The Most Anticipated TV Shows of 2021
Is anything certain at this point? Well, no. Thanks for the big life lesson, 2020!
But, ostensibly, there will be some of our television favorites returning to our screens in 2021, and newcomers worth getting excited about arriving on the scene. With the tendrils of information made available by publicists, sizzle reels, sneak peek teasers, and fervant hopes spawned by social media posts, we’ve created a list of shows that seem likely to hit our screens next year. Probably. Most likely. We might even have some flavor of live events, like the Olympics and the Oscars. Maybe!
Below, in no particular order, are some of the shows that IndieWire is looking forward to watching in 2021. Fingers crossed.
Ann Donahue, Ryan Lattanzio, and Kristen Lopez also contributed to this list.
The worse 2020 got as a whole, the more that 2021 glittered on the horizon like a mirage. We hoped it existed, but it never felt like we were getting any closer to our destination. And now, in the final days of this hellscape we call a year, HBO has all but confirmed that there is, in fact, a glorious reprieve awaiting us in 2021: Season 3 of “Succession.” There were rumors afoot in November that filming had started on the next season of Jesse Armstrong’s Shakespearean satire/tragedy (stragedy? Sharkspearean?) and now, the promise of the show’s imminent return has appeared in a sizzle reel from HBO Max touting its 2021 offerings. For better or worse, the brood of one Logan Roy has always served as a window into a caste of American society the rest of us could never hope to witness or understand. How could I accurately envision the pure evil of individuals who might trade inside information about COVID in order to make a killing at the stock market without a character like Roman Roy to embody that kind of energy? We have long wandered through the desert of 2020, lost in a wasteland without our Rosetta Stone for the uber-rich and have suffered dearly for it. No more. Soon our long national nightmare will end. Welcome home to “Succession,” the return of the best show on TV. —LH
2021 Summer Olympics, 2021 Summer Paralympics; FIFA World Cup qualifiers (NBC/Fox)
[Editor’s Note: This entry was originally published on December 20, 2019. We changed the dates and cut and pasted it here in its entirety because we’re not above pretending 2020 didn’t happen.]
You want drama? You want compelling narratives in foreign locales? You want good-looking people in interesting costumes striving to rise above corruption permeating their activities? Well, people, you should watch some sports in 2021. The Summer Olympics open on July 23 in Tokyo and run until August 8; the 2021 Summer Paralympics follow from August 24-Sept. 5. If that’s not enough international sports conflict for you, qualifying rounds for the 2022 FIFA World Cup continue throughout 2021. Will the U.S. Men’s National Team overcome their humiliating exclusion in 2018, when Panama — PANAMA! — made it through to the World Cup over them after the qualifying rounds? Probably not! But defending champions France looks really damn good again, so allons-y! —AD
The Oscars (ABC)
When all was said and done, the 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards were a delightful experiment that allowed ABC and the Television Academy to play around with an awards show format that had remained largely unchanged for decades. But no matter how prestigious or beloved the Emmys are, they’ve long been overshadowed by their film counterpart, the Academy Awards. Still several months out from the ceremony, which will also air on ABC, it’s unclear how conventional the film awards will be or how precipitously the ratings might fall when the event takes place in April. 2020 marked record low ratings for both the Oscars and Emmys — and with less than a full year’s worth of film releases, the Oscars might be in serious trouble. No matter what, it’ll serve as must-see TV, if only to check out how everything unfolds after such a tumultuous year. —LH
“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” might be a strange thing to look forward to after a somewhat rocky third season, but I just can’t shake the sense of reassurance I get from thinking about the show’s return. One of the first prestige dramas to return to production — Thanks, sensible Canadian health and safety measures! — knowing that the creatives behind the Emmy-winning drama series were returning to work felt like a sign that at some point life and, well, television, would eventually return to some semblance of normalcy. There’s also something to be said about watching the show while under the relative security of a new Presidential administration, particularly one that includes the first woman to ever serve as Vice President. Such a stark regime change feels significant — while in reality it will likely be far more routine — but it does inspire a certain kind of hope. Hope that change can happen, hope that true equality can happen, hope that June can finally get the hell out of Gilead. —LH
“Tuca & Bertie” (Adult Swim)
“Tuca & Bertie”
After the shitstorm of 2020, just remembering the “Tuca & Bertie” opening theme song is enough to induce emotional whiplash. Filled with dancing bird-women, buildings with boobs, and an ample number of pronounced butts, Lisa Hanawalt’s joyous animated creation will be a welcome arrival no matter when it lands (just gotta stretch a bit first), especially after the former Netflix original series was pulled out of oblivion by Adult Swim. Season 2 details are sparse, but Hanawalt posted a picture of the finale script back in September with a promise that audiences will get to see the full shebang in 2021. Bring it on. —BT
It’s been more than two-and-a-half years since we last saw Earn (Donald Glover), Darius (Lakeith Stanfield), Vanessa (Zazie Beetz), and Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry), but the long wait for their return is set to pay off in 2021. Though the original plan was for two new seasons to air in the next 12 months, all FX is confirming at this point is that “Atlanta” Season 3 is slated. Ten new episodes are set to continue Donald Glover’s Emmy-winning half-hour hybrid, and there’s simply no telling what kind of surprises are in store. Not after Teddy Perkins. You remember Teddy Perkins, right? My gosh, this show is good. Please come back soon. —BT
MCU TV (Disney +)
With so many Marvel projects coming out in 2021 it’s impossible to nail down which one is most anticipated of them all. For me, it’s all about “WandVision,” (sorry Falcon, Winter Soldier, and Loki). We don’t know much about the plot of the series, per se, but we do know it’ll see Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) trip through the magical landscape of television sitcoms. As someone who was obsessed with Olsen’s twin sisters, there’s something ironic and delightful about seeing her inhabit the same landscape they once did, even if it’s a far more serious take. Add in Kathryn Hahn and Teyonah Parris and this looks like a series built to get in old Marvel fans, as well as fans of great television. And if you’re not into it, you’ll still have the action-packed world of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and whatever the heck there is about “Loki” is to get excited about. —KL
“The Witcher” (Netflix)
Who’s ready to toss another coin to our favorite neighborhood Witcher? Netflix’s “The Witcher” was the perfect mix of Saturday morning fantasy with a heavy dose of “Game of Thrones”-esque sex and violence. What other series could give us a musical number as well as an orgy culminating in the delivery of apple juice? The depiction of disability still leaves me a bit conflicted, but hopefully that will be delved into a bit more with Season 2. The same hope can also be said for the series’ unbalanced depictions of female versus male bodies. Based on the set photos that have leaked out Henry Cavill’s Geralt is back in fighting form. What happens now that he has a teenage girl to take care of? The sitcom hijinks write themselves but I’m sure “The Witcher” will have plenty of fun, monsters, and mayhem in store. If anything, the Cavill gifs should proliferate on Twitter immediately upon release —KL
“Blindspotting” was my favorite movie of 2018, and in the wake of everything this year its impact couldn’t be timelier. Director Carlos Lopez Estrada and stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal blended the socially conscious with the humorous, and this new series follows suit. Jasmine Cephas Jones reprises her character from the film, only this time she’s coping with the fact that wayward partner Miles (Casal) is in prison. While Estrada doesn’t seem to be working on this project both Casal and Diggs are participating, alongside Nijla Mumin who made the equally amazing feature “Jinn.” If this series can capture even a slice of the original film’s wit and social commentary it will be a worthy spin-off. —KL
Julia Garner in “Ozark”
The quite literally brain-busting sendoff of “Ozark” Season 3 will be a hard moment to top as the Netflix series heads into its fourth and final round of episodes, now in production. The last season will be split, “Mad Men”-style, into two halves, which means we still have hours and hours ahead with the Byrde family, like it or not. But, as the Emmy-winning Season 3 proved, these people are screwed. Lady Macbeth of the Ozarks Helen (Laura Linney) will surely take on an even bigger role this season, with husband Marty (Jason Bateman) cowering in her shadow, and all in her midst mere carrion in her talons. The brutal murder shocking murder that ended Season 3 will likely send everyone into a tailspin, but it’s Ruth (two-time Emmy winner Julia Garner) who walks away with the show, just as confidently as she walked away from the Byrde money-laundering empire in the most recent finale. The Navarro crime family will loom larger than ever in the upcoming episodes, with the Byrdes now firmly in their trap. None of this will end well, but “Ozark” remains as sickly thrilling as ever. —RL
In the early days of the pandemic, it really truly seemed that “Barry” would be one of those shows that would squeak through and finish production just before the lockdown, and that we would get the show’s third season in 2020. Alas, it didn’t happen — but now it appears that the return of the show is on tap for 2021. With it comes a huge bump in HBO’s Emmy chances for the new year; Bill Hader is the two-time winner for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his thespian hitman, Henry Winkler won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for the first season, and was a nominee alongside Stephen Root and Anthony Carrigan for the second season. Could 2021 be the year the show finally takes the top prize on the comedy side? I don’t know, but maybe we should all go to a Buddhist monastery and meditate on the potential it has to manifest upon the show’s return. —AD
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