10 favorites of 2021 (in no particular order)
White Lotus (season 1) – A delightfully withering upstairs/downstairs dramedy that feels tailor made for a millennial audience.
Invincible (season 1) – High-stakes human drama and creative comic book action make up a great foundation for one of the most grounded portrayals of a world with super heroes.
Mare of Eastown (Limited Series) – HBO delivers a more layered and ultimately painful version of the similarly framed British whodunnit Broadchurch.
Hacks (season 1) – The latest chapter of the Jean Smart renaissance is witty, charming and sneaky dramatic.
Dave (season 2) – The sophomore season of this FX comedy seems too heavy for the titular lead to carry on his own at the start, but returns to peak form by the end when it shares the load with a great supporting cast, including Gata and Gina Hecht.
What we do in the shadows (season 3) – A sentimental turn adds new layers to a fun and creative sitcom building off its original quirky premise. More people need to watch this!!!
Succession (season 3) – A consistently funny season that suffered from awkward initial plotting, but closed with two heartbreaking and breathtaking episodes.
Reservation Dogs (season 1) – A sweet 30-minute dramedy that wears its heart on its sleeves, has a fantastic supporting cast of characters and isn’t like anything else on American television.
Search Party (season 4) – The trio of supporting stars make me want to constantly return to this super uncomfortable skewering of millennials. Susan Sarandon is also scene stealing in a limited role.
Pen15 ^ (Season 2, Part 2) – A trip down memory lane that can be really painful to watch, but always has a lot of heart and 2000-era memories.
The rest of the shows…
Y: The Last Man ** (season 1) – Fantastic dystopian premise that lost my attention early with character actions that were completely unreasonable.
Boardwalk Empire* (season 1-5) – A traditional mobster period piece constantly found new life by leaning into its great supporting cast to take the story in unexpected directions and away from the center.
Brooklyn 99 *(season 1-3) – I am a sucker for Andre Braugher in this network comedy that is consistently funny and – upon rewatch – was better than I remembered.
Better Things (season 4) – This family dramedy amped up its unconventional storytelling for another interesting chapter about parenting, growing up and living life.
Billions (seasons 1-5) – A bad imitation of prestige television, with a handful of compelling characters and performances. A hate watch that I won’t finish.
Wandavision (limited series) – An interesting premise and a fun buildup with an ending that felt thrown together and about as conventional as mainstream comic book storytelling can be.
The Good Lord Bird (limited series) – This dark comedy of doomed misfits serves as an important addition to the conversation about race in America..
The Expanse (season 5) – I wish this boring soap opera was over so I could allow myself to stop watching, but I’m a sucker for moderately grounded science fiction story.
Black Monday** (season 3) – Despite scene stealing performances from Paul Scheer and Casey Wilson, I’ve officially lost interest in this financial screwball comedy set in the late 80s.
Archer ** (season 11) – My viewing, like this crude spy comedy, is just going through the motions at this point.
Super Bowl LV – Detroit style takeout pizza was great. Homemade macaroni and cheese delivered. Homemade chicken wings were just fine. Cookie sundaes (2x) were overkill.
The Magicians (season 5) – A fun, imaginative fantasy series built on the premise that Hogwarts is basically a poorly run college in America.
Gossip Girl (random episodes) – Nothing redeeming about this show aside from the occasional bits by Chuck Bass.
The Knick * (season 1-2) – This forgotten drama is basically built on the premise of House being a period piece, but lifted to sky high heights with Steve Sodenbergh at the helm and an amazing cast. Here’s to hoping the rumors of season three are true.
Banshee (season 1-4) – Imagine if Ozarks was made by Skinemax (because of the gratuitous nudity) and there were a bunch of action set pieces, with each ensuing season offering diminishing returns
Mr. Mayor (season 1) – The spiritual sequel to 30 Rock is occasionally funny and charming.
I think you should leave * (season 1-2) – A zany sketch show that rarely misses until season two, which falls flat more often than not.
For all Mankind (season 2) – This alternative history drama didn’t click with me the way it did in the first season, which makes me kind of an outlier among views of the show.
Falcon and the Winter Soldier (limited series) – Flashes of a compelling, meaty show were ultimately drowned out by discombobulated storytelling and a boring climax
Made for love (limited series) – This high-concept dramedy from HBO Max is elevated exponentially by the quirky lead performances from Christin Milioti and Billy Magnussen.
Solar Opposites (season 1-2) – A screwball cartoon comedy with aliens, forgettable plots – aside from the miniaturized human drama – and tons of jokes.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch (seasons 1) – A worthwhile successor to Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Girls5eva (season 1) – Flashes of satirical brilliance, but generally just a good hang about middle-aged women who revive their defunct girl group.
Top Chef (Portland) – The 18th season suffered from pandemic restrictions and a cast without any culinary or personality standouts.
Sweet Water (season 1) – Not my kind of dystopian show.
Shrill (seasons 1-3) – A smart, heartfelt and hilarious vehicle for AIdy Bryant.
We are lady part (season 1) – Reminiscent of Bend it like Beckham, but with a 1st person narrator and catchy tunes.
Halston (limited series) – Ewan McGregor is extremely watchable and the show looks pretty, but the show feels like it’s playing many of the same notes over again.
Loki (season 1) – A good mix of talking, action and comic books stakes, but I could have used more Owen Wilson.
Physical (season 1) – Rose Byrne almost singlehandedly holds this period piece together, despite every other element of the show seeming superfluous and bringing it down.
Special (season 2) – A bit of a sophomore slump creatively and in delivery.
Betty (season 2) – Your mileage may vary with each character’s storyline, but the entire package remains uniquely New York City, visually appealing and easy to digest.
Ted Lasso (season 2) – A few good one liners, but the plot for this workplace comedy doesn’t work (for me) in its second season.
Marvel: What if…? (season 1) – An uninspiring approach to what could be a creative storytelling device.
Titans (season 1 & 2) – Comic book storytelling that is slightly more compelling than its counterparts on the CW.
The Other Two (season 2) – The sophomore season of this send up of celebrity culture grows emotionally and doesn’t lose any speed on its comedic fast ball, but Molly Shannon isn’t asked to do enough.
Star Wars: Visions ** (2021) – Like the idea of Star Wars stories that aren’t tied to any mythology or existing points of view.
Mythic Quest (season 2) – The same workplace screwball comedy as season one, but with an even better dramatic flashback episode.
Feel Good (season 1 and 2) – A sometimes frustrating comedy portraying two young women grappling with their relationship and their separate identifies, with a great recurring performance by Lisa Kudrow.
This Way Up (season 2) – A slow motion train crash that is made enjoyable by the lovable cast of characters.
Foundation (season 1) – Love the book series. Hated the show. Maybe I’m too close to this.
Insecure ^ (season 5) – More drama and less comedy in the final season, but feels like we’re heading to a safe landing.
Curb Your Enthusiasm ^ (season 11) – An unnecessary recurring serial storyline contributes to one of the weaker seasons.
Big Mouth ** (season 5) – Even though this cartoon is still really creative, your mileage may vary with this latest season because it feels like they’re treading the same ground.
The Sex Lives of College Girls (season 1) – This dramedy is a joke machine, which makes it worth watching, but the drama falls flat
Hawkeye ^ (limited series) – If you don’t judge it against the imaginative source material you have a fun ensemble of great actors to enjoy.
Cowboy Bebop ** (season 1) – A futuristic western that looked great and had a great cast, but it didn’t add up to much after a compelling pilot and I quit watching after a few episodes.
My blind spots:
Dopesick (limited series) – Having regularly reported on the fallout from the opioid epidemic, I couldn’t bring myself to watch a retelling of its origin story.
Squid Game (season 1) – It sounds depressing and I would have to watch without my phone.
Only Murders in the Building (season 1) – Feels too cute.
Midnight mass (limited series) – Heard really good things, but it feels heavy.
The Great (season 2) – I’m worried about rushing through it once I start.
Station Eleven ^ (limited series) – Fantastic book that is apparently in really good hands based on the reviews.
*Rewatch or partial rewatch
** Quit watching
^ still airing / watching