If you’ve turned on a radio recently or gone into any store, you may have noticed that the holidays are approaching — some faster than others, as Hanukkah began this week. For most of us, that means that it’s time to prepare for family gatherings, gift exchanges, and overeating. We had our warm-up during Thanksgiving, but the winter holidays are when capitalism goes full bonkers, constantly reminding us that this is a time to be with (cough, SPEND MONEY ON) your family.
Even if you’re the kind of person who excels at Leslie Knope-level gift-giving, we all know the best gift we can give each other this holiday season is our company. In my family, that inevitably means streaming something together, whether it be a holiday classic or a TV show we all enjoy. It’s a great opportunity for me to share the things I love with my family, and for us to introduce each other to new things.
Here are a few holiday recommendations if you find your family semicircling around the tube this winter. They’re mostly safe picks — the kind of thing you can switch on to keep your grandpa from railing on about what a great businessman Trump is — but there’s no Disney or major releases on here. The idea is to broaden your horizons together. My apologies if that means your grandpa instead ends up ranting about Maori gender norms. This is a list you hopefully won’t need to check twice:
The Crown (2016-; Peter Morgan; Netflix) — Netflix
Most adults enjoy a well-made period piece, and there are few productions of a higher quality than The Crown. This Netflix miniseries follows Elizabeth II during the younger years of her reign, with the most recent second season focusing on her fraught marriage. I’m not a period piece person, generally, but this show is so expertly crafted that you’ll find yourself sucked into the overprivileged, absurdly dramatic world of the British monarchy — and you’ll like it. Even if your family can’t agree on bathroom laws, the entire clan will assent that lead actor Claire Foy is a treasure.
Whale Rider (2002; dir. Niki Caro; Newmarket Films) — Netflix
This indie smash hit centers on Paikea, a young Maori girl at odds with her patriarchal culture. If your family members don’t typically go for deep art films, then Whale Rider is a great way to show them something new without pushing their cinematic boundaries. Though it has a moody, quiet vibe, Whale Rider is a family picture at heart, with a triumphant ending and a sympathetic protagonist. This critical darling could please even your most curmudgeonly kin.
Landline (2017; dir. Gillian Robespierre; Amazon Studios) — Amazon Prime
As the Jacobs family struggles to navigate infidelity and adolescence in 1995 Brooklyn, you might just find your family laughing and crying along with them. Gillian Robespierre’s shockingly underrated sophomore feature, like her debut hit Obvious Child, is bursting with hilarity and heart. With endearing performances by Jenny Slate, John Turturro, Edie Falco and newcomer Abby Quinn, Landline will leave you treasuring family even more. And craving hibachi.
Streaming Wonderland (2016; Muhtayzik Hoffer; Hulu) — Hulu
Forget virtual yule logs, if you want to put some weird and wonderful background noise on your TV this winter, look no further than Hulu’s Streaming Wonderland series. This series of seven videos meditates on a different holiday theme for an hour, from “Thermostat Wars” to “A Sap Story.” If one of your relatives can’t stop asking why you don’t have a boyfriend yet, you can just act transfixed by the sight of sap falling into a bucket.
Hopefully these titles will give you and your family members something new and mesmerizing to enjoy post-feast. If you’re looking for something really inoffensive, though, Netflix did just add Moana. So stay warm, remember to de-stress, and have a happy holiday.
Contact Lena Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.