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Image Credit: Supplied

With work slowing down and the holiday season upon us, now is a good time to catch up on some essential viewing across the various streaming platforms available in the UAE. As 2020 almost draws to a close, web content has been a saviour of sorts from utter and sheer boredom with cities under lockdown, shoots stalled and cinemas shut for the better part of the year.

If you haven’t had your share of essential viewing online this year, we close 2020 with our picks of a few feel-good comedies, some high-strung dramas and some gritty documentaries to take us into 2021.


The Mandalorian

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The Mandalorian Image Credit: Disney

Why should you watch it: The ‘Star Wars’ series concluded its second season this last weekend and there couldn’t have been a greater gift to nerds across the world than the finale episode, featuring one of the most epic cameos ever (we won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it yet).

If space westerns, intense action and adorable, goofy hijinks from a green toddler sound like something you’d enjoy, curl up on your sofa, lightsabers in hand, and binge right through the two seasons this festive season.

Watch it on: OSN

Never Have I Ever

Paxton Hall-Yoshida and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan
Paxton Hall-Yoshida and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan Image Credit: Netflix

Why should you watch it: A 15-year-old Indian American teenager is looking to change her social status at her high school, while coming to terms with the death of a parent, and juggling academics, friends, crushes and a high-strung family.

‘Never Have I Ever’, created by Mindy Kaling, is a fresh and poignant take on the coming-of-age story, and deals with issues like grief, identity and love with a light touch. Expect copious amounts of laughter and tears, but especially look out for a standout performance by its newcomer leading star, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan.

Watch it on: Netflix

Julie and the Phantoms

Julie and the Phantoms
Julie and the Phantoms Image Credit: Netflix

Why should you watch it: Based on the hit Brazilian television series ‘Julie e os Fantasmas’, the American coming-of-age series hit streaming in September to rave reviews. The eponymous Julie lost her passion for music when she lost her mother. But when three ghostly guys appear and lift her spirits, they decide to start a band together against all odds.

The standout feature of ‘Julie and the Phantoms’ is it’s memorable, singalong soundtrack that’ll stay in your ears long after you’re done watching the series. But also keep an eye out for the exceptionally talented group of young cast members, and a deeply engaging plot.

Watch it on: Netflix

Lovecraft Country

Lovecraft Country
Lovecraft Country Image Credit: HBO

Why should you watch it: Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Jonathan Majors’ performances drive this thrilling ride through Lovecraftian lore, expertly subverting racial tropes and giving us a substantial horror drama series for the ages.

Set during America’s problematic Jim Crow era, ‘Lovecraft Country’ take a hard and brutal look at the systematic injustices of the era, while also pushing the bounderies of fantasy storytelling. If you’re looking for something less juiced up on holiday sugar, ‘Lovecraft Country’ is for you.

Watch it on: OSN

The Office

The Office show
The Office show Image Credit: IMDB

Why should you watch it: With stories circulating at The Office will soon get the cut from streaming platforms, there has never been a better time to watch the hilarious misadventures of the disgruntled workers of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.

We can’t pick our favourite moments from nine seasons of the hit show, but the CPR training episode where everyone getting carried away by Stayin’ Alive by Bee Gees and when Ryan Howard and Kelly Kapoor hook up (and the aftermath) are pure television gold. And who can forget the Jim and Pam love story?

Watch it on: All nine seasons are streaming now on Amazon Prime Video

Dash and Lily

Dash and Lily
Dash and Lily Image Credit: Netflix

Why you should watch it: This is a show that makes you want to believe again in the magic of Christmas. Based on the series by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, the show is set around Christmas time, where two teenagers find themselves slowly falling in love after trading letters through a book of dares that is planted in public places across New York City.

The series serves up a sweet holiday romance that brings in just the right dash of humour and joy. Plus, Nick Jonas also makes a cute cameo after serving as a producer to the show.

Watch it on: Netflix

Virgin River

Virgin River
Virgin River Image Credit: Netflix

Why should you watch it: If you are in the mood for an idyllic show set in an enchanting small town in California with stunning landscapes and quirky residents, then Virgin River is right up your street. The show follows the gorgeous and unthreateningly beautiful nurse and midwife (Alexandra Breckenridge) who relocates from the big city to this small town to escape her troubled past and inner demons.

Her transition is smooth, thanks to the hunky local bar owner (Martin Henderson) who takes her under his strong wings, and she finds herself at home in the new turf. It’s one of those shows that will win you over with its collection charm, simplicity, and overall prettiness. The episodes in the first two seasons are also a stark departure from our usual violent shows with graphic intimate scenes. Everything is vanilla here and we are not complaining. The series is so successful and feel-good that it has been renewed for its third season.

Watch it on: Netflix


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Friends Image Credit: GN Archives

Why should you watch it: Like a hot mug of cocoa on a cold winter eve, ‘Friends’ is a comfort watch like no other. It’s as funny on the 30th watch as it is on the first, and a story as old as time (or, well, 1994).

Six buddies — Rachel, Ross, Chandler, Joey, Phoebe and Monica — live in New York and try to survive love, work, family and each other. As we get ready for the epic ‘Friends’ reunion special set for 2021, another rewatch is exactly what we need — even if it’s just on in the background.

Watch it on: Netflix

New Girl

New Girl.

Why should you watch it: Not many sitcoms have the kind of rewatch power that New Girl holds. In fact, it might be one of a few rare shows that get better with age.

Quirky new girl Jess (Zoey Deschanel) moves in with three eccentric boys — Nick (Jake Johnson), Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Coach (Damon Wayans Jr), eventually replaced by Winston (Lamorne Morris) — and uncomfortably close friendships (and romances) soon develop. Hilarious, heartwarming and chockfull of holiday episodes, there’s no better time to delve back into this modern classic.

Watch it on: Netflix


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Paranormal Image Credit: Netflix

Why should you watch it: This ground-breaking Arabic-language series is based on a series of best-selling fantasy horror books, and it’s already found a huge audience.

With more than 66,000 reviews on IMDB rating this at 8.2, it’s safe to say ‘Paranormal’ has taken Arabic dramas to a new height, and into a fairly new genre in the region. Set in the 1960s and tinged with dark comedy, this show follows down-on-his-luck hematologist Dr Refaat Ismail as he faces off with a series of supernatural events.

Watch it on: Netflix

The Platform

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The Platform Image Credit: Netflix

Why should you watch it: The first UAE mini-series is a pan-Arab drama that follows programming wiz and author Karam, plagued with an ugly past and a tumultuous relationship with his father, as he partners up with Nasser to build an online portal, dubbed ‘The Platform’, to seek the truth.

Watch it on: Netflix


A California Christmas

A California Christmas
A California Christmas Image Credit: Netflix

Why should you watch it: Listen — we’re not saying ‘A California Christmas’ is going to change your life. If anything, this holiday movie is brimming with tropes and recycled dialogue that had us rolling our eyes at point.

But sometimes all you need is a light Christmas-time romance that you’ve seen a million times before — big city guy has to convince a small town girl to sell her land, but will he be able to do it without falling in love with her?

Watch it on: Netflix

Sonic the Hedgehog

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Sonic the Hedgehog Image Credit: twofour54

Why should you watch it: One of the first films to release in cinemas in 2020, the video game adaptation was a surprise hit. In the film, our extraterrestrial hedgehog, Sonic, is discovered by a scientist (played nefariously by the great Jim Carrey) with evil intentions, who plans to use his superpowers for his selfish needs.

Sonic teams up with a well-meaning police officer (James Marsden) to escape his clutches. What makes ‘Sonic’ great holiday viewing is the fact that it makes for a great family entertainer, with lots of belly laughs and breakneck action.

Watch it on: OSN

Paava Kadhaigal (Tamil)

Paava Kadhaigal Image Credit: Netflix

Why should you watch it: This dark and compelling anthology of four stirring short films pushes you to explore our bestial impulses that lurk behind our civilized veneer. Celebrated directors Gautham Menon, Sudha Kongara, Vetri Maaran and Vignesh Shivan pummels you with stories that tackle complex social issues such as honour killings, rape of minors, caste divides and gender inequalities in India and makes you question your own conduct.

The well-cast film is an example of all that’s wrong with the times we live in and forces you to ask a few existentialist questions. It’s not a film that will make you jump with joy, but sometimes a sobering film is just what we all need to appreciate the good times that we all enjoy in our lives.

Watch it on: Netflix

Ayappanum Koshiyum (Malayalam)

Ayappanum Koshiyum
Ayappanum Koshiyum Image Credit: Netflix

Why should you watch it: Consummate actors Prithviraj and Biju Menon are on a roll here as they indulge in a battle of wits and might in a film, directed by Sachy. Prithviraj plays the arrogant and privileged Koshy Kurian who gets detained by a local policeman Ayappan (Menon) for driving drunk in his turf. Koshy feels slighted, his ego is bruised, and he swears to exact revenge on the law-enforcement officer.

But the game between these two men-turned-brats who think they are alpha males spirals out of control. The movie also reveals the deep divides between the have and the have nots and how social conditioning/patriarchy represented by Koshy’s domineering father are a legacy that can destroy lives. This film works primarily because of Prithviraj and Menon’s brilliant performances.

Watch it on: Amazon Prime

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (Hindi)

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara Image Credit: Supplied

Why should you watch it: This feel-good bromance and friendship saga among three best mates who embark on a stag party in Spain never loses its sheen and sparkle. It’s their last hurrah before Abhay Deol’s character gets married to a posh princess, played by Kalki Koechlin.

Director Zoya Akhtar brings out the best in the good-looking trio Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol and Farhan Akthar as they learn more about life, love and making tough choices. This coming-of-age drama works because of the effortless camaraderie among the boys and the women who add colour and verve to the narrative. And since we are not travelling much this winter, it’s a splendid way to see the beauty of Spain too.

Watch it on: Amazon Prime

Love Actually

Bill Nighy with Santa's elves 'Love Actually' - film 2003 Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Why you should watch it: Follow a bevy of stars as they discover romance and Christmas magic across the streets of London.

The motley characters are many, but our absolute favourite character arcs are that of Hugh Jackman’s David, the dashing single Prime Minister who finds love in the newest member of his household staff, Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), along with Bill Nighy’s fading rockstar act as Billy Mack and that awful, yet catchy, Christmas variation of The Troggs’ ‘Love Is All Around’.

Watch it on: Streaming on Netflix


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Serendipity Image Credit: Suppled

Why you should watch it: What’s not to love here - it’s Christmas in New York with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale to add to the charm. Jonathan and Sara are strangers whose paths cross in New York one snowy day and sparks fly.

Leaving their union to fate, Sara throws out their phone numbers into the universe to see whether their paths will cross again. Years later, the duo set out to find each other and nudge the hand of fate. This is a film for all seasons.

Watch it on: You can rent the film through Amazon for $3.99

Sound of Metal

Sound of Metal
Sound of Metal Image Credit: Netflix

Why should you watch it: Riz Ahmed’s standout performance in ‘Sound of Metal’ is being touted as Oscar-worthy, and it’s not hard to see why.

Ahmed plays the bleach-blonde, heavily tattooed Ruben, a drummer of a heavy metal band whose life begins to unravel after he begins to lose his hearing. The heart-wrenching film has raked in a huge amount of critical acclaim in a short time.

Watch it on: Amazon Prime

‘Operation Christmas Drop’

Operation Christmas Drop
Operation Christmas Drop Image Credit: Netflix

Why should you watch it: There’s nothing like a feel-good romance to set the mood in the lead up to Christmas. Taking viewers out of the small-town rom-coms, this film takes us from the bright lights of Washington DC to a tiny tropical island where a hunky airforce captain takes on the tradition of airlifting goods to the citizens of Guam.

Incidentally, this is based on a true story. Trust Netflix though, to bring in some romance.

Watch it on: Netflix

My Girl

My Girl
My Girl Image Credit: Supplied

Why should you watch it: Instead of watching another rerun of Home Alone or Home Alone 2 over the holidays, we go old school to pick another Macaulay Culkin gem, ‘My Girl’, which also stars the talented Jamie Lee Curtis. The coming-of-age bittersweet movie follows Anna Chlumsky playing a 11-year-old who deals with love and loss over an eventful summer. Keep that tissue box handy.

Watch it on: Netlfix


Song Exploder

Song Exploder
Song Exploder Image Credit: NYT

Why should you watch it: Hrishikay Hirway’s super hit music podcast show was turned into a riveting docu-series this year and it makes for a riveting and soulful watch. From Dua Lipa and Alicia Keys to the Killers and R.E.M., watch these musical icons peel back the layers behind the creative process that goes into one of their hit songs.

A standout episode features Lin-Manuel Miranda talk about fan-favourite song ‘Wait for It’, from ‘Hamilton’.

Watch it on: Netflix

The Social Dilemma

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The Social Dilemma Image Credit: Netflix

Why should you watch it: Fancy some tech-paranoia to add that extra zing this festive season? ‘The Social Dilemma’ features tech experts as they sound the alarm on the dangerous human impact of social networking. The documentary film features interviews with many former employees, executives, and other professionals from top tech companies and social media platforms such as Facebook, Google and Apple.

While they talk about how social media platforms have been instrumental in providing positive change for society; what’s more alarming is when they also note that such platforms have also caused problematic social, political, and cultural consequences. It’s a quick and disturbing watch, but also makes for great party conversation starters.

Watch it on: Netflix

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich Image Credit: Netflix

Why should you watch it: This four-part series documentary — based on the 2016 book of the same name — chronicles the sordid crimes committed by convicted sex offender and flamboyant billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. The riveting series reveals how Epstein — who died in 2019 — used his wealth, privilege, power and clout to feed his numerous perversions and you are filled with a sense of outrage.

The manner in which Epstein got away with sex trafficking for so many years is a sobering thought and the harsh accounts of survivors who were abused by him makes you realise how money and influence can purchase impunity. The series explores how he was a powerful predator who got away with near murder.

Watch it on: Netflix

Ladies First

Ladies First
Ladies First Image Credit: Netflix

Why should you watch it: This Indian documentary follows the trials and triumphs of Deepika Kumari, an archer champion who broke the shackles of poverty and patriarchy that she was born in to emerge a world-class archer champion in life.

Born in the village of Ratu, Jharkhand, Kumari – who was constantly told that a woman’s place belongs at home - had to work her way up without any support. Lack of money was a constant in her life, but she made it on her own steam with her unending spirit and grit. As far as inspiring sports documentary go, this one is a true account of a woman who beat all odds to achieve her dream. She hit bullseye here.

Watch it on: Netflix

The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives

Bollywood Wives
Bollywood Wives Image Credit: Supplied

Why should you watch it: There’s some vicarious fun to be had in Karan Johar’s reality web series ‘The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives’ and gives you a ringside view of what happens (or doesn’t) in their cocooned lives of Bollywood star wives married to fading actors.

The better halves of Sanjay Kapoor (Maheep Kapoor), Chunkey Panday (Bhavna Pandey), Sohail Khan (Seema Khan) and Samir Soni (Neelam Kothari) give us a sneak peek into their decadent, party-fueled existence and their day job as hands-on mothers. You also get to see Shah Rukh Khan and his queen bee wife Gauri make a cameo. What’s not to love about days in the lives of some crazy rich Bollywood Indians who embark on girl trips and shopping expeditions that make your eyes roll?

Watch it on: Netflix

The Ripper

The Ripper
The Ripper Image Credit: Netflix

Why should you watch it: The name might mislead viewers into thinking about Jack the Ripper, but this is a deep delve into another serial killer — the Yorkshire Ripper, who killed 13 women in Northern England between 1975 and 1980.

This new docuseries on Netflix is a tad slow to start, but boy does it gain steam, painting a bleak and engrossing picture of how misogyny tainted a police investigation of one of the deadliest criminals in UK history.

Watch it on: Netflix

Our Planet

Our Planet
Our Planet Image Credit: Netflix

Why should you watch it: David Attenborough takes viewers into a fascinating journey that unravels the magic and beauty of our planet, while examining the impact of climate change on animals.

If there’s ever a film needed to teach your children about the perils of climate change, this is it. The documentary film also has the stamp of approval from the British royals.

Watch it on: Netflix

Abducted in Plain Sight

Abducted in Plain Sight
Abducted in Plain Sight Image Credit: Netflix

Why should you watch it: Okay, we admit, this is hardly a documentary that comes to mind to view over the holidays but the sheer ludicrousness of the story makes you just want to grab that popcorn and binge your way through this documentary.

In this true crime drama, a family falls for the charms of a neighbor, who abducts their daughter twice. Yes, grab that remote now.

Watch it on: Netflix

Indian Matchmaking

Indian Matchmaking
Indian Matchmaking Image Credit: Netflix

Why should you watch it: The documentary television series has been the subject of one of the most heated debates to explode on social media this year. Matchmaker Sima Taparia guides a list of clients from India and the US through the trials and tribulations of matchmaking, hoping to get a happy ending for these individuals.

Our absolute favourites on the show are former Dubai resident, the brutally honest Aparna Shewakramani, from Houston, mamma’s boy Akshay Jakhete, a businessman from Mumbai and Nadia Christina Jagessar from New Jersey. Be ready to form some strong opinions as you watch this.

Watch it on: Netflix

Sons of the Soil: Jaipur Pink Panthers

Sons of the Soil: Jaipur Pink Panthers
Sons of the Soil: Jaipur Pink Panthers Image Credit: Amazon Prime

Why should you watch it: Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan, who owns the Kabaddi team Jaipur Pink Panthers, takes us behind the scenes of this sports documentary as they attempt to reclaim the champion’s trophy of India’s Pro Kabaddi League 2018-19 after a flying start, only to come crashing down to earth after a winning season.

The feats and defeats of the team, along with the tireless efforts by the coach and Bachchan himself make it a cracker of a viewing in celebration of a do or die spirit.

Watch it on: Amazon Prime