The Best TV Shows of 2021

2. Squid Game

Four hundred and fifty-six desperate people are lured into a contest of survival in which they play a series of children’s games for the chance to win $39 million in this Netflix K-drama that took the world by storm in 2022. Unlike many entries into the survival game genre, Squid Game doesn’t bother to set its dystopian premise in a near or alternate future. This is the world we live in, my friends, and creator Hwang Dong-Hyuk is not pulling any punches. 

Hwang’s dire tale of life under capitalism obviously connected with global audiences, who watched as billionaires got richer and vulnerable communities were left to pay the price during the pandemic’s second year. For many viewers, this was probably their first Korean-language TV experience, but with Netflix continuing to invest in the Korean entertainment industry (not to mention a Squid Game Season 2 on the way), it definitely won’t be their last. – KB

1. WandaVision (READERS’ CHOICE)

What is there to say about WandaVision that hasn’t already been said? In the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it remains a unicorn. While Marvel movies have been accused of being “cut and paste,” the MCU TV shows have had much more room to experiment with what they want to achieve, and WandaVision embraced that in a way that no one saw coming by refusing to totally conform to the MCU formula.

An examination of grief through the lens of a previously-sidelined character in Wanda Maximoff, the show took advantage of its complete lack of fan expectations to draw in a huge audience of people who didn’t know they could care so much about a witch who once fell in love with a synthezoid and couldn’t bear to live without him. This even included some viewers who had no real context of MCU history and just got hooked after having seen WandaVision pop up on their Disney+ app. WandaVision simply stood on its own and delivered a heartbreaking story that pretty much anyone could identify with if they’d lost a loved one in any capacity. 

The only problem with the series’ success was how easy it was to judge every subsequent MCU offering by the standard it set. – KH

Other shows receiving votes: Cruel Summer, Hometown Cha Cha Cha, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Brand New Cherry Flavor, Sex Education, Attack on Titan, The Mysterious Benedict Society, City of Ghosts, Run BTS!, How To with John Wilson, The Great North, All Creatures Great and Small, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Power Rangers Dino Fury, Maid, Schmigadoon!, Ghosts (U.S.), You, Search Party, Rick and Morty, The Great, Masters of the Universe: Revelation, The Simpsons, We Are Lady Parts, Arcane, Starstruck, Dopesick, Grantchester, The Nevers, The Underground Railroad, Nancy Drew, Lupin, Heels, Doom Patrol, The Long Call, Inner City Smiths, Miss Scarlet and the Duke, For All Mankind, The Shrink Next Door, Star Trek: Discovery, Anne Boleyn, American Horror Stories, Tuca & Bertie, Nine Perfect Strangers, Ghosts (U.K.), Star Trek: Prodigy, Atlantic Crossing, Word of Honor, Bob’s Burgers, Run On, Hellbound, Sweet Tooth, A Discovery of Witches, Doctor Who, Mythic Quest, Castlevania, The Serpent, The Irregulars, The Great British Bake Off, Solar Opposites, Pen15, Resident Alien, Marvel’s What If…?, The Handmaid’s Tale, American Horror Story: Double Feature, Kevin Can F**k Himself