2021 promises to go out with a bang, with a gamut of festive television releases adding warmth to this chilly season. The TV offerings this month are full of holiday cheer, extending from sitcoms to comedy specials to musicals.
Kicking off the month is the musical variety special “Kelly Clarkson Presents: When Christmas Comes Around” (December 1). Continuing on this musical high, Lear deBessonet’s televised musical “Annie Live!” (December 2) features Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson as the antagonist, Miss Hannigan.
December’s TV highlights include two comedies: Tracy Oliver’s “Harlem” (December 3) and a sneak preview of Quinta Brunson’s “Abbott Elementary” (December 7). “Harlem” follows the lives of four ambitious friends, from work to matters of the heart. “Abbott Elementary” is a workplace comedy structured around a Philadelphia public school.
Two comedy specials this month, “Nicole Byer: BBW (Big Beautiful Weirdo)” (December 7) and “Carolin Kebekus: The Last Christmas Special” (December 8), promise to deliver the laughter. Another significant arrival is “And Just Like That…” (December 9), which picks up with Carrie Bradshaw, Miranda Hobbes, and Charlotte York nearly 18 years after the original “Sex and the City” ended.
Finally, several buzzy shows will kick off new seasons in December. The last days of 2021 will see the return of “Pen15” (December 3), “Claws” (December 19), “Emily in Paris” (December 22), and more.
Here are December’s premiering and returning women-driven and women-created TV projects. All descriptions are from press materials unless otherwise noted.
TV and Episodic Premieres
“Adrienne” (Documentary) (Premieres December 1 on HBO/HBO Max)
Adrienne Shelly starred in over 20 films including Hal Hartley’s indie classics “The Unbelievable Truth” and “Trust.” Known for her early ingenue roles, Shelly strove to tell her own female-centric stories and wrote and directed several movies including the Sundance Film Festival hit “Waitress.” Yet, Shelly would not live to see the film’s release, hear the critical acclaim, or experience the smash Broadway musical based on her work. She was murdered in late 2006, leaving behind her devastated husband and two-year-old daughter. Through candid conversations with family, friends, and colleagues, “Adrienne” takes viewers on a poignant journey, sharing Shelly’s life story and honoring her legacy, while giving a rare window into how a family navigates unfathomable tragedy.
“Kelly Clarkson Presents: When Christmas Comes Around” (Variety Special) (Premieres December 1 on NBC)
Kelly Clarkson is doubling down on the holiday spirit. Timed to the release of her new holiday album, the “Kelly Clarkson Presents: When Christmas Comes Around” holiday spectacular will be filled with Clarkson’s new original songs as well as a curated list of iconic classics, dancing, superstar performances featuring My Band Y’All with a streamlined modern orchestra, and remarkable duets. Ariana Grande, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler, and the one and only Santa Claus will join Clarkson and some special everyday heroes with life-changing surprises.
“Don’t Cancel Me With Amara La Negra” (Talk Show) (Premieres December 1 on Fuse)
We can all feel a bit vulnerable speaking on difficult topics (“Don’t cancel me but…”) so let’s slow down the drama. Join Amara La Negra as we speak our minds, in a comforting space where knowing what you don’t know is an important element for growth.
“Annie Live!” (Live Musical) – Directed by Lear deBessonet (Premieres December 2 on NBC)
“Annie Live!” features Academy Award-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson as the musical’s infamous queen of mean, Miss Hannigan. Henson will play opposite Celina Smith in the titular role of Annie. Already a triple threat at the age of 12, Smith was selected in a nationwide casting search and can currently be seen on the series “Young Dylan.” The holiday musical event also features Tituss Burgess as Rooster Hannigan, Megan Hilty as Lily St. Regis, Harry Connick Jr. as Daddy Warbucks, and Nicole Scherzinger as Grace.
“The Pact” (Premieres December 2 on Sundance Now)
Anna (Laura Fraser), Nancy (Julie Hesmondhalgh), Louie (Eiry Thomas), and Cat (Heledd Gwynn) join into a pact of silence, after the son of the retired owner of the company they work for is found dead.
“Santa Inc.” – Created by Alexandra Rushfield (Premieres December 2 on HBO Max)
An elf working in Santa’s Workshop in the North Pole (Sarah Silverman) dreams of becoming Santa Claus someday.
“Listening to Kenny G” (Documentary) – Directed by Penny Lane (Premieres December 2 on HBO/HBO Max)
“Listening to Kenny G” takes a humorous but incisive look at the saxophonist Kenny G, the best-selling instrumental artist of all time, and quite possibly one of the most famous living musicians. “Listening to Kenny G” investigates the artist formerly known as Kenneth Gorelick, unravelling the allure of the man who played jazz so smoothly that a whole new genre formed around him, and questioning fundamental assumptions about art and excellence in the process. In his own words, Kenny G speaks candidly about his musical background, his stringent work ethic, and his controversial standing in the jazz canon.
“The Bitch Who Stole Christmas” (TV Movie) – Written by Christina Friel and Connor Wright (Premieres December 2 on VH1)
In “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas” — “the draggiest Christmas movie ever made” — a workaholic big-city fashion journalist is sent to a Christmas-obsessed small town to dig up a story when she finds herself in the middle of cutthroat housewives, a high-stakes “Winter Ball” competition, and a sinister plot that could destroy Christmas. (Deadline)
“Harlem” – Created by Tracy Oliver (Premieres December 3 on Amazon Prime Video)
“Harlem” is a new comedy following a group of stylish and ambitious best girlfriends in Harlem, New York City, the mecca of Black culture in America. Camille (Meagan Good) is a popular young anthropology professor at Columbia who has an extensive knowledge of the dating norms of many cultures, but has a hard time navigating her own love life; Tye (Jerrie Johnson) is a successful, queer dating-app creator who prefers keeping vulnerability — and romantic partners — at arm’s length; Quinn (Grace Byers) is a hopeless romantic and trust-fund fashion designer who is trying to give back to the world while running a struggling business; Angie (Shoniqua Shandai) is a confident, vibrant, and filter-free singer and actress who also lives rent-free and fabulously with Quinn. Together, they level up from their 20s into the next phase of their careers, relationships, and big city dreams.
“Mariah’s Christmas: The Magic Continues” (Music Special) (Premieres December 3 on Apple TV+)
“Mariah’s Christmas: The Magic Continues” will reveal the first and only performance of the multi-Grammy Award-winning global icon’s new single, “Fall in Love at Christmas.” Mariah Carey is joined by Grammy-nominated worldwide artist Khalid and Grammy-winning legend Kirk Franklin, as they bring the spirit of Christmas to fans around the world. The Queen of Christmas will also ring in the holidays with a dazzling new rendition of fan favorite “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”
“A Clüsterfünke Christmas” (TV Movie) – Directed by Anna Dokoza; Written by Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer (Premieres December 4 on Comedy Central)
”A Clüsterfünke Christmas” is a celebratory parody of the traditional TV holiday romance that follows Holly (Vella Lovell), a go-getter real estate exec from New York City who heads to a small town to buy the quaint Clüsterfünke Inn and transform it into a mega-resort. First, she must convince the inn’s spinster owners (Ana Gasteyer and Rachel Dratch) to make the sale. But before she can, she meets their nephew Frank (Cheyenne Jackson), a hot hunk of smoldering woodsman. Will she go back to her fast-paced city life, or will she fall in love with Frank and find the spirit of Christmas? What will she do? What. Will. She. Do.
“Under the Vines” – Created by Erin White (Premieres December 6 on Acorn TV)
Rebecca Gibney and Charles Edwards star as two city slickers who inherit a failing vineyard in rural New Zealand… the only problems are that neither of them has ever done a hard day’s work — and they despise one another.
“Abbott Elementary” – Written by Quinta Brunson (Special Sneak Preview Premieres December 7 on ABC)
In this workplace comedy, a group of dedicated, passionate teachers — and a slightly tone-deaf principal — are brought together in a Philadelphia public school where, despite the odds stacked against them, they are determined to help their students succeed in life. Though these incredible public servants may be outnumbered and underfunded, they love what they do — even if they don’t love the school district’s less-than-stellar attitude toward educating children. “Abbott Elementary” stars Quinta Brunson, Tyler James Williams, Janelle James, Chris Perfetti, Lisa Ann Walter, and Sheryl Lee Ralph.
“A Sisterly Christmas” (TV Movie) – Written by Angela Burt-Murray and Maryam Myika Day (Premieres December 7 on OWN)
Two sisters, one who loves Christmas and everything that comes with it and the other who can be the scroogiest of Scrooges, receive an early Christmas gift: an inheritance that takes them on a once-in-a-lifetime luxury holiday vacation. Their Christmas proves to be more than they bargained for when they run into their childhood rival, now a Broadway star who digs in on these sisters, testing their resolve as women and their bonds of sisterhood.
“Nicole Byer: BBW (Big Beautiful Weirdo)” (Comedy Special) – Directed by Betsy Thomas (Premieres December 7 on Netflix)
With her first hour-long Netflix comedy special, Nicole Byer’s “Big Beautiful Weirdo” is sexy, fun, and honest. Filmed at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City, the city where she first got her start in stand-up, Nicole discusses everything from how she basically is a vegan (she’s just doing her part), what she’s looking for in a man, just how crazy this past year-and-a-half has been, and much more.
“The Slow Hustle” (Documentary) – Directed by Sonja Sohn (Premieres December 7 on HBO/HBO Max)
After Baltimore Police Detective Sean Suiter is killed in the line of duty, the tragedy soon becomes enmeshed in a widening corruption scandal that threatens to unravel the public’s already strained relationship with law enforcement.
“Carolin Kebekus: The Last Christmas Special” (Comedy Special) (Premieres December 8 on Netflix)
Carolin Kebekus unpacks the many headaches of the Christmas season, from intense hangovers to the agony of Advent calendars to a big gift-giving gap.
“And Just Like That…” (Premieres December 9 on HBO Max)
“And Just Like That…,” the new chapter of the groundbreaking HBO series “Sex and the City,” follows Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) as they navigate the journey from the complicated reality of life and friendship in their 30s to the even more complicated reality of life and friendship in their 50s.
“Creamerie” – Created by J.J. Fong, Perlina Lau, Roseanne Liang, and Ally Xue; Directed by Roseanne Liang (Premieres December 9 on Hulu)
In the not too distant future, a viral plague has swept the earth. In a matter of weeks, it decimated 99 percent of men. The one percent were sent to The Facility in New Zealand but didn’t survive. Or did they? “Creamerie” picks up eight years after the near-mass-extinction.
“Anne Boleyn” (Miniseries) – Directed by Lynsey Miller; Written by Eve Hedderwick Turner (Premieres December 9 on AMC+)
The drama explores the final months of Anne Boleyn’s (Jodie Turner-Smith) life from the eponymous Queen’s perspective, as she struggles to secure a future for her daughter and to challenge the powerful patriarchy closing in around her. “Anne Boleyn” depicts the key moments that cause Anne to topple, unpicking her immense strength, her fatal vulnerabilities, and her determination to be an equal among men.
“Still Out of My League” – Written by Michela Straniero and Roberto Proia (Premieres December 10 on Netflix)
After breaking up with her dreamboat, Marta (Ludovica Francesconi) finds love with an artist. But life throws a few twists into the mix for the ailing woman and her friends.
“Hot Mess Holiday” (TV Movie) (Premieres December 11 on Comedy Central)
When an overachieving young finance exec is unceremoniously dumped by her cheating fiancé during the Diwali holidays, her free-spirited bestie is determined to help her get lit. Along with their outrageous crew, they embark on a wild holiday adventure to party across Chicago, but when they come into possession of a multi-million dollar diamond, their messy antics place their entire posse in danger.
“Let’s Get Merried” (TV Movie) – Directed by Veronica Rodriguez; Written by Sasha Perl-Raver (Premieres December 13 on VH1)
“Let’s Get Merried” centers around a bachelorette weekend at a Christmas-themed adventure park that gets all kinds of holly jolly when a hard-partying, down-on-her-luck, holiday-hater decides to get married. That day. To a man she has yet to meet. (Deadline)
“Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street” (Documentary) – Directed by Marilyn Agrelo (Premieres December 13 on HBO/HBO Max)
This documentary takes audiences inside the minds and hearts of the “Sesame Street” creators, artists, writers, and educators who together established one of the most influential and enduring children’s programs in television history.
“Close to Me” – Written by Angela Pell (Premieres December 16 on Sundance Now/AMC+)
Based on Amanda Reynold’s novel of the same name, “Close to Me” follows Jo Harding (Connie Nielsen), a woman who seems to have it all, until a fall erases an entire year from her memory. As she struggles to piece events together, Jo discovers that her life wasn’t quite as perfect as she imagined and that someone will do all they can to keep a terrible secret from her.
“With Love” – Created and Written by Gloria Calderón Kellett (Premieres December 17 on Amazon Prime Video)
“With Love” follows the Diaz siblings, Lily (Emeraude Toubiaand) and Jorge (Mark Indelicato), who are both on a mission to find love and purpose. Each episode, set during a different holiday throughout the year, follows Lily, Jorge, and the Diaz family over the course of 12 months as they experience the highs and lows of life during some of the most heightened days of the year.
“Song & Story: Amazing Grace” (TV Movie) – Directed by Sharon Lewis; Written by Rhonda Baraka (Premieres December 21 on OWN)
“Song & Story: Amazing Grace” shines a light on the themes of challenge and triumph that ring true in the hymn. The story centers on Tanner (Bresha Webb), a talented artist battling tremendous obstacles who forms an unlikely friendship with Iris (Getenesh Berhe), an optimistic store owner who guides Tanner towards the forgiveness of a painful past to unlock the strength she holds within herself. The two women will find out that their paths are intertwined, and a surprising connection is revealed.
“Vigil” – Directed by Isabelle Sieb and James Strong (Premieres December 23 on Peacock)
When a crew member is found dead on board the Trident nuclear submarine HMS Vigil, police in Scotland are called in to investigate. The catch? The U.K.’s nuclear deterrent must remain unbroken, so the submarine stays on patrol and Detective Chief Inspector Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) must go aboard to begin an investigation. Although the death was written off as an accidental overdose, Amy suspects foul play. But when the crew close ranks in the face of Amy’s questioning, a new threat overshadows her inquiry.
“The Silent Sea” – Created by Park Eun-kyo and Choi Hang-yong (Premieres December 24 on Netflix)
During a perilous 24-hour mission on the moon, space explorers try to retrieve samples from an abandoned research facility steeped in classified secrets.
“Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller” (Docuseries) (Nat Geo, December 1)
“Perfect Life” – Created by Leticia Dolera (HBO Max, December 2)
“Pen15” – Created by Maya Erskine, Anna Konkle, and Sam Zvibleman (Hulu, December 3)
“Beforeigners” – Created by Anne Bjørnstad and Eilif Skodvin (HBO Max, December 5)
“How to Ruin Christmas: The Wedding” – Created by Rethabile Ramaphakela and Katleho Ramaphakela (Netflix, December 10)
“Bonus Family” – Created by Clara Herngren, Moa Herngren, Felix Herngren, and Calle Marthin (Netflix, December 14)
“The Witcher” – Created by Lauren Schmidt (Netflix, December 17)
“Claws” (TNT, December 19)
“Dynasty” – Created by Sallie Patrick, Stephanie Savage, and Josh Schwartz (The CW, December 20)
“Emily in Paris” (Netflix, December 22)
“Daughter From Another Mother” (Netflix, December 24)