After cutting down on episodic bloat with the eight-installment The Defenders, Netflix is back in the overload business with The Punisher (series debut Friday, Nov. 17, Netflix), the latest 13-episode Marvel delivery from Hell’s Kitchen. Vicious vigilante Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) is more antihero than superhero, and The Punisher doesn’t dabble in the supernatural like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist before it—there are no superpowers, just brute force, big guns and PTSD. The Punisher plays more like an ’80s action-revenge flick than a superhero series, and the only other familiar Marvel/Netflix face is Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll); proceed with caution (and a strong stomach).
It’s the end of the road for Sheriff Walt (Robert Taylor) as modern-day Western Longmire (Season 6 premiere Friday, Nov. 17, Netflix) heads into its final chapter—damn, this show has been canceled twice. After Longmire was put down by A&E after three seasons for skewing “too old,” Netflix picked up production for three more, and the series is now going out with some serious D-R-A-M-A: Walt wants to give up his badge! Henry (Lou Diamond Phillips) is a death’s door in the desert! Deputy Vic (Katee Sackhoff) is hiding her pregnancy from Walt! Jacob (A Martinez) still has the most ridiculous chin-beard in Wyoming! Anyone who misses Justified might want to take Longmire for a binge.
Apparently, 2003’s terrible The Elizabeth Smart Story TV movie wasn’t enough, so here’s I Am Elizabeth Smart (movie, Saturday, Nov. 18, Lifetime), co-produced and narrated by Smart herself. I Am Elizabeth Smart purports to be a far more real and detailed account of Smart’s 2002 Salt Lake City kidnapping and subsequent nine months of starvation, rape, torture and religious indoctrination, so … yay? At least real actors were hired this time around: Alana Boden (Ride, Mr. Selfridge) as Elizabeth, Deirdre Lovejoy (The Blacklist, The Wire) as co-kidnapper Wanda Barzee, and, best of all, Skeet Ulrich (Riverdale!) as batshit “prophet” Brian David Mitchell. Also good: No sign of Ed Smart.
I wasn’t all that impressed with the debut season of Search Party (Season 2 premiere Sunday, Nov. 19, TBS), but everybody else was (100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes? Da fuck?), so obviously I was wrong. The meandering story of a group of self-possessed 20-somethings (led by Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat) trying to solve the mystery of a missing college roommate felt more like a 90-minute indie flick that should have been buried on Netflix, not a five-hour cable series, but Season 2 appears to be onto something: Instead of resetting with a new mystery, the gang is dealing with the consequences of Season 1, including a “semi-accidental murder.” OK, I’ll try again.
The Christmas movies can’t be stopped—hail Santa! In A Gift to Remember (movie, Sunday, Nov. 19, Hallmark), bookstore owner Darcy (Ali Liebert) crashes her bike into handsome professional man Aiden (Peter Porte), sending him into a coma. When he’s rushed to the hospital, the dog he was walking gets left behind, so Darcy sorta-stalks Aiden in order to return him. Her detective work finds him to be the erudite world-traveler of her dreams—but when Aiden finally wakes up, she learns that he’s just the dog-walker for her fantasy man (and certainly not rich). Will she stick with him? Will Sandra Bullock and the producers of While You Were Sleeping sue? What does all of this have to do with Christmas?
After the excellent Legion and The Gifted (and the gawdawful Marvel’s Inhumans), do we really need another X-Men-adjacent superhero series? Marvel’s Runaways (series debut Tuesday, Nov. 21, Hulu) makes a case for itself, even more so than The Gifted, in filling the teen-angst void: Six superpowered friends learn that their parents might be part of a super-villain society; existential crises and exposition ensue. Runaways, the series, was created and produced by the minds behind The O.C., and takes its sweet time building both its teen and parental characters—but if you want splashy mutant-abilities displays, you’re going to have to wait. Did I mention that’s better than Inhumans?