A List Of The Best Shows Of 2021
Note: Sex/Life does not make the cut.
So, we thought this year was going to be more about travel, heading out, and getting back to our pre-COVID lives.
As Delta, Omicron and Who-the-fuck-knows-what's-next-icron continue to, you know, ruin all our Hot Girl Summers, we turned to old faithful: TV. And look, it did not disappoint, although I'll supply a caveat: I didn't watch Squid Game cos I don't need more negative shit ruining my year, so it's not on here, get over it.
While we are still waiting for many cliffhangers from 2020, these are the shows that got us through the year. And if you didn't get a chance to watch yet, no worries - Omicron will solve that for you with plenty of time inside to view.
Best TV shows this year
Best newcomer: Why Women Kill S1 and S2
Okay. So this show was, without a shadow of a doubt, my absolute #1 this year. I want to shout it from the rooftops that everyone needs to put down whatever they're adding to cart and direct their attention to this programming.
From the creator of Desperate Housewives (DH), Why Women Kill (WWK) is a dark comedy mystery that is, in a word, delicious. Bringing the same bright cinematography as DH, we start our story behind the closed doors of women making sweet apple pie.
Season 1 focuses on three separate storylines of women who have lived in the same house in different periods of time - the 50s (with Big Love's Ginnifer Goodwin as the eager-to-please 50s housewife) the 80s (Lucy Liu as a 'Real Housewife' in the shoulder pads of her career) and now (with The Good Place's Kirsty Howell-Baptiste). In each story, we know that a woman will kill. But guessing who kills and who dies will keep you going alongside a magnificent backdrop of 50s tea sets, 80s metallics and modern-day throuples. This comedy-drama is a hell of a ride, and Season 2 in the anthology keeps the adrenalin going with a brand new story about Alma, a 1940s housewife who will do anything to get into society's Garden Club - anything.
Watch it if you like: It doesn't matter. I just said watch it. But if you must - Desperate Housewives, anything Ryan Murphy, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel
Best finale: Younger, Season 7 (Stan)
Younger was back for its final farewell to Liza, Maggie, Kelsey, and the internet's loveable boyfriend, Josh. While the spin-off I was waiting for, featuring Lauren and her mom organising events for the Jewish elite in Miami has not yet been greenlit, the final season, while it had its ups and downs, gave us the warm ending that we covered here - although with no Diana, we're gonna need to see that Diana Trout Pout in something else, STAT.
Watch it if you like: Sex And The City, Emily In Paris, The Mindy Project
Best batshit doco: LuLaRich (Amazon Prime)
GUYS. Get around this, stat. I felt like the best thing about it was it has the reality tv trash we all crave, but it's a business doco, so you can make your friends who exclusively watch ABC watch it and still feel kinda highbrow. LuLaRich follows the true story of a woman who went from selling clothes out of her car to creating a billion-dollar leggings empire in the US. Only trouble was, it was a totally cult-like MLM - and people are speaking out. Come for the story, stay for seriously fugly designs that you can't believe even one person would buy, let alone millions.
Watch it if you like: Dance Moms, Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult, Becoming A God In Central Florida
Best quirky vibe and chracters: White Lotus (Binge)
Man, this was great. If you're looking for a couples show, recommended. The premise revolves around a group of entitled rich guests who come to stay at the White Lotus resort, and starts with a body being carried onto a plane. So already, we know that one of them won't make it out. But who? And how? While it sounds like a crime thriller, it's actually more of a slow-burn dark comedy that comments on wealth, culture, social norms, and relationships, where you'll find yourself arguing with others over who really is the biggest villain of the show. Plus, Jennifer Coolidge. Need I say more?
Watch it if you like: Desperate Housewives, Nine Perfect Strangers, Dead To Me
Best teen mystery: One Of Us Is Lying (Stan)
In all honesty, along with Cruel Summer, this didn't get the kudos it rightfully deserved. It started out pretty lame in that high-school show way (see, every show that Nikki watches #sorrynotsorry). You know - the jock. The nerd. The cool girl. I was like, zzzz. BUT JUST WAIT. Basically, five kids go into detention, Breakfast Club style. The twist? Only four come out. One of them ends up dead, and the other kids are suspects. It doesn't help that the boy who doesn't make it ran a blog, Gossip-Boy style, and had secrets on every single one of them that were being exposed. You'll be on the edge of your seat trying to figure out - which one is lying?
Watch it if you like: Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, Veronica Mars
Best throwback teen thriller: Cruel Summer (Amazon Prime)
This is one of those shows that was so good, it really bottles me up inside when people don't take my suggestion for the 100th time to watch it. Like, I am doing YOU the favour. Cruel Summer is set over three summers in the 90s, USA. It revolves around two teenage girls - a popular girl who went missing and was later found, and a daggy girl who has been accused of knowing where she was. It's a story full of twists and turns, with great acting from some young newcomers while still having that fun 90s throwback energy. 10/10 would recommend. My only issue is that Taylor Swift's Cruel Summer was not the theme song. Pls fix for S2.
Watch it if you like: One Of Us Is Lying, Cruel Intentions, Little Fires Everywhere
Best crime: Mare Of Easttown (Binge)
Well, they may as well have just handed Kate Winslet her Golden Globe on the set, no need to waste anyone else's time. In a mystery series that revolved around the globe at the same time, Winslet stars as Mare Sheehan, a small-town detective investigating the death of a teenage girl as her own life spirals around her. It's gripping, well-acted, and don't worry, the ending is satisfying, as is the eye candy that is Guy Pearce.
Watch it if you like: The Undoing, The Stranger, SAFE
Best reality: Making The Cut (Amazon Prime)
Project Runway, but make Jeff Bezos money.
That's...pretty much the premise here. A bunch of fashion designers compete to 'Make The Cut' and win the fashion design competition hosted by, you guessed it, Heidi Klum (eh) and pls-be-my-uncle-cos-i-luv-u, Tim Gunn. What I like about this reality series (there are two seasons) is that it isn't particularly mean-spirited: the clothes do the talking. The judges over the show's run also have some serious clout (such as models Winne Harlow and Naomi Campbell, Moschino designer Jeremy Scott and all-around fun time girl Nicole Ritchie, to name a few) and the clothing item that wins each week gets sold immediately on Amazon, showing real-life profits and results. I even got my masc partner to watch it, and he quote "didn't hate it" unquote.
Watch it if you like: Queer Eye, Say Yes To The Dress, Project Runway
Best miniseries: Quiz (Binge)
Another one that went by and was kinda background, but I enjoyed it. This four-part UK series is a dramatisation of the real-life scandal that happened during a taping of Britain's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire tv show.
Allegedly, a couple cheated their way to the main prize - or did they? The series focuses on the couple, and gives some interesting insights, namely how the tv show got made, how contestants are picked, the underground groups of people who study together to get on, and how some people might just do anything for a slice of the action.
Watch it if you like: The Act, The Crown, Mrs America
Best show that Americans are fawning over: Hacks (Stan)
I'll be honest here and say that while I didn't LOVE LOVE this like everyone in the USA did (Omg, women in comedy! Give them every award!) I liked it, and will scroll my phone with S2 is on in the background when it returns. It's more just a fun premise - Jean Smart is Deborah Vance, a legendary comedian (Joan Rivers-style) whose act is losing its luster. Enter Ava, a pretentious, overly woke and confident writer who was recently 'cancelled' and takes a gig to help she-who-doesn't-want-help Vance on rejigging her act for the 21st century.
Most the laughs come from Vance giving Ava shit and being totally inappropriate, but there's some fun one-liners amongst the backdrop of what it is like climbing the showbiz ladder as a woman, with a nod to a bygone era.
Watch it if you like: Grace and Frankie, Golden Girls, Fashion Police
Best comedy for couples done with arguing over what to watch: Ted Lasso (Apple TV)
Ugh, AppleTV is SO annoying. It has like two shows on it so we're all forced to download it when it's like, just put Ted Lasso and Morning Wars on Prime and leave us alone, you know? Anyway.
While I'm not in the camp of Ted Lasso is the best thing since vaccines, I like a show that is quirky and a bit different. The show focuses on Ted Lasso, an American brought in to coach a UK 'football' (Aussies: soccer) team - but don't let that scare you off, the show really isn't about sport at all. He's quite the egalitarian, which doesn't fit in with the club's culture of toxic masculinity, entitlement, underhand deals and you know, a boss trying to ruin his life. You come to love the characters around him in their own way - specifically, my new tv boyfriend Roy Kent.
Just watch, it's easy viewing, and you know you'll agree with my love for Kent the British, rugged Jewish MAN-man faster than you'll be running around the house singing, 'Ja-mie, Tart doo doo doo doo doo...'
Watch it if you like: Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Cheers
Best teen comedy-drama: Sex Education S3 (Netflix)
I mean, every season is amaze, that's why it makes my list every year! In S3, we are dealing with the fallout from the S2 finale - will Maeve and Otis ever get together? Will Jean go through with her pregnancy? Will Eric move in as my best friend? There are laughs, tears and triumphs as we learn more about our favourite characters and some new ones as they navigate life and love at the 'sex school' Moordale College. Note: NSFW or with parents under any circumstances (even if my mum proudly boasted that she smashed S1 and S2 in like, two days. TMI).
Watch it if you like: The End Of The Fucking World, The Inbetweeners, Sex And The City
Best international mystery: Lupin (Netflix)
This one was out around the start of the year, and got the English-speaking world hooked on a French mystery series. Featuring a story within a story within a story (try typing that with no typos...) Lupin is a 'gentleman thief,' who is inspired by the real-life Lupin books in his everyday life. However, when he realises some secrets from his past, he seeks revenge - in the most gentlemanly of ways, of course.
Watch it if you like: How To Sell Drugs Online (Fast), The Bridge, The Unusual Suspects
Best comedy: Girls 5eva (Stan)
Yay, girl bands! Spice up your life! Tina Fey's latest offering, in the humorous style of 30 Rock and Great News, is Girls 5eva, a satirical and sometimes silly look at a one-hit-wonder girl band from the 00s getting back together as a middle-aged woman band. With fun characters like Busy Phillips' dumb princess, Renee Elise Goldsberry's narcissistic diva, Paula Pell's loveable lesbian and Sara Barielles' frankly pretty normal mom holding it together, the show is a fun nod to the record industry of the 90s and 00s, Spice Girls, and trying to have it all when you really just want some comfy shoes and a lie down.
Watch it if you like: 30 Rock, The Mindy Project, Parks and Recreation
Best serious drama that weirdly hooks: The Queen's Gambit (Netflix)
Who thought a show about a chick playing chess was going to be one of the most riveting views of 2021? That, and watching Jeroen Weimer on my telly every day. A British Commander, suppp.
The Queen's Gambit stars red carpet favourite Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon, an orphan and child prodigy who strives to become the world's best chess player as she battles addiction and issues from her youth. It sounds depressing, but it's more of a coming-of-age character study done in an imaginative, interesting, and stylistic way that has you hooked from start to finish.
Watch it if you like: The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, The White Lotus, Fleabag
Best Aussie show: The Unusual Suspects (SBS)
Yes, an Aussie one makes the list! This was surprisingly really fun. The comedy-drama is focussed on the selfish, status-obsessed wealthy women in the posh eastern suburbs of Sydney, and the Filipino domestic workers who are privy to all their scandals and secrets - until they get caught up in one.
Watch it if you like: Desperate Housewives, Why Women Kill, Nine Perfect Strangers
Best mash-up: Only Murders In The Building (Disney+)
This one was cute and fun, if not a bit...weird. Like, it's a comedy on Disney+, but then, they also say fuck and there's a dead guy? I didn't know what category it was meant to be, or who it was for, but I was along for the ride, regardless.
Only Murders In The Building reunites everyone's favs from Father of the Bride, Steve Martin and Martin Short, as well as Selena Gomez (who was...okay. What's the hype? Am I missing something?) as residents of the same building in NYC. All three are murder podcast tragics (aren't we all?) until life imitates art and there's a murder in their own building - inspiring them to join forces and create their very own murder podcast to solve the crime on their home turf.
Watch it if you like: Death In Paradise, Father of the Bride, The Pink Panther
Best criminal doco: Heist (Netflix)
This three-part doco series is truly unbelievable. Each episode focuses on real-life people who almost got away with extraordinary heists - almost. Whether it was barrels of bourbon or simply driving off a truck filled with cash, these stories will have you wide-eyed from start to finish.
Honourable mentions that didn't come out in 2021, but were still amazing for an old-school viewing: Frayed, A.P Bio, The Mindy Project, Grace And Frankie, Gavin And Stacey, Feud
Want more? Try: