WARDEN: The streaming guide to holiday dysfunction

Ted Lasso on Apple TV +

This holiday season, the return to in-person family events promises drama and comedy, thrills and spills on a scale that would have the most hardened Hulu or Disney+ executive licking her chops. From climate change to “cancel culture,” vaccines to school curriculums, Americans face a feast of gamey dinner-table topics.

Now that politics has thoroughly blended with entertainment and our culture wars are marinated in the larger-than-life histrionics previously associated only with Joan Crawford movies, who better than popular streaming characters to teach us how to fight through, merely survive, or even transcend holiday family follies?

Whether you consider such gatherings a “Squid Game”-style dystopia or a bonding opportunity a la “Schitt’s Creek,” this rundown of streaming strategies has something for everyone — just like a good night on Netflix:

This image released by Netflix shows promotional art for the upcoming “Tiger King 2” premiering Nov. 17. (Netflix via AP)

“Tiger King”: Treachery, narcissism, dubious fashion choices — what could be more all-American these days?

The sworn enemies in this toothy true-life tale of rival zoo owners are noteworthy for the vivid personas they cultivate and their willingness to use any ammo available to take down their foes.

Joe Exotic, the bleach-blond, mullet-haired Tiger King himself, works overtime to personify the colorful individualism that powers his vision of the American Dream. His foil, Carole Baskin, is just as committed to a neo-hippie image of magnanimity; the queen of ‘virtue signaling.’ Lesson: If confrontation is your thing, enter the cage match not just with talking points, but the power of an outsize personality.

The “Tiger King” antagonists also embrace a scorched-earth approach, throwing anything and everything against their foil. When attempting to take down Carole on the matter of who is the more benign exploiter of animals, Joe publicly accuses her of murdering her husband. Somewhat off topic, sure, but a demonstration that all’s fair in love, war and, maybe, family squabbles.

“You know why animals die in cages?” asks the ever-philosophical Joe. “Their soul dies.” “Tiger King” is the template for those fierce types who won’t have their opinions or impulses corralled.

“The Crown”: For those who want to avert all-out war, but who recognize that the nature of human beings does not allow for long term peace — and who want to maintain some dignity during the inevitable tribulations — there’s “The Crown.” Through seven decades and counting, the Queen Elizabeth portrayed here delivers a master class in ruling the roost with passive-aggressive detachment.

And what a roost! But whether dealing with a petulant husband, a saucy sister or a certain pouty prince and princess, Elizabeth for the most part signals her thoughts with a mere wrinkle of the nose or tilt of an eyebrow, then continues on her royal way.

Despite her regal trappings, Her Majesty accepts imperfection in herself and others, noting, “One always has to accept one’s own part, I believe, in any mess.” And lest we hoi polloi wonder if she’s unfeeling, Elizabeth offers this bittersweet insight, perfectly tuned to family foibles: “That’s the thing about unhappiness: all it takes is for something worse to come along and you realize it was actually happiness after all.”

“Ted Lasso”: Eternal optimists and other brave souls seeking to bridge our cultural chasms can find no more upbeat exemplar than the titular character of the awards-sweeping “Ted Lasso,” who boasts, “I believe in ‘believe.’”

An American football coach attempting to lead an English soccer team, Ted makes no claims to vast knowledge, cheerily admitting, “You could fill two internets with what I don’t know …” Instead, he lives by the Walt Whitman adage to “be curious, not judgmental.”

No matter how many handfuls of cranberries are hurled at folks following the tao of Ted, they’ll always see family gatherings through rose-colored glasses. Because, as Ted himself says, “If you care about someone and you’ve got a little love in your heart, there ain’t nothing you can’t get through together.”

If all of this sounds like too much work, there is a final alternative: Baby Yoda, the otherworldly tiny tot who helped launch “Star Wars”-spin-off “The Mandalorian” into the streaming stratosphere.

Baby Yoda floats above the fray, present but inscrutable, empathetic but not dramatic, zen-like. And on that note, may the Force be with you — even if family holiday time devolves into farce.

Billy Warden is a writer, founder of the Raleigh-based marketing firm GBW Strategies and a former executive producer at E! Entertainment Networks.