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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

These Are the 17 Must-Watch TV Shows of 2021

Last year, as the coronavirus spread and movie theaters went dark, television consumption skyrocketed. (During March, as the Covid-19 lockdowns began, TV consumption for Americans increased from 275 minutes per day to 354 minutes, per Nielsen.) And why wouldn’t it? Even though many folks took up new quarantine hobbies like baking bread or doing puzzles, TV remained a reliable form of entertainment and news. There’s hope 2021 won’t involve quite so many hours of isolation, but that doesn’t mean there still won’t be TV worth watching, especially as new streaming services like HBO Max and Disney+ continue to beef up their catalogs. It’s almost impossible to come up with a comprehensive list, but here are some of the programs we are eagerly awaiting this year.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Look, we don’t know who at the Mouse House looked around and said, “You know what? We need more content on Disney+,” but we’re sure glad that whenever they did, they gave a lot of series orders to Marvel to fill that void. Like WandaVision and Loki, this series is all about the side quests of its titular heroes. There’s also banter. Because there’s always banter.

Release date: March 19, Disney+


Full disclosure: Dickinson is kinda corny. If you don’t like period comedies that are part historical fiction and part YA fantasies where acclaimed 19th century poets speak in 21st century slang, this show is not for you. But if you, like us, enjoy watching Emily Dickinson (Hailee Steinfeld) explore queer identity and hang out with Death (Wiz Khalifa), then Season 2 of Dickinson on Apple TV+ starts this Friday. Enjoy.

Release date: January 8, Apple TV+

Search Party

Search Party started out as a quirky, little-seen TBS dark comedy about a bunch of self-involved Brooklynites who get overly involved in the search for a missing woman. Now it’s a cult hit coming to HBO Max, and one of its main characters, Dory (Alia Shawkat), is the one in need of finding. Seek it out.

Release date: January 14, HBO Max

The Book of Boba Fett

Teased during the end credits of the second season finale of The Madalorian, The Book of Boba Fett will finally give the beloved Star Wars bounty hunter a series of his own. It will be set during the same time period as Mandolorian and will star Temuera Morrison as Fett; Ming-Na Wen will also reprise her Mando character Fennec Shand. The show will be executive produced by Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, the team behind Mandolorian, as well as Robert Rodriguez. No word yet on whether Baby Yoda will cameo.

Release date: December, Disney+


Late last year, HBO hit Euphoria fans with a big surprise: A standalone episode, set on Christmas, featuring a quick dream sequence and a nearly hourlong dialog between Rue (Zendaya) and her 12-step sponsor Ali (Colman Domingo). It was heart-crushing. This month, HBO plans to bless fans again with Part 2—this time focused on the person Rue is in love with: Jules (Hunter Schafer). The episode, titled “Fuck Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob,” will seemingly focus on what Jules has been doing since she and Rue parted ways on a train platform at the end of Euphoria’s first season. Schafer also cowrote the episode with series creator Sam Levinson, which is just awesome.

Release date: January 24, HBO


WandaVision is the first series that Marvel Studios has created for Disney+. It also might be the weirdest thing it’s ever made. Focusing on the lives of Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) it’s a weird nine-episode hybrid of classic American TV and high-gloss superhero hijinks. The show will also feature Teyonah Parris, the actress who played Monica Rambeau in Captain Marvel, which hopefully means that character’s comics arc will find its way into more of the MCU.

Release date: January 15, Disney+

The Underground Railroad

Underground Railroad is the first of a few “maybe”s on this list. No no no, the show is definitely happening; it’s just not for certain going to be released this year. Adapted from Colson Whitehead’s incredible Pulitzer Prize–winning 2017 novel, The Underground Railroad is the story of a Black woman in the pre–Civil War South trying to escape slavery. Only in this version, the railroad is literal—a series of trains and tunnels designed to help slaves escape to the North. (Who built it? “Well,” a conductor says, “Who built anything in this country?”) Director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) tweeted in September that he’d completed the 116-day shoot for the series, so there’s hope that it’ll be done and ready to air before the end of the year.

Release date: TBD, Amazon


One need that’s never been fully satiated by the MCU: Loki. Sure, Tom Hiddleston’s God of Mischief has been in quite a few Marvel movies now, but never for long enough. Now, the guy is getting his own show. Loki’s official synopsis just says that it takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame and its trailer is a bit vague and mysterious, but c’mon. It looks like a helluva good time.

Release date: May, Disney+

The Dropout

Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon stops impersonating Elizabeth Warren, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Hillary Clinton and instead fills the shoes of a more infamous figure—Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes—in this Hulu series. That’s it. That’s the plug.

Release date: TBD, Hulu

Y: The Last Man

This adaptation of the incredible comics series from Pia Guerra and Brian K. Vaughan has felt like pop culture vaporware for so long that it would be hard to imagine it was actually being released even if the world wasn’t in the middle of a pandemic. Regardless, this apocalyptic drama, about what happens when a mysterious occurrence wipes out all mammals with Y chromosomes, is allegedly in production. Like many other series over the last year, the production was halted by Covid-19, but there’s still a chance it could hit its 2021 release window.

Release date: TBD, FX on Hulu

Midnight Mass

Did you enjoy The Haunting of Hill House? You're in luck. Horror impresario Mike Flanagan is back with another Netflix series sure to tingle your spine. This one—Midnight Mass—is about a remote island community that begins experiencing unprecedented, and terrifying, events after a young priest comes to town. Flanagan actually finished the shoot for this during the pandemic and there's a chance it'll be ready to stream this year. Here's hoping.  

Release date: TBD, Netflix


Speaking of throwing money at worthwhile ambitious projects, Apple TV+ has ordered a sprawling adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels. Could this be the streaming service’s big genre break? We’ll see.

Release date: TBD, Apple TV+


Oh whoops, sorry! One more Marvel hopeful: Hawkeye. Based on Matt Fraction’s—and I can’t stress this enough—beloved 2012-2015 comics run, the series follows Jeremy Renner’s bowman Clint Barton and his fellow archer Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) as they do hero stuff. The series—and I can’t stress this enough—also better feature Pizza Dog.

Release date: Fall, Disney+

The Lord of the Rings

This is another one for the “maybe” pile but apparently Amazon is still funneling millions of dollars into this prequel series based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels. You’ve been stuck at home for a year; you’ll likely want to go to Middle-earth if given a chance, yes?

Release date: TBD, Amazon


Hey, remember when Showtime announced it was turning Halo into a TV series? No one does; it happened before 2020. Anyway, Master Chief might be in your living room in a whole new form sometime this year. Or he might just show up long enough to say, “That’s not going to happen!”

Release date: TBD, Showtime

Ms. Marvel

Please, please, please let this come out this year. Based on the comic of the same name, this additional Marvel show for Disney+ is about the adventures of a young superhero named Kamala Khan (played by Iman Vellani) who is a mentee of Captain Marvel.

Release date: TBD, Disney+

Cowboy Bebop

Netflix’s live-action adaptation of the Japanese anime cult classic starring Jon Cho is currently in production. Fingers crossed.

Release date: TBD, Netflix

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