My favorite TV of 2021

By Richard Roeper on January 10, 2022

The numbers are staggering. According to Variety, there were 1,923 series on various platforms in 2021, shattering the record of 1,628 set in 2019. This is why I can't really say my Top 10 list represents the "best" series of 2021; so, let's just call this my 10 favorite new TV series of 2021.

   10. Mare of Easttown (HBO Max)

Kate Winslet's world-weary former high school basketball star and police detective can give you a tour of Easttown, a small, working-class town in Pennsylvania where they have just as many sensational crimes, dirty deeds and passionate affairs as their wealthier counterparts on either coast.

   9. Impeachment: American Crime Story (FX)

Sarah Paulson turns in an impressive performance as self-designated and cringe-inducing whistleblower Linda Tripp, whose betrayal of Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein, doing superb work) ignites the impeachment case against then-President Clinton (a nearly unrecognizable Clive Owen). Juicy, juicy stuff.

   8. Mayor of Kingstown (Paramount+)

Jeremy Renner's Mike McLusky is like a spiritual cousin to Winslet's Mare Sheehan in that neither is the actual mayor of their respective hardscrabble communities, but both bear the weight of the world on their shoulders as they navigate the often-blurred lines between law enforcement and breaking the rules for the greater good. This is a gritty, rough-hewn, authentic slice of blue-collar Michigan life from co-creator Taylor Sheridan of Yellowstone fame.

   7. Blindspotting (Starz)

The 2018 feature film Blindspotting was a work of blazing creativity, and this Starz original comedy/drama/musical series is a worthy follow-up, as it picks up the story of Ashley (Jasmine Cephas Jones), six months after Miles (Rafael Casal), her longtime boyfriend and the father of her son, has been handed a harsh prison sentence. Filled with eye-popping visuals, strong performances and unique storytelling devices, Blindspotting is bold and original television.

   6. The Sex Lives of College Girls (HBO Max)

Yes, there's quite a bit of sex in this raw, raunchy, funny and frank HBO Max original series, but this is really about the LIVES of college girls, i.e., Bela (Amrit Kaur), Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott), Leighton (Renee Rapp) and Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet), the obligatory Four Diverse Strangers who instantly become entangled in each other's lives in their freshman year at a top-tier private school in Vermont.

   5. Midnight Mass (Netflix)

And now for something completely darker.

Writer-director Mike Flanagan delivered a deeply disturbing, grotesquely twisted, spiritually bent Netflix original limited series about the increasingly strange and perhaps even supernatural goings-on at a remote outpost called Crockett Island. Hamish Linklater is a standout as Father Paul, a charismatic and handsome young priest who looks like he stepped out of The Exorcist, and is either going to be a saintly hero or the devil in disguise - or some of both.

   4. Hacks (HBO Max)

My favorite TV duo of 2021: Jean Smart as Deborah Vance, a decidedly Joan Rivers-like comedian who has enjoyed a long and successful residence in Las Vegas, and Hannah Einbinder as Ava, a charming but sometimes insufferably smug millennial comic who is hired to blow the dust free from Deborah's old routines and infuse them with some hipster edge. This potentially hokey premise is mined for pure comedic gold, thanks to the crisp and layered writing and the magnificent chemistry between the iconic old pro Smart and relative newcomer Einbinder.

   3. Yellowjackets (Showtime)

Showrunners Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson (Narcos) have pulled off one the most impressive feats of the TV year, nimbly toggling back and forth between 1996 and present day to tell the story of a group of teenage soccer players who are stranded when their plane crash-lands in a remote, mysterious place where strange things start happening. Jasmin Savoy Brown, Sophie Nelisse, Sophie Thatcher and Sammi Hanratty are outstanding as the teen girls - and Melanie Lynskey, Christina Ricci, Juliette Lewis and Tawny Cypress are equally brilliant as the adult versions of these characters.

   2. 1883 (Paramount+)

Taylor Sheridan was also the driving force behind this Yellowstone prequel. This is a raw, rough, rowdy ride with strong work by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill as James and Margaret Dutton, who both experienced unspeakable horrors in the Civil War and some 20 years later are embarking on another perilous journey as they accompany Sam Elliott's Shea Brennan and a wagon train of European immigrants on a months-long trek from Texas to the great Northwest. The best TV Western in 30 years.

   1. The Beatles: Get Back (Disney+)

One of the great things about Peter Jackson's magnificent, three-part, nearly eight-hour documentary series about the Beatles and the making of Let It Be was that it inspired passionate discourse from generations of fans on Twitter and other social media platforms. Was this a self-indulgent, slow-paced, digitized vanity project, or an instant classic of a rock documentary pulling back the curtain to show us the greatest band of all time in all its messy, complicated, exhilarating, magical glory?

Answer: You bet.