The Best TV Shows of 2021

Here at Your  Money Geek, we're taking a look back at some of the best movies and television series from 2021. From WandaVision and Squid Game to West Side Story and Encanto. Stick around and see if your favorites are highlighted this year.

The Best TV Shows of 2021

WandaVision 5

In 2020, TV was our best friend, the go-to crutch we leaned on to while away the hours spent living under quarantine. In 2021, sadly, few things have changed, with TV just as vital to maintaining our sanity and providing a constant stream of entertainment as it had the previous year. Fortunately, there’s been no shortage of fantastic, binge-worthy TV shows that aired this year or began streaming exclusively on any one of the latest streaming platforms online.

With the end of 2021 in sight, we thought we’d look back at all those comfort shows we watched and rewatched in 2021, ranging from comedic murder mysteries to a certain Netflix show that was all anyone talked about for weeks on end.

Here are ten must-watch shows from 2021 and where they are currently streaming.

Image Credit: Marvel Studios. 

Only Murders in the Building

Only Murders in the Building

Anything with Steve Martin or Martin Short on their own tends to be worth watching. A project that pairs the two in a joint comedic murder mystery set in a hotel, though? That combination was like ice cream on top of a warm pie—who wouldn’t say no to that?

Only Murders in the Building follows three strangers (Martin, Short, and Selena Gomez) living in the same apartment building, all of whom share a passion for true crime. When a murder occurs inside their shared building, the three use their amateur sleuth skills to investigate the crime, learning their odd assortment of neighbors’ secrets and eventually realizing the killer may be living among them.

Taking a promising premise (Short and Martin make a whodunnit), Only Murders in the Building manages to balance out the three principal cast members’ comedic styles and generations extremely well. (Martin and Short struggle to understand Millennial lingo, and jokes between the varying age groups keep rolling.)

Only Murders is both a fun comedy and an intriguing thriller between the three main stars, blending the two genres in one seamless, incredibly entertaining way.

Streaming on Hulu

Image Credit: Hulu. 

Invincible

Invincible Still

Based on the comic book hero of the same name by Robert Kirkman, Invincible is just as dark and violent a superhero story as you would expect from the guy who wrote the original Walking Dead comics.

Seventeen-year-old Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) is the son of Earth’s most powerful superhero, Omni-Man (JK Simmons). When he begins developing his own powers, Mark navigates the world of superheroes and villains, trying to live up to his father’s legacy and become the next great superhero that will protect the world.

Loosely inspired by various famous superheroes, Invincible is a clever take on the superhero genre, offering a uniquely fresh perspective on the genre, poking fun at some of its most famous tropes, and asking genuinely interesting questions in the process. (Namely: What would it be like to be Superman’s child? How much pressure would you feel having to live up to him when you grew up?)

It’s hard to say whether or not viewers are tired of superhero-related media, having been fed every kind of superhero story in various TV shows and movies over the years, ranging from straightforward MCU movies to genre-bending superhero series (WandaVision, Legion, The Boys).

Fortunately, a show like Invincible takes the tired superhero narrative and adds a dramatic, dark spin on it, helping keep the superhero genre relevant yet not repeating any of the old stories we’ve seen repeatedly.

Streaming on Prime Video

Image Credit: Amazon Studios. 

WandaVision

WandaVision12 scaled

2021 marked the year when the MCU shifted from feature-length films and focused on the possibility of television-based narratives. The series followed many cinematic characters who may not have received the same onscreen exploration as Iron Man, Thor, or Captain America.

While it’s worth noting that most of these new Marvel shows remained entertaining in their own right (especially The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki), the first MCU show that premiered on Disney+, WandaVision, stands apart easily as the best.

Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Wanda and Vision find themselves trapped in a small town, living lives that seem to mirror the comedic tone directly and cheesy plots of various sitcoms from the 1950s onward.

As the two spend more time in their quiet little community, they begin to suspect something is very wrong with the new lives they’ve found for themselves.

A mystery blended with various sitcoms (mimicking the look, tone, and comedic style of everything from The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Brady Bunch to Malcolm in the Middle and Modern Family), WandaVision is one of the most stylistically bold MCU projects to date, breaking the formulaic mold of the superhero genre and pushing it towards new, exciting directions.

Even without the outward presentation of its various meta-sitcom portrayals, WandaVision gives some much-needed development to Wanda and Vision with a great deal more depth than they’ve had in previous films, showing the narrative possibilities that could come with MCU series (something we’re sure to see a lot more of in the future).

Streaming on Disney+

Squid Game

Squid Game

Certain shows tend to be so good, they're all anyone talks about. You’ll hear about these shows at work, see stories about them online, even see memes directly referencing them on social media. It happened before with Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, The Mandalorian, etc.

But it’s Netflix’s Korean series, Squid Games, that almost broke the Internet. A sharp critique of South Korea’s disparate class system and the evils of capitalism in general, Squid Game quickly rose to become the most-watched Netflix series in the streaming platform’s history and one of the most popular TV series today.

The series follows a group of people in desperate financial straits who enter a contest playing innocent games from childhood (red light, green light, tug of war, etc.) with life or death consequences. The winner receives $45.6 billion if they survive the entire competition.

It may be the most unlikely show you’d expect to see—dark and gory, but completely original and unique in its subject matter and dystopian premise—but Squid Game will have you hooked from the offset, feeling like an inventive cross between Battle Royale, The Running Man, The Hunger Games, and Rollerball rolled into one.

Streaming on Netflix

Image Credit: Netflix. 

The White Lotus

White Lotus

So far, we’ve detailed a few shows that take on a more satirical premise (see above), but none are even remotely more biting or cynical than Mike White’s HBO anthology series, The White Lotus.

Taking place in a picturesque, high-end resort on the Hawaiian coast, The White Lotus follows various groups of wealthy guests spending a week-long vacation at the extravagant hotel. The show tracks each character’s selfish attitudes regarding their vacation (with their only concern being their own satisfaction) and the open disregard and negative effect on the resort staff they either abuse or altogether ignore.

The White Lotus’s main target may be the ultrarich, but viewing it may also change your own ideas about how you treat others, especially employees dedicated to servicing you (such as waiters, concierges, room service employees, or just someone holding the door for you).

The show reminds us that at the end of the day, no matter how much wealth or privilege you have, no amount of self-entitlement puts you above treating others like anything else but human beings.

Composed of an impressive cast—Connie Britton, Steve Zahn, Jennifer Coolidge, Alexandra Daddario, Jake Lacy, Murray Bartlett, and many more—The White Lotus is the comedy-drama we never knew we needed, presenting a negative depiction of the uber-wealthy without holding anything back.

Streaming on HBO Max

Image Credit: HBO Max. 

Reservation Dogs

reservation dogs scaled

A show unlike any other, in both story and production, Reservation Dogs takes the traditional coming-of-age teenage trope we’ve seen countless times before (That ‘70s Show, Freaks and Geeks, Malcolm in the Middle) and moves it to a wholly different setting.

On an Oklahoma reservation, four Native American teenagers (talented newcomers Devery Jacobs, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Lane Factor, and Paulina Alexis) spend their days plotting their escape to California. To secure the funds necessary to see them off, the four commit various small-time crimes to make ends meet. Reservation Dogs is a series that challenges depictions of Native Americans in modern media. Reservation Dogs is known for being one of the first series composed of an entirely Indigenous staff of writers and directors and an almost entirely Indigenous cast.

Teen dramas themselves have been explored to their fullest. Still, Reservation Dogs manages to reinvigorate the genre, using the series to depict a demographic that tends to receive less attention than other ethnic groups do.

Given its impressive first season, and with a second season having been green-lit recently, I strongly feel Reservation Dogs will be a show whose acclaim only continues to grow in the future. At the very least, it’s worth watching now to say, “I watched Reservation Dogs before it was cool.”

Streaming on Hulu

Image Credit: FX. 

Mare of Easttown

mare of easttown

The eponymous detective in Mare of Easttown may be the most nuanced of 2021’s numerous TV protagonists. Played by the award-winning Kate Winslet, Mare Sheehan comes from a promising past, having been a local celebrity as a childhood basketball star before starting a career in law enforcement, all the while happily married.

Years later, Mare struggles with the effects of her divorce, losing her son to suicide, and battling her daughter-in-law over custody of her grandson.

As Mare attempts to keep her personal life from falling apart, she begins to investigate the murder of a young mother, leading her to uncover the seedy underbelly of her small, suburban Philadelphia town.

A story about a police officer who goes to extreme, sometimes unethical lengths in her pursuit of justice, Mare of Easttown doesn’t portray police vigilantism in a one-sided light with excuses like “sometimes you need to get your hands dirty for the greater good.” In Mare of Easttown, as in real life, justice isn’t that simple and can have immediate, long-term, devastating consequences on everyone involved, especially victims or their families.

An acting tour-de-force for Winslet and other principal cast members like Evan Peters, Julianne Nicholson, and Jean Smart, Mare of Easttown is an engaging, complex exploration of various subjects, from grief and family trauma to the interpersonal relationships between small-town community members.

Streaming on HBO Max

Image Credit: HBO Max. 

Hacks

Hacks

Jean Smart has to be one of the most criminally underrated actors working today. Since her appearance on Fargo season 2 later in her career, she’s gone on to tackle numerous meaty television roles, many of which achieved critical acclaim and earned Smart numerous awards and nominations (including Emmy nominations for her roles in Fargo, Watchmen, and Mare of Easttown).

In Hacks, Smart finally takes center stage rather than being reduced to a mere supporting role, playing narcissistic Las Vegas comedian Deborah Vance, whose best days seem to be behind her.

Struggling to stay relevant and keep her performances from being canceled, Vance hires disgraced young comedy writer Ava (Hannah Einbinder), whose promising career abruptly ended over an insensitive Tweet she sent out.

Together, the two end up working in a dysfunctional, twisted partnership for the mutual benefit of their careers, forming an unlikely mentorship in the process.

Hacks is the perfect comedy series that blends old-fashioned mismatched pairings (Smart and Einbinder bring great chemistry to their roles) with an analysis of celebrity, talent, and even the currently shifting landscape of comedy today (especially in regards to what you can and can’t joke about nowadays).

Streaming on HBO Max

Image Credit: HBO Max. 

The Underground Railroad

Underground Railroad

From Academy Award-winning director Barry Jenkins comes this adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

Set in the antebellum South, The Underground Railroad follows two slaves, Cora (Thuso Mbedu) and Caesar (Aaron Pierre), who escape slavery through the Underground Railroad—a literal version of the historical movement, complete with underground tracks, conductors, and engineers.

Pursued by vicious slave hunters (namely Joel Edgerton’s Terminator-like Ridgeway), the duo flees through several states, constantly attempting to integrate themselves into various communities but always ending up back on the run in their never-ending flight to freedom.

Translating Whitehead’s original novel into a television series was bound to be difficult for any director, but in the capable hands of Jenkins, the source material is carefully preserved and brought to light on the screen, showcasing the various horrors of slavery and the constant effects it has on those brave or lucky enough to escape their bondage.

A wondrous magical realism story set in one of the darkest eras of human history (pre-Civil War South), The Underground Railroad delivers a fresh, haunting exploration of slavery that retains all the hurt and emotion of Colson’s original novel.

Streaming on Prime Video

Image Credit: HBO Max. 

The Beatles: Get Back

The Beatles Get Back

Ever since Peter Jackson first started getting into documentaries, the director has seen overwhelming success with his critically acclaimed WW1 film, They Shall Not Grow Old, and his most recent series, The Beatles: Get Back.

Composed of archival documentary footage shot for the Beatles documentary, Let It Be, The Beatles: Get Back shows the Fab Four as they work on what would be their final album together, facing mounting pressure from impending deadlines and differing artistic visions from each band member.

Though most critics’ opinions were mixed over the length of the project (in true Jackson fashion, it’s split into three episodes, each running between 2-3 hours in length), the final result was extremely well received, earning praise for shining new light on the final few weeks the Beatles spent together, as well as depicting their creative process.

For decades, it had long been assumed the making of Let It Be was strife with tension, culminating in a bitter falling out between each of the Beatles members. On the other hand, Jackson's documentary frames their complex final weeks together not as one entirely fraught with arguing but more focused on the four’s general camaraderie and closer aspects of their friendship together.

In a way, The Beatles: Get Back allows the audience to feel you’re sitting there in the same room with John, Paul, George, and Ringo. The documentary paints the end of the band with genuine tenderness, making it out like a mutual breakup beneficial for everyone involved (although it doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking when it finally happens).

Streaming on Disney+

Image Credit: Disney+. 

Final Thoughts

Loki: Episode 6 "For All Time. Always"

2021 may have been a rough year, but with the aid of the abovementioned television shows and many others, we managed to get through it.

These television shows offered us constant entertainment and distraction from a hard year, helping us relieve our boredom each time another COVID-related lockdown hit.

In addition to these ten TV series, we also really enjoyed new shows like Loki, Midnight Mass, and Exterminate All the Brutes, as well as old favorites like The Great, What We Do in the Shadows, Succession, Ted Lasso, and You, all of which are worth watching.

Image Credit: Marvel Studios. 

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Featured Image Credit: Maggie Lovitt. 

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Richard Chachowski is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He loves reading, his dog Tootsie, and pretty much every movie to ever exist (especially Star Wars).