Best TV Shows Of 2021

From Mare of Easttown to Squid Game and everything in between.


Netflix

Book to TV adaptations are hard — that’s just a fact — so it’s worth celebrating when one hits all the right marks. Shadow and Bone perfectly brought to life the first of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels and added in beloved characters from Six of Crows. Watching this universe come to life so beautifully with a talented cast made it one of the most enjoyable shows to binge-watch on Netflix this year.


Netflix

Sandra Oh is probably best known for her more dramatic roles on Grey’s Anatomy and Killing Eve, so it was great to see her flex her flawless comedic skills in Amanda Peet’s The Chair. Alongside Holland Taylor, Jay Duplass, and more, Sandra proves once again why she is one of the greatest TV actors today. If you missed this one, I highly recommend watching it ASAP because you will find yourself laughing out loud more than once.

33.

Station 19


ABC

A rare occurrence on TV is when a spinoff series becomes better than the original, and that’s what is happening with Station 19. Filled with incredible, flawed, and moving characters everyone loves, the series has taken the Grey’s Anatomy formula and capitalized on it. Using real-world events, the show was able to tell some moving stories in 2021, coupled with some amazing development for longtime characters. Now in its fifth season, this is a show that is worth catching up on because it has only gotten better. 


Freeform

2021 seemed to be the year of thriller TV shows that kept us on the edge of our seats, so it’s no surprise that Cruel Summer became everyone’s summer obsession. Anchored by great performances by Chiara Aurelia and Olivia Holt, this Freeform series used a brilliant story structure — flipping between three summers in Jeanette and Kate’s life — to piece together Kate’s disappearance, which made it must-watch TV week after week. 

31.

We Are Lady Parts


Peacock

One of the most underrated shows from this year has got to be Peacock’s We Are Lady Parts. The series follows an all-female Muslim punk band in the UK, and yes, it’s as badass as it sounds. The show is filled to the brim with amazing talent and characters, starting with Anjana Vasan, who leads the cast as Amina, the new lead guitarist for Lady Parts. We Are Lady Parts proved to be equal parts heartwarming and funny, which was one of its many strengths. 

30.

The Sex Lives of College Girls


HBO Max

Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble never seem to miss, which is why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that The Sex Lives of College Girls is one of the greatest new comedy series of 2021. Pauline Chalamet, Amrit Kaur, Reneé Rapp, and Alyah Chanelle Scott are four young actors that you’ll want to keep an eye on because their work on this show is funny and heartfelt, plus their chemistry with each other is flawless. No surprise, but the writing for The Sex Lives of College Girls is some of the wittiest and best of the year.

29.

You


Netflix

You continued to be one of the wildest Netflix binge-watches of 2021, simply because Joe Goldberg and Love Quinn remained two of the most chaotic TV characters of all time. Now in its third season, You did a great job at upending expectations and delivering so many great curveballs for longtime fans. The series also capitalized on adding compelling new characters to Joe and Love’s world, which helped make this season a must-see.

28.

Invincible


Prime Video

One of the best new animated series of 2021, Invincible capitalized on the success of The Boys and gifted us with a gruesome look at what happens when superheroes think they can get away with everything, even murder. With an all-star cast of voice actors — Steven Yeun, Sandra Oh, and J.K. Simmons, just to name a few — the series shines and sets itself apart from other superhero shows. Based on Robert Kirkman’s comic book series, Invincible not only knows how to create exceptional characters, but it also leans into the power of a cliffhanger.


Netflix

One of the most beloved TV shows in recent years, Lucifer came to an end this year with season 5B and season 6. While the series was always smart and funny, it was the heartbreaking moments in this final stretch of episodes that made it so memorable. Tom Ellis and Lauren German’s chemistry continued to be unmatched, while Kevin Alejandro and Lesley Ann-Brandt delivered memorable performances. We’re going to miss our favorite crime-solving Devil next year.

26.

Love Life


HBO Max

William Jackson Harper in a rom-com. Need I say more? This anthology series came back better than ever with Harper leading the way as Marcus Watkins, a book editor in search of love after his divorce. Alongside Jessica Williams, the duo makes the perfect will-they-won’t-they couple whose chemistry is one of the best of 2021. This is likely a show you might’ve missed this year, so I suggest going back and enjoying it ASAP.

25.

Evil


CBS / Paramount Plus

Now in its second season — and after a move from CBS to Paramount Plus — Evil continues to be the best supernatural series. Katja Herbers, Mike Colter, and Aasif Mandvi have some of the best chemistry on TV as Kristen, David, and Ben, respectively. Season 2 gave us one of the best TV episodes of the year with “S Is for Silence,” an almost totally silent episode that delivers some of the best storytelling the show has done. Evil is always getting better and better, and here’s hoping Season 3 continues the trend.


Netflix

Mike Flanagan just knows how to pull off a horror series, and Midnight Mass is the perfect example of his extraordinary ability to create a character-driven show you can’t look away from. Packed with lengthy monologues — that could only be pulled off by Hamish Linklater, Zach Gilford, and Kate Siegel — the show may have been different from his Haunting series, but that’s what made it so unique and a standout in 2021. Honestly, anyone who can make an episode that takes place mainly in a rec room and on a boat one of the best of the year deserves a standing ovation.


Netflix

Squid Game became the biggest Netflix series of all time this year, and it was amazing to watch this high-stakes show unfold in just nine episodes. Each episode left you wanting to see what would happen next, and while the very premise of the series involved death, I don’t think anyone was prepared for the amount of crying we would be doing. Another great product of the success of Squid Game was the ensemble cast becoming household names across the globe.


Apple TV+

Apple TV+ had so many amazing TV shows in 2021, and For All Mankind remains a hidden gem on the streamer. The series leans into its exceptional ensemble cast, as Season 2 saw the astronauts and their families in the 1980s. Not only does For All Mankind brilliantly put a spin on US history, but man, did it deliver one of the most heartbreaking season finales in 2021. I highly recommend adding this show to your must-watch list, simply because you need to witness how well crafted every single episode is.

21.

Yellowjackets


Showtime

While Season 1 is still airing, Yellowjackets has already cemented itself as one of the best shows of 2021. With an intriguing keep-you-on-your-toes premise, Yellowjackets is a show you don’t want to miss a single second of. The series follows a high school soccer team whose plane goes down in the mountains, and we learn what happened to them back then, and how they are coping now. It’s a mysterious show that is only made even better by a stellar cast that brings their A-game episode after episode.

20.

Dopesick


Hulu

Based on Beth Macy’s bestselling book, Dopesick knew exactly how to deliver a heartbreaking limited series about the opioid crisis in the US. Michael Keaton and Kaitlyn Dever give two of the best performances of the year as Sam and Betsy, while the show dives into addiction and loss. Dopesick is a devastating show that isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s also one that you’ll want to put your phone away for because paying attention to these characters’ struggles is crucial in order to recognize how powerful the series is.

19.

Loki


Marvel / Disney+

One of several Marvel shows to debut on Disney+ this year, Loki became one of the biggest stepping stones for the future of the MCU. Not only does Tom Hiddleston continue to play Loki with glorious perfection, but the additions of Sophia Di Martino, Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku, Jonathan Majors, and more made this one of the best assembled Marvel casts of the year. Loki swung big and it paid off perfectly and it made it very clear that Hiddleston remains one of the best weapons in MCU’s toolbox.


Netflix

Netflix’s perfect gem Sex Education continued to be amazing in its third season. The series continues to grow and expand in the best ways as storylines from the first two seasons are still beautifully explored in Season 3. From Aimee dealing with her sexual assault to Otis and Maeve’s will-they-won’t-they relationship and Eric continuing to discover himself, Sex Education is the series for every storyline and character that hasn’t gotten its fair shot in past TV shows. The show still holds one of the best young casts on TV, and it has been a joy to watch them soar.

17.

Insecure


HBO

We had to say goodbye to a lot of great TV shows this year, so it’s no surprise that Issa Rae knew how to deliver a phenomenal final season of Insecure. This show continues to deserve all the praise it gets, and I don’t think anyone could ever be prepared to say goodbye to such a special series. Like the seasons that came before it, Insecure leaned into the funny and heart that made it incredible from the start. As we end 2021, it would be a crime to not celebrate this show’s accomplishments when it came to storytelling, comedy, and a gifted group of actors that only assemble once in a lifetime. 

16.

It’s a Sin


HBO Max

This gut-wrenching limited series premiered in January, so it’s a testament to how amazing it was that nearly a year later everyone is still talking about it. Created by Russell T. Davies, It’s a Sin chronicles a group of friends who are dealing with the HIV/AIDS crisis in London during the 1980s. The entire relatively unknown cast of actors blew everyone away, but especially Lydia West, who acted as a mother figure for the boys. While this might be a show that’s tough to rewatch, it’s easily one of the best — and somewhat underrated — limited series of 2021.


SYFY

After being saved by a loyal fanbase, Wynonna Earp (sadly) aired its final season in 2021, and it was incredible until the very end. What made this show so special was how it wasn’t afraid to be wild and wacky — ask me about a gnome wife — but also it was grounded in heartfelt (and sometimes heartbreaking) storylines, three-dimensional characters, and actors who just loved to play in this world. Led by a career-defining performance by Melanie Scrofano, the legacy of this show will be felt long after this year, and that’s exactly what it deserves. Basically, “I wouldn’t change a note.”


Hulu

Selena Gomez, Steve Martin, and Martin Short starring in a true-crime comedy series sounds a little bizarre on paper, but like all great TV shows, it proved everybody wrong in 2021. Only Murders in the Building knew how to lean into its stars’ strengths as Selena, Steve, and Martin became the best new comedy trio on TV. Period. Not only was the show filled with brilliant comedic timing and witty humor, but man did it know how to deliver a thrilling chase right until the end. Only Murders in the Building gave us one of the best season finales this year as it perfectly set up Season 2.

13.

Pose


FX

With just three seasons, Pose managed to redefine the LGBTQ+ experience on television. In its final season, the series continued to lean into the powerhouse ensemble it had assembled as we saw these characters grow and change both inside and outside the ballroom. Billy Porter and Mj Rodriguez are just two of the actors in this cast that should be recognized with awards for what they were able to accomplish in Season 3. Next year’s TV season will just be a little less incredible without Pose.

12.

The White Lotus


HBO

The White Lotus was one of those shows this year that if you weren’t watching it, you were missing out on one of the biggest TV conversations. With a cast filled to the brim with extraordinary talent — I could give a TED Talk about how perfect Jennifer Coolidge was as Tanya — and a mystery everyone wanted to figure out, The White Lotus had every essential ingredient to become a breakout new series. Leaning into an ensemble cast format and wild moments, the show proved to be just what we all needed in 2021.

11.

Ted Lasso


Apple TV+

Building on the success of season 1, Ted Lasso season 2 allowed character development to lead the charge, and it paid off. While it was still a heartwarming comedy series, the more serious moments — like Ted in therapy, Rebecca at her father’s funeral, and Nate’s betrayal — allowed for this show to prove how dynamic it can really be. Plus, Roy and Keeley remained one of the best TV couples of all time, and that’s very important to me. 

10.

The Other Two


HBO Max

Everyone should be watching The Other Two — it’s just a fact. A relatively unknown series, the show hit its stride with Season 2 as more and more people found this comedy. Heléne Yorke and Drew Tarver’s performances would be reason enough to tune in, but add in Molly Shannon and you’ve got a hysterical, must-watch series. The combination of pure comedy with wild family antics makes The Other Two a show that might just fill the Schitt’s Creek-sized hole in your heart.

9.

Maid


Netflix

While there are more new shows than ever before streaming on Netflix, it’s still a joy when a limited series just hits all the right notes and becomes a success. Maid told a compelling story about Alex’s struggle to provide for her daughter and get out of an abusive relationship. It was also incredibly well written from beginning to end. Margaret Qualley gives an award-worthy performance as Alex, and this made her one of the best up-and-coming actors to watch.

8.

Succession


HBO

Honestly, this wouldn’t be a best of 2021 TV post if I didn’t include everyone’s fascination with loving to hate the Roy family. Succession returned with Season 3, and once again the Roys were fighting, screwing each other over, and being simply chaotic. The show continues to capitalize on the extraordinary ensemble of actors it has assembled that carried the show through a slow beginning of a season, that ended on some wild moments. Basically, long live the Roys because I can’t imagine this TV season without them.

7.

What We Do in the Shadows


FX

I don’t know what I have to do to get even more people obsessed with this show, but maybe having it so high up on this list will help. What We Do in the Shadows is a great example of how a TV series can truly get bigger and better season after season. While every episode of Season 3 was sheer chaotic comedy perfection, it was the final two episodes that cemented it as one of the best seasons of the year. I could go on about how amazing this cast is, but you should trust me when I say, watch it for yourself.


Apple TV+

Alena Smith’s Dickinson is a masterpiece, and it’s clear from the minute you turn on Season 3. The final two seasons of the show both aired in 2021, thus solidifying its place amongst the best shows of the year. The show’s ability to portray Emily Dickinson’s story with a modern twist is a triumph, and it’s only made better by an award-worthy performance from Hailee Steinfeld. This show may end before it reaches the height of recognition it so clearly deserves, but Dickinson knew how to tell a compelling story from beginning to end.

5.

Reservation Dogs


Hulu / FX

Another underrated gem from 2021 is Reservation Dogs, a comedy-drama from Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi about four Indigenous teenagers living in rural Oklahoma. It’s the first series to feature all Indigenous writers and directors, along with an almost entirely Indigenous cast and crew. Not only is it an important step toward better representation on TV, but the show is flawless. With heartwarming and heartbreaking storylines, Reservation Dogs is easily the biggest unsung hero of the TV season, and I hope more people recognize its brilliance ahead of Season 2.

4.

The Underground Railroad


Prime Video

Again, book-to-TV adaptations are tough to accomplish, but it’s no surprise that Barry Jenkins could do it masterfully. Colson Whitehead’s novel leaps off the page in a stunning limited series I wish I could watch again for the first time. Anchored by a career-making performance by Thuso Mbedu, The Underground Railroad is, simply put, a beautifully crafted series. From the acting to the writing to the directing, it’s a show that uses every part of filmmaking to its advantage, which is astonishing. 

3.

Hacks


HBO Max

Jean Smart is a TV legend, and Hacks knew just how to utilize her star power. With only 10 episodes in Season 1, the series became one of the best comedies in recent years thanks to smart writing, flawed characters, and a cast that just knew how to deliver. What also made Hacks so amazing was even though there were hysterical moments, it also wasn’t afraid to dig deeper into these characters, which led to some heartfelt scenes I am honestly still thinking about. Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder are a picture-perfect duo, and I can’t wait to see what they bring to life in Season 2.


HBO

When Kate Winslet rolled into the 2021 TV season as Mare, it was really hard to think about anything else. With a powerhouse cast made up of Winslet, Jean Smart, Evan Peters, Julianne Nicholson, and more, Mare of Easttown beautifully and brilliantly executed a character-driven drama with one of the best thriller plots of the year. It was refreshing to watch a complicated woman at the center — a role we’ve usually seen with men, like Walter White — and Kate Winslet knew just how to make Mare’s human, honest, and flawed qualities shine bright. By the end of the season, everyone was not only rooting for Mare but hoping that Kate Winslet finds another TV job soon because we didn’t want to let her go.


Marvel / Disney+

WandaVision was probably one of the biggest TV phenomenons of 2021. Marvel’s first Disney+ show came out swinging with an out-of-the-box premise that leaned into the universal themes of grief and loss. Elizabeth Olsen delivered a career-defining performance as Wanda Maximoff, a role she has perfected, and by the end, she became one of the most beloved actors of the year playing one of the biggest comic book characters of the year. Olsen and Paul Bettany’s chemistry remains an example of casting magic, while Kathryn Hahn’s wickedly amazing work as Agatha Harkness gave us memes, a Grammy-nominated song, a spinoff series, and even more adoration for Hahn herself. WandaVision also proved that genre TV deserves so much more awards credit than it usually gets as everyone fell for the love story between Scarlet Witch and Vision.

We can’t fit everything into one post, so which other TV shows did you love in 2021? Tell us in the comments below!

The year is almost over, and we’re looking back on 2021. Check out more from the year here!

Leave a Comment