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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

The Best TV Shows Of 2021

A collage of people from 2021 TV shows
FX | Netflix | HBO | Apple TV+

As the world is consuming more television shows than perhaps ever before since everyone has had to spend more time at home, it's a bit of a bummer to only make a best-of-the-year list with seven titles and one of them being from the year before. There's a couple of reasons for that; one is that I personally didn't have the time to catch too much new stuff (will get to likes of 'Squid Game', 'Maid', 'Station Eleven' eventually, don't worry), therefore unfortunately there isn't a real deep find like these lists tend to have.

Second reason is that the pandemic has seemingly had a major impact both on quality and rollouts of TV shows, the former really shown by a few ''network'' shows that I was still watching. They had an eerie feeling of detachment to them and set pieces got fewer and fewer as the production schedules kept on going. Overall also, the quality dropped in a major way from especially the last three years of TV. Latter is more obvious as many shows still haven't returned, or the seasons had fewer episodes than usual (sometimes a good thing, though!). Truly the only shows that stepped up were those driven by excellent screenwriting and lead actors.

Competing for spots on the list were 28 different television series from 2021 (hence the need to catch up on buzz-y titles) and seven shows from 2020 battled it out for what ended up being just one special mention. Luckily there was also one very special musical comedy special/film/show that deserves to be shouted out among them, defying the need to even rank it. Hopefully in 2022 there will be enough to make a proper list of ten, but until then we shall talk about these following TV spectacles.

Special Mentions

Best 2020 Catch-up

I MAY DESTROY YOU (miniseries)

Just like every other year, there's always a show or two that you're simply late to the game with, often as they build up a steady volume of noise in months after release. That happened with writer-actor-director, extraordinaire Michaela Coel's I May Destroy You, shining because of her brilliant performance, solid fellow cast members and most of all, deeply stirring and masterful screenwriting.

Michaela Coel taking a selfie dressed as a demon

Whatever It Is, It's Fantastic


Now this happens to be a tricky one as you could make an argument that would place Inside on your favourite films list, or you could simply consider it to be a comedy special that is there to provide laughs. In any case, it's one of the best artistic pieces of the year that could land anywhere between first and fifth spots in either film or TV, but having it as a special mention seems most fitting as it's quite its own thing. Burnham's one-man-show is surprisingly versatile in its filmmaking, thought-provoking by making you think whether you're seeing a performance or something real, and the soundtrack is just full of bangers. What more do you need?

Bo Burnham singing into a mic and playing a keyboard

And now.. tune in for best TV of 2021

5. LUPIN (Season 1)

An oddball take on the French literary character Arsène Lupin, a gentleman thief, succeeds better in its first series than the following second as it doesn't get too intoxicated with twists and builds the characters with more patience. In centre of it all is the magnetic Omar Sy who portrays Assane, a thief and father inspired by 'Lupin' stories. The show's style comes from borrowing old-school storytelling and mixing it with modern crime thriller elements.

Omar Sy running on a rooftop


Even if season three of the vampire mockumentary lacks a standout episode like the second one had, the show continues to find a lot of humour in rather ordinary things by trusting the main cast to deliver. Season finale would also suggest that there's still more blood to be drained.

Natasia Demetriou, Matt Berry and Harvey Guillén dressed in black

3. TED LASSO (Season 2)

When season two of Ted Lasso decides to pay off things planted in the first season with more dramatic elements, it shows that it might have more staying power than expected, especially had it kept up it's cheerful, pop-culture-referencing tone for another 12 episodes from start to end. While finding plenty of intrigue in other supporting characters played by talented actors, the only misstep comes in the form of standalone episode that you can easily skip if you decide to rewatch the series.

Brendan Hunt, Jason Sudeikis, Brett Goldstein and Nick Mohammed on a football pitch
Apple TV+

2. MARE OF EASTTOWN (miniseries)

When you're drowning in the sea of crime dramas, good ol' pacing is often harder to find than is preferred. With Kate Winslet starring, Mare Of Easttown is refreshing in that sense as character depth and murder mystery aspects go hand in hand and it doesn't hurt that the cast is firing on all cylinders as well. Your usual misdirections are there and there really isn't too much fat in the episodes so you can just sit comfortably and feel uncomfortable as the scripts reveal darker secrets of Mare's home town.

Kate Winslet taking notes

1. SUCCESSION (Season 3)

Writing, acting, writing, acting, writing. That's what Succession is all about and what it does better than any other show airing right now. Just from those two aspects, you can feel the power shifting from one side to another, sometimes even from scene to scene which is an impressive feat. Plus, for all you Tom and Greg stans, this is Matthew Macdadyen's best season so far which just gives so many quotable lines for you in the scenes between them. There's power in the words, as this particular show exemplifies.

Kieran Culkin, Jeremy Strong and Sarah Snook confronting Brian Cox

Here's to 2022.

After Misery's logo with the text ''all things film & television'' underneath it.
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