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Top TV Shows of 2021 so far - from It’s a Sin to The White Lotus

TV audiences have been spoilt for choice in 2021 thanks to an impressive array of dramas, mini-series, sit coms and gripping documentaries.

From genre blending Marvel spin-offs, a winter surprise Australian reality TV hit, to a HBO drama series starring Kate Winslet, TV has remained in a healthy condition through this tumultuous year.

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In case you’ve missed anything this year, here is a month-by-month breakdown of the best TV shows released in 2021 so far...

January

It’s a Sin (Channel 4)

2021 got off the best possible start thanks to Russell T Davies’ exceptional five-part drama. The series chronicles the lives of a group of gay men during the AIDS crisis in 1980’s London. The show has picked up several awards, including Best New Drama at the NTA’s. Be prepared to have the tissues at the ready when watching.

Full series is available to stream on All4

WandaVision (Disney+)

Marvel decided to treat fans to the first of several Avenger inspired mini-series released in 2021. Starring Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, and a scene stealing Kathryn Hahn, the show proved to be a hit thanks to its genre blending homage to old school sitcoms.

Full series is available to stream on Disney+

The Serpent (BBC)

(C) Mammoth Screen Ltd - Photographer: Roland Neveu

The Serpent takes the tag of being the most stylish crime drama of this year - thanks to Jenna Coleman’s wardrobe. Starring Coleman and Tahar Rahim, the eight part drama tells the story of serial killer Charles Sobhraj.

Full series is available to watch on BBC iPlayer

Pretend It’s a City (Netflix)

Pretend It’s a City features exactly three things: 1. Artistic shots of New York city that make you long for a holiday. 2. Brilliantly funny and satirical observations from the one and only Fran Lebowitz. 3. Director Martin Scorsese laughing hysterically at everything Lebowtiz says. The show’s short episodes are the perfect viewing for a rainy winter’s day.

Full series is available to stream on Netflix

Lupin Part 2 (Netflix)

I had neither watched Lupin or knew anything about it before viewing. However, like everyone else who watched it, I fell headfirst in love with Omar Sy and this delightfully intelligent and elegant TV show. Following the adventures of gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, the show is both a thriller and stunning visual tour around Paris.

Full series is available to stream on Netflix

Married at First Sight Australia (Channel 4)

Arguably the biggest shock TV hit of the year, season six of Married at First Sight Australia kept us all entertained during the second Covid-19 lockdown. Whether it was Martha, Jessika, Bronson or Sam, the Australian version of the show was essential reality TV viewing.

Full series available to watch on All4

February

The Investigation (HBO/BBC)

HBO gave viewers their yearly dose of Nordic Noir. The Investigation featured an impressive cast, including Borgen stars Soren Malling and Pilou Asbæk, over six episodes the show tells the story of “the submarine case”. It’s gruesome, humane and a top quality crime drama.

Full series available to watch on BBC iPlayer

March

The Terror (BBC)

The Terror was 2021’s first frozen boat trip horror story. Starring Tobias Menzies, Ciaran Hinds and Jared Harris, the ten episode show was inspired by the true story of a Royal Navy voyage into uncharted waters.

Full series available to watch on BBC iPlayer

Line of Duty - Season 6 (BBC)

Martin Compston and Kelly Macdonald are in the running for BAFTA Scotland honours for their performances in the last series of Line of Duty.

Whether you liked the ending or not, creator Jed Mercurio provided another highly addictive series of Line of Duty. The season finale broke BBC viewing records, becoming the UK’s most-watched drama series of the century so far. Season six had it all, Adrian Dunbar’s Tedism’s, Kelly Macdonald in a fantastic supporting role, and all the bromance you could want between Martin Compston and Vicky McClure.

Full series is available to watch on BBC iPlayer

Deutschland 89 (Channel 4)

The third and final outing of the Deutschland television series transported viewers to 1989 Berlin. The show follows Stasi agents after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and reinvention of German itself. It’s thrilling, addictive TV.

Full series is available to watch on All4

Oprah with Meghan and Harry (ITV)

Hard to think of a TV programme in 2021 that caused as much conversation (and memes) as Oprah’s interview with Meghan and Harry. Although the broadcast itself wasn’t captivating, the conversation was scandalous enough to have dinner tables around the country deciding whether they were Team Meghan or not.

Clips of interview are available to watch on YouTube

April

Frank of Ireland (Channel 4)

Although the series wasn’t a hit with the critics, there’s a certain charm about Frank of Ireland. Written and starring the Gleeson brothers, the show follows Frank Marron, a thirty-something unemployed man-child living with his mother. It’s a quirky comedy, and has plenty of laughs to win you over.

Full series is available to watch on All4

Mare of Easttown (HBO/Sky)

Rarely does a show get almost everything right, but Mare of Easttown did. Starring Kate Winslet as Mare Sheehan, the show followed her investigate a brutal murder whilst she attempted to keep control of her own life. The ensemble cast perform at the top of their game, the show’s world (set in rural Pennsylvania) is inviting and fascinating, and the plot is exceptional.

Full series available to stream on NOW and Sky Atlantic

May

Inside No.9 (BBC)

Returning for its sixth season, Inside No.9 continued to be a hit with both fans and critics. It still holds all the inventiveness and drama that has made it one of the most unique shows on UK TV this century.

Full series available to watch on BBC iPlayer

Starstruck (BBC)

Joining the ever-growing list of brilliant female-fronted comedy sitcoms, New Zealander Rose Matafeo nailed it with Starstruck. The show features a cute rom-com dynamic between Matafeo and Nikesh Patel, and some amazing outfits courtesy of the former.

Full series available to watch on BBC iPlayer

We Are Lady Parts (Channel 4)

We Are Lady Parts follows an all-female Muslim British punk rock band. What more could you ask for? The Channel 4 comedy, created by Nida Manzoor, features a brilliant ensemble cast and several lump in the throat moments.

Full series available to watch on All4

The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime)

Created and directed by Moonlight director Barry Jenkins, The Underground Railroad is based on Colson Whitehead’s 2016 novel of the same name. This powerful show follows a fiction story of people attempting to escape from slavery in the south of America in the 1800’s. My tip: Don’t binge it all at once. Savour every minute of this series. It’s exceptional.

Full series available to stream on Amazon Prime Video

Motherland (BBC)

Motherland returned for season three in 2021 and continued to prove why it is one of the most consistent comedies on UK TV. Anna Maxwell Martin once again knocks it out the part in the role of Julia, navigating the world of middle-class motherhood in an hilarious manner.

Full series available to watch on BBC iPlayer

Friends Reunion (HBO/Sky)

After years of speculation, the six cast members of Friends finally reunited. In what could have easily been a cheesy, pointless exercise of getting the gang old back together, HBO produced a nostalgic and, at times, touching reunion. It had everything from emotional deep dives, to scene reenactments, and a James Corden interview. It proved to be a much watch for fans of the sitcom.

Full special is available to watch on NOW and Sky

Inside (Netflix)

There are so many things about Bo Burnham: Inside that feel too good to be true. Not only is the scale of his project just mind blowing (Burnham wrote, directed, filmed and edited all by himself), but the content itself is one of the best and rawest looks at pandemic lockdown life to date. It’s absurd, provocative, and creative brilliance - complete with an amazing soundtrack.

Full comedy special available to stream on Netflix

June

Time (BBC)

Starring Sean Bean and Stephen Graham, Time was a three-part drama about a prisoner consumed by guilt and an officer with an impossible choice.. Written by Jimmy McGovern, the show was at times brutal to watch, but the reward for finishing it is a gritty and timely reminder of the harsh realities of the UK penal system.

Full series is available to watch on BBC iPlayer

Feel Good (Netflix)

Mae Martin’s sitcom returned for a second and final season and continued to be the great big hug that it was during its first series. Martin has an impressive ability to humanise some of the most difficult topics to discuss, all whilst being charming and funny. The second series tackled addiction, trauma and mental health issues with class and ease.

Full series is available to stream on Netflix

July

Uprising (BBC)

Uprising is a documentary series from Steve McQueen and James Rogan. The three-parter is a remarkable look at three events in 1981 - the New Cross fire, Black People’s Day of Action and the Brixton Riots. The three episodes are intimate, harrowing, and some of the finest documentaries you will watch in 2021.

Full series is available to watch on BBC iPlayer

I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson (Netflix)

After building a cult following thanks to its absurdist SNL-style humour, Tim Robinson took it a step further with season two of I Think You Should Leave. The sketch comedy series laughs at characters who always seem to take a little too far. The show is remarkably quotable and just sheer joy to switch on during a late night-in with friends.

Full series available to stream on Netflix

Coach Lasso (Apple TV)

Arguably one the most wholesome sitcoms produced in the last ten years, Jason Sudeakis’s Ted Lasso returned for series two in 2021. Season one was the shock hit in 2020, providing audiences with a much needed sense of humanity during the pandemic. The second season keeps the same charming format, continuing to opt for feel good comedy rather than awkward. #Believe

Full series available to stream on Apple TV+

August

The White Lotus (HBO/Sky)

Set on a luxury Hawaiian resort, The White Lotus is a brilliant satire/dark comedy about the ugly act of social climbing. Written and directed by Mike White, the show features a brilliant ensemble cast, including Jennifer Coolige, Murray Bartlett and Connie Britton. The show details one week at the resort, following both the vacationers and the hotel staff.

Full series available to watch on NOW and Sky

Vigil (BBC)

After wowing UK audiences with Line of Duty and Bodyguard, World Productions booked the BBC One Sunday 9pm slot again, this time with a nuclear submarine thriller. Starring Suranne Jones, Rose Leslie and Paterson Joseph, the show proved to be a suspense drama of the highest order.

Full series available to watch on BBC iPlayer

The Chair (Netflix)

Sandra Oh stars alongside Jay Duplass in this addictive college comedy. Following Oh as the first woman of colour to be made head of the English Department at a prestigious university, the job isn’t all it seems with a new set of challenges with every coming day. Oh is stellar as Ji-Yoon, and co-star Holland Taylor steals the show in several iconic scenes.

Full series available to stream on Netflix

September

Sex Education S3 (Netflix)

Sex Education returned for another season at Moordale Secondary School. Series three has a new headteacher, new school uniforms, new personal dilemmas, and the same old hormone driven comedy that make this show a joy to watch. The ensemble cast remains one of the best to watch on TV, and the third season pulls no punches with emotional storylines.

Full series available to stream on Netflix

Help (Channel 4)

Channel 4’s one-off drama Help gave UK audiences a harrowing glimpse at the social care sector during the Covid-19 pandemic. Filmed in a real care home and starring Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham, the Jack Thorne drama was a stark insight into the struggles suffered by the thousands of care workers on the front lines during the coronavirus crisis.

Full drama is available to watch on All4

October

Squid Game (Netflix)

Without a shadow of a doubt, the surprise hit of 2021 (watched by more than 140 million households in the first month). Squid Game is a South Korean action/drama series about debt-ridden contestants playing deadly children’s games to win a life-changing cash prize. It’s a feast for the eyes at some points, highly engrossing, and a brutal take on the class disparity in South Korea.