TV continues to serve a greater purpose in our lives, especially as other forms of entertainment remain restricted, and thankfully 2021 had entries worth following. Below are the top shows that kept us interested during yet another stop-and-go year.
The Big Leap
Here’s a surprising, inspiring, and funny new show which follows a select cast of dancers try to gain notoriety, all captured in a live reality confessional kind-of-way. Some are better dancers than others — but the show goes beyond just the sequences. From a mother grappling with separation of her husband, to a troubled football player who must make quite the transition from the field to the stage, to a single mother with a young son trying to make ends meet, to the cunning but sweet(ish) mastermind producer whose ego is hilarious — each character is figuring out their lives and driving towards a common goal: the final performance. “The Big Leap” became a nice, new insertion in our weekly “pretend the world is better” programming cycle.
If you’re looking for a show that discusses modern relationships and all their messiness — one that doesn’t forget to be playful while doing it — then this is a show to check out. Season two follows Marcus Watkins, a guy who has recently ended a long-term relationship, as he starts dating again. He struggles with his expectations of himself and what he expects from a potential partner, and the show also highlights his professional life in publishing. The casting of William Jackson Harper, comic Punkie Johnson, and Jessica Williams, the latter being the special flame for Harper’s character, Marcus, is one to remember. Hopefully we will see more of them in future seasons, somehow, since the characters seemingly pop into plotlines. (See: Anna Kendrick, this season.)
A law firm where the father has three of his adult children, each from a different relationship, working under him, has proved to be a worthy concept with this show. Shot in Vancouver, the show features a cast consisting of Canadians Victor Garber, Jewel Staite, in her best role to date, and Zach Smadu. From trying cases to dealing with family dynamics, here’s a Canadian-made show that does a great job at keeping the pace of a comedy-drama up to speed with its competitors. If there is one Canadian show to fill part of the void left by “Schitt’s Creek,” this is a good option.
Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore’s comedy-drama told through the lens of Issa Dee and company, comes to an end this season (Season 5). The show, which was based on Rae’s “Awkward Black Girl” webseries, has picked up an Emmy Award and a Peabody Award for its heartfelt storytelling, cultural visuals, comedic deliveries, and artistry. It profiled contemplations and stories from a space not often, if at all, seen on television, and we’ve remained loyal fans because of it.
“Succession” fans got another 10 episodes of Roy family drama, with Kendall continuing the duel with papa Logan over the media empire. This season saw a whirlwind of feelings from and for Kendall. Painful, manic, sometimes silent, the destructiveness that we’ve seen from him for three seasons continues, although this season his confidence has shifted somewhere new. Recall, if you will, him crouched in a control room hiding from being interviewed. Then there’s his erratic yet distant behaviour while ordering his makeshift team about. And yet, he started very out strong after hiring the best law firm as the best attack dogs. Is he pretending to be weaker than he is?
This season, the Roy’s and their staff attempt to keep things semi-normal, even when Logan is basically unconscious. And they pull it off.
Predictions for next season? Tom, Connor (“I’m the eldest son!”), and Jerry will become Logan’s army. Roman, Shiv, and Kendall will align to overthrow the older folks. Or, maybe, Roman ends up making new, powerful friends outside of the family. It would make sense after being shunned again and again by his own. But, then there is Greg and his “deal with the devil” with Tom to also consider. Let’s just hope we see more of Annabelle Dexter-Jones, though.
Mare of Easttown
This was a pandemic fix; one that was a pleasant, yet tragic story with Kate Winslet at the helm. In seven episodes, we follow as small-town detective Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) seeks out the truth about a local murder, except it turns into more than that. For those thinking this is another crime story easy to unravel — it’s not. And it’ll have you winding through the past and present, sobbing and smiling, sometimes at the same time. The price and toll family takes on each other, for good and bad, is interwoven throughout this series, which was created by Brad Ingelsby and features Jean Smart, Evan Peters, and Guy Pearce. Highly recommend.
For those who still have the stamina to enjoy the superhero movies, “Loki” made a mark. Tom Hiddleston’s journey to understanding his past, his mother’s death, all while making things comical and entertaining, was fixating. Owen Wilson is also a refreshing insertion that we didn’t know we needed until we did. If there is one MCU show this year, make it this one.
An American football coach hired to coach the AFC Richmond soccer team, Ted Lasso’s skill isn’t top-notch, but his heart is. And it’s his relationships to the team that become powerful motivators for all. The show has become one of the biggest, if not the biggest, sensations over the pandemic, with season three announced even before season two started filming. Season two also saw the biggest premiere audience on Apple+, according to Variety. There are very few shows that combine sports, comedy, and drama like this one does. It’s probably why Jason Sudeikis is so hush about what’s cooking for the upcoming season.
Another pandemic newbie, although it was recently cancelled after just one season, is “Cowboy Bebop.” Based on the Japanese sci-fi neo-noir series set in the year 2071, the new installment of bounty hunters, or mercenaries, working from the Bebop spaceship and rewarded for catching the bad guys of the solar system, wasn’t as liked as one might have anticipated. It may be an example of a show that didn’t have enough time to get its legs, or show its distinction, but it still makes our list of must-see shows this year.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch
Another exclusive to Disney+, “Stars Wars: The Bad Batch” is an animated addition that we were taken by this year. In this original series, we revisit the “Bad Batch” clones introduced in “The Clone Wars” and watch as these soldiers with specific strengths win us over. The production was created and executive produced by Dave Filoni.