My Best TV Shows of 2021 ~ TV TALK with BILL CUSHING

By: Bill Cushing – Jan. 2022

It’s that time of year again. That time when all TV people start thinking about the best shows that they watched over the past year. As usual, it was tough to leave some shows off the list, but here are my picks for the best TV had to offer in 2021.

Dopesick – Michael Keaton and Kaitlyn Dever shine in this devastating limited series that delves into the opioid crisis in America, from the push of OxyContin by one company to its spread through the working class. (Hulu)

The Beatles: Get Back – A fascinating 8-hour documentary series showing the Beatles attempts to put together a live show as the band is falling apart in 1969. (Disney+)

The White Lotus – this limited series follows a group of snobby, entitled people spending a week at a Hawaiian resort and the staff that caters to them. A combination murder mystery, and cringey comedy. Definitely worth the watch. (HBO)

Yellowstone – The continuing saga of the Dutton clan, this multi-layered saga continued to explore the timeless themes of family, duty, honor, and birthright set against the backdrop of the American West. Great escapist drama. (Paramount)

Maid – Highlighted by Margaret Qualley’s performance, ‘Maid’ follows single mother Alex, a domestic abuse survivor struggling to escape her relationship and create a livable existence for her and her child. No series in recent memory has shed such a thoughtful light on socioeconomic issues like these and the barriers to entry that plague millions of Americans as they attempt to better their lives. (Netflix)
Hacks – Jean Smart and newcomer Hanna Einbender were outstanding in this terrific new comedy series centered on the mentorship/friendship between an iconic Las Vegas comedian and a recently-canceled 25-year-old writer. (HBO Max)

Midnight Mass – This series about the increasingly strange and perhaps even supernatural goings-on at a remote outpost called Crockett Island, explores themes of familial trauma, faith, guilt, alcoholism, and the ghosts of the past that refuse to die. Hamish Linklater gives one of the year’s best performances as the mysterious Father Paul. (Netflix)

Cobra Kai – Probably the most fun series of the year. The impressively inventive Karate Kid continuation was overloaded with nostalgia and managed to strike the right balance between new stories and continuing stories from the film series. (Netflix)

Acapulco – A sweet coming-of-age story told in flashbacks about a man, recounting to his nephew, the story of himself as a young man working his dream job at a fancy resort and falling in love. It joined ‘Ted Lasso’ as the two shows that never failed to make me smile. (AppleTV+)

Only Murders in the Building – This charming series follows three strangers, bonded by their love of a true-crime podcast, who decide to try to solve a death in their New York apartment building after the police rule it a suicide. Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selene Gomez are hilarious and outstanding. (Hulu)

Mare of Easttown – Kate Winslet gave a masterful Emmy winning performance as a small-town Pennsylvania detective embroiled in a brutal murder mystery while struggling to keep her own life together. (HBO)

Ted Lasso – The 2nd season of this series remained hilarious and continued to tug at our heartstrings. This year we got trials, tribulations, and love triangles. Smart and Funny, and still bursting with optimism, it’s TV’s best comedy. (AppleTV+)

Succession – Consistently one of the best written and acted shows on TV. Season 3 saw the Roy family jockeying for power against one another while trying to win their perpetually unimpressed father’s approval. Culminating in one of the great season finales in recent memory. (HBO)
My choice for the best TV series of 2021 is …

For All Mankind –The enthralling alternative history series about America’s space race was even better in season 2 and its finale was the best single episode of TV this year. Tremendous writing and acting are everywhere in this show, and it totally deserves all the praise it’s been getting. (AppleTV+)
Honorable Mentions: You (Netflix), The Handmaids Tale (Hulu), Mosquito Coast (AppleTV+), 1883 (Paramount+), Physical (AppleTV+), Hightown (Starz), The Sinner (USA), American Rust (Showtime), Bosch (Amazon Prime), Dexter: New Blood (Showtime), The Chair (Netflix), Mayor of Kingstown (Paramount+).

If you have any questions about TV, you can email me at I will answer all of your questions and will feature some of the questions I receive in a future Mailbag column. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @BillsTVTalk and on Facebook at BillsTVTalk for daily up-to-the-minute TV news and discussion. ◊