Welcome to Bleeding Cool TV's Top 10 Television Shows of 2021, where the BCTV team offers the best of the best from the past year. And along with the selections, we have some personal thoughts from the writers who covered each of the selections making the case as to why they deserved to rise above the rest. And at a time when it feels like three more streaming services opened up shop & nine more series premiered in the time it took for you to read this, the task of even selecting ten has become more difficult than ever. Gone are the days of "The Big Three" and "Big Cable." Now, the concept of "television" has been blown wide open. Think of it this way. In the '80s, unless you had a VCR then you had to be home and in front of the TV for your favorite "appointment television" show. Now, look down at your phone. You hold in your hand the key to vast libraries of diverse content from across the landscape and timeline of television- a truly awe-inspiring thought. And it is with that spirit that we present the ten selections, ranging from Hulu's Only Murders in the Building, Disney+'s Hawkeye, and Netflix's Midnight Mass, to Hulu's The Great, Comedy Central's Awkwafina is Nora from Queens, Netflix's Clickbait, and more.
Now without further ado, here's a look at BCTV's Top 10 Television Shows of 2021 (and keep an eye out for BCTV's Top 5 New Television Shows of 2021):
(10) HBO's "Succession": "The pettiness and misery of America's worst billionaires continued this season on HBO's Succession. Seeing Kendall Roy try to be a good guy is almost as cringe-inducing as trying to watch Cousin Greg flirt with European royalty, or the ultimate mediocre white guy Connor thinking he has what it takes to be President of the United States. But the best is seeing Brian Cox conduct a master class in acting, fully inhabiting the character of Logan Roy—an old, broken man who somehow manages to fuck over everyone in his path, especially and including his own children. The class critique simmers over the drama, which is basically elevated (and more scripted) reality television."- Andy W.
(9) Netflix's "Bo Burnham- Inside": "Oh shit. Should Bo Burnham be joking at a time like this? The comedy special most fully describes the existential angst of living through a pandemic, climate change, social media, cancel-culture, and the dread of turning 30. This isn't just a comedy special: this is a pop culture hydrogen bomb, decimating everything in its path and putting the old men yelling at clouds of comedy on notice. Equal parts heartbreaking and hilarious, you'll also find yourself singing the songs all year long as Burnham may have achieved what he set out to ironically do: 'healing the world with comedy.'- Andy W.
(8) Hulu's "The Great": "What if 'Game of Thrones' was a sitcom? That's what 'The Great' does with a real-life story of Catherine the Great – it turns a dark, intense chapter in Russian history featuring one of the most fascinating rules of any country into an origin story of how she became that figure. The murderous viper's nest of the 19th Century Russian Court becomes a high school-like war of cliques full of mean girls and dumb jocks with murderous consequences and the entire fate of a country in the balance. The results turn horrific into the hilarious, with Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult bringing the magic to life"- Adi T.
(7) Comedy Central's "Awkwafina is Nora from Queens": "It's hard to find a second season that lives up to the hype of the first, but 'Awkwafina is Nora from Queens' delivers a hilarious and topically relevant new season that continues the characters' stories and keeps presenting the struggle (an all-too-real one) in pure comedy. While some may be a bit 'same-y' as the first season, it's still fire – and not just because Awkwafina covers the lockdown in its usual wacky, realistically perfect way. But it definitely helps"- Eden A.
(6) Hulu "Only Murders in the Building":"'Only Murders In The Building' came in this year as an unexpected yet welcomed television surprise. Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez bring every ounce of passion for storytelling to each scene. The depth of comedy & mystery coupled with a genuine connection to characters never ceases to both surprise and amaze me. It's one of those shows that was so perfectly meant for either week-to-week viewing or binge-watching because it knew its' audience and didn't dismiss how much a mystery aspect would be loved and appreciated. It translates the passion of a favorite thrilling novel, that you would find yourself quoting from daily and presents it perfectly in front of your eyes."- Britt B.
(5) Netflix's "Clickbait": "Netflix delivered one of the biggest surprises midway through the 2021 season with 'Clickbait.' Opening with a punch to the viewer's nose wherein a video appears on the internet of a badly beaten Nick Brewer (Adrian Grenier) holding a card that says "I abuse women. At 5 million views, I die". Minds real as, of course, the views keep climbing while his wife Sophie (Betty Gabriel) and Detective Amiri (Phoenix Raei) search for Nick, and try to figure out who is behind the deadly video, and why. What sets this character-based psychological thriller apart from other shows are the revolving points of view, focusing each episode on a different character's perspective and their unique view of the world around them while they navigate the mystery as it unfolds around them. Clues and information advance the narrative but in some cases do not pay off until later episodes, leaving the viewer's head spinning. Just when you think you know who is responsible this ground-breaking form of storytelling takes a left turn and presents another suspect, making it virtually impossible to solve the mystery until the final act. Meant to place a mirror in front of society showing that you can be super secretive with the Internet, but you can also have everything you ever known exposed to the world at the same time. 'Clickbait' is asking us to level up and learn how to better handle all of this technology, judge less, and be more conscious of how we treat each other online."- Jimmy L.
(4) Disney+'s "Hawkeye": "In 2012, I unsuccessfully tried to tell all my friends why Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye was actually awesome, pointing them to the Matt Fraction & David Aja comics as where they could eventually take the character. Giving his character a successful denouement and passing the torch to Hailee Steinfeld's Kate Bishop has been an incredibly fun romp, along the way exploring the incredible grief of Clint Barton's life and choices. And… that final character reveal, tho…?!"- Andy W.
(3) Netflix's "Midnight Mass": "'Midnight Mass' was destined to be my favorite show of the year since I have a full-on crush for Mike Flanagan, and I don't mind that everyone knows it. What I wasn't prepared for was the emotional weight each episode carried. Grief and faith are not fun subjects, but Flanagan once again shows his ability to take some very real-life horrors and heighten them with a blend of the fantastic. It's why he is a true horror master."- Jeremy K.
(2) FX's "What We Do in the Shadows": "The third season of FXX's 'What We Do in the Shadows' was a solid 10 from beginning to end, with not a single bump along the way. Despite some truly hysterical storylines, there were also some truly heartfelt moments and even a few legitimate tear-jerking ones. Quality writing combined with performances from Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, Harvey Guillén, and Mark Proksch that rate off the comedy charts made for a season that took the series in some bold and daring directions. For a show about a lot of dead folks, WWDITS shows more signs of life than ever before."- Alejandra B.
(1) Disney+'s "WandaVision": "Disney+'s Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany-starring 'WandaVision' is the series you want to show your friends and family who think everything Marvel does is the same. It challenges conventions not only because it breaks away from the standard hero's origin story, but also because it offers a glimpse at the potential of greatness in that ever-growing sandbox that's the MCU's multiverse."- Tom C.