The Best TV Shows of 2021

Featuring all manner of vampires, beleaguered detectives, and a little studio called Marvel, here is Den of Geek's list of The Best TV Shows of 2021.

The Best TV of 2021
Photo: Art by Jessica Koynock

And just like that (not be confused with And Just Like That…), another year of television is in the books.

In terms of pop culture, 2021 was never going to be as strange and surreal as when the whole world shut down in 2020. Still, this year of TV wasn’t necessarily the return to normalcy that one might expect. TV changed in the year 2021. For one, it got a hell of a lot bigger. That’ll happen to a medium when Disney decides to throw the Marvel Cinematic Universe its way. Series like WandaVision, Loki, and even Marvel’s What If…? dominated the streaming servers for most of 2021.

Even beyond the Marvel machine, however, it felt like TV regained some of its watercooler mass appeal in 2021. Netflix’s dystopian Korean TV series Squid Game was an absolute phenomenon and rightfully so. A slickly-produced, beautifully crafted race to a tragic end, Squid Game was much more than a meme machine. Don’t discount its importance as “just” that, however. Squid Game and other big hits like Mare of Easttown, Only Murders in the Building, and even Ted Lasso hammered home that TV is better as a medium that we all watch together, even when we’re apart.

All in all, it was a good year for TV, so we’ve decided to honor it. Like we did last year (and plan to do next year unless you all really hate this), we compiled a panel of Den of Geek TV contributors to vote on our 25 favorite TV shows of 2021. We polled our readership as well and folded your vote into our own tally. Believe it or not, this year both Den of Geek‘s writers and readers came to the same conclusion for number one…though it was but a fingernail (two “points” in our internal voting system) ahead of number two.

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Please enjoy our choices for the 25 Best TV Shows of 2021, and as always: stay safe and see you in 2022.

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - Guilt

25. Guilt

Scotland is quite deservedly having a screen moment right now, and not just because Brooke Shields bought a castle there for Christmas in this year’s festive Netflix hit. That’s where Amazon Prime is filming Anansi Boys, series two of Good Omens, and – rumour has it – the next run of its megabucks Lord of the Rings adaptation. Scotland’s natural beauty and screen sector tax incentives are only the half of it. There’s also Neil Forsyth’s Guilt, one of the best TV shows to come out of the U.K. in an age, and more than worthy of its reputation as the Scottish Fargo

The crime thriller’s four-part first series told the story of Max and Jake McCall, two brothers from Leith who’ve taken very different routes through life. When they accidentally run over an old man, they’re thrown together into a tangle of deception, organised crime, and darkly funny revelations. Series two continued Max’s story with equally fine writing and top performances from a cast led by the brilliant Mark Bonnar. Witty, surprising, clever and funny, Guilt is a must-watch. – Louisa Mellor

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - Reservation Dogs

24. Reservation Dogs

For a medium that debuts roughly 90 trillion hours (fact-check pending) of new content per year, television can at times feel lacking in truly truly new perspectives Thankfully we occasionally get fresh points of view like Reservation Dogs. FX’s half-hour comedy was quite simply sweet fry bread mana from heaven in 2021.

Created by Sterlin Harjo, a citizen of the Seminole Nation, and produced by Taikia Waititi, this slice-of-life series follows four Indigenous teenagers living in rural Oklahoma and getting up to all the creative nonsense that teenagers like to get into. The show’s characters, led by Devery Jacobs as Elora Danan Postoak and D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai as Bear Smallhill are both very funny and achingly easy to empathize with. Equal parts specific and universal, Reservation Dogs represented some of the richest comedic storytelling you could find on television this year. – Alec Bojalad

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - Station Eleven

23. Station Eleven

Station Eleven‘s relatively low placement on this list is likely due to its unfortunate timing. Not only does this show feature a deadly pandemic, but it also premiered its first three episodes on Dec. 16, mere days before Den of Geek TV ballots were due. The few of us who have exerted our critical privilege to watch all of the series’ 10 episodes know just special it is though. And since the show airs the majority of its run in 2021 (with episodes 8, 9, and 10 coming next year) it’s eligible for this year’s list.

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Simply put: Station Eleven is a stunning achievement. Based on Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 book of the same name, the HBO Max drama imagines the world where the apocalypse is only the beginning. Station Eleven depicts the end of the world via flu, and then immediately picks up with a host of survivors years into the post-apocalypse. Lead character Kirsten (MacKenzie Davis) is part of an acting troupe that tours the Great Lakes bringing Shakespeare to the masses. The way the show’s non-linear plot carries on from there is remarkable and mesmerizing. Rarely has the end of days looked or felt so sublimely beautiful. – AB

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - Hacks

22. Hacks

After years of scene-stealing performances in prestige dramas, Jean Smart is rightfully fixed center stage in HBO Max’s Hacks, which finds the veteran actress playing Deborah Vance, a Joan Rivers-styled comedian and Vegas mainstay who feels her empire eroding due to time and complacency. When she’s forced to take on an up-and-coming comedy writer (Hannah Einbinder) to freshen up her act, the hardened professional and navel-gazing millennial must overcome their own personal shortcomings to bring out the best in each other. 

Offering plenty of show biz satire, generational gap gags, and acerbic putdowns, Hacks is the rare series based in the entertainment industry that feels relatable. Few comedies debut as sharp and emotionally deep as this and the relationship between the two leads feels completely unique in the 2021 TV landscape. – Nick Harley

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - Hawkeye

21. Hawkeye

It’s no secret that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a bit of an escalating scale problem. The sheer size of the studio’s cinematic offerings seems destined to always grow bigger as the superhero movie arms race grows more competitive. What makes Marvel’s fifth Disney+ series, Hawkeye, so refreshing is how it refuses to engage in that arms race and lives within its own modest means.

How to top “The Blip” in Infinity War and Endgame is Kevin Feige’s problem for a later date. In Hawkeye, Clint Barton just needs to be home in time for Christmas. This unabashedly Christmas-y action series is the best work that Jeremy Renner has done as Hawkeye in the MCU yet. It certainly helps that he has the wonderful Hailee Steinfeld to play off of as young archer Kate Bishop. Add in a pizza-loving dog, some tracksuit-wearing goons, and a heaping dose of Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, and you’ve got yourself a low-stakes holiday hit. – AB

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - Superman & Lois

20. Superman & Lois

It’s hard to imagine any show on television that hid its true nature as well as Superman & Lois. The high concept pitch for the series, which sees a married Lois Lane and Clark Kent leave Metropolis to raise their twin teenage boys (!) back on the farm in Smallville seems like it was tailor-made for the CW’s tried-and-true method of couching its superheroics in teen-friendly melodrama. And, to be sure, the show does plenty of that. But what nobody was counting on is how it also brought big budget, almost cinematic action and production values to the table with its family drama, and some big twists and reveals that made even the most ardent of comic book scholars sit up and take notice. 

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The CW’s superhero shows have long proven that they understand how to capture the essence of what makes DC heroes special, so surely Superman was in good hands. But nobody was really expecting Superman & Lois to not only become the best of the Arrowverse shows, but the best live action interpretation of the Superman legend in decades. Not to mention the fact that Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch are the best Lois and Clark since Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder. If you haven’t allowed yourself to be pleasantly surprised by Superman & Lois yet, you’ve still got time to catch up on HBO Max before its second season hits the CW. – Mike Cecchini

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - It's a Sin

19. It’s a Sin

It’s unusual to feel certain by mid-January that you’ve seen the drama of the year, but then Russell T. Davies’ It’s a Sin is unusual. It’s unusually joyful for a show about the 1980s AIDS crisis, and unusually funny for a series that will rip out your heart and make your blood boil while you’re smiling. 

Over five episodes, the drama follows a group of young gay housemates living in London between 1981 and 1991. Escapees from humdrum hometowns, they revel in the hedonism the city affords. It’s on-tap sex, fun, and boys for lead Richie Tozer, who lives a life so vibrant that death seems a ridiculous impossibility. And then, whispers are heard about a mystery virus, and men start to disappear, into lonely hospital wards and smuggled shamefully back to family homes. 

It’s a Sin stands in tribute to those men as both a celebration of their lives and an indictment of the ignorance and cruelty that surrounded their deaths. Peter Hoar directs a dream cast of Olly Alexander, Lydia West, Omari Douglas, Nathaniel Curtis, and Callum Scott-Howells with a script that’s personal, political, beautiful, filthy, angry and bursting with love. – LM

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - Evil

18. Evil

It’s a little ironic that the best, and most unabashedly old school, TV procedural this year didn’t actually air on traditional television. Following a well-received first season on CBS, superb supernatural drama Evil moved to Paramount+. Due to Paramount+’s industry standard black boxing of its viewership numbers, how Evil performed in the streaming world is anyone’s guess. If it took in a significantly smaller audience than its CBS days though, that’s a damn shame. This was some of the most fun anyone could have watching TV in 2021.

Season 2 of Evil maintained the show’s ambitious premise of introducing weekly cases that could or could not be legitimately supernatural. Forensic psychologist Dr. Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers), priest-in-training David Acosta (Mike Colter), and tech specialist Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi) all return to investigate cases on behalf of the Catholic Church. The real joy of Evil is that every week brings the enticing potential of something new – whether that means an overtly sexual fire demon, or an entirely wordless hour on the grounds of a monastery. Like the best procedurals, however, Evil also knows how to weave a compelling series-long story through all the episodic madness as well. – AB

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The Best TV Shows of 2021 - The Other Two

17. The Other Two

We expect a lot out of our TV comedies nowadays. Ever since the Emmys decided to consider anything 30 minutes or under a comedy by default, the genre has become stuffed with shows that are thoughtful, interesting, and creative…but not always funny. Those who wanted to experience the sublime joys of an old school, well-oiled laugh machine on television in 2021 were in luck thanks to The Other Two.

After airing its first season on Comedy Central way back in 2018, The Other Two made its way to HBO Max and lost absolutely nothing in comedy translation. The series follows Cary (Drew Tarver) and Brooke (Heléne York) Dubek, two siblings who are overshadowed by their famous pop star younger brother Chase Dreams (Chase Walker) and their talk show host mom Pat (Molly Shannon). The Other Two uses this premise as a jumping off point to put through Cary and Brooke through all kinds of inspired and hilarious Hollywood hell. The show’s second season was relentlessly, uncompromisingly funny and culminated with a joke in the its final three seconds that may have been the best gag on TV in 2021. – AB

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - Shadow and Bone

16. Shadow and Bone

Netflix’s Shadow and Bone may be based on the first book in Leigh Bardugo’s “Grishaverse” series, but the success of the adaptation is that it transcends the “chosen one” trappings of its source material. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to enjoy about the story of the sun summoner, Alina Starkov. The girl with undiscovered powers comes from humble beginnings, but when her abilities manifest as she crosses a continent-spanning curtain of darkness called the Shadow Fold, the intrigue of those seeking to exploit her, help her, or eliminate her chances of dispelling the deadly barrier is quite compelling.

But another big part of the show’s success was its decision to incorporate a sub-plot from the later, more critically acclaimed trilogy, Six of Crows, including much beloved characters like criminals-for-hire Nina Zenik and Matthias Helvar. While in the original books, the Crows are hired to retrieve a scientist who made an important discovery, in the Netflix adaptation, they cross the Fold to kidnap Alina and, in the process, learn more about where their own loyalties should lie. – Michael Ahr

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - White Lotus

15. The White Lotus

Upstairs and downstairs. It’s a storytelling convention at least as old as British television. However, Mike White offers a distinctly American and late stage capitalism variation on the concept in his pitch black tragicomedy, The White Lotus. Over the course of six episodes, a sharp ensemble puts on a pleasantly monstrous face while contrasting the differences between the uber wealthy and the chipper help who must smile past every indignity while making the guests’ island fantasies come true at a Hawaiian resort.

Filming in an actual slice of paradise, writer-director Mike White amusingly avoids travelogue images for most of the series, instead focusing on the petty slights and intimate manipulations of his characters. Some of the guests seem well-intentioned or sweet-meaning, others are in a perpetual state of calling for the manager. However, they all take and take, and take, and give nothing back except a reason for Murray Bartlett’s Armond to give a sure-to-be legendary demonstration of a concierge in meltdown. There are reports there’ll be a second season in a new location, but it’s hard to think we’ll ever forget our stay at the White Lotus. – David Crow

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The Best TV Shows of 2021 - Only Murders in the Building

14. Only Murders in the Building

In a year of turbulent times and appointment viewing, comedy has had a much bigger chance to shine, but Only Murders in the Building still seemed like an outside prospect despite its intriguing cast of veteran heavyweights like Steve Martin, Martin Short, Nathan Lane, Tina Fey, and Jane Lynch. It’s hard to launch an original show that isn’t based on an already-popular bit of IP these days, y’know? The premise for Only Murders is at least fairly simple to wrap your head around: there’s been a murder in an affluent Upper West Side apartment building, and several of its residents get wrapped up in solving said murder while channelling their findings into a true crime podcast. 

What really makes the show work is its effortless balance of silliness and insight when it comes to its characters, with Selena Gomez’s standout performance as the mysterious “straight man” the cherry on top. Over 10 episodes, the series spun a good old fashioned murder mystery around the kind of hilarious physical comedy that so few actors are truly able to achieve, with Martin and Short still seemingly at the top of their game after all these years. Plus, not only did Murders stick its landing, we came to really care about those we met during its run – a magnificent achievement considering how little buzz there was surrounding the show before it began. – Kirsten Howard

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - I Think You Should Leave

13. I Think You Should Leave

Two seasons in, Tim Robinson’s I Think You Should Leave has already cemented itself as the most important sketch comedy series of the streaming age. The show is a meme factory that could single-handedly sustain Twitter for years. As most sketch series are, I Think You Should Leave can be hit or miss, but Tim and Co. seem to hit more often than not, and when they really connect, you’ll be left convulsing in laughter. 

Season 2 brought us Dan Flashes, Coffin Flop, Jamie Taco, and Karl Havoc, among many other singular, brilliant bits of bizzarro comedy. The driving concept of the show’s humor is the same as ever — an eccentric person overcommits to some idea, refusing to acknowledge the reactions of those around them — but the execution is always fiercely unique and explosively funny. The show also manages to take weirdly poignant turns that take you off balance, just so the next joke can topple you over even harder. Hopefully Netflix and Robinson continue until the well runs dry. – NH

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - Dickinson

12. Dickinson

Autumn 2021 belonged to Hailee Steinfeld, who turned in stellar performances across three of the year’s best shows: Hawkeye, Arcane, and Dickinson. It’s that final one that deserves particular attention, though. As the passionate and determined Emily Dicksinon, Steinfeld has anchored the Apple TV+ series for three vibrant, clever seasons that follow Emily as she comes of age in 19th century Amherst, Massachusetts. Intentionally anachronistic in its dialogue, music, and occasional time travel while historically faithful in fashion and representations of real-life figures and events, Dickinson makes the period feel modern and the modern feel timeless in Alena Smith’s poem of a show that is never afraid to let sentiment lead structure.

The first season of Dickinson introduced us to Emily’s fight to be a female poet in the small, patriarchal world of 19th century New England. The second season saw Emily struggling to decide if she even wanted public attention for her poetry. The third and final season sees the onset of the Civil War, and privileged Emily’s efforts to have a positive influence on a broken world. Every season follows the deeply romantic relationship between Emily and best friend Sue, a love story that inspired many of real-life Emily’s poems. All of it is driven by Dickinson’s own verses, a reminder that this was a thinking, human feeling we are lucky enough to have in our literary history. Long contextualized as a passionless hermit despite her fervent writing, Dickinson has recontextualized one of America’s greatest poets as the deeply artistic, innovative writer and thinker she was. A gift of a show. – Kayti Burt

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The Best TV Shows of 2021 - DC's Legends of Tomorrow

11. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow

Do you remember the sheer level of fun syndicated sci-fi/fantasy shows in the late ‘90s and early 2000s? They were over the top, featured tons of action, and often had a lot of heart. Legends of Tomorrow is the true successor to that unique genre of television. The show is absolutely bonkers and it knows it, yet that high-level of humor is always cut with just the right amount of drama.

Legends is a show you laugh with because you care about each and every one of these weirdos as much as they care about each other. It’s also unabashedly a queer show, with multiple confirmed queer characters. There was even a queer wedding that saved the world! Any show, superhero or otherwise, with that is an instant must-watch. – Shamus Kelley

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - Loki

10. Loki

Wandavision was good. Falcon and the Winter Soldier was… not good. Loki was the Disney+ Marvel show that would tip the scales definitively in one direction… and it was great! Tom Hiddleston returns in the role of Loki, proving that the character can carry a story all on his lonesome. Set shortly after “our” Loki stole the Tesseract at the Battle of New York: Endgame Edition, Loki follows the trickster as he’s picked up by the Time Variance Authority (TVA) for messing up the timeline. 

Loki is faced with a choice: help the TVA save the timeline from a greater, mysterious threat, or be erased from existence. Of course, this wasn’t just Hiddleston’s Loki’s tale. Loki benefitted from an ensemble of talented actors, including Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku, Owen Wilson, Sophia DiMartino, and Jonathan Major, rounding out this timey-wimey tale about the choices we make and the love we—for better and worse—find along the way. -KB

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - The Beatles: Get Back

9. The Beatles: Get Back

Peter Jackson’s restoration of nearly 60 hours of archival footage shot for the Beatles’ infamous break-up documentary Let It Be, cut and compiled into the three-part, six-hour plus documentary Get Back, is simply miraculous. If Get Back only managed to offer new insights on the interpersonal dynamics and creative process of history’s most important band in their final year together, it would be more than enough, but Get Back also manages to tell a complete narrative, offering wonderful character arcs for figures like George Harrison, a blossoming artist fighting to be heard between the 20th century’s most prolific and successful songwriting duo, or Paul McCartney, a man who’s entire adult life has been spent being a Beatle, trying to keep the machine roaring on. 

Get Back is the closest thing we have to a time machine, and it allows us to be a fly on the wall while pop culture touchstones like “Get Back” and “Let It Be” are pulled out of thin air in real time. The runtime also means that we get to witness the sometimes-maddening songwriting process, where goofing around or diving into your old influences can lead to a creative breakthrough. There’s a full smorgasbord for Beatles fanatics, but something for sociologists, historians, creatives, musicians, and documentary fans too. Like the Beatles catalog itself, there’s something for everyone. – NH

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The Best TV Shows of 2021 - Invincible

8. Invincible

Though Marvel’s Disney+ offerings Loki and WandaVision are both inventive and superb, Amazon Prime’s Invincible might be pound for pound the best “pure” superhero series of 2021. Based on an incredible comic book series from The Walking Dead‘s Robert Kirkman, Invincible brings a sense of unabashed, unpretentious joy to traditional superhero storytelling. This animated series just positively loves superheroes from their garish costumes to their silly names to their awe-inspiring Godlike powers.

Invincible takes that love of superheroes and superimposes (pardon the pun) over it a touching coming-of-age tale for young Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun), son of a Viltrumite and the most powerful hero on Earth Nolan Grayson a.k.a. Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons). Though Invincible is built upon its wholesome love of the genre, those who have watched all eight episodes of the show’s brilliant first season know that this is decidedly not a family-friendly affair. The series loves the physics of superpowers just as much as it loves the heroes themselves. That means fights on this show produce oceans of blood, torn out spines, and crushed-in skulls. It all culminates in one of the most jaw-dropping sustained scenes of familial violence ever captured in fiction. God bless this bloody show. – AB

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - What We Do in the Shadows

7. What We Do in the Shadows

Staten Island’s favorite vampires traversed a huge arc during What We Do in the Shadows season 3. After the aftermath of the theatrical bloodletting of the Vampiric Council, Nandor the Relentless (Kayvan Novak) and Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) took over leadership of the New York Chapter. While they spend an inordinate amount of time playing musical thrones, they finally come to an agreement: to disagree on just about everything. Nadja is a ruthless, literally heart-wrenching sovereign, while Nandor, who was a warlord before getting the bite for blood, goes through a mid-eternal-life crisis, and decides his best option is to sleep it off in a Vampire Super Slumber. Their familiar-turned-bodyguard-but-still-treated-like-a-familiar Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) sees himself as a Machiavellian vampire whisperer, who really should speak up.

It would seem Laszlo Cravensworth (Matt Berry) is happy enough in his newfound access to a treasure trove of the rarest pornography in the known world, but it turns out he is hiding true depth. The whole season builds up to energy vampire Colin Robinson’s (Mark Proksch) 100th birthday celebration but the finale drops a bundle on viewers. Whatever the future brings, and it just might bring about the calamity of introducing a baby into a sitcom, What We Do in The Shadows brings mirthful mayhem, physical comedy, and a supernatural pace. The stakes are always high, the jokes are not afraid to go low. – Tony Sokol

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - Ted Lasso

6. Ted Lasso

In Season 2, Ted Lasso still managed to be a balm for our aggressively depressing times while also getting deeper and darker. By exploring the limitations of Ted’s optimism, the series showed the importance of erasing the stigma of openly discussing mental health in the sports world, something that we saw play out in a nonfiction context during this Summer’s Olympics. The show offered great insights on toxic relationships, codependency, and workplace insecurity while deepening fan favorite characters like Rebecca, Roy, and most importantly, Nate. 

However, it wasn’t all serious business; the warm-hearted kindness that made the AppleTV+ series a pandemic breakout is still integral to Ted Lasso’s appeal, and it’s never been more joyful than during this season’s standalone Christmas episode. While a weekly release schedule tested the patience of die-hard fans, Ted Lasso still managed to deliver a smart, uplifting season that’s poised for even greater success in Year 3. – NH

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The Best TV Shows of 2021 - Mare of Easttown

5. Mare of Easttown

Once you get over Mare of Easttown’s title (‘Mare’ like a female horse? A pun on ‘mayor’?) and learn it’s just the name of Kate Winslet’s no-nonsense, beer-from-the-bottle, unpreened Pennsylvania cop character in this HBO whodunnit, it’s plain sailing from there. This is detective drama as it should be: involving, character-led, and gradually building week-on-week to the point that you find yourself missing your bus stop and overboiling spaghetti because you’re pondering murderer theories. 

Set in a Philadelphia suburb freighted by poverty and opioid addiction, Kate Winslet plays local detective Mare (short for Marianne, apparently). One year earlier, a girl went missing and Mare failed to find her. When another girl is murdered, Mare’s under pressure to get results and so is reluctantly paired up with a hotshot from the city. Over seven episodes, Winslet leads a cast with zero dead weight and stand-out turns from Jean Smart and Evan Peters. Believable performances, clever twists, engaging characters, and a real sense of place raise this murder mystery above the pack. – LM

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - Succession

4. Succession

There’s a reason why people who love Succession can’t stop banging on about it. It’s almost as if we are constantly surprised that a show about a disgustingly wealthy, genuinely awful family, bickering over the leadership of a massive media conglomerate, could possibly be as funny, tense and thrilling as this. Three seasons in and the standard hasn’t dropped, with Jesse Armstrong and his writers’ dialogue sharp as ever and pitch perfect performances across the board to match. Season two ended with a major power play from Kendall Roy which put a final nail in the coffin of his relationship with his dad, Logan, and season three finds us in the aftermath. Kendall’s riding high. Could Tom or Greg really go to prison? Could Logan even go down, and who would take over? It’s never as simple as that… 

Succession sees the Roy family engage in one giant strategy game, forging and breaking allegiances in ways that become more sociopathic as the episodes roll on. It really is just about winning, and season three comes with several dizzying standout episodes – Ep 7 ‘Too Much Birthday’ is a cringe-making show of decadence and desperate childishness as Kendall throws himself the ultimate 40th, while the season finale came with major beats that no one saw coming. Pugnacious perfection. – Rosie Fletcher

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - Midnight Mass

3. Midnight Mass

Midnight Mass is obviously a very personal project to writer/creator Mike Flanagan, and that makes all the difference. This is not just another “let’s make a vampire movie.” It means something to him and is all about meaning. It is a horror miniseries but it is steeped in Catholic guilt. The writing is brilliant, the acting sublim – every single performance – and when rumblings of the Jonestown suicides begin to spill over into the Kool-Aid, this hits at every level, even in ways most regular church goers can identify with. Every parish has a Bev (Samantha Sloyan) – self-righteous, head up the priest’s ass, never-had-sex, sanctimonious, pure evil in sheep’s clothing – but they don’t all have the full collection of the works of Neil Diamond, and on vinyl, no less, which works so well as the undertone to unclean wounds.

Religious horror is the scariest. Angel Heart is not for the faint of heart; The Devil Rides Out is not for the weak of faith; Rosemary’s Baby is no lullaby, especially on the crowded floor of a city apartment building, The Exorcist makes you think of crosses in ways you never want to picture in your mind again. In most of those movies, the savior or at least main combatant against evil, is the priest, the father, the living minister to the word of God itself. Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) seems like a godsend to the insular island community of Crockett Island: lame walk, elderly rejuvenate, scabs form. Somebody say Amen. Just not so loud the angels can hear. They don’t look like cherubs, but love young blood. “What happens when we die?” All the answers are here to choose from, but burn up in the morning sun. Midnight Mass (and the film Last Night in Soho) is the best thing to happen to horror all year. – TS

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The Best TV Shows of 2021 - Squid Game

2. Squid Game

Four hundred and fifty-six desperate people are lured into a contest of survival in which they play a series of children’s games for the chance to win $39 million in this Netflix K-drama that took the world by storm in 2022. Unlike many entries into the survival game genre, Squid Game doesn’t bother to set its dystopian premise in a near or alternate future. This is the world we live in, my friends, and creator Hwang Dong-Hyuk is not pulling any punches. 

Hwang’s dire tale of life under capitalism obviously connected with global audiences, who watched as billionaires got richer and vulnerable communities were left to pay the price during the pandemic’s second year. For many viewers, this was probably their first Korean-language TV experience, but with Netflix continuing to invest in the Korean entertainment industry (not to mention a Squid Game Season 2 on the way), it definitely won’t be their last. – KB

The Best TV Shows of 2021 - WandaVision

1. WandaVision (READERS’ CHOICE)

What is there to say about WandaVision that hasn’t already been said? In the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it remains a unicorn. While Marvel movies have been accused of being “cut and paste,” the MCU TV shows have had much more room to experiment with what they want to achieve, and WandaVision embraced that in a way that no one saw coming by refusing to totally conform to the MCU formula.

An examination of grief through the lens of a previously-sidelined character in Wanda Maximoff, the show took advantage of its complete lack of fan expectations to draw in a huge audience of people who didn’t know they could care so much about a witch who once fell in love with a synthezoid and couldn’t bear to live without him. This even included some viewers who had no real context of MCU history and just got hooked after having seen WandaVision pop up on their Disney+ app. WandaVision simply stood on its own and delivered a heartbreaking story that pretty much anyone could identify with if they’d lost a loved one in any capacity. 

The only problem with the series’ success was how easy it was to judge every subsequent MCU offering by the standard it set. – KH

Other shows receiving votes: Cruel Summer, Hometown Cha Cha Cha, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Brand New Cherry Flavor, Sex Education, Attack on Titan, The Mysterious Benedict Society, City of Ghosts, Run BTS!, How To with John Wilson, The Great North, All Creatures Great and Small, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Power Rangers Dino Fury, Maid, Schmigadoon!, Ghosts (U.S.), You, Search Party, Rick and Morty, The Great, Masters of the Universe: Revelation, The Simpsons, We Are Lady Parts, Arcane, Starstruck, Dopesick, Grantchester, The Nevers, The Underground Railroad, Nancy Drew, Lupin, Heels, Doom Patrol, The Long Call, Inner City Smiths, Miss Scarlet and the Duke, For All Mankind, The Shrink Next Door, Star Trek: Discovery, Anne Boleyn, American Horror Stories, Tuca & Bertie, Nine Perfect Strangers, Ghosts (U.K.), Star Trek: Prodigy, Atlantic Crossing, Word of Honor, Bob’s Burgers, Run On, Hellbound, Sweet Tooth, A Discovery of Witches, Doctor Who, Mythic Quest, Castlevania, The Serpent, The Irregulars, The Great British Bake Off, Solar Opposites, Pen15, Resident Alien, Marvel’s What If…?, The Handmaid’s Tale, American Horror Story: Double Feature, Kevin Can F**k Himself

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