Popular Culture

The Best TV Shows of 2021, According to ONE37pm’s Editors

As the years roll by and TV continues to look toward streaming as the way of the future, it is no surprise that the best shows of 2021 could be found not on cable but on your favorite streaming services.

2021 was truly a year of variety for TV as the best series ranged from straight-up dramas and laugh-out-loud comedies to episodic and mind-bending superhero adventures.

2020 forced a pivot as many series saw their premieres postponed and production suspended due to the pandemic, but this year saw television rebound in a big way. We saw the returns of powerhouse programs like Succession and Ted Lasso and the premieres of acclaimed limited series like White Lotus and WandaVision.

It was an excellent year for television, and there are plenty of shows to enjoy. Here are ONE37pm’s picks for the best TV shows of 2021.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed'Insecure'","buttonTextwatch on hbo max","buttonUrl</code>

This final season of Insecure was a story of celebration. A bit bittersweet because it marked the end of a show that captivated us for five years but was still very much celebratory. When we were first introduced to Issa Dee (portrayed by Issa Rae) in 2016, she was a young woman in her late 20s, still trying to find herself and figure her life out. Her relationship with her long-time boyfriend, Lawrence Walker (Jay Ellis), was stagnant and seemingly headed in the wrong direction. She was working dead-end jobs and even experiencing growing pains within her friendships.

Insecure, however, didn’t just tell the story of Issa; it also chronicled the respective journeys of those friendships, including best friend Molly Carter (portrayed by Yvonne Orji) and Lawrence, whose relationship with Issa culminated with the two going their separate ways (which happened multiple times).

Through the years, we saw each character grow and encounter obstacles, challenges, and situations that were very much relatable and identifiable—particularly in the African American community. Five years later, it was finally time for the end, because as they say, it’s always better to go out on top than to leave on a stagnant note. That’s exactly what this final season of Insecure did.

While we won’t spoil it, this last season gave us all the answers we needed while providing us with the usual funny, anticlimactic, and even dramatic moments that we’ve become accustomed to. There was even some controversy sprinkled in at the beginning of the season.

While the show might be over, it highlighted what can truly be done in the world of television when simply given a chance to showcase your talents.

Jael Rucker, Editorial Writer

watch on hbo max
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed'The Morning Show'","buttonTextWatch on AppleTV+","buttonUrl\u0026amp;itscg=MC_20000\u0026amp;itsct=atvp_brand_omd\u0026amp;mttn3pid=Google%20AdWords\u0026amp;mttnagencyid=a5e\u0026amp;mttncc=US\u0026amp;mttnsiteid=143238\u0026amp;mttnsubad=OUS2019800_1-562408044693-c\u0026amp;mttnsubkw=122311402254__Hvgufltl_\u0026amp;mttnsubplmnt=</code>
‘The Morning Show’

Set in New York City, The Morning Show gives us a storyline with pace, and if you are someone as impatient as me, it’s bearable.

Following the behind the scenes drama and politics of a morning broadcast TV show, I’ll note, yes, it sometimes loses itself in overly battered cliches, but Jennifer Aniston and the rest of the cast kill their performances, so it’s worth your time.

Adam Lovick, Channel Manager and Content Creator

Watch on AppleTV+
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed'The Last O.G.'","buttonTextwatch on hbo max","buttonUrl</code>
‘The Last O.G.’

I simply adore Tracy Morgan. This man got me to sit through painfully unfunny episodes of Saturday Night Live back in the day, and he thoroughly convinced me of his sharp wit once I watched his stand-up specials. I figured since he was getting his own show on TBS, it wouldn’t allow him to put forth his true self and instead showcase a more neutered version of his brand of comedy.

I’m glad those fears never came to fruition because The Last O.G. has continually turned out a quality half an hour of pure hilarity based in my home of NYC.

Season four kept the show’s good streak going with great episodes that delved into deeply emotional topics and more light-hearted developments. The episode that delved into Tray helping out the father of his student’s incoming baby hit me pretty hard. But I damn sure laughed loud enough to piss off my landlord during the episode that saw Tray’s kids explore their first forays into the worlds of love and sex.

Tiffany Haddish’s absence from this season hasn’t hurt the show whatsoever, thankfully. The Last O.G. is an easy watch every Tuesday night, and I can’t wait to see how Tray’s relationships further develop next season. I really hope he and the homies get to kickstart a new food truck venture real soon!

Elton Jones, Gaming Editor

watch on hbo max
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed'I Think You Should Leave'","buttonTextwatch on netflix","buttonUrl</code>
‘I Think You Should Leave’

To an extent, Tim Robinson’s sketch comedy show I Think You Should Leave fits within the larger tradition of comedies of manners—a modern update of Much Ado About Nothing or Pride and Prejudice if you will.

To a much greater extent, though, it’s about body after body busting out of shit wood and hitting pavement.

Building on the excellent and widely-memed first season, ITYSL’s sophomore effort captures the magical realism of other people’s neuroses. More, it cements itself as the most riotous thing on TV. Over the course of six breathless episodes, Robinson mines the milieu of regular life—local commercials, courtrooms, diners—and ratchets these experiences into their most absurd possible form.

Whereas other comedies have succumbed to the vibe-killing gravity of reality, ITYSL is the rare show that allows itself to simply be funny; actual politics are immaterial when the politics of eating a hot dog at work are so fraught. Here is a febrile vision of a world where our worst impulses are transformed into high comedy, where tables are corn, steaks are sloppy and enemies (who are named Jamie Taco, naturally) can be defeated by a wife’s love. A cosmic gumbo, indeed.

Jack Tien-Dana, Sports Editor

watch on netflix
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed'Curb Your Enthusiasm'","buttonTextwatch on hbo max","buttonUrl</code>
‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’

Curb Your Enthusiasm just wrapped up its potential last season. However, despite all of this, comedic genius Larry David keeps finding scenarios where he can display his absurd outlook on society and dissect situations that you wouldn’t normally think of. We enter each season of the show wondering how he is going to make it fresh and relatable, and he’s outdone himself yet again.

Whether it’s breaking social norms like sitting in the middle of a dinner table or simply waiting to ask for thousands of dollars from an early onset dementia patient, Larry stays true to himself and cares less and less into his later years. It’s one of the best comedy shows ever, and it’s still pretty, pretty, prettayyyy good.

Martino Puccio, Proper Football Producer and Content Creator

watch on hbo max
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed'The Great'","buttonTextwatch on hulu","buttonUrl</code>
‘The Great’

I’ve talked about how underrated The Great is on here before, a show that deserves much more widespread attention. Often, when someone says a show or movie is called a “period piece,” it’s code for “it takes place in the Victorian era,” and this show is no different.

Set in Imperial Russia, The Great follows Catherine the Great as she seeks to usurp the throne from her husband, Peter.

What sets The Great apart from other shows and movies like this is its strict adherence to being ahistorical. It might follow real characters, but very little of what unfolds on screen actually happened in real life. The result is a hilarious romp through history that is able to transition seamlessly into a drama that helps nail down its emotional beats.

Conor Sheeran, Senior Culture Editor

watch on hulu
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed'Ted Lasso'","buttonTextwatch on appleTV+","buttonUrl</code>
‘Ted Lasso’

After season one of Ted Lasso became such a surprising global phenomenon—given that the world was in the middle of a pandemic and needed something like this show to boost our spirits—fan anticipation for season two was incredibly high.

Thankfully, the show was up to the task of not just meeting those expectations but surpassing them as well. Season two examines Ted’s recurring issues with panic attacks and anxiety, providing a glimpse into what in his past has driven him to become the person he is today.

Some fans lamented the creators’ decision to take some of the episodes on a darker, more serious, path but the show never lost touch with what makes it so special: Its heart.

Conor Sheeran, Senior Culture Editor

watch on appleTV+
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed'Mare of Easttown'","buttonTextwatch on hbo max","buttonUrl\u0026amp;action=play</code>
‘Mare of Easttown’

When it premiered Mare of Easttown flew under the radar, but thanks in no small part to Kate Winslet’s towering performance and the power of social media, quickly became a summer hit.

As the weeks went by and the mystery continued to deepen, viewers began to appreciate it as not just a “detective” show but a fascinating examination of small-town dynamics and the impact of one’s decisions and how they echo across generations.

Plus, it’s pretty damn funny too.

Conor Sheeran, Senior Culture Editor

watch on hbo max
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed'WandaVision'","buttonTextWatch on Disney+","buttonUrl</code>

Marvel Studios’ first entry in its Disney+ line of shows, WandaVision was something almost entirely new for the MCU. It was a trippy, mind-bending juggling act of different genres, settings, and thematic elements. It was almost an entirely different show every week as it raced through the different eras of Television from the 1950s up to the modern day.

Following the Avengers Wanda Maximoff and Vision as they, seemingly, live out an idyllic existence in the suburbs, it soon becomes clear that something dark and sinister is afoot and nothing is as it seems.

Conor Sheeran, Senior Culture Editor

Watch on Disney+
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed'For All Mankind'","buttonTextWatch on AppleTV+","buttonUrl</code>
‘For All Mankind’

Alternate history shows tend to gravitate towards large, bombastic events like World War II (what if the Nazis won?!), or the Civil War.

In For All Mankind, the world is surprised to learn that the United States was not the first country to land on the moon but the Soviet Union actually beat them to the punch.

What follows is an incredibly interesting take on the Space Race, as it never actually ends, and technology is forced to keep pace with both sides’ space ambitions. As a result, things like video conferencing, electric cars, and cell phones are commonplace by the 1980s.

People are also living on the moon in full-fledged space habitats, and what’s cooler than that?

Conor Sheeran, Senior Culture Editor

Watch on AppleTV+
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed'Loki'","buttonTextWatch on Disney+","buttonUrl</code>

It was a great year for Marvel fans everywhere as they were treated to five different TV series on Disney+ and four feature films. Out of all the releases on television, Loki was arguably the best one.

Loki, the God of Mischief, was already a fan favorite despite being one of the franchise’s biggest villains. Even though he was actually killed by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, he returns here in a prequel series, and this show picks up in the aftermath of his escape from custody at the end of The Avengers, which was actually shown in Avengers: Endgame.

It’s a little confusing, I know.

What follows is a series of adventures that finds Loki traversing time and space tracking down “variants” of himself across the multiverse. Tom Hiddleston is spectacular in his return to the role of Loki and makes a great duo along with MCU newcomer Owen Wilson.

With season two already greenlit, let’s just say that we’re counting down the minutes until we get to watch the next episode.

Conor Sheeran, Senior Culture Editor

Watch on Disney+
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed'Succession'","buttonTextWatch on HBO Max","buttonUrl</code>

Through recapping this series for a few months, it probably comes as no surprise that Succession is on my roundup of the best TV shows of the year. After being starved of a new season for almost two years due to COVID, Season 3’s arrival in October reignited the collective love (and need) we all had for the show.

Having been left on quite the cliffhanger at the end of Season 2 as Kendall defamed his father, Season 3 was bound to have a rocky plot as a family divide was imminent. And unsurprisingly, the series lived up to its expectations and maybe even exceeded them.

While the show is incredible, the discussion surrounding it following each episode is almost as great as Succession itself. Given its major popularity, you can find Twitter users gathering on the site as if it were a town square, spewing every niche Roman and Gerri theory under the sun.

Elizabeth Pagano, TV & Movies Editor Resident

Watch on HBO Max
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed'The White Lotus'","buttonTextWatch on HBO Max","buttonUrl</code>
‘The White Lotus’

In a way, it felt like The White Lotus fell right out of the sky given the lack of anticipation for it, but all of a sudden, every single person on Twitter was watching it, so I basically had to.

Coming off Mare of Easttown, we were in desperate need of another mystery, and The White Lotus took its place, albeit in a much less serious way. We’re given knowledge at the very beginning of the first episode that a death occurs at The White Lotus hotel in Hawaii, and the entire series is explaining what happened in the week leading up to it. It follows a family, a couple, a single woman, and the staff as they make their way through the week.

Jennifer Coolidge’s performance of Tanya alone was enough to win me over, as she portrayed a very odd woman who becomes obsessed with the massage therapist at the hotel. And then there was, of course, Armond (Murray Bartlett), the hotel’s erratic leader who steals drugs from a pair of underage guests. Overall, the show is an extremely chaotic mix of both characters and events with a soundtrack that’s bizarrely amazing, as well.

Elizabeth Pagano, TV & Movies Editor Resident

Watch on HBO Max
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed'Work In Progress'","buttonTextWatch on SHOWTIME","buttonUrl</code>
‘Work In Progress’

It’s almost nice that Work In Progress isn’t as huge as it should be, as it might be the best-kept secret on television. The show follows Abby, portrayed by Abby McEnany, as a fictionalized version of herself, who deals with anxiety, depression, and works at an office where she hates her boss. The series begins with her having a long-winded conversation with her therapist about almonds (more on that later), but after finishing, she realizes that her therapist has died in session.

Now, about the almonds.

After “this bitch at work” (her boss, Susan) gifts Abby a massive can of almonds in an effort to help her lose weight, it pushes her over the edge. Abby decides to line up all 180 almonds on her counter at home and throws out one each day. She has decided that if she reaches the last almond and is still unhappy with her life, she’ll kill herself.

Elizabeth Pagano, TV & Movies Editor Resident

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed'Yellowjackets'","buttonTextWatch on SHOWTIME","buttonUrl</code>

Though the series isn’t even over yet, Yellowjackets has already earned its place on this list with its genre-defying storyline and an incredible cast. Following a team of high school soccer players after they are stranded in a forest after their plane crashes, the show also flips back to their lives 20 years after the crash.

While the entire cast is outstanding, Juliette Lewis is an obvious standout: her performance as Natalie establishes herself as a true force among the other former soccer players without her even having to say a word. Though much different from the character of Natalie, Misty (Christina Ricci) offers an extremely unhinged flip side, as the two are forced to work together to solve an entirely new problem in the present day.

As a whole, the story is a genre mashup, combining murder-mystery, drama, comedy, and horror, as there have been both extremely sinister scenes along with laugh-out-loud moments. Somehow the show is able to balance all of them flawlessly into a show that I’m dreading the finale of. The upside, however, is that it was just given the green light for a second season.

Elizabeth Pagano, TV & Movies Editor Resident

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed'PEN15'","buttonTextWatch on Hulu","buttonUrl</code>

While I’d much prefer this show to never stop creating new episodes, Season 2, Part 2 was the exact way that the show should’ve ended. And though the pair of Maya (Maya Erskine) and Anna (Anna Konkle) did a fair amount of growing up in this latest season, they both sort of came to the conclusion that they’re still not adults—and that maybe it’s nicer that way for now.

While it seems like the idea of having two thirty-year-olds pass off as middle schoolers might not work out, PEN15 genuinely makes you forget that Erskine and Konkle aren’t actually that age in real life. The insane chemistry between the two on top of the deep understanding of niche middle school moments puts this show over the top. This show is seriously “my actual rainbow gel pen in a sea of blue and black writing utensils.”

Elizabeth Pagano, TV & Movies Editor Resident

Watch on Hulu
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed'Only Murders in the Building'","buttonTextWatch on Hulu","buttonUrl</code>
‘Only Murders in the Building’

With the unlikely trio of Martin Short, Steve Martin, and Selena Gomez bringing in a wide variety of viewers, Only Murders in the Building was a hit from the get-go. When a resident in their apartment building dies by suicide, Oliver (Short), Charles (Martin), and Mabel (Gomez) join heads to start a podcast and try to prove that it was not a suicide, but instead, a murder.

Though the three were relative strangers to each other, once they realized that they were obsessed with the same true-crime podcast, their relationship was able to fully form. Almost every episode left off on some sort of cliffhanger, which made waiting around for each week’s episode that much harder.

The most enjoyable part of the show is simply just watching the three of them interact with each other. I can’t even explain what exactly it is between them that is so hard to take my eyes off of, but the three of them together are just magic.

Elizabeth Pagano, TV & Movies Editor Resident

Watch on Hulu