Ho! Ho! Ho! It is time for HBO to dole out its last gifts of the year. Just remember the old axiom – it is not the quantity of what you get that matters but the quality of and the intent behind what is given. That explains HBO fairly well. For example, in December there is only one concluding episode of the big drama, but the quality behind it makes it a memorable gift. And don’t forget one of the biggest gifts coming at this time of year – the highly anticipated YearEnder clip showing us what gifts are ahead in 2016. Join us now as we open the presents coming in December 2015.
Originals: That big drama, for those not afraid or confused by it, is THE LEFTOVERS. It concludes is second season on SUNDAY, DECEMBER 06 from 9:00pm to 10:15pm. Note that extra fifteen minutes now. Here is the simple breakdown of the season finale.
— Episode #20 (season 2, episode 10): “I Live Here Now” (season finale)
Kevin (Justin Theroux) comes clean to a skeptical John (Kevin Carroll) about his connection to Evie’s disappearance, as Miracle faces an unexpected threat on the fourth anniversary of The Departure. Written by Damon Lindelof & Tom Perrotta; directed by Mimi Leder.
Other HBO playdates: 12.06 at 11:15pm & 1:00pm; 12.07 at 10:30pm; 12.08 at 7:45pm & 5:20am; 12.09 at 9:45pm; 12.10 at midnight; 12.11 at 8:45pm and 12.12 at midnight.
One more series does not just air its final episodes of the season, but its series finale as well. It is Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer’s GETTING ON. It follows the daily lives of nurses and doctors as they struggle with the darkly comic realities of caring for the elderly in an overwhelmed healthcare system, skewering the petty bureaucracies of modern medical practice in America. If you have missed it you have missed one of the best half-hour series on HBO, but can finds it on HBONow/Go. Laurie Metcalf, Alex Borstein, Emmy nominee Niecy Nash and Mel Rodriguez star. The show wraps up its final season with the series finale, debuting SUNDAY, DECEMBER 13 at 10:00pm. The remaining episodes are as follows:
— Episode #17 (season 3, episode 5): “Please Partake of a Memorial Orange” With the ward’s fate up in the air, DiDi (Niecy Nash) hunts for ways to save it, while dealing with pressure from Dawn (Alex Borstein) to be her health advocate. Troublemaking Varla (June Squibb) returns, and butts heads with her equally opinionated, long-lost daughter (Kristen Johnston). Caught in a mountain of lies, Jenna (Laurie Metcalf) comes clean to her husband, Richard (Daniel Stern). After a memorial service full of drama, the staff gets a rude awakening Written by Mark V. Olsen & Will Scheffer; directed by Miguel Arteta.
Note time change – The debut is SUNDAY, DECEMBER 06 at 10:15pm. Other HBO playdates: 12.06 at 12:30am & 2:15am; 12.07 at 11:45pm; 12.08 at 3:55pm; 12.09 at 7:45pm & 4:40am and 12.12 at 1:15am.
— Episode #18 (season 3, episode 6) “Reduced to Eating Boiled Magazines and Book Paste” (series finale) As the staff attempts to stave off the closure of Billy Barnes, DiDi takes to the picket lines in a last-ditch effort. Jenna tries to weasel her way out of a hastily made offer. Patsy (Mel Rodriguez) is intrigued by Marguerite’s (Lindsey Kraft) revelation during a secret-sharing session. After a ruse is exposed, Dawn inadvertently sets in motion a chaotic chain of events that seals the fate of the ward. Written by Mark V. Olsen & Will Scheffer; directed by Miguel Arteta.
The Series Finale debuts SUNDAY, DECEMBER 13 at 10:00pm. Other HBO playdates: 12.13 at 12:55am & 3:25am; 12.14 at 12:55am; 12.15 at 5:15pm; 12.16 at 10:30pm and 12.19 at 3:55am.
REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER and LAST WEEEK TONIGHT With JOHN OLIVER have already concluded there seasons and will return in 2016. However, there is a VICE report of interest. Ranging from high-tech American labs, where the DNA of HIV-positive patients is being edited to resist the virus, to South African clinics that are participating in the largest vaccine trial in history, VICE SPECIAL REPORT: COUNTDOWN TO ZERO goes inside the search for the cure and a preventative vaccine that could eliminate AIDS. Hosted by VICE founders and correspondents Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi, the timely special debuts on World AIDS Day, TUESDAY, DECEMBER 01 at 9:00pm. Here is a preview.
Theatrical Movies: The cinematic gifts are plentiful in December, but Saturday nights always hold the biggest debuts. This coming month has GET HARD, THE DIVERGENT SERIES: INSURGENT, THE LONGEST RIDE and THE WATER DIVINER to offer. Here is a bit about each.
After being found guilty of fraud, a millionaire (Will Ferrell) turns to the man who washes his car (Kevin Hart) to prep him for life behind bars when GET HARD debuts SATURDAY, DECEMBER 05 at 8:00pm. There’s just one thing that Hart leaves out: he’s never been in prison so his lessons lean toward teaching Ferrell self-preservation…by way of accepting the inevitable. The comedy is directed by Etan Cohen with a screenplay by Jay Martel, Ian Roberts and Etan Cohen and story by Adam McKay, Jay Martel and Ian Roberts. Is this one full of stereotypes are full of funny? Based on the popular book series, THE DIVERGENT SERIES: INSURGENT is everything but funny. It continues a young woman named Tris’ (Shailene Woodley) search for truth in her dystopic society. Set five days after the events of the first film in crumbling post-apocalyptic Chicago, the film finds her searching for answers about the loss of her family…while facing threats from every side. Debuting SATURDAY, DECEMBER 12 at 8:00pm, the hit film also stars Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Octavia Spencer, Mekhi Phifer, Jai Courtney and Kate Winslet and is directed by Robert Schwentke with a screenplay by Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman and Mark Bomback.
THE LONGEST RIDE follows the budding romance between a college student (Britt Robertson) and a former champion bull rider (Scott Eastwood) when it debuts SATURDAY, DECEMBER 19 at 8:00pm. Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks, the drama also stars Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin and Alan Alda, and is directed by George Tillman, Jr. and written by Craig Bolotin. Russell Crowe makes his feature-film directorial debut with the heart-warming tale THE WATER DIVINER. It debuts DECEMBER 26 at 8:00pm. Crowe also stars as an Australian farmer who travels to Turkey to search for his three sons, who all went missing during the bloody Battle of Gallipoli in 1919. Co-starring Olga Kurylenko, Yilmaz Erdogan, Cem Yilmaz, Jai Courtney, Ryan Corr, James Fraser, Ben O’Toole, Isabel Lucas. Directed by Russell Crowe; written by Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios.
Specials: The following concert was cancelled and since rescheduled. On MONDAY, DECEMBER 07 from 9:00pm -11:30pm HBO presents U2: iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE LIVE IN PARIS, recorded the same day as the concert. The performance showcases an inventive set that literally moves throughout the venue via multiple stages, a one-of-a-kind interactive floor-to-ceiling arena-length LED screen that has earned its reputation as the fifth member of U2, and a radical new approach to surround sound that ensures everyone in the audience sees, feels and hears the show with maximum impact from every seat in the house.
Documentary: Light-hearted yet poignant, VERY SEMI-SERIOUS: A PARTIALLY THOROUGH PORTRAIT OF NEW YORKER CARTOONISTS is a behind-the-scenes look at the process behind making the iconic cartoons at The New Yorker, the undisputed standard bearer of the single-panel cartoon and a cultural touchstone over the past 90 years. Cartoon editor Bob Mankoff sifts through hundreds of submissions each week to select insightful and humorous work that leaves readers amused, inspired and occasionally irritated. The documentary observes Mankoff as he strives to nurture new talent and represent the magazine’s old guard, while also considering how his industry must evolve to stay relevant. Directed by Leah Wolchock, the documentary debuts MONDAY, DECEMBER 07 at 9:00pm. BOLSHOI BABYLON takes an unprecedented look inside Moscow’s prestigious Bolshoi Ballet in the aftermath of the 2013 acid-attack against its creative director, Sergei Filin, which sparked lurid headlines. For the first time, this Russian national treasure opens its doors to offer exclusive access as it embarks on a new chapter in the months following the incident. Through interviews with artists and company members, the film spotlights the dancers’ unparalleled artistic and athletic talents, their abiding fear of injury and the ruthless ambition needed to survive in the world’s most esteemed ballet company. Directed by Nick Read, the documentary debuts MONDAY, DECEMBER 21 at 9:00pm.
Sports: HBO Sports will present fight fans with a holiday treat when BOXING’S BEST OF 2015, replaying the year’s biggest fights, airs on four consecutive evenings, beginning SUNDAY, DECEMBER 27 at 11:05pm and concluding WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 30. Two action-packed fights headline HBO BOXING AFTER DARK: BRYANT JENNINGS VS. LUIS ORTIZ AND NICHOLAS WALTERS VS. JASON SOSA, presented SATURDAY, DECEMBER 19 at 10:15pm. Philadelphia’s Bryant Jennings (19-1, 10 KOs) faces off against undefeated Cuban-native Luis Ortiz (23-0, 20 KOs) in a scheduled 12-round heavyweight championship fight. In the co-main event, undefeated former featherweight champion Nicholas Walters (26-0, 21 KOs) moves up to the junior lightweight division to take on challenger Jason Sosa (18-1, 14 KOs) in a scheduled ten-round contest. The HBO Sports team will be ringside for all the action.
Hosted by the four-time Sports Emmy winner, THE FIGHT GAME WITH JIM LAMPLEY is a provocative, engaging and informative experience that delves into intriguing storylines, newsmakers and issues that are top-of-mind in boxing. New editions debut WEDNESDAY, DEC. 9 (11:00-11:30 p.m.) and WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 23 at 11:00pm. REAL SPORTS WITH BRYANT GUMBEL goes behind the box scores and statistics to tackle timely subjects in the world of contemporary sports. Featuring a top lineup of contributors, the next monthly edition debuts TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22 at 10:00pm. Since we haven’t given him a shout-out in a long while here is a bit of Jim Lampley talking his business.
Other Movies and Shows: There are some presents scattered about and a couple of them are Frist Run content. They are WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS showing the comic misadventures of vampires led by Jermaine Clements (FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS) which debuts Friday, 12.11 at 10:00 and WISH I WAS HERE (pictured), directed and starring Zach Braff as a struggling actor, which debuts on Sunday, 12.13 at 8:05pm. Also running are lengthy epic movies like TITANIC, THE DEPARTED and EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS on HBO2. Late night offers BRICK, BLOOD DIAMOND, RENO 911: MIAMI with Niecy Nash and SEX//ON.
HBO’s Other Platforms: There is always something odd or unfamiliar on the other channels. Unwrap these gifts if you come across them. HBO Latino: Besides airing movies like THE HOBBIT: BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES and the documentary THE TIDES THAT BIND from Bruce Springsteen in Spanish this channel also has its own boxing slate and continues to run episodes of MAGNIFICA ’70 and DESPORTES. HBO Family: This channel will surely change when SESAME STREET hits HBO in January, but here are a couple of flicks in the meantime. How about the animated WONDER WOMAN (pictured) as Keri Russell provides the voice of the Amazon princess? I’ll also single out CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE DRAMA QUEEN, CLOAK AND DAGGER and the very first SHREK movie. HBO Signature. SOUL PLANE is featured as a first-run movie on the channel. It is an unofficial Airplane movie has it updates that vein of comedy. In contrast there is BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, but I like COLD MOUNTSIN better. I also pick Forrest Whitaker in THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND as well. HBO Comedy. Here are a few that I never heard of I don’t believe: WISHFUL DRINKING; SAY IT ISN’T SO; 5 FLIGHTS UP; GROOVE and if I have mentioned them before I have done so many of these schedule posts that I no longer recall what I mentioned and what I didn’t. Out of this bunch though, here is a clip from SOUL PLANE.
Now/Go: Features rotate on and off the streaming sites every month. Here are a few going off by the end of the year AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN with Richard Gere, BEST IN SHOW, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, Meryl Streep in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, DRAFT DAY, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, and the superheroes called X:MEN. But, movies coming onto (or back onto) the sites include ANNIE HALL, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, HOME ALONE, LESS THAN ZERO and SPACEBALLS. Also appearing are GREATEST HITS, as in clips of some of the greatest pugilistic punches in boxing and the late night movie INVISABLE CENTERFOLDS. What? Of course, if you missed short series like LUCK and THR BRINK they’re on there. Cinemax: Helmed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Clive Owen as the brilliant but emotionally tortured surgeon Dr. John W. Thackery, season two of THE KNICK continues in December. At this time we only have information on Episode #18, but the series does not conclude under Episode # 20 on SUNDAY, DECEMBER 18.
— Episode #18 (season 2, episode 8): “Not Well at All” Thackery (Clive Owen) introduces a new kind of cure to his inebriation ward. Brockhurst (Fred Weller) demands the return of his “girls.” Gallinger’s (Eric Johnson) relationship with his wife (Maya Kazan) and Bertie’s (Michael Angarano) relationship with Genevieve (Arielle Goldman) move in surprising directions. Cornelia (Juliet Rylance) presents evidence of the company’s wrongdoing to Henry (Charles Aitken). Barrow’s (Jeremy Bobb) troubled marriage comes to a head. Thackery performs plastic surgery on Abby (Jennifer Ferrin). Written by Steven Katz; directed by Steven Soderbergh.
It debuts FRIDAY, DECEMBER 04 at 10:00pm. Other CINEMAX playdates: 12.04 at 11:00pm & midnight; 12.05 at 9:00pm & 11:45pm; 12.06 at 4:45pm; 12.07 at 8:00pm & 10:50pm; 12.08 at 10:00pm; 12.09 at 9:00pm; 12.16 at 8:00pm and 12.26 at 10:00pm.
Again, the concluding episodes “Do You Remember Moon Flower” on 12.11 and “This Is All We Are” on 12.18 conclude the second season. Plus, everyone knows Cinemax has a ton of movies. It debuts in December LET’S BE COPS, NEIGHBORS and THE SEVENTH SON.
Next Month’s Tease: For January 2016 your clue is – Nux.
December’s answer was THE WATER DIVINER, Russell Crowe’s directing debut. The Peter Weir movie was GALLIPOLI and in Crowe’s film he searches for sons who fought in the battle depicted in the Weir war flick.
Final Clip: Though I am not a Nicholas Sparks fan I seemed to have crowded out the movie THE LONGEST RIDE in the descriptions above, so it is only fair to showcase it here. This look also rides into the sunset as we conclude another year of What’s On.