With 2021 now behind us, we saw TV thrive with plenty of new and returning series’ that universally stunned audiences. From dropping all at once on Netflix to adopting a classic week-by-week release schedule, there was absolutely something for everyone to love. Despite having so many options to choose from, I’ve whittled them all down to the ten which resonated the most with me. Without further ado, let’s get onto the honourable mentions that just missed out on a spot in the final list.
It’s hard to believe that all of Marvel’s Disney Plus MCU series’ came out this year, but they did. All of WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki dropped in 2021, with each one delivering thrilling narratives with memorable performances and action set-pieces we’ve come to expect from the movies. Despite not making the official list, the beauty about these three shows is that they all feel refreshingly different – each adopting a unique identity which made them very memorable in the grand scheme of everything that dropped within the year. If there’s anything to take from this, it’s that the MCU will be making big waves on TV going forward. Another one that just missed out this year is Locke and Key, a series that also appeared on my Honourable Mentions of 2020. Despite bringing us a stronger and more thrilling second season it wasn’t enough to get a spot on the list… but perhaps next year. Lastly, Atypical, a series that also never made it onto my top 10 list, gets an honourable mention for it’s charming final season. Full of heart and emotion, Atypical felt true to its unique tone and vision right through the last episode.
#10 – Snowpiercer (Season 2)
Snowpiercer’s first season was a big hit – a longer-form version of the story told in Bong Joon Ho’s 2013 sci-fi thriller of the same name. What made this second season so much more special came down to the uncertainty of the narrative, the twist-filled thrills that lined each episode and the brilliant performance from Sean Bean. Being at the forefront of almost every episode, Sean’s moustache-twirling performance as Mr Wilford really heightened the stakes and bought about some of the most memorable scenes of the season. Tension was gradually built through each episode, culminating in a fantastic climax that made me even more excited to see where the next season will go…
#9 – Only Murders in the Building (Season 1)
Quite possibly one of the best surprises of the year was Only Murders in the Building, a murder mystery series that delivered a narrative full of well-executed twists and lovably quirky characters. The intrigue into the death of Tim Kono is the instigating idea that gets you into the show, but it’s the phenomenal combination of Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez that makes it all so memorable. Brilliantly funny in every moment, with great dialogue and effective humour, this was one of the most purely entertaining series’ of the year. I could honestly watch a 30-episode season if I got to see these performers going back and forth.
#8 – Sweet Tooth (Season 1)
Sweet Tooth feels like an anomaly on this list. It’s not really the kind of show that makes my top 10 lists, but that’s what makes it all the more special. This series features brilliantly emotional storytelling across every single episode, getting you invested in the life of Gus and all of the dangers he must overcome on his cross-country journey. I loved the way the story develops, I thought the performances were fantastic, and I really enjoyed the character relationships at the forefront of the series. It’s packed full of heart and really won me over with the emotional depth of the narrative. From being completely off my radar to being one of my most anticipated going forward, Sweet Tooth is one to check out.
#7 – The White Lotus (Season 1)
Quirky, bizarre, weird and just straight-up insane – The White Lotus is one of the strangest things I’ve seen in quite a while. This mysteriously comedic and somewhat dark satire about a bunch of strangers who take a vacation to escape their troubles, only to find it’s not as easy to just forget everything, finds its charm in the unconventional. Laced with satirical social commentary about its rich white guests, it’s hard to put a finger on exactly why this show works, but it just does. Every performance is phenomenal, the characters are brilliantly written and even the way it’s all shot is truly stunning. Special shoutout to Jennifer Coolidge who is mesmerising in here! I loved the score, I loved the chaotic unravelling of every character’s unique journey, and I just had a tonne of fun. Yes, it’s weird and at times uncomfortable to watch, but it’s the perfect amount of weird to suck you into this world.
#6 – Chucky (Season 1)
One of the most fulfilling and thoroughly enjoyable rides of the year came in the form of Chucky, the titular killer doll’s first leap into the world of TV. From the mind of franchise creator Don Mancini, Chucky embodies everything that makes the series so thrilling and hilarious after all this time. Introducing a new cast of characters to the world, while also continuing the cliffhanger narrative from Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky, this series brilliantly blends the old and the new in a way that anyone can enjoy the murderous chaos. Essential viewing for any horror fan – sit back, relax and embrace the campy comedy, violent kills and engaging narrative that’ll make you want to binge it all in a single sitting.
#5 – What We Do in the Shadows (Season 3)
There’s not many greater joys in this world beyond sitting down and embracing a new episode of What We Do in the Shadows. The best straight comedy series on TV, this absolute gem continues to improve with every new episode of every season. Packed full of well-written dialogue, hilarious character interactions and engaging narratives, every episode offers something fresh to sink your teeth into. The ensemble cast is phenomenal, exhibiting this unbreakable bond that results in every scene being as enjoyable and subtly hilarious as the last. Delivering a joke a minute, whether it be a visual gag or witty line of dialogue, every episode will have you cracking up with a wide grin from ear to ear. Let’s just hope this series continues for many seasons to come, because I’m not sure how the world could survive without this yearly dose of joy.
#4 – Lost in Space (Season 3)
The third and final season of Lost in Space is a case study for the perfect way to close out a series – delivering a thrilling climax that honours every character’s arc and is a satisfying watch for fans that have been along for this entire intergalactic journey. Darker and more intense than the seasons passed, this final season is epic in scale and emotional in its storytelling. It’s no secret that ‘family’ has been a central theme of the series, and that’s all the more relevant in this season which is packed with heartfelt moments across every episode. Every character has something meaningful to do here, with the Robinsons’ journey coming to an end in the best way imaginable. If you’re a sci-fi fan and yet to check out this series, do yourself a favour and witness its greatness on Netflix.
#3 – Mare of Easttown (Season 1)
Mare of Easttown isn’t the first murder mystery on this list, but it’s by far the best… and certainly one of the greatest within the entire genre. The writing across every episode is just incredible – it puts you on the edge of your seat within the first few scenes and keeps you there through every nail-biting moment. It’s a pretty grim narrative overall, one with very few hopeful moments to lighten the mood – and that fact that it sticks to that tone from beginning to end shows the execution of a clear vision. Something that other murder mystery series’ often fail to do is keep you out of the loop as to who the murderer might be until the final moments. Usually audiences can whittle it down to one or two people by the time the climax comes around, which can take away from the impact of the reveal. Mare of Easttown brilliantly keeps you guessing right through to the end, never sure of exactly where it’s going to go. Finally, the show is graced by the presence of Kate Winslet, who puts in an award-worthy lead performance.
#2 – Midnight Mass (Season 1)
If you put Mike Flanagan’s name on any project, chances are it’s going to be a phenomenal work of art… and that’s exactly the case with Midnight Mass. This biblical horror series is yet another horror masterpiece from the man who can do no wrong. Intense, thrilling and terrifying from beginning to end, there’s not a single second of this series that drops the ball. The attention to detail put into every single scene is remarkable – from the cinematography to the dialogue. Speaking of the dialogue, this is some of most well-written dialogue I’ve ever witnessed. If you told me beforehand that this series would be packed full of lengthy monologues from a variety of characters, I’d have gone into it expecting them to be tiresome. Nope. Every word uttered in this series is wholly captivating and tells you so much about these characters and what they’re thinking in every moment. Subverting expectations with every scene, this is yet another horror must-watch.
#1 – Brand New Cherry Flavour (Season 1)
Destined to divide audiences, Brand New Cherry Flavour is the most bizarre, disturbing and riveting limited series of the year. Despite seeing a tonne of great shows throughout 2021, nothing hit every single beat quite like Brand New Cherry Flavour. Heavily stylised in its narrative, visuals, themes and characters, this is an auteurist’s vision come to life on the same level as David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return. The dark, creepy and disturbing subject matter turns this into a riveting piece of surrealist cinema that will have you on the edge of your seat in anticipation and thrown aback in shock when the series’ truly twisted moments occur. Lisa’s journey through the series is filled with twists and turns that make it an entirely unpredictable ride from beginning to end. I was equally as locked in to her dealings with the shady nature of early ’90s Hollywood as I was with the more supernatural elements of the series. It’s a layered narrative that offers so much more than you’d expect, and is filled with great performances across the board to up the entertainment factor. Brand New Cherry Flavour is certainly an acquired taste, but for those who like a surrealist horror with plenty of thrills – this is a must-watch!
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