TV 2021: all the amazing telly to watch this year

TV 2021

Let’s face it: we’re going to need amazing TV more than ever this year, especially in the early lockdown months. Luckily, there’s a brace of brilliant new comedies, dramas and genre shows premiering in 2021, along with the return of old favourites such as Sex Education and Stranger Things. Here’s every series you should know about…

New drama

‘It’s a Sin’

Created by Russell T Davies (Years and Years, Queer as Folk), this five-part drama follows a mostly queer friendship group coming of age in ’80s London under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander leads a talented young cast as Ritchie, a smalltown boy who makes questionable life choices in the big smoke. Don’t expect a sugarcoated happy ending.

Release date: Late January, Channel 4

‘Bel-Air’

Reboots of beloved sitcoms are nothing new, but this one is no lazy nostalgia-fest. Based on a brilliant fan film that reimagined The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a dark drama, it promises a grittier take on the ‘90s fish-out-of-water story. With original star Will Smith exec-producing, it should feel faithful even if the classic theme song gets the chop.

Release date: 2021, UK broadcaster TBC

‘Impeachment: American Crime Story’

Ryan Murphy’s miniseries about the Clinton-Lewinsky sex scandal is laden with star power. Clive Owen plays the impeached President; Beanie Feldstein portrays the White House intern he had an affair with; and Murphy regular Sarah Paulson pops up as scheming staffer Linda Tripp. Murphy’s recent output has been patchy, but this should return him to Emmy-bothering form.

Release date: 2021, UK broadcaster TBC

‘Inventing Anna’

Ozark‘s Julia Garner plays Anna Delvey, arguably the most infamous scammer of our generation, in this miniseries based on Jessica Pressler’s New York Magazine exposé. With Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy) exec-producing and Laverne Cox in a supporting role, it has the credentials to back up a strong concept.

Release date: Early 2021, Netflix

‘The Underground Railroad’

The first TV series from Moonlight director Barry Jenkins sounds timely and unique. Offering an inventive spin on American history, it reimagines the Underground Railroad – a 19th century network of hidden routes and safe houses that led enslaved Black folks to freedom – as an actual railroad with tracks and tunnels. Prepare to be visually dazzled and deeply moved.

Release date: 2021, Amazon Prime Video

‘Superhoe’

Nicôle Lecky adapts her stunning one-woman stage play into a six-part series. She plays Sasha Clayton, a wannabe singer-rapper who spends most of her time in her bedroom smoking weed and Insta-stalking her ex. Fleabag comparisons are a little overdone but this could be 2021’s zeitgeist-grabbing British show.

Release date: 2021, BBC iPlayer

Fresh comedy

‘Mr. Mayor’

Come on, who can resist a Ted Danson sitcom? A year after The Good Place ended, he’s landed the lead in this new series from 30 Rock masterminds Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. This time, he plays a wealthy businessman who becomes the mayor of Los Angeles, with predictably bonkers results. You can picture the memes already.

Release date: 2021, UK broadcaster TBC (airs Jan 7 on NBC in America)

‘Girls5Eva’

Created by Meredith Scardino (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, SNL), this sitcom follows a one-hit-wonder girl-group who reunite for a second shot at stardom. Sara Bareilles and Hamilton‘s Renée Elise Goldsberry lead the cast. Pop music spoofs only work if they’re super-sharp, but with 30 Rock duo Tina Fey and Robert Carlock exec-producing, GIRLS5EVA could be the new Ashley O.

Release date: 2021, UK broadcaster TBC

‘Reservation Dogs’

JoJo Rabbit director Taika Waititi teams up with rising filmmaker Sterlin Harjo for this comedy series about four Native American teens fighting crime on an Oklahoma reservation. With a writers’ room “entirely composed of Indigenous writers”, it’s primed to strike a blow for representation while delivering hilarious thrills and spills.

Release date: 2021, UK broadcaster TBC

‘Lady Parts’

This music-themed comedy from writer-director Nida Manzoor (Hounslow Diaries) centres on an all-female Muslim punk band. The story follows geeky PhD student Amina Hussein as she becomes the unlikely lead guitarist in a band called Lady Parts. Expect rock ‘n’ roll energy and stereotype-busting lols.

Release date: 2021, Channel 4

Inventive sci-fi and fantasy

‘WandaVision’

Described by Kevin Feige as part “classic sitcom” and part “Marvel epic”, this genre-blending series looks both campy and trippy. Set after the events of Avengers: Endgame, it follows Vision (Paul Bettany – despite his character’s apparent death in Infinity War) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) as they try to build a quiet life in a town where things aren’t quite as they seem. At first glance: less MCU and more WTF?!

Release date: January 15, Disney+

‘Loki’

Tom Hiddleston reprises his MCU role in this hyped nine-parter. Like WandaVision, it takes place after Avengers: Endgame, in which an alternate version of the God of Mischief created a new timeline. The decade-hopping storyline teams him with new characters played by Owen Wilson and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. There’s a lot riding on this one for Marvel, so expect Loki to be anything but low-key.

Release date: May 2021, Disney+

‘The Lord of the Rings’

Potentially the most expensive TV series ever, with Amazon reportedly committing at least $1billion over five seasons, this could eventually make Game of Thrones look small-scale. It’s set way before the Lord of the Rings novels, so there should be minimal overlap with Peter Jackson’s movies, and the cast is so enormous that they’re almost Tolkien the piss.

Release date: 2021, Amazon Prime Video

‘Foundation’

The creators of this sci-fi series previously worked on Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and the Terminator franchise, so it arrives with some pedigree. Jared Harris (Chernobyl) and Lee Pace (Guardians of the Galaxy) star in a thousand-year saga tracking a band of exiles’ mission to save the Galactic Empire from destruction. In a word: epic.

Release date: 2021, Apple TV+

‘The Nevers’

Though it’s set in Victorian Britain, this sci-fi drama is no Downton Abbey. Created by Joss Whedon (Avengers: Age Of Ultron), it follows a group of women with “unusual abilities” who take on a mission to save the world. If it’s half as fierce as Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it should be worth a binge.

Release date: Summer, Sky Atlantic

Terrifying horror

‘Them: Covenant’

Exec-produced by Lena Waithe (The Chi, Queen & Slim), season one of this horror anthology follows a Black family who move from 1950s North Carolina to an all-white LA neighbourhood. Deborah Ayorinde (Luke Cage) and Ashley Thomas (Salvation) lead a talented cast. Expect this show to spark a lot of conversations.

Release date: 2021, Amazon Prime Video

‘American Horror Stories’

This American Horror Story spin-off will feature self-contained episodes instead of a season-long story arc. Even the best instalments of Ryan Murphy’s horror anthology tend to career off the rails, so a tighter format is just what the franchise needs.

Release date: 2021, UK broadcaster TBC

‘Clarice’

Hannibal Lecter’s had a fair crack over the years, so it’s time for his favourite adversary to take centre stage. Rebecca Breeds (Pretty Little Liars) steps into Jodie Foster’s very large shoes in a psychological horror series focusing on the “untold personal story” of FBI agent Clarice Starling. It’s reported that the new spin-off isn’t allowed to mention Lecter at all due to copyright laws – which could throw a spanner in the works.

Release date: early 2021, UK broadcaster TBC

‘Ginger Snaps’

John Fawcett, director of cult werewolf movie Ginger Snaps, is exec-producing this TV adaptation. There’s no word on casting yet but Anna Ssemuyaba (Guerilla) is writing the script and Fawcett proved his TV chops by creating clever sci-fi series Orphan Black.

Release date: 2021, UK broadcaster TBC

‘Chucky’

Child’s Play creator Don Mancini steers this TV adaptation about the demon doll with the soul of a serial killer. It begins with Chucky showing up at a suburban garage sale (uh oh!) and follows a series of horrifying murders that turn the town inside out. Just remember: He’s Chucky, “your friend till the end”.

Release date: 2021, UK broadcaster TBC

Returning favourites

‘Disenchantment’

This fantasy sitcom from The Simpsons creator Matt Groening showed definite potential when it debuted in 2018. There were no episodes last year, but both parts of season two will arrive in 2021, suggesting Groening has taken time to iron out the kinks in his quirky medieval universe.

Release date: January 15, Netflix

‘Back’

Mitchell and Webb return for a second series of the twisted sitcom-cum-thriller. Now that Stephen has been released from a psychiatric facility, can he finally convince everyone that foster-brother Andrew isn’t as sweet as he seems? There should be loads of laughs and gasps along the way.

Release date: January 21, Channel 4

‘Euphoria’

The first Euphoria special saw Zendaya’s Rue pour her heart out to Colman Domingo’s Ali in a diner. ‘Part 2: Jules’, or to give it its full title “Fuck Anyone Who’s Not A Sea Blob”, should give the other side to this messy breakup – that of Hunter Schafer’s runaway teen.

Release date: January 25, Sky Atlantic and NOW TV

‘Sex Education’

Following a pandemic delay, filming on season three finally got underway in September. Girls’ Jemima Kirke and Harry Potter’s Jason Isaacs join the cast, who were tested for Covid twice a week to ensure Sex Education could continue in its usual envelope-pushing way.

Release date: 2021, Netflix

‘Gossip Girl’

Not a continuation of the classic teen drama, but a sequel set a decade later in the same glossy world. Expect a more diverse cast, more queer storylines and more adult content, though Kristen Bell will once again provide some arch narration. You know you’ll love it, xoxo Gossip Girl.

Release date: 2021, UK broadcaster TBC

‘Succession’

After COVID halted production in March, season three is rumoured to have resumed shooting at the end of last year. Willa Ferreyra (Justine Lupe), Karl Muller (David Rasche) and Hugo Baker (Fisher Stevens) have all been upgraded to series regulars, so expect even more dirty deeds and duplicity from the top dogs at Waystar Royco.

Release date: 2021, Sky Atlantic

‘Stranger Things’

Twilight‘s Jamie Campbell Bower and horror legend Robert Englund join the cast for season four, which resumed shooting in September. In a recent NME interview, Matthew Modine responded to fan theories suggesting his character Dr Brenner could be the unnamed American we saw in a Russian jail cell at the end of season three. What do you think?

Release date: Netflix, 2021

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Season four of the dystopian drama will feature Elisabeth Moss’ directorial debut and new characters played by Fresh Meat‘s Zawe Ashton and House of Cards‘ Reed Birney. It’s already been renewed for a fifth season so there’s little threat of a hurried narrative or dashed-off unhappy ending.

Release date: 2021, Channel 4

‘Peaky Blinders’

Shooting on series six is due to begin this month, so there’s at least a chance that we could see new episodes before the end of the year. Finn Cole promised us as much in December. Billy Grade actor Emmett J. Scanlan has described the new scripts as “fucking strong” so the Shelby clan’s return should be worth the wait.

Release date: Late 2021, BBC One

‘Better Call Saul’

Season six of the Breaking Bad spin-off will be the last, and it’s bowing out with an extended 13-episode run – three more than in past seasons. Co-creator Peter Gould has promised a satisfying ending to the Saul Goodman saga, saying: “We’re going to try like hell to stick the landing of these 63 episodes.”

Release date: 2021, Netflix

‘The Witcher’

Netflix renewed this fantasy series before season one premiered, so showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich won’t have been caught off guard. Henry Cavill recently sustained a minor injury on set, reportedly while 20 feet above ground and attached to a safety harness, so expect the action sequences to be properly dazzling once again.

Release date: 2021, Netflix

‘Atlanta’

Fans have been waiting since 2018 for more of Donald Glover’s epochal comedy-drama set in the Atlanta rap scene. They’ll be rewarded handsomely for their patience with seasons three and four both set to air this year.

Release date: 2021, UK broadcaster TBC

‘Ozark’

This classy crime drama has been a slow-burning hit for Netflix, so its extended, 14-episode final season is being split into two parts. Star Jason Bateman has teased: “A super-sized season means super-sized problems for the Byrdes. I’m excited to end with a bang(s).”

Release date: 2021, Netflix

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