Tis the season for binge-watching

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Wednesday November 29, 2017
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Now that Thanksgiving is over, the season of parties and seeing people you love as well as those you only see once a year is in full swing. When you're not hyper-socializing, it's time to just Netflix and chill, right?

Tis the season for binge-watching. Season finales have left us hanging till January. Series finales have left us bereft. Now the holiday movies are on repeat, holiday specials are rife, and the limited holiday series are back to keep you feeling festive.

We've always wanted a gay holiday series. It seems like a natural. Who cares more about decorating than we do? But that lightbulb hasn't gone off in any network execs meetings yet. Maybe next year.

The Wife says that one of the reasons we always felt so left out of holiday specials is they looked so very straight, and it just made us feel that much more different and ostracized from the Rockwellian perspective on the holidays. We agree, but this year The Gays have infiltrated many of the erstwhile venues, so there may be a place for us at the holiday table yet.

So for now, content yourselves with the gay-ish likes of "The Great Christmas Bake-Off" and "The Great Festive Bake-Off." These two British imports are full of cheating back-story and queerish everything. Available on Netflix and YouTube, and they are perfect for getting you in the holiday baking or bitching spirit.

It's always the time for DIY advice, and no one delivers it with as much gay punch as the crew at ABC's "The Chew." On Dec. 3 they get you prepped for what the next few weeks will bring for the best holiday party ever. Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Clinton Kelly and Carla Hall present "The Chew: Snowed in for the Holidays," and it will be everything from food to crafts. And since they do it all right in front of you, DVR this for tips on how to make a quick-but-fabulously festive meal for 20 or how to make that decor pop without breaking the bank. Human Nature will perform holiday carols to get us in the mood.

Sometimes you just need a little comic relief from the pressure the holidays bring. We were fortunate to be out of the hospital and in the embrace of our very queer chosen family for Thanksgiving, but in Trumplandia, we know how blessed we are as friends of ours traveled into the heart of "Hillary should be locked up" country.

We had some fun family moments back in the day with Carol Burnett, so we think CBS' "Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special" is probably something you and the family can enjoy together, if you need a break from politics in a mixed setting. Dec. 3 the doyenne of sketch slapstick is back with a plethora of queer and queer-friendly guests. In addition to original cast members Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner, out gay costume designer Bob Mackie will also join the celebration.

We wish we'd known Mackie was gay when we were a gay kid. The iconic designer spent 48 years with his partner Ray Aghayan before the fellow designer and Academy Award for Costume Design nominee's death in 2011. There's a tidbit you can toss out to the family, if necessary. Few straight marriages last as long. (Sadly, Mackie's only child, son Robin, died of AIDS-related complications in 1994.)

Burnett's anniversary special takes place in the original soundstage of "The Carol Burnett Show" at CBS Television City. Plus, friends and comedians including Jim Carrey, Kristin Chenoweth, Stephen Colbert, Jay Leno, out lesbian actress Jane Lynch and Maya Rudolph, among others, will chat with Burnett about her favorite sketches, guest stars and iconic wardrobe.

Kevin Spacey had been scheduled to be part of the anniversary special, but the plethora of allegations of pedophilia against the actor caused CBS to cut him from the program. Spacey had also taped a segment with Burnett, Chenoweth and Tony-winning actress Bernadette Peters. Unsure if that will still air.

If you want to see Mariah Carey lip-synch her way through another holiday special, the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center is always a good place to start. She gets dragged every year, but still keeps coming back because she loves us. "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" has the lighting of the tree as well as some other star performances from Jennifer Nettles, Leslie Odom Jr., Pentatonix, Gwen Stefani and the Tenors. We've found this show is good accompaniment every year for wrapping gifts.

Nothing reminds us more of what it was to be a gay kid than any Charlie Brown special, so be sure to tune in for "A Charlie Brown Christmas" Nov. 30 on ABC. When will someone do a Charlie Brown-grows-up-and-comes-out-and-takes-on-the-bullies special? Until we see that, sit back and weep for the 100th or 1000th time to Vince Guaraldi's beautiful score and watch the gayest transformation ever when that spindly little tree becomes a gay design spectacular worthy of RuPaul. Charlie Brown has our hearts, and so does this classic.

Gwen Stefani hosts her first-ever holiday special, "Gwen Stefani's You Make It Feel Like Christmas," on December 12 on NBC. "The Voice" judge and erstwhile Hollaback Girl will be putting an edge to holiday classics like "Santa Baby." Her paramour and fellow "The Voice" judge, Blake Shelton, who was chosen as People's Sexiest Man Alive last month by people who don't know sexy or, apparently, men, will also appear. Other guests include Chelsea Handler, Ken Jeong, Seth MacFarlane and Ne-Yo, for a truly not-your-usual-holiday-special line-up. Chelsea Handler seems like that auntie who everyone waits to see what she'll do this year when she turns up to spill tea everywhere.

If you're looking for something a little less white and even more edgy, nothing says snap diva like "Empire's" Cookie Lyons. We can just hear her saying, "Why don't you back off and let me handle Christmas? And while you're at it, get your hands off my fur!"

We don't know what she'll be wearing, but we expect lots of fur when Taraji P. Henson, hosts her annual holiday variety special. Among the list of guests for "Taraji's White Hot Holidays" Dec. 14 on Fox are Henson's onscreen son, Jussie Smollett (Jamal), which gives us the opportunity to quote the actor/singer on his own coming out. "There's never been a closet that I've been in," he told Ellen DeGeneres, which is always good for closeted folks of any age to hear, but especially teens who need to know it's okay to be out - especially at this time of year.

Another fave quote of ours from Smollett, "I am a gay man with an extremely open heart. I've never had to talk about this, so I'm trying to find the words. If I had to label myself, I would label myself as a gay man. With that said, I believe that love is the only thing that matters, and I would hope that anybody would leave themselves open - not to gender, but to love. I would hope that people would not close themselves off from what could be if, lo and behold, you meet somebody that just sweeps you off your feet, and you just can't do anything about it. If we truly believe that we are born this way, then why do we try to stifle the way we were born?"

Smollett said DeGeneres told him he didn't have to talk about his private life if he didn't want to, but he was ready to do so. "[Ellen] told me, 'You don't have to.' I will be forever grateful to Ellen for the kindness she showed me. And that made me want to talk about it."

Other stars who will be headlining with Henson and Smollett on Henson's holiday special are Fergie, Ciara, the great Chaka Khan, Faith Evans, Salt-N-Peppa and Leslie Odom Jr. So, as Cookie would say, "Everybody wants to be Beyonce, but nobody wants to put in the work." Be sure to DVR this one. White-hot indeed.

Henson's special is followed by "Showtime at the Apollo: Christmas." Steve Harvey and Adrienne Hough ("The Real") will co-host the hour-long special as legends Snoop Dogg, Boyz II Men, Fifth Harmony and DMX put their spin on holiday music in front of a live audience inside the Apollo Theater. Plus, there will also be a live talent competition at the legendary venue.

If neither of those shows is you, the CW will be presenting iHeartRadio's "Jingle Ball Tour" in the same time slot on Dec. 14. The epic lineup includes Demi Lovato, Taylor Swift, Kesha, Sam Smith, Fifth Harmony, Camila Cabello, Liam Payne and The Chainsmokers.

"Will & Grace" has made such a spectacular comeback in their reboot that Debra Messing (Grace) and Eric McCormack (Will) are now everywhere. Messing is a big voice for the anti-Trump Resistance on social media and elsewhere, as well as being a longtime LGBT ally. So we're happy to see these two have a holiday-ish special to keep it real.

Dec. 13 the duo will be hosting "The Golden Globes 75th Anniversary Special" on their network, NBC. This is one of those extravaganza shows with the most glam moments, as well as the hilarious ones from the Golden Globes over the decades.

The two-hour special will feature a countdown of the best Golden Globe-winning movies of all time chosen by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The special will also highlight speeches, fashion and red carpet moments, plus interviews with past Globe winners like Nicole Kidman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Julia Roberts, Jacob Tremblay, Kate Winslet, and many more.

"A Christmas Story" is one of those iconic holiday films that you just have to watch every year along with "It's a Wonderful Life." On Dec. 13, Fox is doing yet another live production, this time of that classic. "A Christmas Story Live!" features several newly composed songs and a great cast. The three-hour live production will feature Tony-winner Matthew Broderick as the all-grown-up Ralphie Parker, who narrates the story. Actress and "SNL" alum Maya Rudolph plays Mrs. Parker, and newcomer Andy Walken is the new Ralphie. Other cast members include Tony winner Jane Krakowski, "Silicon Valley's" Chris Diamantopoulos and Ana Gasteyer ("Lady Dynamite," "SNL").

For Whovians, "The Doctor Who Christmas Special 2017" drops Dec. 18 on Amazon. Also available on Amazon for holiday viewing, "Bad Santa 2," "Office Christmas Party" and perennial dysfunctional family favorite "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

If you're looking for something for Hanukkah, which begins Dec. 12, good luck. Nothing calls BS on the much-vaunted right-wing cry of "The liberals have a war on Christmas!" than nonstop Christmas specials. (Trump campaigned on how once he was president people would be able to say Merry Christmas again, like that ever stopped and Christmas carols don't start playing everywhere the day after Halloween.)

Nevertheless, we found one film that's achieved cult and Netflix status that might be fun for the Jewish holidays: The 2003 film "The Hebrew Hammer." Yes, in this film an Orthodox Jewish Blaxploitation hero saves Hanukkah from the clutches of Santa Claus' evil son who wants to destroy Hanukkah and force everyone to celebrate Christmas. Prescient, no? Who wouldn't love this? (We can't help thinking of Santa Claus' evil son as some member of the Trump family.) The film, directed by Jonathan Kesselman, was a hit at Sundance the year it debuted.

"The Hebrew Hammer" stars Adam Goldberg ("Fargo," Graves") as Mordecai Jefferson Carver, bisexual comedian Andy Dick as the villain Damian Claus, the fabulous Judy Greer ("Arrested Development," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia") as Esther Bloomenbergensteinenthal, and Mario Van Peebles as Mohammed Ali Paula Abdul Rahim. Also in the cast are "SNL" alums Nora Dunn and Rachel Dratch, the great Melvin Van Pebbles and more. Even if you aren't Jewish and just need a comedic break, this cult classic is worth a look.

If you just can't bear the thought of a single holiday anything on the tube, there are some fabulous series premiering right now just for you. USA's "Damnation" debuted Nov. 7, but you can catch up to this gripping period drama on USA or Netflix, with whom USA collaborated for this series.

Set in the 1930s, which were rife with strikes as the Great Depression crushed workers, the focal point is a preacher, Seth Davenport (Killian Scott), who is leading workers and preaching much more than gospel amidst the amber waves of grain in the American heartland. Davenport has a hidden past, as is revealed when gunslinger Creeley Turner (Logan Marshall-Green) comes to town, guns blazing.

"Damnation" is described by USA as "an epic saga about the secret history of the 1930s American heartland, centering on the mythic conflict and bloody struggle between big money and the downtrodden."

We love this series. It's hyperrealistic and could be more parallel to the current battles between most of us and the robber baron GOP. This show has everything: a female assassin, a butch lesbian brothel owner, a black prostitute who's the only denizen of the brothel who can read, which leads her to her own adventure, a Cain and Abel story of warring brothers, a terrorizing alt-right gang, Men in Power determined to crush even the thought of rebellion, and a landscape that is as heartbreakingly beautiful as it is terrifying. The acting by Scott, Logan Marshall-Green, Chasen Harmon ("Elementary") as the black prostitute Bessie, Christopher Heyerdahl and Melinda Page Hamilton among others, is just stellar. This series dropped at a weird time, and seems to be off the radar of many. Like USA's last original series "The Sinner," this is a really compelling drama you don't want to miss.

"Damnation" creator and showrunner Tony Tost is not your basic TV producer. With a Ph.D. in English literature from Duke, his first book of poetry won the Walt Whitman Award when he was 27. He's founded two literary journals and he's from Missouri, so he knows heartland, and it shows in his writing of this series as it did in his previous series, the A&E/Netflix collaboration, "Longmire." Tost also subscribes to the 50/50 plan in directing - more than half "Damnation's" episodes have been directed by women. Put it on your binge list. Uplifting it isn't. Inspiring it is.

Amazon is releasing season one of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" Nov. 29, and if the teaser is to be believed, this will be one of December's gifts. Set in the 1950s, Miriam "Midge" Maisel is a content wife and mother whose perfect life takes a sudden turn when her husband leaves her and she discovers she has her own talent: stand-up comedy. When she meets Lenny Bruce, who warns her off comedy, she decides to try something new - and gets arrested.

Bawdy, hilarious, fresh and with a stunning lead in Rachel Brosnahan ("House of Cards," for which she was nominated for an Emmy, and another period piece, "Manhattan"), "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" was made to be binged over the holidays. Also starring Alex Borstein, Tony Shalhoub and Main Hinkle.

"Dark" is the darkest and most intriguing new series to end a year of stellar series. The Netflix original drops Dec. 1. Think "The Killing" meets "Broadchurch," "The Sweet Hereafter" and "X-Files," and you have an idea of what to expect. The supernatural thriller is a German-language original, a first for Netflix, which describes "Dark" as a drama in which the disappearance of two young children in a German town brings light to the fractured relationships, double lives and past of four families living there. Not for those who can't handle subtitles, but the trailers are amazing.

So for the frothy, festive and fabulous, as well as for whatever fresh hell evolves in the real life "House of Cards," you know you really must stay tuned.