In 2021, both the film and television industries tried to play catch-up after films or seasons had been delayed and pushed out of 2020. This meant that Succession: Season Three finally came out this year, for example. But something new also happened in 2021. That year marked the debut of Disney+ Marvel Cinematic Universe Live-Action series, and we got a lot of those, most of which I really liked. So, today, let’s have a look at what shows I thought were the very best in 2021.
I should also say that, of course, no one can watch everything. There are shows that I missed in 2021. So, if you feel like I’m missing a show on my list, then feel free to leave a comment below and I may check out that show. However, do note that I’ve classified shows like Yellowjackets, The Book of Boba Fett, Station Eleven, and Mayor of Kingstown as 2022 shows, even though they started in 2021. But, without further ado, let’s get to the list!
#10 – Invincible – Amazon Prime Video
“This blend of adult-oriented violence and its often charming lead works wonders for Amazon Prime Video’s latest extremely violent superhero television show. It is very refreshing for this story to be told as an ambitious and bold animated series, which is really a superhero cartoon for adults. It is exciting that Kirkman’s comic book has been adapted this well, with this much attention to detail, and with this much talent attached to it, and it makes me very excited for the future seasons, if they can continue to tell the story this well.”Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen, from my review of Invincible: Season One.
#9 – Squid Game – Netflix
“The show captures the powerful excitement of game shows, a good amount of tension, and it does a good job of communicating the universality of capitalism and class struggle. I won’t say too much about it except than to say that I think it is such a great show to binge-watch. It didn’t grab me until the end of the first episode, but by the start of the second episode it just had me hooked. It features disturbing brutality and questionable morality, it is an engrossing story, and it is not even an episode too long. That said, the ending was slightly unsatisfying to me, because I disagree with the way one character is written towards the very end, and I will also say that the show, which absolutely is not unpredictable at all, is at its worst when it includes English-speaking actors who don’t match the tone of the rest of the show.”Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen, from the article Additional Bite-Sized Reviews, Oct. 21.
#8 – Scenes from a Marriage – HBO
One of the great surprises of 2021, this American remake of Ingmar Bergman’s mini-series of the same name featured outstanding and rich performances from Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain. The second episode was just so brutal and felt a little bit like a panic attack. That may not sound like a recommendation, but it is. I thought it was so well done.
#7 – Loki – Disney+
The first season of Loki was a really fun and fascinating show about who Loki really was. It was one of the show’s that I thought the most about in 2021, and I thought it was so much fun to watch different versions of the titular character. I thought the design of the fearsome TVA was so smartly done, and I thought the ending of the season was probably the best ending of any of the 2021 MCU shows.
#6 – Ted Lasso – Apple TV+
“So, the second season is equally wonderful but just more inventive and bolder than before. Perhaps some of the interpersonal drama is resolved too quickly, perhaps time moves a bit too fast, and perhaps we didn’t need a Christmas episode (it felt a little bit shoe-horned in). But those are merely minor problems that I had with an otherwise excellent second season of this beautiful and charming sitcom.”Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen, from the article Additional Bite-Sized Reviews, Oct. 21.
#5 – Mare of Easttown – HBO
“The fact that Mare of Easttown became almost an instant hit shouldn’t surprise anyone at all. The combination of Kate Winslet and HBO is a match made in heaven. When you add the fact that it’s also a crime drama, and a mystery at that, then you’ve also got something that I am extremely interested in. Mare of Easttown is a show about moving on all the while everyone in town needs you to solve mysteries of the past. It’s a show about a small town community, about family drama that is left unaddressed, and about the pressure that all of this can put on a woman — Mare Sheehan (played by Kate Winslet) — in charge of keeping the town safe, while her family is breaking down or leaving home.”Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen, from the article Additional Bite-Sized Reviews, Summer ’21.
#4 – WandaVision – Disney+
Although the final episode may have left something to be desired, I thought WandaVision was so fascinating. I was so impressed by this show because it was this run-through of television sitcom history as well as this tragic story of loss seen from the perspective of both the titular characters and these very likeable supporting characters watching from the outside looking in. I still think about this show a lot, and I can’t wait to see what Marvel does next with these characters.
#3 – For All Mankind – Apple TV+
“I think it’s fair to say that Apple TV+ is still playing catch-up with major streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+, and in that race they need must-watch content for a wide-variety of audience groups. While they may both still be too niche to appeal to mass audiences, with Ted Lasso and For All Mankind Apple TV+ is starting to stock up on good-to-great television shows. So, if you have an Apple TV+ subscription, then now absolutely is the time to start watching For All Mankind, because this season proved that the show-runners are willing and able to go exactly where you’d want this type of show to go. This season was, honestly, the ‘giant leap’ forward that genre fans such as myself hoped for, and if the show can continue to deliver pay-offs that are as satisfying as the second season finale was, then the sky is the limit for this show.”Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen, from my review of For All Mankind: Season Two.
#2 – Midnight Mass – Netflix
“One of the best shows of the year, Mike Flanagan’s evidently deeply personal Midnight Mass is yet another fantastic horror-focused project from a rising master of horror. His series clearly evokes Stephen King, but also other unmistakable influences. It has some great hidden delights for genre-fans, but the thing about Midnight Mass that I love the most is that Flanagan has made a truly terrific horror show that somehow still, in pivotal moments, has the ability to feel comforting without, to me, ever feeling hokey. Now, that takes a special talent.”Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen, from my review of Midnight Mass.
#1 – Succession – HBO
“A lot of time has been spent on the following question by both actors, journalists, fans, and critics: is Succession a Shakespearian drama or more of a comedy? I believe the story goes that Jeremy Strong thinks of it as the former, whereas Kieran Culkin is more in the latter camp. I think the answer is found somewhere in between the two. It is such a special show that keeps on improving upon itself. With this ridiculously good third season, Succession is, to me, the best ongoing series of the year.”Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen, from my review of Succession: Season Three.
But what was your favorite television show of 2021? Please feel free to write your list in the comments below.
– Article and List by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.