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Television

TV Picks: ‘Making a Murderer,’ ‘Luther,’ ‘Doctor Who,’ ‘Call the Midwife’

Idris Elba in “Luther”

He’s baaaack. Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther returns for a two-hour special.

(Steffan Hill / BBC)

“Making a Murderer” -- Netflix’s new 10-part true-crime documentary  is as unnerving as it is addictive, in part because it is so addictive.

Over the course of 10 hours, writers-directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos tell the story of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who served 18 years for a sexual assault he did not commit before being exonerated by DNA evidence. If that weren’t dramatic enough, he was then charged and convicted of a murder he insists he did not commit, just as he was prepared to sue the county and police department that had put him in jail in the first place.

For the Record

December 17, 6:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this article misspelled writer-director Moira Demos’ name as Demosin. 

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With painstaking, and often painful, detail, “Making a Murderer” reconstructs how all of this came to pass. What emerges, at least from the four hours Netflix made available, is a disturbing portrait of small-town America framed by a chilling reminder that the criminal justice system has many more sides than scripted television’s carefully curated tales of “law and order.” Netflix, any time.

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“Luther” -- We must wait until the feast proper for the “Doctor Who” Christmas Special and all the way to New Year’s for the next installment of “Sherlock,” but the BBC is handing out at least one sugarplum early this year: The return of Idris Elba as the deeply troubled and equally dedicated tracker of super-crazed serial killers, DCI John Luther.

Oh, and in case you did not previously believe in Christmas miracles, the coat’s back too. As fans of male British TV detectives and Time Lords know: You just can’t keep a good coat down.

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The fourth season is a two-hour special, but at this we’ll take what we can get. It’s nice to have you back, John Luther. BBC America, Dec. 17, 9 p.m. 

“Doctor Who” -- No one does Christmas better than The Doctor; the “Doctor Who Christmas Special” is as big a tradition in Britain as mince pies. Now, in preparation for this year’s extravaganza, you can binge watch all of the Christmas specials on BBC America’s website. May I recommend “The Runaway Bride,” “The Next Doctor,” “A Christmas Carol” and “The Snowmen”? But honestly, all of them are terrific. BBCAmerica.com, any  time.

“Call the Midwife” -- This PBS drama, following a group of midwives in 1950s East London, has been chronically overshadowed by its showier cousin “Downton Abbey,” but it’s just as fine a production, with just as splendid a cast, and far more narratively ambitious. It too has a Christmas special, premiering on Christmas Day, which gives everyone just enough time to catch up, with the most recent season, four, or the whole thing. Netflix, any time.


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