Pick of the week
“I need to report a murder. Mine.” With these words, Alexander Litvinenko (David Tennant) opened a murder inquiry without a body. This rendering of the story of the former Russian spy’s 2006 poisoning in London is a warning from the past. As two detectives log Litvinenko’s last words, it becomes clear that this is a drama about accountability: was the British state remotely prepared to deal with such naked aggression? It’s a question with huge relevance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but high geopolitical stakes aside, the series never forgets the element of personal tragedy – Litvinenko’s wife Marina is portrayed with sensitivity by Margarita Levieva.
ITVX, from Thursday 15 December
Who Killed Santa? A Murderville Murder Mystery
Will Arnett’s shouty spoof detective Terry Seattle solves another crime mystery in a festive special co-starring Maya Rudolph and Jason Bateman. The series, a US adaptation of the BBC Three’s Murder in Successville, struggled to match the anarchic charm of the original, with the format – reality stars and TV presenters being amusingly bullied by an overbearing central character – reduced to patchy improv comedy. But this benefits from a heinous crime (the murder of Santa Claus!) and guests who treat the concept with the exactly the appropriate amount of derision. Netflix, from Thursday 15 December
Dr Seuss Baking Challenge
The children’s fantasies of Dr Seuss and competitive high-end baking: together at last! This series feels less like a challenge show concept and more like a selection of randomly generated ideas thrown together for a dare. But there is a certain fascination to watching the world of the Grinch and the Cat in the Hat in sponge and creme pat form. There’s $50k on the table for the winners, but the tendency of host Tamera Mowry-Housley and judges Clarice Lam and Joshua John Russell to slip into Seuss-esque doggerel doesn’t exactly heighten the tension. Weird.
Prime Video, from Tuesday 13 December
National Treasure: Edge of History
“I’ve thought about destroying it many times,” gasps Harvey Keitel’s Peter Sadusky. “To stop it from falling into the wrong hands.” It’s a dilemma familiar to many a fictional treasure hunter: you have a map but are worried about unleashing powers beyond your control. This action thriller – a continuation of Jerry Bruckheimer’s National Treasure film series – is a predictably melodramatic affair. With Catherine Zeta-Jones playing a billionaire antiquities expert, it’s daft fun if you are willing to suspend your disbelief.
Disney+, from Wednesday 14 December
All Those Things We Never Said
There is an unusual mixture of existential regret and absurdity in this French drama starring Noémi Besedes as Julia, a woman whose father dies just days before her wedding. This inevitably leads to a bout of melancholy soul-searching which is interrupted, in outlandish style, by the arrival of a large wooden crate containing a life-sized, android clone of her late father. Would you attempt to bond with a battery-powered copy of a dead parent if it meant you could address previously unspoken issues? Julia is willing to give it a try, with mixed results.
Lionsgate, from Thursday 15 December
Another in the current glut of spy stories – though this one has the distinction of attempting a little comedy alongside its drama. Noah Centineo stars as Owen Hendricks, a slightly smarmy young lawyer who expects a gentle introduction to his new job at the CIA but gets exactly the opposite as a former asset threatens to spill the agency’s secrets unless she is exonerated of a serious crime. Perhaps implausibly, this tricky case lands on the newbie’s desk and, before he knows it, Owen is being dragged into both an international conspiracy and a dangerous love affair.
Netflix, from Friday 16 December
A minuscule twist on the Masked Dancer formula in this bizarre competition show in which amateur dancers strut their stuff in front of a judging panel made up of Ashley Banjo, Ne-Yo and Lele Pons. The twist, if it can be described as such in the context of the show’s antecedents, is that the contenders will be disguised as CGI avatars – giant bears, human emojis and so forth – and will be attempting to bust moves powerful enough to make the judges forget how ridiculous they look. A quarter of a million dollars awaits the winner.
Netflix, from Friday 16 December