With the holidays and winter months upon us, we need a lot more movie and TV options. Vacation break means we’ll finally have time to explore something new, and family time requires expanding the audience appeal of the streaming channels we have on tap.
The Watercooler’s Black Friday tip? Take advantage of Roku’s deal to try 20 popular premium and niche streaming channels for only 99 cents each for two months. You can order them a la carte, sample them for the peak streaming months of December and January, and then cancel them. And you have until the end of November to jump on this.
Here’s a sampling of the channels you could subscribe to and what you could watch on each — all for under $1:
Billions – For fans of Succession who find themselves getting restless between episodes, Billions delivers six seasons of high-stakes high-enders up against the Feds, their family members, and each other. Richly-drawn characters and backdrops, sharp-elbowed writing, and gripping storylines will keep you hooked.
Dexter – Ten years after he faked his own death, the iconic “vigilante serial killer” is back with a brand new sequel that sees him living undercover in a small Upstate New York town and dating the town’s Chief of Police, Angela Bishop. What could possibly go wrong?
Desus & Mero – The unsung late night comedy series led by the popular podcast and TV duo delivers fresh perspectives, timely laughs, and interviews with guests like former President Obama.
Family movies – Just in time for the holidays, a few classics you can watch with the little ones like Babe, or the older kids and their grandparents — like Reese Witherspoon’s Pleasantville and Meryl Streep’s escape-to-Greece musical hit Mamma Mia.
Classics – The holidays are also a great time to catch up on quotable film canon favorites, and Showtime has The Godfather, The Way We Were, A Raisin in the Sun, The Big Lebowski, and Psycho.
Godfather of Harlem – Set against the 1960s Civil Rights movement, this acclaimed series stars Forest Whitaker as infamous crime boss Bumpy Johnson, who returns to Harlem after 10 years in prison to find the place he once ruled is now controlled by the Italian mob. Now he must take on the Genovese crime family to regain control. Gripping, smartly-written, and entertaining.
Brittannia – You haven’t seen this version of ancient history. Set in A.D. 43, the plot centers around the Roman Imperial Army returning to conquer the Celtic heart of Britannia, a mysterious land ruled by wild warrior women and powerful Druids who can channel the powerful forces of the underworld. Critically acclaimed for it’s wildly imaginative plotline and merging of historical fantasy with modern sensibilities.
Belgravia – Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes created this 19th century drama about the secrets and class scandals of London’s poshest neighborhood. It’s a soapy and sumptuous escape watch.
Berlin Station – A current spy thriller about a CIA analyst who goes undercover at the agency’s Berlin branch, only to find himself in over his head in the dangerous, double-crossing world of leaks, whistle-blowers, terrorism threats, and conspiracies that lead back to where he came from: DC.
Chapelwaithe – Adrien Brody stars in this atmospheric adaptation of Stephen King’s novel set in 1850s Maine, where a recently widowed sea captain must unravel the dark mysteries that have haunted his family and plagued the town. Eerie and gothic, this one is for fans of old-fashioned supernatural horror.
The combined streaming service of BBC and ITV, BritBox has been a hit for North Americans who love British crime dramas, comedies, and Royal scoop – from the present to the classics. See the Watercooler’s Best of BritBox roundup for a deeper look at what you can find there, including fresh British comedy originals like Mum and Living the Dream, every season of Downton Abbey, and classics your parents might remember like EastEnders and Are You Being Served?. Best of all, the service delivers perhaps the most iconic show ever produced by the BBC, the original Doctor Who, which centers on an alien Time Lord known only as the Doctor, who travels through space and time with his plucky companions. Parents, grandparents, and younger generation viewers of the reboot will all appreciate watching the original that served as inspiration for so many other sci-fi dramas.
For fans of indie films and prestige TV, who like there thrillers farther flung and their dramas edgier, Sundance Now should be on the Christmas wish list. A few reasons why:
A Discovery of Witches – One of the best reviewed series on Sundance Now, A Discovery of Witches is a visually stunning, immersive fantasy series starring Matthew Goode and Theresa Palmer about a witch/historian who is forced back into the world of vampires, demons, witches, and forbidden love after finding a mysterious manuscript. The fiery chemistry between the leads is the biggest draw, and what Atlantic‘s Sophie Gilbert describes as “sexy-sexy sex.” Try and resist that.
Little Drummer Girl – For lovers of international spy thrillers, this 60s set John Le Carre adaptation, an early Watercooler Pick, is worth the 99-cent price of admission alone, and doubles as a vicarious summer vacation romp across Europe.
Riviera – Speaking of transporting dramas, Riviera will drop you into the highest end of the South of France, where American art curator Georgina Clios (Julia Stiles) must unravel the mystery of her billionaire husband’s death. Binge the thriller all the way to the current third season, and you’ll follow Georgina and her new “alliance” from Venice to Argentina as they uncover a new art world conspiracy.
Indie Films – Sundance Now also boasts many Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning films, albeit many of them from years past, which range from Boyhood to Exit Through the Gift Shop to The Invisible War and The Heart Machine.
Outlander and Power are the breakout hits for Starz, and with Power now a franchise with a prequel Raising Kanan and latest spinoff, Power Book II: Ghost, there is more than two months worth of addicting shows to disappear into at the premium network.
But Starz also has lesser-known gems that have been hits among critics. And in time for the holidays, a few movies that will come in handy when the guests-of-all-ages arrive.
P-Valley — Earning a rare 100% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, P-Valley was created by female playwright Katori Hall “to humanize erotic dancers.” Set at a fictional strip club in Mississippi, the series revolves around the power dynamics for the women, which shift as they begin to transform themselves. The second season of this show is on its way.
The Luminaries — Part adventure series, part historical drama, Luminaries weaves a suspenseful story of murder, magic, love and revenge at the height of New Zealand’s 1860s gold rush. Based on the Man Booker prize-winning novel, it stars Behind Her Eyes (and Bono’s daughter) Eve Hewson,
Holiday Movies — You can find perennial favorites Elf and Christmas with the Cranks here — and Starz is also home to the new Billy Crystal-Tiffany Haddish comedy Here Today, about a famous comedy writer who befriends an up-and-coming New York singer after getting a dementia diagnosis.
Cord cutters who feel lost in a sea of true crime and soapy dramas on Netflix might find themselves missing good old-fashioned history this time of year – especially as they gather with the elders, who might welcome the chance to share their own memories and wisdom from the big events of the past.
History Vault will impress your parents and grandparents for its breadth and depth of docs and series, from medieval history to recent events, broken up into topics that range from biographies to wars, Black history to 9/11 to cultural history, conspiracies to cults to paranormal.
There are even history docs about the holidays to bring some heft to all that Hallmark.
For more on all the channels you can get with Roku’s Black Friday deal — which lasts until Tuesday, November 30th, 2021 — head to their destination.