Assembling a list of “best of” TV for 2021 was a daunting task, thanks to the abundance of quality content and the blurring of lines between traditional and newer formats.
Overall, the limited series served as the featured genre of the year, churning out shows more memorable than any other, at least, until those same networks try to conjure encores, which rarely work as well.
The television network also improved its game with some ambitious and simply fun new series, beyond the usual alphabet soup of procedural offenses. Meanwhile, the documentaries boosted the news cycle on some fronts (see “Framing Britney Spears”) and captured the political challenges facing the United States right now (HBO’s “Four Hours on Capitol Hill” and “Q: Into the Storm “standing among those).
As for those who scour this list for oversights, there are surely many, and rest assured, plenty of other titles were considered. They include Emmy winner “Ted Lasso,” who has never touched the nerve in this quadrant as elsewhere and did so even less with a somewhat uneven second season; and “Squid Game,” definitely one of the most influential shows of the year, whose shortcomings (see those wealthy backers) didn’t earn a spot among the best.
Plus, Marvel’s “WandaVision”, in a sense, represents everything the studio accomplished by expanding to broadcast as the most ambitious of the four Disney + shows introduced in 2021, though the others have their merits to varying degrees.
With that disclaimer, here in no particular order are the TV highlights of 2021, broken down, where possible, into categories that reflect, to a small extent, the breadth of what was available.
Both shows provided a welcome mix of comedy and surprising warmth, the former involving the cast and crew of those who put on a fictional reality show, the latter remaking a British comedy about a couple moving into a new home, with an experience close to death. giving the wife the ability to see and hear the ghosts that reside there. Add an honorable mention to “Ordinary Joe” (NBC), an ambitious concept that also started with great promise but hasn’t sustained it either; and the ABC reboot of “The Wonder Years.”