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11 TV shows to check out before the end of the year

From left: Hugh Grant, Noma Dumezweni, and Nicole Kidman in the HBO crime drama "The Undoing."
From left: Hugh Grant, Noma Dumezweni, and Nicole Kidman in the HBO crime drama "The Undoing."HBO

As the warm weather leaves, and social distancing in the backyard becomes less possible, TV will be there for you. The pandemic has not stopped the cable and streaming outlets, and network shows are back in production (with the likes of “The Conners” and NBC’s Chicago shows scheduled to return in the next few weeks). Here are a few notables on their way between now and the end of the year.

IF YOU LOVED ‘BIG LITTLE LIES’ BUT THINK MONTEREY IS SO BORING . . . The miniseries “The Undoing” sounds like your cup of crime drama. The six-episode adaptation of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s 2014 novel “You Should Have Known” was written by David E. Kelley, stars Nicole Kidman, airs on HBO, and focuses on super-wealthy beautiful people, all just like “Big Little Lies.” Kidman and Hugh Grant play a seemingly perfect couple — she’s a therapist, he’s a pediatrician — whose glamorous lives are thrown into confusion after a violent murder. Susanne Bier (“The Night Manager”) directed, and the cast includes Edgar Ramirez and Donald Sutherland as Kidman’s wealthy father. HBO, Oct. 25

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IF YOUR TEAR DUCTS ARE GETTING RUSTY . . . You will have a chance to get them back into shape. “This Is Us” is returning for its fifth season, after the sad season four finale that had Kevin telling his brother Randall, “The worst thing that ever happened to me was the day they brought you home.” The story opens with the 40th birthday of the big three, and there will be a pandemic theme in the mix for the present-tense scenes. In the trailer for the season, Kevin is wearing a mask. Good boy. NBC, Oct. 27

Emma Corrin as Lady Diana Spencer in season four of the Netflix series "The Crown."
Emma Corrin as Lady Diana Spencer in season four of the Netflix series "The Crown."Des Willie/Netflix

IF YOU, LIKE ME, THINK GILLIAN ANDERSON IS A QUEEN . . . You just might want to catch the “X-Files” and “Sex Education” star as Margaret Thatcher in the new season of “The Crown.” Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth don’t click, but Anderson and Olivia Colman certainly do. They are spectacular in their scenes together, as the show moves into the 1980s. Prepare to have double-takes at actress Emma Corrin’s remarkable resemblance to the innocent Princess Diana. Netflix, Nov. 15

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IF A DOSE OF CUTENESS WILL HELP YOU FEEL LESS DAZED AND CONFUSED . . . Perhaps you need to take in some heavy snout action. “That Animal Rescue Show” is certainly going to make you feel good, and maybe even a little weepy. The docu-series is produced by writer-director Richard Linklater (“Dazed and Confused,” “Boyhood”), who sets the show in an area he knows well: Austin, Texas. It’s about animal rescues that have horses, goats, and, of course, dogs. CBS All Access, Oct. 29

IF YOU WANT A JINGLE-JANGLE EVENING . . . There is a new Christmas musical on the way produced, among others, by John Legend. Called “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey,” it’s a family film about a toymaker (Forest Whitaker) who is working on an invention that could change his and his granddaughter’s lives. Also in the cast: Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Bonneville, Anika Noni Rose, Phylicia Rashad, and Ricky Martin. Netflix, Nov. 13

Samira Wiley in the HBO Max series "Equal."
Samira Wiley in the HBO Max series "Equal." Courtesy of HBO Max

IF YOU WANT A HISTORY LESSON WITH BILLY PORTER . . . It’s time to look at LGBTQ lives in the Before Times. “Equal” is a dramatic four-part docu-series about LGBTQ people prior to the groundbreaking Stonewall Uprising in 1969. It’s about all the bravery, terror, homophobia, secrecy, violence, and tears that led younger generations to start coming out of the closet and demanding civil rights. Emmy, Grammy, and Tony winner Porter narrates, and Samira Wiley, Cheyenne Jackson, Anthony Rapp, Shannon Purser, Heather Matarazzo, and Gale Harold appear in re-creations. HBO Max, Oct. 22

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IF YOU NEED ONE LAST FLASH OF GREATNESS . . . You might want to check out the three-episode miniseries “Black Narcissus.” The adaptation of Rumer Godden’s 1939 novel features one of the amazing Diana Rigg’s final performances (she died in September). It’s about nuns in the Himalayas toward the end of British rule in India, including one sent there to quash her attraction to a man. Also in the cast: Gemma Arterton, Jim Broadbent, and Alessandro Nivola. FX, Nov. 23; next day on Hulu

IF COVID REALITY ISN’T ALREADY GRIM ENOUGH FOR YOU . . . Then bring on “The Stand,” a nine-episode miniseries about a devastating global pandemic. It’s based on Stephen King’s apocalyptic novel about what happens after a weaponized flu takes out most of the world’s population — but it will feature a new ending written by King. The cast includes Alexander Skarsgård, Whoopi Goldberg, James Marsden, Heather Graham, and Greg Kinnear. Oh, and Marilyn Manson. CBS All Access, Dec. 17

From left: John C. Reilly, Tim Heidecker, and Fred Armisen in the Showtime comedy "Moonbase 8."
From left: John C. Reilly, Tim Heidecker, and Fred Armisen in the Showtime comedy "Moonbase 8."Courtesy of A24 Films/SHOWTIME

IF YOU STILL HAVEN’T HAD ENOUGH SPACE TRAVEL TV . . . After “Away,” “For All Mankind,” “First Man,” “Avenue 5,” “Space Force,” “The Orville,” “Lost in Space,” and “The Right Stuff,” Showtime has one more for you. Called “Moonbase 8,” it’s a comedy about three inept astronauts living in NASA’s Moon Base Simulator. Wackiness ensues, with a cast led by John C. Reilly, Fred Armisen, and Tim Heidecker. Showtime, Nov. 8

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IF YOU NEED STAR POWER . . . Ryan Murphy’s latest Netflix product has a crowded marquee. Murphy has adapted the Broadway musical “The Prom” and replaced the original cast with Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, Andrew Rannells, Keegan-Michael Key, Tracey Ullman, Mary Kay Place, and Kerry Washington. The story has self-important New York theater actors descending on a small town when a young lesbian takes her girlfriend to the high school prom. Netflix, Dec. 11

IF YOU NEED STAR POWER AND A MOVING THEME . . . Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2015 book “Between the World and Me” is coming to TV, and it will include appearances by Mahershala Ali, Angela Bassett, Angela Davis, Jharrel Jerome, Wendell Pierce, Phylicia Rashad, Mj Rodriguez, Courtney B. Vance, Oprah Winfrey, and many more. The movie adapts Coates’s letter to his son about black identity, growing up in America, poverty, privilege, police brutality, and more. HBO, Nov. 21



Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.