By Six Colors Staff
December 29, 2021 2:46 PM PT
2021 Favorites: TV
We watch a lot of TV. It’s the platinum era of television—you could watch several hours a day for the entire year and never run out of top-shelf entertainment. But who has the time? So if you’re looking for something to watch, consider these shows, which were our favorites this year.
Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
Look, a million people have told you to watch Ted Lasso, and there’s a reason for that: it’s great. Season 2 may not be exactly what people wanted after the spectacular first season, but it still delivers on everything I love about the show, and takes it up a notch. In particular, the addition of Doctor Sharon Fieldstone as a foil (and ultimately friend) to Ted, the rich development of supporting characters like Sam, and a heel turn that left many viewers reeling. Plus, let’s not forget a fabulous rom-com pastiche, the utter surreality of the Coach Beard-centric episode, and a redeemed Jamie Tartt. If I’m going to be honest—not now, Jan!—I loved it all.—Dan Moren
Hacks (HBO Max)
Don’t let this one fly under the radar: “Hacks” was the comedy of the year. Starring Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder as comedy professionals at the beginning and end of their careers, it’s a study in contrasts. She’s in her 60s, she’s in her 20s. Deborah’s trying to figure out how to keep her career going, while Ava is struggling to establish herself. Deborah’s got a mansion in Vegas, Ava’s got a condo in L.A. They’ve both got the same agent and screwed-up families.
“Hacks” has things to say about creative struggles, finding your comfort zone, generational conflict, sexism in comedy (and everywhere else), despair, when to compromise and when to stick to your guns, and a whole lot more. It’s funny, but also serious. After all, comedy can be a serious business.—Jason Snell
Star Trek: Lower Decks (Paramount+)
Yes, it’s a joke machine that’s specially tuned to those who grew up loving 1990s Star Trek. But somehow it’s also a brilliant show in its own right, with characters who you actually end up loving. While this season may never quite reach the heights of the first, there’s still plenty to enjoy, including a new crew member who’s briefly turned into a puppet, some back story on the ship’s apparently mild-mannered engineer, and a stellar (no pun intended) episode that shows us what lower deck life is like on Klingon and Vulcan starships. Plus, Riker…did we mention Riker?.—D.M.
For me, “Loki” was the highlight of the first year of Marvel’s Disney+ original series. Every time I thought I knew where it was going, it went somewhere different. The set-up was obvious: Loki and Owen Wilson’s Agent Mobius are a mismatched cop/not-a-cop pair who have to travel through time in order to right wrongs and keep things on course for the Time Variance Authority. That set-up doesn’t survive the second episode, and the show kept breaking itself apart and re-forming every week.
I loved the show’s production design. Natalie Holt’s score is the single best piece of soundtrack music I heard in 2021. And while the cast was strong from top to bottom, I have to single out Sophia Di Martino’s great performance as Sylvie. Sure, I liked “WandaVision” and “Hawkeye” too, but “Loki” was the cream of the crop.—J.S.
Mythic Quest (Apple TV+)
The second season of this workplace comedy amps up the conflict between our two main characters, egomaniac Ian and ultra-competitive Poppy, but also manages to maintain its heart. I don’t usually like shows with awful people, but the secret is the characters aren’t really awful—there’s actually something underneath that exterior. Case in point: the season’s standout episode, “Backstory,” which delves into the history of supporting character C.W., who, until that point, has mostly been a caricature. The season’s finale seems to leave most of the characters in a good place, but with some threads untied…which is just as well, seeing as Season 3 and 4 are on their way.—D.M.
What We Do in the Shadows (Hulu)
The third season of this mockumentary series about a group of vampires living on Staten Island wasn’t quite as strong as its first two, but it was still pretty great. “This is Spinal Tap” is one of my favorite movies of all time, and “What We Do In the Shadows” comes closer than anything I’ve ever seen in emulating its hilarious tone.—J.S.
Leverage: Redemption (IMDb TV)
The last couple years have been tough ones, so sometimes you want to sit back and watch something light and fun—and if it involves evil rich people getting their comeuppance, all the better.
I was a fan of the 2008 show Leverage, so the news that it was getting a revival via Amazon’s free IMDb TV was music to my ears. This continuation picks up eight years after the original series’s finale, and though there is at least one significant casting change (the absence of Timothy Hutton’s Nate Ford), the revival manages to deliver on the same campy fun. Simply put: a team of Robin Hood-like outlaws use their skills to con and steal from the rich and powerful people whom the system is rigged to help.
The addition of Aleyse Shannon as Breanna Casey, foster sister of original member Alec Hardison, and ER’s Noah Wyle, as a former dirty-tricks lawyer looking to make good, are both welcome additions. Wyle anchors a lot of the season’s ongoing plot, and he’s a welcome addition as the often-in-over-his-head Harry Wilson. Plus, you’ve got notable guest turns from Reed Diamond, Joey Slotnick, and a corker with LeVar Burton. It’s not the most challenging show you’ll watch, but it’s like wrapping yourself in a cozy warm blanket.—D.M.
For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
Ron Moore’s alt-history story about an extended space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union moved to the 1980s for its second season. Marriages fall apart, international tensions flare at home and on the moon, and a symbolic gesture becomes something deeply meaningful. (Also, pay attention to the vending machine!)—J.S.
Kung Fu (CW)
A reboot of a kinda problematic show from the 1970s as a CW drama doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that’s likely to blow you away, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Kung Fu, which bares basically no resemblance to the old David Carradine vehicle beyond the name. This one focuses on Nicky Shen, a young woman who drops out of school to train in kung fu, and gets embroiled in a search for mythical weapons of untold power.
Fun fight scenes and a talented cast that punches above their weight elevated this series’s first season, and I particularly appreciated the show’s willingness to have more than a few scenes in Mandarin with English subtitles. A special callout to Hollywood legend Tzi Ma who gets a meaty role as the father of the main character.—D.M.
It’s a Sin (HBO Max)
If I describe Russell T. Davies’s “It’s a Sin” as a story about a group of gay men and their friends in London during the height of the AIDS epidemic, you will probably assume that it is a dark, tragic story. And it is, at times. But the magic of “It’s a Sin” is that it’s also joyful. That bittersweet combination—all these young men are finally breaking out of their restrictive families and being who they want to be, forming bonds and building communities and having sex and starting careers… and at the same time, the epidemic that will end so many lives is lurking around every corner.
“It’s a Sin” wouldn’t be nearly as impressive if it were merely joyous or tragic. It’s both at once, in a way that feels true, and only magnifies the tragedy of so many young lives cut so short.—J.S.
With all respect to my dear friend and colleague, Hawkeye for me is the best the Marvel Cinematic Universe committed to TV this year. As much as I enjoyed the rest of the Disney+ fare, this series’s small stakes, sense of humor, Christmas setting, and tremendously fun fight scenes (that car chase! that office fight!) made it a joy to watch. Anchoring it all is a tremendous performance by Hailee Steinfeld as the enthusiastic and hardly-lacking-in-confidence Kate Bishop, supported by Florence Pugh’s scene-stealing Yelena Belova and, of course, Pizza Dog himself. (I also really enjoyed Christophe Beck & Michael Paraskevas’s score, which feels like the best Mission: Impossible soundtrack never written.)—D.M.
Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)
Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez make an unlikely trio as they try to solve a murder and start a popular murder-themed podcast—not necessarily in that order. It’s a legitimate murder mystery while also featuring a lot of very funny character moments.—J.S.
Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries (Acorn)
The popular Australian series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries may have come to an end, but television execs are never ones to let a good thing go to waste. This year saw the airing of season two of that show’s spin-off, Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries in which Phryne Fisher’s great-niece Peregrine takes up the family mystery-solving mantle but this time in the 1960s instead of the original’s 1920s.
Season 2 expands to eight episode’s from the first season’s four, and there’s a bit more romantic drama as Peregrine and her partner/foil Detective James Steed try to figure out their relationship. The mysteries are entertaining and often ridiculous, including a pretty great episode set at a pigeon-racing club, and there’s a stewing sub-plot that revolves around Peregrine’s friend Birdie who has a shadowy past.
The show’s light-hearted and fun—despite all the murders!—and well worth a watch for mystery enthusiasts or fans of the earlier show, though I’m still holding out for a future flashback episode where Peregrine must continue a case left off by her aunt.—D.M.
Invincible (Prime Video)
From Robert Kirkman, creator of “The Walking Dead,” comes another TV series based on an excellent comic book. “Invincible” the comic is one of my all-time favorites, and it’s been translated to adult animation without skipping a beat. There’s some grotesque violence, but that was always the point of “Invincible”—to use familiar superhero tropes, but undercut them by taking them seriously. Most importantly: there are no walk-backs or fake-outs. Actions have consequences. By the end of season one, our hero’s life is nothing like what it was when the show started—for better and for worse.—J.S.
Schmigadoon (Apple TV+)
Though it mostly flew under the radar, this six-episode Apple TV+ series about a couple, Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key, struggling in their relationship who end up stuck in a musical was delightful. There are more than a few standout musical numbers and the star-studded cast is peppered with Broadway veterans like Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Aaron Tveit, and Ariana DeBose. It’s a cute premise, and a half dozen episodes is just long enough for it not to overstay its welcome.—D.M.
Superman & Lois (The CW)
Though the CW’s superhero shows can often seem a dime-a-dozen, Superman & Lois is clearly where the franchise is going. It’s clearly more expensive than its counterparts, feels more cinematic, and manages not to fall into the same weekly tropes. The focus on family dynamics gives it a lot of heart, but it was one particular twist—which will delight longtime comic fans—that really sold me on the show’s first season. (Also, a brief appearance from the classic Superman suit in the opening episode is worth the price of admission.)—D.M.
Taskmaster (Channel 4, purchase on iTunes/Amazon)
My wife and I took a break from the British panel show for a while this year, but we came back with a vengeance to watch the most recent couple seasons (Series 11 and 12) and have no regrets. I can’t imagine there’s anybody left who’s not familiar with it, but the premise is simple: five comedians compete in a variety of ridiculous tasks set by the eponymous Taskmaster, Greg Davies, and his assistant, (Little) Alex Horne. The show is often hilarious, usually delightful, and always a good escape from the everyday.—D.M.
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