Sometimes, trying to find quality TV over Christmas is like trying to find a needle in a tinsel-stuffed haystack. With endless reruns, repeats and kids shows, it can be hard to find anything intelligent, mature or absorbing. But the days of being a terrestrial TV hostage are over. The choice of channels and streaming platforms always mean there’s something to watch and recent research reveals women over-50 are streaming more TV than ever.
Whether it’s compelling performances, sharp writing or sensitive direction, women are shaping and creating the sorts of films and dramas we want to watch. If you want to dodge any stale programming, there’s plenty on offer. From historical drama, comedy, sci-fi and thrillers, we can look forward to some serious female talent, both on and off screens. Here are ten of the best female-centric shows to usher in the New Year – and not a chick flick among them.
DRAMA & COMEDY
There is a timeless quality to many of the characters from Charles Dickens’ stories that embody the best and worst of humanity. Suranne Jones stars as Carole Mackay, an affluent, mean-spirited entrepreneur and modern day Scrooge who is visited by three ghosts. Look out for the joyful Jo Brand as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Suranne Jones was also one of the executive producers on this show. December 25th, Sky Max, 7pm (repeated on Boxing Day on Sky Max at 7pm) and NOW.
A four-part psychological thriller starring Line of Duty’s Vicky McClure as Stella Tomlinson, a grieving mother who confronts the man imprisoned for murdering her teenage daughter but is left reeling by new revelations. Created by Nottingham-born writer Frances Poletti, this is her first TV drama commission. Stream from December 28 on ITVX; ITV’s new streaming service
Motherland: Last Christmas
The hit series and BAFTA winning comedy written by Sharon Horgan, Helen Serafinowicz and Holly Walsh is gifting fans another Christmas special. This time round, Julia played by Anna Maxwell Martin is hosting. With Liz (Diane Morgan) Amanda (Lucy Punch) plus, hapless Kevin (Paul Ready) it promises for a chaotic, hilarious Christmas, one that some of us might even recognise. December 23, 2022, 9.30pm available afterwards on BBC1-player. Watch the trailer HERE.
Not long to go! The third and final series of award-winning BBC crime drama, Happy Valley created and written by Sally Wainwright stars Sarah Lancashire as Sergeant Catherine Cawood. Now on the cusp of retirement, still living with her sister, Claire (Siobhan Finneran) and sixteen-year old son; a gangland murder victim is found in a drained reservoir that leads back to her nemesis, Tommy Lee Royce. What a way to kick off the new year! You might want to watch the first two series in preparation for the final send off. Sunday 1st, Jan on BBC1 and BBC1-Player
FILMS TO WATCH & STREAM
Set in 1862 in a remote Irish village, this psychological period drama features a young girl (Kìla Lord Cassidy as Anna O’ Donnell ) who has stopped eating yet miraculously continues to live. Based on the book by Emma Donoghue, which she also adapted for the screen alongside Alice Birch and director Sebastián Leilo, the cinematography is by Australian talent, Ari Wegner. Academy Award-winner, Florence Pugh, is the star of the show as the nurse Lib Wright bought in to observe the girl who is said to sustain herself with ‘Manna.’ Available on Netflix
If you think sci-fi isn’t for you, perhaps you haven’t seen Arrival, which first hit cinema screens in 2016. For any sci-fi sceptic, it’s a revelation. The stunning central performance by Amy Adams as Louise Banks, the linguist recovering from the loss of a child, bought in by the US Government to communicate with extraterrestrials is compelling and earned her a BAFTA nomination for best leading actress. 19 & 20 December on Starz; available to watch on Apple TV, Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Promising Young Woman
This is the thrilling directorial debut by Emerald Fennell. She was the executive producer on Killing Eve, and has built a reputation for dealing with thorny topics of consent and sexual assault. Carey Mulligan plays 30-year old Cassie Thomas out for revenge after she is raped. This received four nominations at the Golden Globes in 2020 and was the winner of the Best Original Screenplay at this year’s Oscars, now available on Amazon Prime, Apple TV and Netflix.
The Good Nurse
Based on a true crime story, Jessica Chastain stars as Amy Loughren, the co-worker of Charles Cullen (Eddie Redmayne), one of America’s most prolific serial killers. Cullen, a caregiver, was implicated in the deaths of hundreds of patients who between 1988 and 2003 were injected with insulin and/or digoxin into their IV bags. The screenplay By Krysty Wilson-Cairns is based on the 2013 book by Charles Graebler. Available on Netflix
Last year, The Harder they Fall, Netflix’s all-black Western, revitalised an outdated genre. This year, The English, a six-part drama co-produced by the BBC and Amazon Prime, continues this trend with a female lead narrative. Emily Blunt plays Lady Cornelia Locke who seeks revenge from the man she believes killed her son. She hooks up with Chaske Spencer as Eli Whipp, an indigenous ex-Cavalry scout, who wants to claim his rightful land. With fantastic music, cinematography and costumes, this is a wholly contemporary historical drama. One to binge watch on BBC i-player.
The Woman King
With a growing emphasis on untold histories, this film must rank as one of the most extraordinary. This historical action movie, is based on the true story of a female army who fought to protect Dahomey, a powerful West African state in the 17th and 18th centuries, from European slave traders. Viola Davis is formidable as General Nanisca who leads her female army and the on-screen talent: Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim; is matched off-screen by writers: Maria Bello & Dana Stevens, and director, Gina Prince-Blythewood. There were no stunt doubles or CGI. All the performers went through punishing physical training for the film including one and a half hours of weightlifting a day. Perhaps one to watch before venturing back to the gym? Available to stream on Amazon Prime, Vudu, Apple TV Stream. Watch the trailer HERE.
Nilgin Yusuf is a freelance writer. You can find her on Twitter @Nilgin and Instagram @nilgin_yusuf