Joey’s Top 10 TV Shows of 2021

Yes, 2021 again! A year of TV good enough that it inspired me to make these lists, but not good enough to inspire me to finish them. And 2022 has shown just how good a year of TV can really be. So after my best songs and albums list on January 1 and 2, expect an even more stacked TV list the following week.

10. The Owl House
season 2, first half
10 episodes (now 41 total)
stream: Disney+

Like the path that Gravity Falls took before it, The Owl House was assuredly going to get more dark and plot-intensive after its lighter first season. Though 2021 only offered us ten half-hours, The Owl House met the challenge and upped the ante, especially shining in triptych episode “Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on Hooty’s Door.”

9. Reservation Dogs
season 1
8 episodes (now 18 total)
stream: Hulu

Reservation Dogs is about both the ordinary and the extraordinary, well-defining the Oklahoma reservation and the hope-crushing monotony our heroes feel subsumed by while also occasionally popping off into dreamlike zaniness. While the first half of the first season is a great introduction, the show starts really going for it in the latter four episodes.

8. Ranking of Kings
season 1, first cour
11 episodes (23 in season 1)
stream: Crunchyroll

Not many anime have felt as good as Ranking of Kings, the fantasy tale about a deaf child whose birthright is stolen from him. The story of Bojji is the main attraction, but while the show introduces many of its other characters as caricatures – like Bojji’s wicked stepmother and stepbrother – where it really shines is expanding these characters and making Bojji just the largest branch of a wildly satisfying plot. It’s also just so refreshing for a shonen anime to look like this does.

7. Arcane
season 1
9 episodes
stream: Netflix

It’s bewildering to see animation look so unique and so expensive. If you can make it past Imagine Dragons in the opening credits, your eyes will be instantly treated to the best-looking show around. Likewise, it’s gone pretty all out with its story, its three-act structure expertly working its major beats through the whole cast. With a bit of an edge, Arcane is a rare Western cartoon geared towards more mature audiences, and it’ll be a joy when it comes back, I dunno, three years later.

6. Station Eleven
limited series
10 episodes (7 in 2021)
stream: HBO Max

The narrative ambition of Station Eleven is pretty astonishing. Jumping liberally across space and time, each episode has its own hook, whether it takes place in a collapsing city, an airport, a small apartment, or a hospital. A startling beginning and an emotional ending put Station Eleven in rare esteem among limited series.

5. How To With John Wilson
season 2
6 episodes (12 total)
stream: HBO Max

There’s really nothing like How To With John Wilson. I get how that’s a pretty easy statement for anything with Nathan Fielder involvement, but the vibe of watching the man with the camera giving often trite narration to plain moments is so uniquely captivating. Then suddenly, John Wilson will find a weirdo. Perhaps it’s a person obsessed with Avatar (2009). Perhaps it is a Second Life land baron. It will always be a total marvel that John Wilson gets these people to open up to him. Season two is a step up for this main reason: John has found more weirdos this time out.

limited series
13 episodes
stream: Crunchyroll

ODDTAXI is truly humble. It weaves its web of mischievous, city-slacking animals so casually, not trying too hard to sell a rapping porcupine, a puma hellbent on fulfilling his dreams with a gacha game, or a gibbon trying to salvage his happiness through dating apps. A bit like the first act of Durarara!!, ODDTAXI builds an interconnected city and brings it all together in the best anime miniseries in a long time.

3. Mare of Easttown
limited series
7 episodes
stream: HBO Max

Two mysteries, a murder and a disappearance, hang over Easttown, and the disgruntled people of the small town hang all of their frustrations on Mare, who in turn has a recent divorce and the suicide of her eldest child hanging over her. The character drama is fantastic, but the whodunnit is the beast that sends Mare over the top, with so many suspects, twists, and shocking action setpieces. In the era of the prestige miniseries, Mare of Easttown is among the very finest.

2. Yellowjackets
season 1
10 episodes (7 in 2021)
stream: SHOWTIME

Dynamite. Yellowjackets is clearly something special from the jump: a ’90s high school girls’ soccer team flies to the national championship only to crash into the Canadian wilderness. As we follow the girls devolving and the wilderness getting spooky, we also see the survivors living their lives in the present day until their past starts bubbling up again. Though filled with death and horror, Yellowjackets is an absolute blast, and it’ll be great to greet it in early 2023.

1. Succession
season 3
9 episodes (29 total)
stream: HBO Max

Now they’re just showing off. The story of four siblings vying for their megabillionaire daddy’s favor has been great its past two seasons, but only now has stepped into rarefied territory and is making a serious run to join the greatest live action dramas of the past twenty years. The characters and dialogue are all clicking in that special way you sometimes see, and now more than ever its comedy makes its drama seem that much less strained, particularly when something so cringeworthy occurs that you have to pause and pace around for ten minutes before continuing. And of course, even before this season Succession was notable for its killer tentpole moments, and “All The Bells Say” did not disappoint. If they can keep this up, we’ll be talking about Succession for a very long time.

Honorable Mentions

For All Mankind, season 2
Hacks, season 1
Invincible, season 1
I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, season 2
Only Murders in the Building, season 1
Squid Game, season 1
The Expanse, seasons 5 & 6
The Underground Railroad, limited series
The White Lotus, season 1

Published by Joey Daniewicz

Joey Daniewicz is a 32-year-old who graduated from the University of Minnesota Morris with a degree in mathematics. His passions are politics and popular media.

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