Best TV shows of 2021: top series of the year so far, plus what we’re excited for

Superman & Lois

(Image credit: The CW / TechRadar)

Television has been going from strength-to-strength in recent years, arguably becoming the most important and accessible visual artform for countless people – particularly as the pandemic has forced many of us to spend more time at home.

Luckily, there’s been no shortage of fantastic content gracing our televisions, as our list of the best TV shows of 2020 can attest to, and it’s looking like 2021 will offer another great lineup of quality programs.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the best shows which have aired so far in 2021, along with promising ones which are scheduled to arrive throughout the year.

We’re expecting a number of reboots and revivals, along with some entirely original shows and eagerly anticipated new seasons of existing favorites. Here are the best TV shows of 2021.

Best TV shows of 2021 so far

WandaVision (available now)

Eyebrows were raised when it was revealed that WandaVision, Marvel’s first live-action show on Disney Plus, would be styled like a classic sitcom, complete with corny jokes and cheesy laugh track. However, now that we’ve seen some of it, we can confirm that it totally works. It’s undeniably fun to see Avengers Wanda (Elisabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) goof around with their powers in a riff on shows like Bewitched and I Love Lucy. We’re also tantalized by the show’s brief glimpses behind the façade, which signal something darker at play.

Where to stream: Disney Plus

Lupin (available now)

A fresh new take on French author Maurice Leblanc’s classic Lupin stories, which followed the adventures of gentleman-thief Arsène Lupin, Netflix’s version of Lupin sees an entirely new character take inspiration from the original novels in his quest for vengeance. When his father is framed for the theft of a priceless diamond necklace, Assane Diop (Omar Sy) takes on the persona of Lupin in order to take down the wealthy business man responsible. With great characters and a breezy vibe, it’s no wonder that Lupin is officially the most popular French Netflix series of all-time.

Where to stream: Netflix

Alice in Borderland (available now)

This high-concept sci-fi series, based on a Japanese manga of the same name, sees three 20-something buddies suddenly transported to a depopulated Tokyo, where they must compete in a variety of deadly games or suffer instant execution (the latter via a laser bolt shot literally from the sky). Think Lord of the Flies meets Battle Royale with a sprinkling of elements from Alice in Wonderland.

Where to stream: Netflix

Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer (available now)

One for the true crime fanatics, Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is a four-part documentary series which explores the horrifying real-life exploits of Richard Ramirez – a grotesque, Satan-worshipping serial killer who terrorized Los Angeles with a series of home invasions, rapes and murders during the mid-1980s. Hear directly from the detectives who worked tirelessly to help bring the Night Stalker’s murder-spree to an end, as well as the victims who lived to describe their encounter with pure evil.

Where to stream: Netflix

Cobra Kai: Season 3 (available now)

A show that was far too good to be a casualty of YouTube’s now-defunct original programming lineup, Cobra Kai has returned for a Netflix-produced third season, and boy does it ever deliver. Season 3 picks up directly after last season’s devastating school rumble, which left Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) fighting for his life in hospital, and Robby (Tanner Buchanan) on the run from the law. Packed with a number of amazing cameos from The Karate Kid trilogy, Cobra Kai’s third season is the best one yet.

Where to stream: Netflix

Riverdale: Season 5

The fourth season of the delightfully bonkers series Riverdale was cut short last year for Covid-19-related reasons, meaning its main story thread has yet to be wrapped up. We know that the first few episodes of season 5 will be devoted to tying off those loose ends, however, it’s been revealed that the remainder of the season will take place after a massive time-jump of seven years, meaning all of the show’s teen characters will now be well into adulthood. We expect a huge change in the show’s dynamic.

Where to stream: The CW (US) / January 21 on Netflix (UK / AU)

Best upcoming TV shows in 2021

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (release date: 2021)

Teaming up again for the first time since Avengers: Endgame, Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) will bring their buddy-movie shenanigans to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, a six-part miniseries that looks as action-packed as any of the standalone Captain America movies. Zemo (Daniel Brühl) and Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) will also be back, and we can’t wait to see what everyone has been doing in the days since Endgame.

Coming soon to Disney Plus

Loki

Little is known about Loki, Marvel’s six-part live action series starring Tom Hiddleston as the titular god of mischief, other than it will reportedly follow the beloved character as he influences various events throughout Earth’s history. You may remember that Loki managed to disappear with the Tesseract for a brief period during Avengers: Endgame – now we’ll finally get to see what he got up to during this time. another six-Scheduled to land on Disney Plus sometime in 2021. The show will also star Richard E. Grant, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Owen Wilson.

Coming in 2021 to Disney Plus

Hawkeye (release date: 2021-2022)

Details are scarce on Hawkeye, Marvel’s new live action series starring Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton, one of the founding members of The Avengers. That said, we do know that the show will focus primarily on Kate Bishop, who takes up Hawkeye’s bow and arrow after Barton’s retirement. Bishop will be played by Hailee Steinfeld (Bumblebee, Pitch Perfect 2) in the series, and we’re very excited to see her in the role.

Coming soon to Disney Plus

Ms. Marvel

Kamala Khan, a.k.a Ms. Marvel, stole the show in the recent Marvel’s Avengers video game, and we can’t wait to see what the stretchy character will be like in her own live action series on Disney Plus. Young newcomer Iman Vellani has scored the role of Ms. Marvel, while Bisha K. Ali (Sex Education) is on showrunning duties.

Coming in 2021 to Disney Plus

Marvel’s What If…?

Despite being an animated affair, there’s a lot of excitement around Marvel’s What If…? series, which is said to explore what would happen if some of the biggest moments in MCU had different outcomes. If there’s one thing that makes the show unmissable, it’s that it will feature the late Chadwick Boseman in his final performance as Black Panther. On top of this, Marvel’s What If…? will also feature the voice talents of Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Josh Brolin, Mark Ruffalo, Sebastian Stan, Paul Rudd, Natalie Portman and more.

Coming in 2021 to Disney Plus

The Book of Boba Fett

Those who stuck around until after the credits of The Mandalorian: Season 2’s finale were treated to a wonderful reveal – the announcement of a spin-off series following the adventures of Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) and Fennec (Ming-Na Wen). The show is being produced by Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni and Robert Rodriguez.

Coming in 2021 to Disney Plus

Foundation

Based on the classic series of novels by legendary science fiction author Isaac Asimov, the Apple Original series Foundation promises to be one of the biggest new TV shows of 2021 – particularly in terms of scope and ambition. Foundation’s cast includes Jared Harris (Chernobyl) and Lee Pace (Halt and Catch Fire).

Coming in 2021 to Apple TV Plus

Clarice

Hannibal Lecter got his own TV show, so why not FBI Agent Clarice Starling? The new series Clarice will follow the character made famous by Jodie Foster in 1991’s Oscar-winning masterpiece, The Silence of the Lambs. The show’s story will pick up a year after Clarice’s confrontation with Buffalo Bill. Aussie actress Rebecca Breeds (Pretty Little Liars) has scored the title role.

Coming February 11 on CBS All Access (US) / February 12 on Stan (AU)

Superman & Lois

Debuting a few seasons ago on The CW’s Supergirl series, Tyler Hoechlin’s take on the Man of Steel was well-received by fans, with the actor landing on the perfect mix of farm-boy earnestness and selfless heroism. Now, Superman and his partner-in-heroism, Lois Lane (Bitsie Tulloch), are getting their own series, which is good timing now that Supergirl is about to conclude.

Coming February 23 on The CW (US) / expected February 24 on Binge (AU)

Best TV shows returning in 2021

Dexter: Season 9

It would not be controversial at all to say that Dexter’s series finale ranks amongst the worst in television history. Most will agree that the show went downhill following the departure of Dexter’s original creative team, which occurred after a series-best fourth season. Now, the show’s creators have returned to hopefully redeem the show with a proper send-off. Given how messily the show ended, they certainly have their work cut out for them.

Coming in 2021

Better Call Saul: Season 6

In its sixth and final season, Better Call Saul will finally catch up to the events of Breaking Bad, which admittedly has us a little on-edge. Consider for a moment that the fantastic character of Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), now married to Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), never once appeared on Breaking Bad, making us quite fearful about what will happen to her by this show’s conclusion.

Coming in 2021 to AMC (US) / Stan (AU)

The Mandalorian: Season 3

Officially, a third season of The Mandalorian hasn’t been announced yet. However, we’d have to imagine that Disney is planning a follow-up to its most popular show, right? Admittedly, anything could happen following season 2’s conclusion, which already tied up the show’s main narrative thread. There’s also the fact that The Mandalorian’s showrunners are now working on The Book of Boba Fett, which has us wondering whether there are enough hours in the day to produce both shows in a single year… 

Possibly coming in 2021 to Disney Plus

Snowpiercer: Season 2

Following an impressive first season, Snowpiercer will return for season 2 at the start 2021. Following the revolution that kicked off last season, we will now see the introduction of the Snowpiercer’s creator, Mr. Wilford, who will be played the always-great Sean Bean (Game of Thrones).

Coming January 26 on TNT (US) / February 12 on Netflix (UK / AU)

Ted Lasso: Season 2

One of the biggest surprises of 2020, the Apple Original series Ted Lasso proved to be a pure joy from start to finish, making the wait for a second season an agonizing one. Last season ended on a bit of a downer, with the AFC Richmond Football Club being relegated after a painful loss. Now, it’s up to Coach Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) to lead his team back into the English Premier League.

Coming in 2021 to Apple TV Plus

January 21, 2021
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