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Winter TV Watch List: Androids and Clones and MacGruber, Oh My!

A look at some highlights from the world of TV and streaming for the week of December 11-17

While we’re getting closer to the big holiday at the end of the month, things aren’t getting any cheerier in TV land, with global viruses, potentially unsolved murders, cloning, Witchers and killer androids all dominating our screens. Yeah, things are very much real.

But don’t worry, MacGruber (Will Forte) has returned to take care of everything while also making you laugh very, very hard.

On with the television!

MacGruber - Season 1

Thursday, December 16, Peacock

The day we never thought would happen is finally here. “MacGruber” is back. Will Forte returns as the dimwitted, gleefully profane MacGuyver-style hero that he originated on a series of brief, bizarre “Saturday Night Live” sketches (and an equally WTF-worthy Pepsi Super Bowl commercial) and immortalized in 2010’s cult comedy movie of the same name. Forte is joined by Kristin Wiig, who has been a part of the shenanigans since the beginning, and Ryan Phillippe, who joined the team in the movie. And Laurence Fishburne, Sam Elliott and Billy Zane are making their “MacGruber” debuts. Director Jorma Taccone has been talking about a follow-up to the movie for almost 10 years, so this is a long time coming – especially for “MacGruber” superfans. After weeks of prestige television shows and movies, it’ll be nice to indulge in some silliness. [TRAILER]

winter tv finale

Sunday, December 12 at 9 p.m., HBO

The Emmy-winning drama series wraps up its third season on Sunday, and bets are already being placed on whether Kendall survives the episode. Weddings and HBO have a deadly history, and this Sunday’s finale finds the Roy family still assembled in Tuscany for the nuptials of the kids’ mom, Caroline. Will Kendall bounce back? Will Tom and Shiv’s marriage crater? Can Roman possibly recover (psychologically, we mean) from the recent text-message switcheroo? Titled “All the Bells Say,” the eighth and final episode of the season is written by the show’s creator Jesse Armstrong and directed by Mark Mylod. [INTERVIEW]

winter tv watch list movie
Swan Song
Apple TV+

“Swan Song”
Friday, December 17, Apple TV+

The feature film debut of Oscar-winning Irish writer-director Benjamin Cleary, “Swan Song” is the kind of high-concept, small-scale sci-fi film that works perfectly on a streaming platform. National treasure Mahershala Ali stars as Cameron Turner, a man living in the near future who, faced with a terminal illness, is convinced by a doctor (Glenn Close) to undergo a process to have himself cloned. Of course, complications ensue. Earlier reviews have praised the film’s poignancy, “Outer Limits”-y premise and its stellar supporting cast, which also includes Awkwafina, Adam Beach and Naomie Harris. Almost everyone agrees that it’ll make you cry. And who doesn’t need some good, cathartic tears around the holiday? [REVIEW]

winter tv watch list documentary
Real Charlie Chaplin

“The Real Charlie Chaplin”
Saturday, December 11 at 8 p.m., Showtime

Charlie Chaplin is one of the most iconic (and elusive) figures from film history, and “The Real Charlie Chaplin” is a deep dive of the man himself. Using archival materials (including a rare autobiographical audio interview conducted for Life magazine in 1966), interviews with people who knew him and footage from his various projects, the film pieces together a more complete picture of the often controversial comedian and filmmaker. It is obviously an impossible task to condense and explain the life of such a complicated man in a couple of hours, but “The Real Charlie Chaplin” gives it a shot. [TRAILER]

winter tv watch rewatch of the week
X-Files Christmas

“The X-Files” (“How the Ghosts Stole Christmas”)

Yes, “The X-Files” is a daunting prospect for a rewatch. There are 11 seasons (including two smaller, “limited series”) and two feature-length films (the first of which remains one of the more entertaining big-budget spectacles of the late 1990s). But let’s make things easier: “The X-Files” has one of the all-time greatest Christmas episodes, unique for a show that traded on darkly tinged subject matter: “The Ghosts Who Stole Christmas” (Season 6, Episode 6). Not only is it one of the most intimate episodes of the series, with just four speaking roles (including David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson) and a single set (a haunted house maximized for ooh-spookiness), but it’s also one of the sweetest. Another reason to watch this episode is for the involvement of Ed Asner, who passed away earlier this year and who is absolutely terrific as one half of a spectral couple (which also includes Lily Tomlin). When the episode aired, it also generated a lot of talk about the final scene: What did Mulder and Scully get each other for Christmas? You tell us! [WATCH]

winter tv watch best of the rest

“The Murders at Starved Rock”
Tuesday, December 14 at 8 p.m., HBO
Are we still into true crime? OK, good. “The Murders at Starved Rock” chronicles the murders of three women in Starved Rock State Park in La Salle County, Illinois. While a man was tried and convicted, doubts still lingered about the case itself and the prosecution that followed. What makes this three-part series (directed by “McMillion$” vet Jody McVeigh-Schultz) even more intriguing is that one of the people involved is the son of the last living prosecutor of the case. So, yeah, this is going to get complicated. [TRAILER]

Wednesday, December 15, Paramount+
This animated feature, co-produced by the WWE and set in a world where giant, Godzilla-like monsters battle it out in wrestling arenas, had a number of release dates and is now (finally!) landing as a Paramount+ exclusive. The movie stars Will Arnett as a monster hoping to make his mark on the wrestling scene and Geraldine Viswanathan as his young trainer. (Terry Crews is his much more experienced monster foil.) With animation from the reliable Reel FX (which also provided the animation for last week’s Netflix movie “Back to the Outback”), “Rumble” should be innocuous fun for the whole family. [TRAILER]

“Station Eleven”
Thursday, December 16, HBO Max
If living through a global pandemic wasn’t enough you can now watch one on TV. “Station Eleven,” based on the acclaimed novel by Emily St. John Mandel, focus on the outbreak and aftermath of a deadly flu that wipes out most of humanity. Featuring a structure that involves multiple timelines (including what happens immediately afterward and how things are faring decades later), “Station Eleven” looks sobering and ambitious. Showrunner Patrick Somerville is coming from similarly envelope-pushing shows like “Maniac” and “The Leftovers,” with direction handled by the likes of genius “Atlanta” director Hiro Murai. If you can handle it, it seems like it could be a sleeper sensation this winter. After the first three episodes debut, the show will roll out with two new episodes each week on HBO Max — which could be the perfect rollout for the obsessed. [REVIEW]

“The Witcher”
Friday, December 17, Netflix
World’s handsomest man Henry Cavill returns for Season 2 of Netflix’s time-twisty medieval fantasy that has already inspired an animated feature (released last summer) and several upcoming spinoffs (including a family-friendly animated series). Based on a series of fantasy novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski (that in turn spawned a number of equally obsessed-over video games), Cavill plays Geralt of Rivia, a monster in a mythical land known as The Continent, whom the series dramatizes at various points of his life. (This is not a show you can watch while fiddling around on your phone.) All eight episodes of the series drop at once, so adjust your schedule accordingly. And consider this a helpful reminder to toss a coin to your Witcher. [TRAILER]

Friday, December 17, Hulu
Not to be confused with “I Am Mother,” another futuristic story about killer androids that premiered on Netflix a couple of years ago, “Mother/Android” stars Chloë Grace Moretz as a pregnant woman who is traveling with her human partner (Algee Smith) and trying to survive the robot uprising. Easier said than done! The film marks the directorial debut of writer/director Mattson Tomlin, the writer of Netflix’s similarly high-concept “Project Power.” (Worth noting that he also produced the upcoming “The Batman” and worked on the script for the superhero romp.) Some would undoubtedly prefer dodging killer robots to spending time with some of their relatives this Christmas. [TRAILER]