Skip to main content

The best shows to catch up on over holiday break

Kaley Cuoco in "The Flight Attendant" on HBO Max.
Kaley Cuoco in "The Flight Attendant" on HBO Max. (Image credit: WarnerMedia)

Sometimes, the best shows to catch up on over the holiday break aren't holiday related at all. Christmas time always has its rough points, but no one can pretend like this year doesn't have an extra twinge of holiday ho-hum. Over the last five years or so, we've seen a new Golden Age of television. Incredible series after incredible series enters the airwaves, and parsing through what's available can be downright daunting.

To be honest, the fact that we're surrounded by non-stop incredible television while still only having twenty-four usable hours in every day is criminal. But what a perfectly splendid problem to have! Here are some of the best TV shows to binge while you've got a little extra time on your hands.

The Flight Attendant

Based on the book by Chris Bohjalian, The Flight Attendant takes a bunch of genres, pours them over ice and then shakes the hell out of them. And somehow what comes out is a compelling series. That's likely due in no small part to Kaley Cuoco's involvement as star and executive producer.

Cuoco is Cassie Bowden, an alcoholic flight attendant who gives in and has a night so good in Bangkok with the passenger from Seat 3C that she doesn't remember much of the great time they had, or who ended up slashing his throat while he was in bed with her.

What follows is one part murder mystery, one part caper, another part chase, a little bit of espionage thrown in for good measure, and finally a tough look at Cassie's childhood trauma, since repressed by years and years of booze.

Season 1 is available now on HBO, and a Season 2 is on the way

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is the kind of show comic book fans have been waiting for, and general enthusiasts had no idea they needed. It also just so happens to be one of the rare series' that improves over time. Season 1 is alright, Season 2 is great, and Season 3 is downright stellar. It's vastly different from the Sabrina the Teenage Witch many of us grew up with, but that's not to its detriment. You'll probably see a few familiar faces along the way, too. 

If you get this binge finished up soon enough, you'll be caught up just in time for the fourth and final season. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 4 premieres December 31st on Netflix. 

Doom Patrol

There are two teams made up of DC Comics' greatest failures: the Doom Patrol and the Legends of Tomorrow. While both shows are exceptional, Doom Patrol is a little bit of an easier binge when you want to get to multiple shows. (Doom has two seasons available now, one of which is short due to COVID, while Legends of Tomorrow will premiere its fifth season in 2021.) 

The series follows a band of misfits as they do their best to save the world while also attempting to get their own shit together. It's the ideal show to watch if you want to watch a cockroach and a rat make out. Bonus: they're the size of kaiju when they do it. 

Season 3 of the series was announced back in September

Ted Lasso

You don't have to watch English football to enjoy Ted Lasso. You don't even have to watch American football to enjoy Ted Lasso. You will have to get the irony and dickishness of a Midwestern college football coach being tapped to lead a struggling Premier League team, but that's sort of the point of the show. Everyone is a dick in their own way. The catch is that only one of them is truly aware of that fact — and he's the only one who can lead everyone out of the darkness.

Ted Lasso is a fun, irreverent binge. It's obvious at times, but also very funny. And damned if it doesn't sneak up on you at the end and make you feel exactly what you knew was coming all along — but in that sort of way that makes you enjoy it all the same.

Cobra Kai

Cobra Kai is the ideal binge whether you're one of Karate Kids' biggest fans or have no strong connection to the series what-so-ever. The series follows Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) decades after their fateful All Valley tournament. We quickly learn that the two men aren't the only ones affected by their feud, and it is genuinely all up hill from there. The series explores the flaws of both men in a compelling manner while introducing a new generation of students who find themselves locked in a war decades in the making. 

This is the type of series that should be taught to anyone attempting to put together a nostalgia vehicle. There's no denying that a love for the past is an aspect of the show, but it's done so in a way that welcomes new fans in with open arms. If you're hoping to get a new series in but find yourself with time constraints, Cobra Kai is the way to go. There are currently twenty thirty-minute (or so) episodes available across both seasons, with Season 3 headed your way in January on Netflix.

Lovecraft Country

There's no disputing the racist content in H.P. Lovecraft's vast collection of novels and short stories. We're not talking "you can't judge past art by current cultural standards" racist, either. Guy was yikes! Enter Lovecraft Country, an HBO Original based on the novel written by Matt Ruff. Neither the book or the series are written with the intent to directly contemplate Lovecraft's white supremacy (much to their benefit). Instead, they take a look at the conjunction between horror and Jim Crowe era terrors. 

The series boasts an exceptional cast that elevate an already solid series to great heights. Jurnee Smollett is a particular stand out, but there's not a bad performance in the bunch. It's not always an "easy" watch, but there are many moments throughout the series that make it a remarkable one.

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous 

Though you probably wouldn't anticipate a kids show based in the Jurassic Park universe to be a solid watch, Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous exceeds all expectations. The dinosaurs and the landscapes are impeccably animated by the teams at Dreamworks, while the children who find themselves in the park's newest camp boast relatable but unique stories to keep viewers of all ages engaged.

When you start the series, there's no real expectation for stakes. Camp Cretaceous is marketed to the 10-13 age-bracket, so how much dino-violence could there really be? Honestly, the answer is quite a bit. Don't stress though, parents! It's done mostly off-screen and there's never any blood. The series remains very firmly in PG land, but it does so in a way that won't be boring for older viewers.

Season 2 of the series will be headed to Netflix in 2022.

The Haunting (of Hill House) (of Bly Manor)

Because of the anthological nature of Netflix's The Haunting of series, there's really no great way to put a header on the two existing series. All the same, rest assured that they're both exceptional - and very different - seasons of television. 

While Hill House and Bly Manor will both hit you at your core, they'll come at you from different angles when they do. Each delivers their exposition differently, as well as presenting a (mostly) new cast from season to season. Hill House will introduce you to the Crane family, and teach you how much "the rest is confetti" can really mean. Meanwhile, Bly Manor will show you not to give up today just because of what may happen tomorrow. Each is masterfully told and come with my highest recommendations. 

Amelia Emberwing

Amelia Emberwing is the Entertainment Editor and lead critic here at What to Watch. She survives on a steady IV of caffeine, rants, pixie dust and fangirling, and will probably sass you. You can find her on Rotten Tomatoes as an individually approved critic. She's also a member of the Television Critics Association and GALECA.