Some argue that 2018 has not been a good year at HBO just because GAME OF THRONES was not on the schedule. Others who enjoy other content might beg to differ. Well, now we approach the last month of the year and close out 2018. Regardless of what side of the fence you sit, December is going out with a full schedule as the following post proves.
Original Series: MY BRILLIANT FRIEND continues SUNDAY, DECEMBER 02 (9:00-10:00pm) and MONDAY, DECEMBER 03 (9:00-10:00pm), with another new episode airing the subsequent Sunday, leading up to the finale on Monday, December 10. Based on the first book in the “Neapolitan Novels” quadrilogy by Italian author Elena Ferrante, the eight-episode season tells the story of Elena Greco, a now-elderly woman who discovers that the most important friend in her life, Raffaella “Lila” Cerullo, seems to have disappeared without a trace. Elena starts writing the story of her and Lila’s tempestuous friendship, an epic tale that spans over 60 years. Filmed in Italian, MY BRILLIANT FRIEND finds Elena trying to describe the mystery of Lila, her “brilliant friend” who is, in a way, her worst enemy.
–Episode #5: “Le Scarpe (The Shoes)” Debut: SUNDAY, DECEMBER 02 (9:00-10:00pm ET/PT)
Elena (Margherita Mazzucco) grows tired of Gino (Riccardo Palmieri), while Lila (Gaia Girace) rejects two potential suitors, at a cost. A rare outing into the city turns violent. Elena worries about not being there for Lila after accepting an invitation to spend the summer away from the neighborhood and her family. Written by Elena Ferrante, Francesco Piccolo, Laura Paolucci and Saverio Costanzo; directed by Saverio Costanzo.
–Episode #6: “L’isola (The Island)” Debut: MONDAY, DECEMBER 03 (9:00-10:00pm)
On the island of Ischia, Elena (Margherita Mazzucco) runs into the Sarratore family, reigniting her childhood crush on Nino (Francesco Serpico), who is at odds with his father, the charming Donato (Emanuele Valenti). Back in Naples, Lila’s (Gaia Girace) resistance to Marcello’s (Elvis Esposito) pressing courtship reaches a breaking point. On Elena’s 15th birthday, an unexpected encounter leaves her shaken. Written by Elena Ferrante, Francesco Piccolo, Laura Paolucci and Saverio Costanzo; directed by Saverio Costanzo.
CAMPING concludes SUNDAY, DECEMBER 02 (10:00-10:30pm). The comedy series tells the story of a “back to nature” camping weekend thrown by the hyper-organized and aggressively controlling Kathryn in honor of the 45th birthday of her mild-mannered husband, Walt. HBOWatch has been keeping you abreast of it. The show stars Jennifer Garner, David Tennant, Ione Skye, Janicza Bravo and Juliette Lewis.
–Episode #8: “Birthday Party (Part 2)” (season finale) Debut: SUNDAY, DECEMBER 02 (10:00-10:30pm ET/PT)
Tensions between Kathryn (Jennifer Garner) and Jandice (Juliette Lewis) boil over as Walt’s (David Tennant) birthday party winds down. George (Brett Gelman) finds clarity in his relationship with Nina-Joy (Janicza Bravo). Carleen (Ione Skye) laments growing older. Miguel (Arturo Del Puerto) has an awkward sexual encounter. Unexpected changes abound. Written by Lena Dunham & Jenni Konner; directed by Jason Benjamin.
The comedy series SALLY4EVERwill continue its seven-episode season SUNDAY, DECEMBER 02 (10:30-11:00pm) followed by new episodes subsequent Sundays at the same time, leading up to the season finale on December 23. Sally (Catherine Shepherd) is about to marry David (Alex Macqueen), her nebbish boyfriend of ten years when she encounters the charismatic Emma (Julia Davis). The two fall into a romantic relationship, but what starts out as an exciting and sexy fling takes an unexpected turn when Emma reveals herself to be a nightmare. The show was created by Julia Davis, who also executive produces, stars in, and wrote and directed every episode.
–Episode #4 Debut: SUNDAY, DECEMBER 02 (10:30-11:05pm ET/PT)
At the funeral for David’s (Alex Macqueen) father, Sally (Catherine Shepherd) accuses Kate (Robin Weaver) of trying to undermine her relationship with Emma (Julia Davis). Defying Dan’s (Seb Cardinal) makeup instructions for her film role as an assistant baker, Emma ends up overplaying her scene, leading to an angry confrontation with the director, followed by an unexpected denouement. Written and directed by Julia Davis.
–Episode #5 Debut: SUNDAY, DECEMBER 09 (10:35-11:10pm)
Sally (Catherine Shepherd) has an unsettling job-performance meeting with her boss, Deborah (Jane Stanness), who’s been evaluating Sally and Eleanor (Felicity Montagu) as they vie for a promotion. Startled by revelations from David (Alex Macqueen), Sally and Emma (Julia Davis) consider the pros and cons of having a baby and weigh possible donors. After Emma lands in the hospital, she and Belinda (Vicki Pepperdine) badger Sally to go the distance in support of Emma. Written and directed by Julia Davis.
–Episode #6 Debut: SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16 (10:30-11:05pm)
Leaving a fragile Emma (Julia Davis) to fend for herself at home, Sally (Catherine Shepherd) embarks on an off-site work outing, where she’s dismayed to find herself sharing the hotel’s honeymoon suite with Deborah (Jane Stanness). That night, as Nigel (Julian Barratt), Mick (Steve Oram) and Eleanor (Felicity Montagu) get plastered in the hotel bar, Deborah falls off the wagon – and tries to pull Sally down with her. Written and directed by Julia Davis.
–Episode #7 (season finale) Debut: SUNDAY, DECEMBER 23 (10:30-11:10pm)
A romantic getaway at a posh castle estate goes awry for Emma (Julia Davis). Sally (Catherine Shepherd) falters after an otherwise-pleasant encounter with actor Sean Bean. Back in London, Sally and Emma run into a former coworker of Sally’s, who has embraced a new outlook on life. Written and directed by Julia Davis.
Created by Jay and Mark Duplass, the anthology series ROOM 104 continues its second season with two new episodes FRIDAY, DECEMBER 07 (11:30pm -12:30am) followed by two more new episodes, including the season finale, on December 14. The show is set in a single room of a typical American chain motel and tells a different story of the assorted characters who pass through it in each episode, ranging from comedy to drama to horror.
–Episode #21: “The Return” Debut: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 07 (11:30pm-midnight)
Grieving the death of her father months earlier in Room 104, a young girl (Abby Ryder Fortson) returns with her mother (Stephanie Allynne) in hopes of being able to communicate with him. Written by Mark Duplass; directed by So Yong Kim
–Episode #22: “Artificial” Debut: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 07 (midnight-12:30am)
A reporter (Sheaun McKinney) looks to uncover the truth about a woman (Katie Aselton) who claims to be a hybrid robot warning of an impending AI takeover. Written by Mark Duplass; Directed by Natalie Morales
–Episode #23: “Shark” Debut: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 14 (11:30pm -midnight)
A charismatic pool shark (Mahershala Ali) tries to convince his reluctant cousin (James Earl) to stay in the hustling game. Written and directed by Mark Duplass
A woman (Mary Wiseman) asks her slightly-younger self to recreate the events of one night at a college frat party. Written by Lauren Budd; directed by Lila Neugebauer
REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER and LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVERhave both concluded their 16th and 5th seasons respectively in November and VICE Media is about to wrap up its 6th. The Emmy-winning weekly series VICE continues its long-running sixth season FRIDAY, DECEMBER 07 (7:30-8:00pm), followed by the season finale on December 14. VICE NEWS TONIGHT, the half-hour nightly newscast from VICE Media and HBO, debuts a new edition MONDAY, DECEMBER 03 (7:30-8:00pm), followed by other new editions subsequent weeknights Monday through Thursday, with a hiatus December 21-31. Here is a clip from the weekly series of VICE:
Movies: Look like HBO was holding on to a few big titles to end the year. This is an action picture with RAMPAGE, a Spielberg blockbuster with READY PLAYER ONE, an adult comedy with BLOCKERS, international family fare with ISLE OF DOGS and another from Melissa McCarthy with LIFE OF THE PARTY. Below, a closer look at each.
RAMPAGE, debuting SATURDAY, DECEMBER 01 (8:00-9:50pm), follows primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne Johnson), who has a unique bond with George, an intelligent, rare albino silverback gorilla. When a genetic experiment gone wrong turns George into a dangerous, raging animal, Davis and geneticist Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) must stop him from destroying society and save him from himself. The film is directed by Brad Peyton and is loosely based on the video game series of the same name. Based on the science fiction novel of the same name and directed by Steven Spielberg, READY PLAYER ONE, debuting SATURDAY, DECEMBER 08 (8:00-10:20pm), is set in 2045, where the world has drastically changed for the worse, but humanity has found solace in the virtual reality universe of Oasis. When its creator, James Halliday (Mark Rylance), dies and leaves his fortune to the first player to find a digital Easter Egg hidden in the game, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is pulled into a massive treasure hunt in an unpredictable, digital world.
After their daughters make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night, overprotective parents Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (John Cena) and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) join forces to stop the plan in BLOCKERS, debuting SATURDAY, DECEMBER 15 (8:15-10:00pm). The raucous comedy also stars Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan and Gideon Adlon. From director Wes Anderson, ISLE OF DOGS, debuting SATURDAY, DECEMBER 22(8:00-9:45pm), tells the story of a 12-year-old boy who, with the help of canine friends, searches for his pet after dogs are exiled to a trash-filled island. The film’s voice cast includes Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Courtney B. Vance, Fisher Stevens, Harvey Keitel, Liev Schreiber, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Frank Wood, Kunichi Nomura and Yoko Ono. Directed by Wes Anderson; written by Wes Anderson and story by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and Kunichi Nomura. After her husband leaves her, a housewife (Melissa McCarthy) goes back to college and embraces her independence on a journey of self-discovery in LIFE OF THE PARTY, debuting SATURDAY, DECEMBER 29 (8:00-9:45pm). The comedy is directed by Ben Falcone.
HBO Films/Miniseries: The timely HBO Films drama ICEBOX, debuting FRIDAY, DECEMBER 07 (8:30-9:28pm), tells the story of Oscar, played by Anthony Gonzalez, a 12-year-old Honduran boy who is forced to flee his home and seek asylum in the United States, only to find himself trapped in the U.S. immigration system. As Oscar attempts to reach his uncle, Manuel (Omar Leyva), in Arizona, he is apprehended by Border Patrol and placed in “the icebox,” a detention facility where he joins scores of other migrant children being held without their families. Johnny Ortiz, Matthew Moreno, Jessica Juarez and Genesis Rodriguez also star. The film is written and directed by Daniel Sawka and produced by James L. Brooks, Richard Sakai, Julie Ansell and David Greathouse.
HBO Documentary Films: In 2015, Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman from Chicago, was arrested for a traffic violation in a small Texas town. Three days later, she was found hanging from a noose in her jail cell. Though ruled a suicide, her death sparked allegations of racially-motivated police murder and made Bland’s case a rallying point for activists nationwide. Featuring Bland’s passionate video blogs, SAY HER NAME: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF SANDRA BLAND, debuting MONDAY, DECEMBER 03 (10:00-11:45pm), follows her family and their legal team as they try to make sense of what happened, presenting a compelling look at her life as well as her death. Directed and produced by Kate Davis; produced by David Heilbroner. After a routine partial hip replacement operation leaves his mother in a coma with permanent brain damage, what starts as a son’s video diary becomes a citizen’s investigation into the future of American health care in BLEED OUT, debuting MONDAY, DECEMBER 17 (8:00-9:30pm). Using undercover footage, court testimony, verité scenes shot over several years and interviews with people on all sides of the story, the film goes deep inside a flawed healthcare system. Part medical mystery and legal thriller, part investigative journey and meditation on family, this personal story is a cautionary tale. Directed by Steve Burrows.
HBO Special: An HBO favorite headlines his second stand-up special on the network when PETE HOLMES: DIRTY CLEANdebuts SATURDAY, DECEMBER 15 (10:00-11:00pm). Taped at the Aladdin Theatre in Portland, Ore., his latest comedy hour has Holmes confronting personal truths around the mechanisms of consciousness, Michael Jackson, the afterlife and Elon Musk, as well as sharing a few thoughts on being a new dad.
A decade after the 2008 financial crisis brought the global financial system to the edge of collapse, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emanuel, Josh Bolten, Jamie Dimon and others speak as they never have about the frantic, bipartisan effort to keep America out of another great depression. VICE Special Report: The Panic Artists, highlighting the issue, debuts MONDAY, DECEMBER 10 (10:00 – 11:30pm).
HBO Kids: SESAME STREET continues its 49th season SATURDAY, DECEMBER 01 (9:00-9:30am) with other episodes airing Saturdays at the same time through December.
HBO Sports: HBO Sports takes a deep dive into the fascinating, constantly evolving world of surfing, exploring how a group of dedicated teenagers changed the sport and its culture in the 1990s, in MOMENTUM GENERATION, debuting TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11 (10:00-11:30pm). The core members of the legendary surfing crew – including Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Shane Dorian, Taylor Knox, Benji Weatherley, Kalani Robb, Ross Williams, Taylor Steele and Pat O’Connell – tell their story together for the first time in the film. Filmmakers Jeff and Michael Zimbalist draw on unprecedented access to their inner circle, as well as to tens of thousands of hours of footage in private archives, to highlight the deep friendships that were formed and tested during the surfers’ careers as top athletes that were cultural icons. 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, DEC. 18 (10:00 -11:00pm).
And HBO Boxing goes one more round and this time it is with the ladies. Cecilia Braekhus puts her welterweight belts on the line against Aleksandra Magziak-Lopes as part of a BOXING AFTER DARKtripleheader. The event is Cecilia Braekhus vs. AlexsandraMagziak-Lopes; Juan Francisco Estrada vs. Victor Mendez, Claressa Shields vs. Femke Hermans debuting SATURDAY, DECEMBER 08 beginning at 10:20pm.
Other Movies and Shows:Alsoappearingon HBO & HBO2 are HBO FIRST LOOK: MORTAL ENGINES debuting 12.04 and a run of ANGELS IN AMERICA (on HBO2) debuting 12.01. That channel also runs the first 10 episodes of GAME OF THRONES beginning at 1:00pm on 12.26; Season Two on 12.27; Season Three on 12.28; Season Four on 12.29 and Season Five on 12/30. Paula Patton and Omar Epps star in the tense thriller TRAFFIK (pictured), said to be a first time run for HBO.
Other HBO Platforms: HBO Latino:The season finale o MAGNIFICA concludes on 12.16 if you follow that series. Also airing for the first time are MI TESORO (My Treasure) a 23-minute short film from El Salvador and VIDA EN MARTE (Life On Mars) a 17-minute romance short. For a full-length film, there is HIGH & MIGHTY. After surviving a shooting totally unscathed, a lovable lush discovers he has superhuman powers but only when he’s high or drunk. And lastly there is EN EL SEPTIMO DIA (On The Seventh Day) In this one, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, who ekes out a living as a deliveryman in Brooklyn, dedicates his Sundays to playing soccer with his friends. HBO Family: Downsizing lands aging New York City couple Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton in the midst of a riotous real-estate circus in 5 FLIGHTS UP (pictured). There is also John Travolta in PHENOMENON and Jim Caviezel is THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO in this epic 2-hour drama. For lighter fare there is MAX KEBBLE’S BIG MOVE In this one, after learning that he’s moving, a bullied seventh-grader (Alex D. Linz) pulls off a series of elaborate pranks to get revenge on his tormentors, only to learn that he’s not moving after all! Ouch. HBO Signature:Vince Vaughn & Reese Witherspoon deck the halls with four dysfunctional families this Christmas when their vacation plans go hilariously awry in FOUR CHRISTMASES. If another seasonal flick how about Ben Affleck & James Gandolfini in SURVIVING CHRISTMAS. If you are still trying to wrap your mind around INCEPTION you’ve got chances to do so in December. A new world opens for a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome when Hugh Dancy stars as and in ADAM. HBO Comedy: In MY FATHER THE HERO a loving but neglectful divorced father takes his fourteen-year-old daughter on a Caribbean dream vacation that she is determined not to enjoy–until she falls for a local boy. But as you can see by thetitle, I guess you know how that turns out. For a comedy caper try Keenan Ivory Wayans in LOW DOWN DIRTY SHAME and for a rom-com try ALL ABOUT STEVE with Sandra Bullock. For some standup find JIM NORTON: MONSTER RAIN. HBO Zone:THE LAST GODFATHER (pictured) got my attention as a pick for this channel. The Mafia actually goes screwball in this outrageous comedy starring Harvey Keitel. If you’d rather suspense check out Mel Gibson in 2010’s EDGE OF DARKNESS. For the sillier stuff you can watch SUPER TROOPERS, THE NUTTY PROFESSOR and THE GURU.
Well, since it is December and all a holiday clip is featured:
HBONow/Go: Quick to note is that the LAND BEFORE TIME dinosaurs seem to be taking over. Not only is the original 1988 animated movie coming onsite but all nine, yes 9, sequels are loading as well. Knowing that they are not for everyone there are also movies like LOST RIVER and BOOTMEN coming up. That first one is about a single mother who is swept into a dark underworld, while her teenage son discovers a road that leads him to a secret underwater town. It is written & directed by Ryan Gosling. The latter title is about charismatic tap-dancing Sean who tries to find a way out of working at the steel mill. When failure brings him home, he starts his own dance group wearing hardhats. I’ve always said you could find something odd or interesting at HBO, right?
Not only is everything in the paragraphs above to appear on the streaming sites but there is plenty of other content, some of it grouped in categories easy for you to binge on a theme. Welcome To Westeros: GAME OF THRONES Primer has a collection of nine behind-the-scenes videos and a GOT Most Shocking Moments collection has eleven videos including “The Battle of the Bastards” all in one spot for you to relive. In December the sites will change it up a bit, in fact, you might find a Holiday Collection. If the hustle and bustle of the season though you might have time to binge something you’ve missed. How about the documentary series AUTOPSY or the HBO Sports documentary BABE RUTH still on the sites? Or there is the comedy of Dave Chappelle, Dana Carvey or the more recent 2 Dope Queens. Or after all the wrapping go binge GETTING ON or GENERATION KILL or MISS SHERLOCK. Enjoy, we sure do!
Cinemax: This channel has one series to wrap up right now. Chronicling the exploits of legendary music artists, MIKE JUDGE PRESENTS: TALES FROM THE TOUR BUS continues its second season FRIDAY, DECEMBER 07 (10:00-10:30pm), with other new episodes debuting subsequent Fridays at the same time leading up to the season finale on December 21. This season, the show focuses on funk music greats, including James Brown, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Rick James. Narrated by co-creator and executive producer Judge, the show recounts the raucous adventures of notorious musical talents, as told by those who knew them best. The series features animated interviews with former bandmates, friends and other erstwhile associates, who share uncensored anecdotes brought to life by animated reenactments, and woven together with live-action archival performance footage and photos. (The following is NOT an archival photo).
As for the new movies the channel is debuting here are details. A top protection agent is asked to safeguard a despised hitman when THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD debuts FRIDAY, DECEMBER 07 (8:00-10:00pm). This action-packed film stars Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Gary Oldman. On the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a top spy for M16 (Charlize Theron) is sent to Berlin, where she and the city’s station chief (James McAvoy) must take down a malevolent group that killed an undercover agent in ATOMIC BLONDE, debuting FRIDAY, DECEMBER 14 (8:00-10:00pm). Caesar and his fellow apes battle the humans for control over the planet in WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, debuting FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21 (7:35-10:00pm). The third installment in the rebooted series stars Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson and Steve Zahn. Directed by Matt Reeves; written by Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves. Set during the 2009 housing crisis ARIZONAfollows a real estate agent (Rosemarie DeWitt) whose life goes downhill after she witnesses the murder of her boss. Debuting FRIDAY, DECEMBER 28 (8:00-9:25pm), the dark comedy is directed by Jonathan Watson and also stars Danny McBride and Luke Wilson. Directed by Jonathan Watson; written by Luke Del Tredici. And, of course, there are dozens more!
Next Month’s Tease:Who is Gatsby and on what HBO program does he appear on?
Last month a screen grab of the classic game RAMPAGE was the simple clue that the Dwayne Johnson movie was on the schedule.
Final Clip: We just have to include the Coming In the New Year video, yeah?
Truthfully it is not the best one they ever made, but we’ll take it. Enjoy the month! Discover HBO. Stop back here for more news, reviews and schedules.
About The Author
Editor at Large of HBOWatch.com and the internet's foremost HBO expert.