The gods of winter television have heard our prayers and responded with riches — juicy dramas in settings ranging from 19th-century Manhattan to modern-day California wine country. We’ve got a front-row seat on the sofa this weekend, so come on over, and pass the remote!
Welcome to your new gild-y pleasure
The Gilded Age
What could be better than a show about the clash of cultures old and new in tumultuous 1880s Manhattan, by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes? One that stars Cynthia Nixon and Christine Baranski as old-money aunts (shades of Downton’s Dowager Crawley!), plus Audra McDonald, Bill Irwin, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Carrie Coon.
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Family drama in wine country? Cheers to that!
John Ortiz (Fast & Furious, American Gangster) stars as the patriarch of a Sonoma wine empire in a series inspired by TV’s Dallas and John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.
Watch it: Promised Land, coming Jan. 24, 10 p.m. ET to ABC, streams the next day on ABC.com and Hulu
Billions is back to juice up our weekends
Billions, Season 6
House of Cards star Corey Stoll plays Mike Prince, the exec who deposed Bobby Alexrod (Damian Lewis) as the shady boss at Axe Capital in a sizzling hit about big money, big egos and vicious maneuvers that would make Succession’s Logan Roy blush. “I got rid of the guy in the chair; I’m the one sitting in it,” gloats Prince. But corruption-busting U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) retorts, “Not for long, pal!”
A searing WWII drama ... with spies!
Munich: The Edge of War (2022)
Jeremy Irons plays British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain as he riskily negotiates with Hitler in 1938 while his secretary confers behind the scenes with an old Oxford chum who’s now on the German side.
Watch it: Munich: The Edge of War, on Netflix
Don’t miss our Netflix watch of the week
Ozark, Season 4
In the final season of Netflix’s titanic hit series, a casino-owning couple (Jason Bateman and Laura Linney) find themselves caught between the Mexican mob, homegrown drug thugs and a smart, peeved former employee (Julia Garner).
Watch it: Ozark, on Netflix
Don’t miss this: The 22 Best Things Coming to (and Leaving) Netflix in January
Catch the best Broadway plays in recent memory — from your sofa!
Some of the hottest new movies are made from plays — like The Humans and Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story. With omicron putting a serious dent in our Great White Way aspirations, we’ve got 14 Tony Award standouts made into movies, all streaming right now.
Get the list: The Best Broadway Hits You Can Watch at Home
Hot TV Tip of the Week
Ready to (finally!) get a handle of which streaming services you want, which ones to ditch, and which ones are – deep breath – free? We’ve got seven simple steps to taking control of your TV in all the right ways: How to (Finally!) Organize Your Streaming Services
Bonus: Want to watch more films for free? We’ve got the inside scoop: How to Get Video on Demand for Free
What is the best, most hilarious TV sitcom of all time?
CBS via Getty Images; Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images; Mitchell Haaseth/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
Is it M*A*S*H? I Love Lucy? The Jeffersons? Since 1951, great situation comedies have been brightening our prime times, and it’s high time to name the best of the best. Our critics went through the entire history of the small screen to name the 25 all-time best sitcoms. Bonus? We ranked them! Get the whole countdown, watch hilarious video clips, and see if our list matches yours.
Did you know that one man controls three entire nights of prime time network programming?
If you’re a Law & Order fan, you may already be guessing the right answer. It’s Dick Wolf, the 74-year-old crime-drama impresario who has — are you ready? — eight one-hour shows in prime time this season. Learn more about the amazing Mr. Wolf and what he’s got planned for our Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights this season.
Get the scoop here: The Man Who Gave Us Law & Order Is Taking Over Prime Time
Fans of Chip and Joanna Gaines, prepare to binge nonstop with our inside guide
If you love HGTV and home renovation shows, chances are you’ve fallen hard for Joanna and Chip Gaines, the married hosts of Fixer Upper. But did you know that the designers are in the process of launching their own entire television channel? The Magnolia Network is coming, but until it hits the airwaves in January 2022, we’ve got a shortcut (two, actually) to stream their new lineups of original unscripted programming, which officially launched this July. Start bingeing now, folks!
From football and ice hockey to professional wrestling, these TV comedies are all-star fun
Take your local live sports seriously? We know, we know. But there’s a wonderfully funny world of sports sitcoms out there, and what with Ted Lasso ruling the airwaves right now (have you watched?), our critics thought it was high time we named names. From Coach to this week’s new show Big Shot, check out our hottest new watch list: The Best Sports-Themed Sitcoms to Stream Now
Love Law & Order? Have we got a list for you!
If you’ve been part of Law & Order nation since Jerry Orbach was shaking his head at corpses on the mean streets of New York in the 1990s, we know you’ve followed the spin-offs and have watched some of them become blockbusters. But which ones are the best of the best? Our critics have ranked all seven Law & Order iterations, plus offered up the very best episode from each series to watch right now. It’s a dream come true. Check it out here: What’s the Best Law & Order Series of All Time?
Also catch up with ...
Single Drunk Female
Ally Sheedy, the 1980s Brat Packer, plays a difficult Boston mother whose alcoholic New York daughter (Sofia Black D’Elia) moves in with her to get sober and start a new, happier life — despite having to deal with remnants of her old life, such as her best friend now dating her ex.
All Creatures Great and Small, Season 2
Flee today’s troubles to the cozy world of 1930s Yorkshire, England, where veterinarian James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) is so smart he even knows about that newfangled invention called X-rays. This season, romances bloom, and joining the cast are Amy Nuttall (Downton Abbey’s Ethel Parks) as a local farmer, Call the Midwife’s Dorothy Atkinson as the woman who beguiles Siegfried at the church dance, and — replacing the late Diana Rigg — Patricia Hodge (Miranda, Downton Abbey) as the colorful Mrs. Pumphrey, who often carries her pet Pekingese Tricki Woo.
The Righteous Gemstones, Season 2
So you’re a Succession addict seeking a new hilariously dark show about an entrepreneurial patriarch and the kids scheming to seize his power? Try this saga of televangelist Eli Gemstone (John Goodman) and his kids (Danny McBride, Edi Patterson and Adam Devine). Walton Goggins is great as Goodman’s televangelist brother-in-law Uncle Baby Billy, a serial wife-abandoner, and Eric Roberts joins the cast as the son of the wrestling promoter who introduced Eli to a life of crime back when he was a pro wrestler called the Maniac Kid.
Vera, Season 11
Can’t travel to England this year? You’ll feel like you’re there while watching this mystery series with brilliant Brenda Blethyn (Secrets & Lies) as the gumshoe heroine of crime writer Ann Cleeves’ tales set in Northumberland. It’s got charming villages, beautiful dunes, inspiring castles and lots of people who turn up dead under circumstances throwing suspicion on friends and relatives. Only the totally irritable, not-at-all-fashion-forward sleuth Vera Stanhope can nab the baddies.
Watch it: Vera, on BritBox
Being the Ricardos
(Amazon Prime Video)
Nicole Kidman, 54, plays Lucille Ball, whose I Love Lucy ruled 1950s TV. Writer-director Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, The West Wing), 60, makes the love-and-loathe story between Ball and her onscreen-and-actual Cuban American husband Desi Arnaz (a loose and engaged Javier Bardem, 52) a workplace dramedy unfolding in a single crisis-plagued week. Public accusations that the controlling leading lady has a communist past — and private indications of Arnaz’s sexual infidelity — threaten both the sitcom and their marriage. The dialog is pungent, the pace fast, and J.K. Simmons, 66, steals the show as William Frawley, delivering some of Sorkin’s sharpest lines as the sardonic, hard-drinking actor who played the Ricardos’ neighbor Fred.
Watch it: Being the Ricardos, on Amazon Prime
The Hand of God, R
Director Paolo Sorrentino won the foreign-film Oscar for The Great Beauty, and Italy hopes his autobiographical coming-of-age-in-Naples movie will repeat the feat.
Watch it: The Hand of God, on Netflix
The Power of the Dog, R
Jane Campion’s glorious, sweeping and intimate Oscar-bound Western is set at the volatile crossroads of horse culture and the horseless carriage in 1925 Montana, on the ranch of the bachelor Burbank brothers, menacing Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and temperate George (rock-solid Jesse Plemons). Phil, rangy of build and cunning of eye, is a charismatic and cutting alpha dog. Beneath his bullying hide, he has repressed his authentic, vulnerable self. His secrets erupt when George weds the widow Rose Gordon (a finely wrought Kirsten Dunst), who triangulates their relationship, threatening Phil’s fierce frontier facade. A compelling, visceral tale that sticks its devastating landing.
Watch it: The Power of the Dog, on Netflix
What could be more exciting than Kevin Costner’s hit Western Yellowstone? Its prequel, starring real-life couple Tim McGraw and Faith Hill as his rancher character’s ancestors and Sam Elliott as one crusty cowboy who treks with them from Texas to Montana. Billy Bob Thornton plays a tough-hombre marshal. Tom Hanks plays a general based on George Meade, who beat Gen. Lee at Gettysburg.
Watch it: 1883, on Paramount+
Halle Berry, 55, doesn’t play nice in her gritty feature directorial debut. In a cross between Million Dollar Baby and Raging Bull, she stars as hard-drinking MMA vet Jackie Justice. The fighter’s spectacular flameout in the cage left the Newark, New Jersey, native in a spiral of booze, abuse and bad choices. When the 6-year-old son Jackie abandoned as an infant suddenly shows up, mute and damaged, it puts her at a crossroads: Can she regain her dignity and find her inner dragon mom? You betcha — and it will all end in one thrilling flyweight title fight, with a little help from Jackie’s gay trainer, Buddhakan (striking Sheila Atim). Go, Berry, for taking your muscular, agile self where Antoine Fuqua, 55, once took Denzel Washington, 66, and for showing audiences the magnitude of your range. Kick butt, break rules and direct your first feature after 50? Maybe Berry could be the next Bond.
Watch it: Bruised, on Netflix
The Beatles: Get Back
There’s never been a better time to be a Fab Four fan. Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson turns 150 hours of 50-year-old footage of the Beatles in the studio creating 14 songs (and doing their last public performance) into a spanking-new docuseries with scenes you’ve never seen before.
Watch it: The Beatles: Get Back, on Disney+
Don’t miss this: Giles Martin, son of their first producer George Martin, tells AARP about his new, five-disk Let It Be album and the new documentary from Peter Jackson. Read it all here: Beatles Fans, Rejoice: New Documentary and Album Set the 'Get Back' Record Straight
Actress Rebecca Hall, who is biracial, makes her directorial debut in an adaptation of the classic 1920s novel about two Black sisters, one who joins the Harlem Renaissance (Tessa Thompson), the other passing as white (Ruth Negga).
Watch it: Passing, on Netflix
Yellowstone, Season 4
One of TV’s biggest hits sounds a lot like Succession, only it’s got eight times as many viewers: Kevin Costner, 66, plays John Dutton, a fabulously wealthy Montana rancher whose kids fight for his approval, and he schemes to thwart developers, Indigenous tribes and other rivals for power. Think of it as Succession with murders, or The Godfather with cowboy hats. Costner's tall-in-the-saddle tyrant evidently survived last season's cliffhanger ending, when he faced a fusillade of bullets. But now he faces a scary new enemy. Market Equities, the deep-pocket firm that tried to heist his ranch and turn it into an airport/ski lodge development, just hired a new CEO (Jacki Weaver, 74, Oscar nominated for the must-see movies Silver Linings Playbook and Animal Kingdom). “She’s a city slicker walking through fields of cowpats in designer heels and classy tailored suits," Weaver told TV Insider. "She looks out of place, but she’s terrifying."
Watch it: Yellowstone, on Paramount Network
The Harder They Fall
Like a Tarantino romp, only faster-paced, Jeymes Samuel’s Black Western is a sort-of-historical hoot and a holler. It really is history-inspired: Blacks were a quarter of America’s cowboys, and the movie’s stampede of stars play wildly fictionalized actual people: Bass Reeves (Delroy Lindo, 68), the West’s first Black deputy U.S. marshal; outlaws Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) and Nat Love (Jonathan Majors); and Stagecoach Mary (Zazie Beetz), the first Black U.S. mail carrier. Treacherous Trudy Smith (Regina King, 50) is a gas but not real. Get ready for tongue-in-cheek genre pastiche, high-noon showdowns and saloon shootouts, shot with flippant style and a killer soundtrack by everyone from Fela Kuti to Jay-Z (a coproducer). It’s overstuffed with terrific actors having a blast, and the fun’s infectious.
Watch it: The Harder They Fall, on Netflix
Don’t Miss This: 11 Gems From the Black Film Archive to Watch Now
Succession, Season 3
In the superb show about power struggles in a super-rich, entertainingly evil family, downtrodden son Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) has the upper hand over his domineering dad, Logan (Brian Cox, 75), who vows to “go full [expletive] beast” on his offspring. New cast members Alexander Skarsgard and Adrien Brody liven up the wicked mix.
Watch it: Succession, on HBO Max
Don’t miss this: 10 Things to Know About Succession
B Positive, Season 2
In the comedy series about a retirement community from the maker of The Big Bang Theory and The Kominsky Project, grownups are taking over. Linda Lavin (83) plays a sharp, witty resident of the Valley Hills Assisted Living facility, a surrogate mom to impulsive young Valley Hills van driver Gina (Annaleigh Ashford). The killer cast includes Celia Weston (69), Lavin’s costar on TV’s classic Alice, as the terminally ill wife of a brusque Valley Hills resident (Héctor Elizondo, 84), Jane Seymour (70), as a beauty who finds aging unwelcome, and Ben Vereen (74) as a retired professor with memory issues.
DON’T MISS THIS: Linda Lavin tells AARP her 16 steps to aging well
In a new Netflix original series adapting Stephanie Land’s best-selling memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive, Margaret Qualley plays a single mom and Andie MacDowell, 63 (her actual mom), plays her lively, apparently mentally ill mother who refuses treatment and acts out in a dramatic way that is God’s gift to an actress. A grueling but important study of domestic abuse, poverty and overwhelming dysfunction.
Watch it: Maid, on Netflix
The Wonder Years
The 1980s hit about coming of age in the ’60s is back, this time chronicling the life of a Black kid (Elisha “EJ” Williams) in Montgomery, Alabama, and his musician/professor father (Dulé Hill), working mom (Saycon Sengbloh) and teen sister (Laura Kariuki). But the most famous actor is the narrator, Don Cheadle (56), who says, “One thing about being 12 that hasn’t changed over the decades is that it’s around 12 that you figure out what your place is in the world.” It’s produced and directed by Fred Savage (45), who played the 12-year-old originally.
DON’T MISS THIS: It's Reboot Mania Right Now in TV Land
Ted Lasso, Season 2
If you watch only one show this summer, make it this one, a heartwarming, dark-horse hit comedy that’s the antidote to our bitter times. Jason Sudeikis plays a relentlessly upbeat American football coach who knows nada about soccer but gets hired to coach a soccer team in England. Apple TV+ has a first-week-free offer, and if you bought a new iPhone lately, you probably have a year’s free subscription on it.
Watch it: Ted Lasso, on Apple TV+
DON’T MISS THIS: 10 Facts You Need to Know About Jason Sudeikis’ Hit Show Ted Lasso
The Underground Railroad
(Amazon Prime Video)
You knew this 10-episode adaptation of MacArthur genius Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer and National Book Award-winning novel about escaping slaves by Oscar winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk) would be worth seeing. But it turns out to be an epic, Handmaid’s Tale-topping dystopian masterpiece that dwarfs every other new film or TV show.
DON’T MISS THIS: 11 Black Filmmakers You Should Know
In the intergenerational show of the year, Jean Smart (Designing Women, Mare of Easttown) stars as a Las Vegas comedy legend forced to mentor an up-and-coming comic (Hannah Einbinder). The show is much-buzzed, and insiders predict that Smart, who got Emmy nominations for Watchmen, Fargo and 24, may land her first lead actress nomination for this extremely juicy role. High time!
Watch it: Hacks, on HBO Max
DON’T MISS THIS: Getting Smart: Jean Smart shares her secrets about feeling sexy and nabbing the best roles of her life at 69
Godfather of Harlem, Season 2
Forest Whitaker, 59, returns for his second season as Bumpy Johnson, the real-life 1960s mobster who dated Lena Horne, played chess with Lucky Luciano and befriended Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. Joining the cast are Cliff “Method Man” Smith, as the Philly Black Mafia chief Sam Christian, and Annabella Sciorra, as mob wife Fay Bonanno.
Watch it: Godfather of Harlem, on Epix
Don’t miss this: Forest Whitaker talks with AARP about playing Bumpy Johnson and looks back on his life and shares what he knows now.
Bryan Cranston, who played a good-hearted teacher forced to go criminal to save his family on Breaking Bad, plays a New Orleans judge scheming to help his son escape a hit-and-run accident charge in a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game with the law.
Watch it: Your Honor, on Showtime
RELATED: Cranston talks with AARP about his two good bad-guy roles and his real-life near-recovery from COVID-19: Bryan Cranston Is Back to Challenge Our Loyalties in Your Honor
Netflix’s Black Lives Matter Collection
Netflix unveils a useful, intelligently curated menu of 48 or so top titles including When They See Us, Moonlight, Malcolm X and the current must-see, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods (which could win star Delroy Lindo the Oscar he’s deserved for some time, and maybe the Emmy, too).
Watch it: Netflix
Tim Appelo covers entertainment and is the film and TV critic for AARP. Previously, he was the entertainment editor at Amazon, video critic at Entertainment Weekly, and a critic and writer for The Hollywood Reporter, People, MTV, The Village Voice and LA Weekly.