Winter hiatus is the gift that keeps on giving to the TV fan. Not only is it an all too brief time when the shows on your crowded schedule are dormant, thereby giving you (and your DVR) some much needed relief, it can allow your TV watching schedule with the type of flexibility that doesn’t come around all year. While the period in mid-thru-late December can be used for tedious things like socializing with your friends, catching up on your reading, or reacquainting yourself with the sun, we all know the joy of this time of year is the freedom to watch what you want. Additionally, in this TV environment, it’s very easy to find yourself buried alive by the sheer volume of content and sometimes that means falling behind on something that you otherwise greatly enjoy, so winter hiatus can be a welcome respite to catch back up on everything so that you’re ready for the January crush.
Therefore, I decided to highlight five shows that you should use the holidays to either catch up on, if you’re behind, or sample/binge watch, if you’re not currently watching and are interested in adding a show to your rotation. Included in this article are the premiere dates, premises, and cast lists for every show, as well as how many episodes you’ll have to power through to be current and why you should make the time to watch in the first place. Finally, there are links to the various (legal) ways one can watch any of these shows, just in case you’re so inclined. I tried to mostly include shows early in their life span, which are easier to binge and likely more under the radar than veterans, though each of these shows has a creative upside that would make them worthwhile investments of your time regardless of episode count. And as a reminder, these shows are not the only midseason returnees you should be watching; they’re just quality shows that fit a holiday binge well.
Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce (Bravo)
Premiere Date: Wednesday, January 11th at 10:00
Number of Episodes: 26
Premise: A self-help author’s separation from her husband becomes public and throws both her personal and professional lives into a tailspin.
Cast: Lisa Edelstein (House); Beau Garrett (Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior); Necar Zadegan (Emily Owens MD); Paul Adelstein (Scandal); and Alanna Ubach (See Dad Run).
Why You Should Catch Up: Wryly funny and deceptively self-deprecating, Bravo’s Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce is the closest spiritual successor to Sex and the City that we’ve had since Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda signed off from HBO in 2004. TV doesn’t have enough portrayals of strong female friendship, particularly when those women are in their 40s, and this glamorous and vibrant drama, with its emotionally naked portrayal of the messy process of finding oneself after major personal change, absolutely glows when centering on the aforementioned gal pals. That’s not to diminish the frank, grounded way the show tackles divorce, aging, sex, and everything in between; it’s just that those subjects particularly sing when filtered through the airtight bond between its core group of characters.
How to Watch: The show is available to stream through Netflix and select On Demand providers. You can also purchase the show through iTunes, Vudu, Microsoft, Fandango Now, Google Play, and Amazon.
The Magicians (Syfy)
Premiere Date: Wednesday, January 25th at 9:00
Number of Episodes: 13
Premise: A graduate student and longtime fantasy fan discovers that magic is real and becomes enrolled at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy to be trained as a Magician.
Cast: Jason Ralph (Aquarius); Stella Maeve (Chicago PD); Olivia Taylor Dudley (Chernobyl Diaries); Hale Appleman (Teeth); Arjun Gupta (Nurse Jackie); and Summer Bishil (Lucky 7).
Why You Should Catch Up: With spellbinding special effects and storytelling that only grows more self-assured and expansive the further you get into its first season, Syfy’s The Magicians is the type of show that can establish the cable network as a premiere destination for genre content. Based on the bestselling Lev Grossman novel series, the show is colorful in look, dialogue, and character, a project seeping with ambition and bravery when it comes to form and structure. It’s that fearlessness and unpredictability, along with a perceptive and sensitive portrayal of depression and a quick handle on what could’ve been a wonky tone, that makes The Magicians such an exciting show to watch unfold, as you never really know what the show is going to look like or where it’s going to go on a week-to-week basis.
How to Watch: The show is available to be streamed through the SyfyNow app and Syfy.com. You can also purchase the show through iTunes, Vudu, Microsoft, Google Play, and Amazon.
Man Seeking Woman (FXX)
Premiere Date: Wednesday, January 4th at 10:00
Number of Episodes: 20
Premise: A soft-spoken 20-something tries to find love after breaking up with his long-term girlfriend.
Cast: Jay Baruchel (Undeclared); Eric Andre (Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23); and Britt Lower (Unforgettable).
Why You Should Catch Up: With its literal visual manifestations of issues that come with relationships, FXX comedy Man Seeking Woman is a surreal depiction of what it’s like to love and be loved, to lose love and look for it again. Though the show centers on awkward, insecure 20-something Josh as he gets back into the dating world, its affectionate portrayal of his struggles feeds into the universality of the topic itself, as even his lowest moments are peppered with optimism. Man Seeking Woman is a show that believes in love and knows that you’ve been in similar situations that Josh is going through; it just wants you to realize that eventually things are going to work out, that there really is someone out there for everyone, that all the ugliness involved in dating is worth it in the end.
How to Watch: The show is available to stream through the FXNOW app and Hulu. You can also purchase the show through iTunes, Vudu, PlayStation, Microsoft, Fandango Now, Google Play, and Amazon.
Outsiders (WGN America)
Premiere Date: Tuesday, January 24th at 9:00
Number of Episodes: 13
Premise: An isolationist Kentucky family finds their hillside home under siege from a coal company.
Cast: Ryan Hurst (Sons of Anarchy); Joe Anderson (The River); David Morse (Treme); Gillian Alexy (Damages); Thomas M. Wright (The Bridge); Christina Jackson (Boardwalk Empire); and Kyle Gallner (Veronica Mars).
Why You Should Catch Up: WGN America drama Outsiders is a brutal glimpse at the Farrells, a self-governing family high up in the Kentucky hills who are voluntarily cut off from society. When their home is put in danger by the greed of a coal company eager to mine the Farrell land, the family springs into action in order to protect what’s theirs. Though the grander battle for Shay Mountain is compelling, particularly when Thomas M. Wright’s hapless Sheriff Wade gets thrust into a leadership position, it’s watching a very distinct family, complete with its own manner of speaking and macro structure, grapple with issues of identity, loyalty, and modernity that makes Outsiders such gripping television. There has never been a family like the Farrells in the world of scripted television and that specificity, combined with cutthroat power grabs that recall the likes of Sons of Anarchy and Black Sails, sets it apart in a crowded television landscape.
How to Watch: The show is available to stream through Hulu. You can also purchase the show through iTunes, Vudu, PlayStation, Microsoft, Fandango Now, Google Play, and Amazon.
Reign (The CW)
Premiere Date: Friday, February 10th at 9:00
Number of Episodes: 62
Premise: Mary, Queen of Scots is forced to move to France after an attempt is made on her life.
Cast: Adelaide Kane (Teen Wolf); Megan Follows (Anne of Green Gables); Toby Regbo (The Last Kingdom); Torrance Coombs (Heartland); and Craig Parker (Spartacus).
Why You Should Catch Up: Heading into its fourth and final season, CW costume drama Reign looks to continue the creative momentum it generated in a transformative third season, which saw Mary face a life without her first love and the political stability their union brought her home country. In jettisoning Francis and focusing on Mary dealing with loneliness and an uncertain future, Reign grew thematically richer in its most recent season, particularly when it compared and contrasted Mary’s troubles with those of cousin Elizabeth, herself having a difficult time ruling an England that would’ve liked nothing more than having a king on the throne. The show was always an engagingly loopy bit of historical cosplay, founded on breakneck storytelling and anchored by a commanding performance from Megan Follows, but in becoming leaner and more thoughtful in how it portrays the perils of being a woman in power, it’s a show hitting its stride at the right time and something that has the potential to go out on top creatively.
How to Watch: The show is available to stream through Netflix, with the most recent five episodes up on CWTV.com. You can also purchase the show through iTunes, Vudu, PlayStation, Microsoft, Fandango Now, Google Play, and Amazon.