Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Shohreh Aghdashloo
Photo: Amazon

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Friday, December 13, and Saturday, December 14. All times are Eastern.


Top picks

The Expanse (Amazon, Friday, 3:01 a.m., complete fourth season): Once dead (thanks a lot, SyFy), The Expanse now lives again—and things look dark in the best, most entertaining way.

Here’s Zack Handlen on the show’s excellent fourth season, which arrives today in full on Amazon:

On The Expanse, every choice has weight. Sometimes literally. Early in the show’s compelling fourth season, a character decides to leave her spaceship home and go planetside. It’s a decision her crewmates have made multiple times before, but in Naomi Nagata’s (Dominique Tipper) case, there are special circumstances. As a Belter, Naomi was born and raised in low-gravity environments, which means that her body hasn’t built up the necessary muscle mass to endure planetary gravity. The series hasn’t lost its sense of scope since it left the SyFy channel for Amazon Prime. If anything, it’s broadened its horizons, taking in new worlds and the political strife of multiple systems. Yet a small but meaningful amount of tension is generated out of wondering if a person can walk across level ground without collapsing.

Naomi’s struggles, and the attention paid to those struggles, is emblematic of what makes The Expanse so effective. The show’s canny use of consequences ensures that its wilder sci-fi concepts exist in a context that grounds them without diminishing their impact. Even more importantly, those consequences always exist for narrative purposes. Information is never introduced simply for its own sake, but rather to ensure that the viewer is constantly aware of the cost of all this space travel and terraforming. Unlike the pulp fantasy of Star Wars or the utopian vision of Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Expanse is a fictional future that takes what we already know about humanity and the systems we cling to, and just gives us more room to fuck everything up.

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That’s a long excerpt, but it’s a great review of a great show, and you should read and watch accordingly. Amazon, which has already renewed the series for a fifth season, would really like it if you would, even if you’ve never watched before:

Regular coverage

The Mandalorian (Disney+, Friday, 3:01 a.m.)
Steven Universe Future (Cartoon Network, Saturday, 8 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.)
Saturday Night Live (NBC, Saturday, 11:29 p.m.): host Scarlett Johansson, musical guest Niall Horan

Wild cards

Forky Asks A Question (Disney+, Friday, 3:01 a.m.): We mean this most sincerely: Forky Asks A Question is legitimately excellent.

Last week’s installment, “What Is Love?” was its best yet, but they’ve all been great, and each short is so, well, short that you could binge them all before you finish that sandwich/coffee/whatever you’re eating or drinking at the moment. Yes, yes Baby Yoda is great, but do yourself a favor once you’ve Mandalorian-ed and head on over to this little gem.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves television, bourbon, and dramatically overanalyzing social interactions.

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