After a loooong layover—the MCU’s last entry prior Spider-Man: Far From Home, which came out way back in July 2019—WandaVision began its 9-episode run on Disney+on January 15. And while the trailers told us that WandaVision was going to be unlike anything the MCU had done before, the show 100% delivered.
Each week was a mystery, and between Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany‘s incredible performances and chemistry, the week-to-week tributes to sitcoms, those perplexing fake commercials, and some catchy ass theme songs, WandaVision was a resounding success. We can’t wait to see what happens when Olsen shows up in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness next year, but it’s hard to imagine it feels as singularly unique as WandaVision did at its peak.
It’s A Sin
Russell T. Davies’ drama It’s a Sin tells the story of those impacted most by the AIDS crisis in the ’80s England, but it does so with a remarkable tact. While the show certainly focuses in on the terrors and pains inflicted by the disease’s horrible epidemic, it also makes sure to paint its characters in a joyfully human light, coming in ways both good and bad. These are characters you grow close to, even if you know by the end of the first episode that things are not going to end well here. The soundtrack, we may add, is marvelous.
Mare of Easttown (HBO)
HBO seems to have a murder mystery up their sleeve at minimum a couple times a year at this point, but Mare of Easttown is certainly one of the better ones. Anchored by a ridiculously-specific and committed performance by Kate Winslet as the titular Mare, this is a murder mystery that succeeds, yes, in the mystery itself, but more importantly in its numerous city-suburb characters that just feel like real people; a drunk, post-high school reunion Evan Peters in episode 3 is…honestly, just iconic stuff.
The writing and directing is solid, and this just feels like a miniseries that people will be recommending for anyone looking for a good, engaging thrill for years to come. Outside of Winslet and Peters, the cast also includes the likes of Julianne Nicholson, David Denman, and Guy Pearce, among others.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Disney+)
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was originally planned for a Spring/Summer 2020 release, but COVID had other plans; production was delayed, and eventually plans changed, and WandaVision became the first scheduled for release.
And while The Falcon and the Winter Soldier didn’t reach the creative highs of WandaVision, it also succeeded in exactly what it set out to do: provide an MCU feature film-quality miniseries, transitioning Captain America’s best friends Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) to whatever’s next. Any dancing from Zemo (Daniel Brühl) or moral gray area from John Walker (Wyatt Russell) is a much-welcomed bonus. Now we just need to hope that Captain America 4 is even better.
Shadow and Bone (Netflix)
Look: Shadow and Bone is hardly reinventing the wheel, but if you know you want to dive head-first into a brand new fantasy world, Shadow and Bone is doing it right. With plenty of source material in the books and some compelling on-screen depictions, this feels like a worthy investment for fans of the genre to make.
Murder Among the Mormons (Netflix)
Yes, it’s another true crime docuseries. But this one feels a little different from some others you may have seen. And, honestly, you’re probably best off going into this knowing as little as possible. The big thing here? Murder Among the Mormons has an ending; when you’ve got that, like HBO’s The Jinx or I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, it can be a huge advantage when closing a series out.
Invincible (Amazon Prime Video)
For a non Marvel or DC superhero thing to stand out these days, it can be hard. It needs to be really special; The Boys popped, and, yes, Amazon Prime’s animated adaptation of Invincible landed in a big way. With an absolutely amazing voice cast (including Steven Yeun, JK Simmons, and Sandra Oh), along with jarring action and big twists, Invincible is not only the best animated show of the year so far, but one of the best overall. We can’t wait to see Season 2 (and 3, and 4…).
The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime Video,)
Sweet Tooth (Netflix)
Based on Jeff Lemire’s DC/Vertigo comics series of the same name, Sweet Tooth isn’t quite as violent/vulgar/cynical as it’s source material, instead aiming for that coveted sweet spot of sweet/nice/fun. That’s not to say it doesn’t get dark and have its fair share of action and violence, but what Sweet Tooth achieves in its story about a global plague (which just happens to emerge at the same time as a new breed of animal-human hybrid children) is ultimately optimism. The cast (including young Christian Convery, Nonso Anozie, and Will Forte, among others) is great, and we cna’t wait to see what happens next.
Made For Love (HBO Max)
This series is unlike any that have been on TV in recent memory. The closest comparison would probably be some sort of season-long Black Mirror episode, but even that doesn’t quite nail it. Made For Love is about a woman (Cristin Milioti) who finds out that her controlling, tech mogul husband (Billy Magnussen) has installed a chip in her head that allows him to see everything. And that means everything. So as a result, she flees, seeking solace with her eccentric father (Ray Romano). It’s a totally new tone for a show, and it’s one that will have you sometimes laughing, sometimes cringing, and sometimes just wondering what could possibly happen next.
Kevin Can F**k Himself
Annie Murphy (Schitt’s Creek) plays a role entirely different in Kevin Can F**k Himself, as an entirely new take on a character you’ve probably seen at least a hundred times. She’s a sitcom wife, but when her selfish, idiot husband (think a Kevin James-type) lets her down for the umpteenth time, she reaches a point of no return. She decides she’s going to start pushing back. It’s one of the most exciting, fun, and unique shows of the year, and it’s really fun to see the show mess around with cliches and really implement its own interesting structure.
Hacks (HBO Max)
The Jean Smart Renaissance is truly among us. Not that she wasn’t already picking great TV roles in the last half decade (Watchmen, Fargo, and Legion are all great choices), but between Mare of Easttown and Hacks, 2021 is just a banner year. In Hacks, Smart basically can start writing her Emmy acceptance speech already for her role as Deborah Vance, a Joan Rivers-eque stand-up comedian who’s in a bit of a rut during her residency in Las Vegas. She gets paired up with Ava (newcomer Hannah Einbinder), a young, cocky writer who can’t land any other gig after a joke she tweeted landed her in hot water. The show really works mostly based on two things: some sharp, edgy writing, and the chemistry between all of its stars. Hacks isn’t the most laugh out loud funny comedy on this list, but it’s one of the best.
The White Lotus (HBO)
From writer/director/producer Mike White (School of Rock, Enlightened), this six-part limited series is quite simply one of the best shows of the year. Imagine the social satire and occasional drama of Succession, mixed with the tropical aesthetic and accompanying mood of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, with a tiny smidge of Big Little Lies overarching mystery thrown in. That’s The White Lotus, which is hilarious, smart, and gorgeous to look at all at once. And every member of the cast, from top to bottom, knocks their role out of the park. This is one series people will be talking about all year—and for good reason.
Loki didn’t have the unique structural qualities that WandaVision did, but by the end of its 6-episode run, it may just have been the best Disney+ show in this inaugural year for Marvel Studios. Tom Hiddleston, of course, proved that he’s still got his fastball when playing the God of Mischief. But it’s the show’s supporting characters (shout out Owen Wilson) who really stepped up here. By the end, fans should really have an idea of where this next phase of the MCU is going—and don’t worry, Season 2 is on its way (in addition to, you know, all those movies).
What If…? (Disney+, August 11)
This animated MCU series has been on our radar for quite a while, and it’s finally scheduled to be released in August. The show, featuring (most of) the actual voices of your favorite heroes and villains, imagines what could be if major Marvel moments went a little bit differently. Some scenarios that have been teased? A zombie Captain America, for one. All of this will be bound together and observed by a character called “The Watcher,” voiced by Westworld star Jeffrey Wright.
Brand New Cherry Flavor (Netflix, August 13)
Alita: Battle Angel star Rosa Salazar is leading Brand New Cherry Flavor, a horror/revenge thriller set in the world of the 1990 movie industry. Based on the novel of the same name, this show comes from a pair of co-creators who are behind SyFy’s underrated horror series Channel Zero and also involved with the sharp writing of Showtime’s Billions. An impressive cast also includes Catherine Keener and The Good Place‘s Manny Jacinto.
Nine Perfect Strangers (Hulu, August 18)
Think of Nine Perfect Strangers in the same way you’d think of a lot of similar mystery series of the last few years: Big Little Lies, The Undoing, Little Fires Everywhere, etc. This one, which is also being written by Lies and Undoing‘s David E. Kelley (a busy man the last few years) is also based on another novel by Lies book author Liane Moriarty. The set-up is simple: nine people are at a health resort—and then things go wrong, and the mystery abounds. The very stacked cast includes Nicole Kidman (of course), along with Melissa McCarthy, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Shannon, Tiffany Boone, Regina Hall, and Luke Evans (among others).
Y: The Last Man (FX on Hulu, September 13)
The acclaimed graphic novel series from modern legend writer Brian K. Vaughan (who wrote the similarly-acclaimed Saga, Runaways, and Paper Girls) is being adapted into an FX on Hulu series, which will feature Diane Lane, Olivia Thrilby, and newcomer Ben Schnetzer as the titular last man. The story follows a post-apocalyptic future where every mammal with a Y chromosome—outside of one man and his pet monkey—are wiped off the face of the earth.
And when that last man is kind of a fuck-up, that’s what makes things really interesting. The comic is rightly considered a modern classic, so it will be really interesting how things play out with this TV adaptation.
Foundation (Apple TV+, September 24)
Cowboy Bebop (Netflix, Fall)
It’s been a long road for John Cho, who’s been “Milf Guy” in the American Pie movies, Harold in Harold and Kumar, Sulu in the Star Trek movies, and the lead in the wildly underrated 2018 movie Searching. But now he’s finally starring as the lead in a large-scale, big-budget project: Netlfix’s live-action adaptation of the beloved animated series Cowboy Bebop. Cho plays lead character Spike Spiegel, a bounty hunter who fakes his death to escape from a criminal syndicate. We don’t know when the show will be released, but it should be one of the year’s most exciting when it does come out.
Only Murders In The Building (Hulu, 8/31)
Longtime comedy pals Steve Martin and Martin Short team up with Selena Gomez in this Hulu series—as people obsessed with true crime who suddenly find themselves smack in the middle of a mystery—that will almost certainly be a funny blast.
Scenes From A Marriage (HBO, September)
HBO’s update of Ingmar Bergman’s 1973 film (or series, depending on who you talk to) of the same name will be headlined by wonderful duo: Jessica Chastain and a suddenly-very-busy Oscar Isaac. The show, which will show various points of a deteriorating relationship over the course of a decade. It sounds raw, and touching, and with a pair of great actors involved, we’re ready to get hurt again here. Cue the waterworks.
Inventing Anna (Netflix, TBA)
Shonda Rhimes’ first foray at Netflix, Bridgerton, is already a massive hit. But her next series, Inventing Anna, has the potential to be even bigger. The show will find Julia Garner (Ozark) as notorious New York City scammer Anna Delvey, who scammed her was financially and socially into some of the world’s highest class institutions. Based on Jessica Pressler’s story from The Cut.
Midnight Mass (Netflix, TBA)
Mike Flanagan has a nice winning streak going with Netflix. The writer-director has been behind both series under The Haunting banner, including The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor. In 2021, he’s bringing some of his favorite players back—including Kate Siegel and Rahul Kohli—for a new horror series, titled Midnight Mass. The show will, of course, stick with the horror theme, this time following a community that finds horrifying events occurring after a mysterious priest arrives in town.
Just a guess, but we think we could probably pencil this one in for a November or December release based on the title alone, right?
The Old Man (FX on Hulu, TBA)
Based on a 2017 novel by Thomas Perry, The Old Man is an FX on Hulu thriller that will mark the legendary Jeff Bridges’ first TV series in 5 decades. The premise is simple enough—Bridges plays a former intelligence agent living off the grid who finds himself a target, and pulled back into his old life. Sweet, simple, and to the point, this could be one of the year’s most fun action series. John Lithgow, The Leftovers star Amy Brenneman, and Arrested Development/Search Party standout Alia Shawkat are among others in the cast.
Dopesick (Hulu, TBA)
Michael Keaton is the star and executive producer of Hulu’s Dopesick, which focuses on the opioid epidemic that the United States has been struggling with for years. Keaton plays a compassionate, old-school doctor who nonetheless finds himself tied up with the dirty secrets and truths of Big Pharma. The show is based on a non-fiction book by Beth Macy and will be run by Danny Strong, who has been behind HBO’s based-on-real-life movie Recount and is the creator of FOX’s Empire.
A League of Their Own (Amazon Prime Video, TBA)
Broad City star Abbi Jacobson is the star and co-creator of Amazon Prime Video’s upcoming TV adaptation of Penny Marshall’s classic baseball film A League of Their Own, which is a great start in and of itself. D’Arcy Carden, who also appeared on Broad City and Barry in addition to a starring role on The Good Place is one of many talented co-stars for Jacobson in the series. Nick Offerman recently signed on to play the Tom Hanks role from the original movie.
We don’t know too much about this one just yet, but given how good Hulu’s High Fidelity series was last year—uncancel it you cowards!—we’ve got a renewed sense of optimism around streaming networks doing TV spins on beloved movies.
Pieces of Her (Netflix, TBA)
Another one based on a novel of the same name, the main draw of Pieces of Her is a big one: Ms. Toni Collette. After impressing over the last few years with wildly different turns in Hereditary, Knives Out, and Netflix’s Unbelievable, she returns to the streaming giant to play a mother with a violent past that no one in her orbit knows about—until a trip to the mall turns violent and exposes everything.
Station Eleven (HBO Max, TBA)
So, uh, a series about a pandemic that wipes out most of society might not be on the top of your must-watch list, but stick with us on this HBO Max original. It’s (yes, another) based on Emily St. John Mandel’s widely-acclaimed novel of the same name, and will be showrun by Maniac‘s Patrick Somerville and directed by one of the very best TV directors in the game in Hiro Murai (who has helmed some of the best episodes of recent years with his episodes of Atlanta and Barry; he frequently collaborates with Donald Glover, also directing his “This Is America” video and short film Guava Island).
Additionally, the cast will be led by Mackenzie Davis, who added “Future Holiday Classic Movie” (in Hulu’s Happiest Season) to her impressive Sci-Fi resume that also included Blade Runner 2049, The Martian, and one of the best episodes of Black Mirror in “San Junipero.” We can’t wait to see how this one turns out.
Hawkeye (Disney+, Late 2021)
Jeremy Renner will return to the role of Clint Barton/Hawkeye in this Disney+ series which will find him training a young woman named Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld!) looking to eventually take over the Hawkeye mantle. Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring, The Departed) will play Kate’s mother in this action series that’s currently filming in New York City.
The Lord of the RIngs (Amazon Prime Video, TBA)
We’ve been hearing about Amazon Prime Video’s massively-budgeted Lord of the Rings series for a few years now, and it might be nearing a mid or late 2021 release date. We don’t know much, but we do know that it won’t be retelling the same story of Peter Jackson’s early-2000s trilogy; instead, it will tell a different epic stories from before the events of Lord of the Rings.
Ms. Marvel (Disney+, Late 2021)
Due late in 2021, Ms. Marvel will star newcomer Iman Vellani as a superfan of Captain Marvel who eventually becomes her apprentice of sorts; this series will explore her roots in Jersey City, New Jersey, and her aquiring and learning to use superhero shape-shifting powers. (Vellani is expected to reprise the role in the upcoming Captain Marvel 2)
Alien (FX, TBA)
So, we don’t know much about this upcoming Alien series, other than the fact that it is going to exist, and it’s going to be on FX (and FX on Hulu). But one thing we can feel really good about? The show is going to be run by Noah Hawley. And as Hawley has proved with the Fargo show, he is an absolute master of taking the idea of a beloved, distinct movie from a legendary director, and turning it into something similar thematically yet still 100% it’s own thing. Let’s hope he can do with Ridley Scott what he’s already done with The Coen Brothers.
The Book of Boba Fett (December 2021)
We’re going to have to wait a little longer than usual for The Mandalorian Season 3, because, well, as anyone who saw that show’s Season 2 finale knows, Boba Fett is finally getting his moment with The Book of Boba Fett. Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, and the Mandalorian team are going to work on this Boba Fett spin-off series first, which will star Temuera Morrison as the legendary bounty hunter, and Ming-Na Wen as his new partner in crime, Fennec Shand. We’d imagine the show will give us insight into everything that happened before Fett’s Mandalorian appearance, and probably a good bit of stuff after. Our blood is still pumping from that post-credits scene during the Mandalorian finale, so we’ll be waiting with baited breath for this one.
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