As we close out year two of the pandemic, some of us have gotten the jab (more of us should) and braved outside once again. However, there still are plenty of reasons to stay inside to get some great entertainment and storytelling for us by way of watching what’s new on TV as once again television has been in rare form in delivering some great enjoyment. Fellow Punch Drunk writer Jen is giving you her list of the Top 25 TV Shows of 2021, but I wanted to also focus on what’s streaming. When streaming started it was considered a silly idea and Netflix was the only player in town. Nowadays, throw a rock and you’ll discover a new streaming service to watch some great TV on. With so many new streaming services, they also have been delivering brand new TV shows full of great content for 2021.
Before we dig into the great ones, there are a few honorable mentions that need to be notified as they were also awesome: Y: The Last Man, the adaptation of Brian K Vaughn’s epic graphic novel in which all men have mysteriously died (except one man and his pet monkey) and now women inherit the earth. While the show was interesting and good (especially after incorporating LGBTQ into the source materials), FX opted to cancel it anyway. Star Wars: Visions was very interesting by incorporating anime into the world of Star Wars for a bunch of non-cannon stories done by some of anime’s best directors. The first episode alone is classic as it blended true samurai action into the world of Star Wars. Apple TV’s Invasion was a fun globe-trotting adventure that showcases how many people across the world deal with an alien invasion. It took a while to see the aliens, but they were creepy! Finally, The Book of Boba Fett. The only reason it’s not on my list is that the show started literally yesterday and we’ve also been given the pilot episode (which was awesome). These are a few new streaming TV shows that managed to be entertaining and engaging and worthy of some praise, even if they aren’t the best of the best.
Here are the 10 best new streaming shows that premiered in 2021….
10. Masters of the Universe: Revelation (Netflix)
When you think of He-Man, stoner indie darling and professional geek Kevin Smith is not someone that you would immediately think of to deliver the goods, but Masters of the Universe: Revelation is a fun ride. I know it has a fair amount of critics mad that Teela has more to do in its first half than He-Man does. But it’s called “Masters of the Universe,” not “Just He-Man” as there are more characters than that the main protagonist. They even made the ever-annoying Orca a badass in it! By the second half of the Netflix show, we got a well-rounded and complete story. While Netflix is known for canceling shows prematurely, let’s hope that Masters of the Universe: Revelation has a longer shelf life.
9. Shadow and Bone (Netflix)
Going in I knew nothing about the “Grishaverse,” but it’s fantasy, so I’ll give it my usual 3 episodes to see if I would like it or not. I was not disappointed with Netflix’s adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy books surrounding a world where people with special abilities in regards to summoning the elements in the hope of finding one who can control light and relieve their world of eternal darkness. The show has incredible world-building and Jessie Mei Li is great as the hero, and Ben Barnes is awesome as the villain.
8. Star Wars: The Bad Batch (Disney Plus)
I’m a sucker for Dave Felloni. What he was able to do with Clone Wars and Rebels was beyond impressive: make the Prequel Star Wars movies cool. Late in the final season of Clone Wars, he introduced a group of augmented clones that were complete badasses called Clone Force 99. It was almost a no-brainer for them to get their own spin-off show. Starting Star Wars: The Bad Batch at the end of Revenge of the Sith, we get to see how Clone Force 99 deals with the aftermath of the slaughter of the Jedi and the building of The Empire. It wouldn’t be Felloni without introducing a cute cuddly sidekick to the team as female clone Omega joins the group as they lay low from the Empire while also trying to make a living in this new order was a big deal of fun. The show continues to build on the lore of Star Wars, as Felloni does with every one of his projects. It’s no wonder he’s the heir apparent for everything Lucas has built up in that world.
7. Chucky (Peacock)
Yes, I know this is technically a Syfy/USA Network production, but I missed it when it was on TV and managed to catch it on Peacock, so I’m calling an audible and saying this is a streaming show (at least for me), so sue me for cheating for one. But Chucky is balls to the wall fun as hell. If you are a fan of the Child’s Play movies about murderous serial killer Good Guy doll, then this series is for you. This time Chucky is purchased by a loner kid at a yard sale who’s not only dealing with his sexuality, but the constant bullying he’s receiving from school for being “different.” Lucky for young Jake, he has Chucky to depart with him life-long lessons, as well as murder those who are doing Jake wrong. This show showcases that Chucky works better as a TV show than as a movie and they should keep this going for the foreseeable future.
6. Marvel’s Hit Monkey (Hulu)
IT’S A TV SHOW ABOUT A MONKEY ASSASSIN! Do I even need to say more about it?!?
Marvel teaming up with Hulu proved to be somewhat of a dud as most of their planned shows never made it past development hell, but Hit Monkey managed to premiere on the Disney-owned streamer and because it wasn’t Disney Plus, allowed for some more mature content to be shown. It follows a monkey who befriends a soon-to-die hitman after a failed assassination attempt and almost too quickly learns how to kill with the quickness. The show is violent and entertaining as hell. Because it’s based on an obscure Marvel character we know little of, it allows Hit Monkey’s creators to pretty much do whatever they want with it, and boy was it entertaining!
5. Invincible (Amazon Prime)
By the end of the pilot episode of Invincible, you are either disgusted with it, or 100% on board, no if ands or in-betweens! Based on Robert Kirkman’s (of Walking Dead fame) comic book about a young man (whose father happens to be the biggest “superhero” in the world) who gains superpowers finally through puberty and wants to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a hero. While he chooses the name “Invincible,” he’s constantly getting his ass kicked. In fact, not since Banshee has there been a TV show where the hero gets literally beaten every episode and still comes back fighting for more. With an outstanding voice cast featuring just about…. Well, everybody, Invincible is a fun show to watch. We all have the “Think Mark Think” meme thanks to this crazy show.
4. The MCU Shows: WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, What If?, and Hawkeye (Disney Plus)
This is another cheat as there’s no what the MCU Disney Pus shows didn’t end up on this list. Rather than take up all the real estate on this list, I opted to bundle them all together. When Marvel announced that they were absorbing the television side of things into the MCU, fans got excited as the TV side of Marvel never “really” connected with the MCU as they were technically two different companies. Not anymore. Now, the house that Feige built was able to have shows that would directly impact the movies and the movies impact them, finally allowing the “It’s All Connected” statement to ring true.
WandaVision was incredible and it’s no surprise that it had multiple Emmy nominations as we got to see Wanda (who is moving ever so close to her “Scarlett Witch” villain persona) and Vision live in Westview and the mystery that unfolded there.
In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Sam Wilson finally gets his chance to shine. Not only does he rightfully earn the mantle of “Captain America” by the end, but the show finally portrays how realistic it would be to be a black superhero. You can help save the universe, but not get a loan to fix your family boat (psst: because he’s black). Bucky is awesome as he’s finally coming to terms with his PTSD after being a mind-controlled killer for a half-century. And we cannot forget John Walker: the Joffrey-like version of Captain America.
Loki was just a giant bunch of fun that showcases once again by Tom Hiddleston is the only MCU villain not to be killed off. Even when he’s killed, they have to introduce the concept of “variants” so we can have him come back and remain in the MCU. The introduction of the TVA and He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors is gonna CRUSH it as Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) only expands what’s possible in the MCU.
Expanding on the idea of a multiverse, What If? literally asks the question and gives you very unique one-off stories. What if Peggy Carter got the super-soldier serum? What if T’Challa was kidnapped instead of Peter Quill (the whole episode was a love letter to Chadwick Boseman)? What if the Avengers all were murdered? What if Doctor Strange went crazy trying to save his love? Countless other stories consisted of the first season of What If? As someone who collected the What if? comics as a kid, this show was completely in my wheelhouse. With it being animated (while using as much of the voice cast as their movie counterparts) it allowed a whole lot of cool stuff to be explored and shown.
Hawkeye (everyone’s least favorite Avenger) finally got his chance to shine. While the Hawkeye show was more street-level and down to earth than we are used to, that’s a good thing. Sometimes the stakes should just be the recovery of a uniform and a watch and not saving the universe every single time. The introduction of Kate Bishop is also pleasant as it’s clear the MCU will be making a Young Avengers movie as each of the Disney Plus shows featured a member of that team. I dare you not to sing “I Can Do This All Day” after watching the show. And we got Wilson Fisk in the MCU!!!
3. Foundation (Apple TV Plus)
While Apple TV Plus has not had a lot of Original Series, they stress quality over quantity as all of their shows have been great. And no show they made was as well done and almost perfect as Foundation. Based on Isaac Asimov’s Foundation book series, the TV adaptation follows multiple generations of the crumbling of a 12,000-year-old interstellar empire and a “foundation” of people who saw it coming and want to rebuild society in the aftermath. This is hard-core sci-fi at its best and just incredibly well done. There’s a reason your iPhone costs damn year $1,000 nowadays, they need to put all the money on earth into this show. In addition to complete sets and outstanding CGI, the writing of Foundation is a chef’s kiss of perfection. On a weekly basis, I found myself mesmerized by what I was watching on this show. It’s no surprise that Apple renewed Foundation for a second season, the first one is incredible!
Honorable Mention: Ted Lasso (Apple TV Plus)
This is a big cheat, but I don’t care. I love Ted Lasso!
I didn’t get on the Ted Lasso train until this year and my god this show is just the giant hug that we needed during the pandemic. Based on a cheesy promo for NBC Sports a little while back, Apple TV Plus decided to make a full-fledged TV show surrounding an American football coach hired to become a soccer coach in the UK. His qualifications: just overwhelming positivity. He doesn’t know a thing about soccer, he just knows how people work and wants the best in everyone. This show literally makes you want to be a better person in real life. That’s the transformative power of a show like Ted Lasso. It’s no surprise that it cleaned up in the Emmys this year. The show was just incredible!
2. Squid Game (Netflix)
Netflix continues its tradition of getting us through the pandemic with something that keeps us glued to our TV and clicking on “next episode” as soon as the previous one ends. Last year it was Tiger King and all its craziness. This year it’s Squid Game!
I resisted watching it at first as too many people on my timeline were blowing it up. I kept thinking “it can’t be that good, can it?” By the end of the first episode, I realize that I was in for a treat. This is a sick, twisted, and incredulously violent TV show where desperate people play childhood games to the death for a shot at money to better themselves. Each episode was just bananas and kept you glued to it. Squid Game literally took the world on by storm. Each episode built on the previous one and there were countless “oh shit” moments, too many to count. While we in the movie/tv critic world know how great South Korean cinema is, now (thanks to Netflix) the whole world knows as Squid Game was just a big ball of dark, sick, twisted fun. If Netflix is smart, we’ll be getting season after season of this going forward.
1. Sweet Tooth (Netflix)
As great as Squid Game was, Netflix REALLY hit it out of the park with Sweet Tooth. Based on a beloved graphic novel (and produced by Robert Downey Jr’s production company), Sweet Tooth was almost magical in its premise, storytelling, heart, and execution. It’s my understanding that the comic was a little darker, but I really dug the inaugural season of the show as it showcased a world still going through a pandemic. Unlike our current pandemic, the “Great Crumble” wiped most of humanity out and created animal-human hybrids who were feared by the remaining humans for being “different.” We follow one named Gus (or “Sweet Tooth” as he loves candy) who finally had to venture into the world after the death of his “Pubba.” As Gus goes out, he befriends the “Big Man” Tommy, a man with his own dark past and they develop a father and son relationship as they travel to search for his mother. Sweet Tooth is adventurous, epic in scale, and has tons of heart. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this show and based on the final episode, season 2 looks promising!