner of Slavic-inspired nasties with his trusty sword - and, more importantly, finds himself the reluctant mentor to a hunted princess, Cirilla. Whilst season three is still underway, Netflix have also launched a new prequel, which predates the current two seasons by 1200 years and explains how Witchers were made in the first place: The Witcher: Blood Origin, which will hit screens on Christmas Day.
“I wish this had existed when I was a teenager” seemed to be the general response to this adorable YA series that followed the blossoming romance between a bullied gay teen, Charlie, and the upstanding, rugby-playing hearthrob Nick who doesn’t quite know what to make of his own feelings. Based on Alice Oseman’s graphic novels, its inclusive casting and sympathetic portrayal of kids trying to work out who they are stopped hearts across the globe and made instant stars of its young leads. Season two, already shot, should be with us next year.
Hacks (Prime Video)
Hacks was the great discovery of the year. The show starred Jean Smart – previously a standout in 2021’s Mare of Easttown playing Kate Winslet’s mum – as a legendary but fading comedian with a residency in Las Vegas, who looks to a struggling young writer (Hannah Einbinder) to revitalise her act. In the UK, the second season dropped on Prime Video in May, just a month after the first, and it quickly built legions of devotees through word of mouth.
A Spy Among Friends (ITVX)
Coming off the back of ITVX’s launch, the six-part original series dramatises the true story of the British spies and lifelong friends, Nicholas Elliott (Damian Lewis) and the infamous double agent Kim Philby (Guy Pearce). Elliott is plunged into turmoil as it emerges his friend Philby has been working as a double agent for MI6 and the KGB, defecting to the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and sets out to bring him to justice.
Another ITVX original offering, this new series is based on the events that led up to the assassination of former Russian security service office Alexander Litvenenko (played here by David Tennant), and the investigation that followed. The compelling four-part drama reconstructs the police investigation trying to get to the bottom of the events leading up to the death of the former spy.
The five-part series follows the biggest predators in the animal kingdom, with each episode based on a different predator. With the added bonus of Tom Hardy’s narration, viewers can expect to see real-time shots of nature’s wildest pursuits.
The Crown (Netflix)
If you’ve managed to somehow escape the urge to race through every season of the Netflix royal drama already, the festive period could be the perfect time to immerse yourself in this adaptation of the inner workings of The Firm. With the latest season following the marriage breakdown of Princess Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) and Prince Charles (Dominic West), now is the time to get acquainted with all things Buckingham Palace.
Gangs of London (Sky Atlantic/Now)
Finn Wallace (Colm Meaney) was the most powerful criminal in London for 20 years before he was killed, setting off a chain reaction in which his son Sean (Joe Cole) attempt to seize power - only to be brutally killed. In season two of the violent drama, the gangs are in disarray and a deadly new foe, Koba, is due to shake things up across London. With its gore and well-choreographed action scenes, Gangs of London is a great choice for action junkies who want a bit of adrenaline with their festive binge.
House of the Dragon (Sky Atlantic/NOW)
HBO has finally managed to fill the huge void of its blockbuster hit series Game of Thrones with its equally ambitious prequel. Based on the earlier years of the House of Targaryen, the show explores the dynasty at the height of its power, with King Viserys breaking with tradition by naming his daughter Rhaenyra heir to the Iron Throne. However, Viserys later fathers a son, and the court is baffled when Rhaenyra retains her status as his heir, sowing the seeds of division across the realm. Game of Thrones fans can still expect the usual fire, dragons, backstabbing and battles that we have all become accustomed to.
Stranger Things (Netflix)
Who could have thought that this would be Kate Bush’s year? Well, she has the latest series of Stranger Things to thank for it. Now in its fourth season, the show (split across two volumes) takes us back to Hawkins, Indiana, where a deadly new threat is brewing: the sinister Vecna, whose origins may lie in Eleven’s past. The acting is as good as ever, the horror ratcheted up another notch – and the ending is pleasingly epic. We laughed, we cried, we rewatched the whole thing again the minute the credits rolled.
The White Lotus series 2 (Sky Atlantic/ NOW)
How lucky we are to live at the time of The White Lotus, among the best TV series of recent years. Following season one’s success, the question was whether the show’s creator Mike White could produce another humdinger to follow it up. He sure did, this time focusing on the entangled lives of guests and staff at a luxury hotel in Sicily. Jennifer Coolidge returned to join a new cast which includes Tom Hollander, Theo James, Aubrey Plaza and Michael Imperioli. If season one was a meditation on money and loneliness, season two is all about sex, which of course means matters get seriously stimulating and explosive.
The five-part spy thriller is centred on Adam Lawrence (Charlie Cox), who becomes the chief of MI6 when his boss is brutally attacked. While his career seems to be on a high, things start to unravel when his past catches up with him, and Adam is forced to question everything and everyone around him. With the stakes high and trust levels low, anything could happen. The show hits Netflix on Boxing Day.
Emily in Paris (Netflix)
A now-annual Christmas ritual, Emily Cooper (Lily Collins) returns to our screens on December 21, bringing her marketing experience and American charm to the streets of Paris. Season two concluded on a cliffhanger, and fans wondering whether she will be staying with her company Gilbert Group or joining Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu) in her breakaway venture. With episodes clocking at half an hour length, prepare du vin, du pain and perhaps du Boursin for a Parisian binge.