TV became essential in 2020. With many of us locked down across the world throughout Spring and early Summer, and the majority of us now locked down once again for the second wave of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, good TV shows are more important than ever to keep us sane and engaged with the world around us. Desperate times and all that.
Still, continuing with the dawn of the 2020’s, the television medium has never been stronger! Even if HBO Max and Peacock sputtered out of the gate as would-be streaming wars contenders (and Quibi collapsed entirely within the year it released!), currently failing to come anywhere close to the monumental numbers of competing platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, the fact remains that exciting new television content has never come at a faster clip. We’re still in the late stages of this past Fall’s TV drought, after COVID-19 complications temporarily shut down the entirety of television production last Spring, but 2021’s early months will start to see that drought winding up, and a rich array of television content once again making its way to our screens.
2020 certainly ended with no shortage of veteran shows that each carry promising foundations for upcoming seasons, even after TV releases slowed down for a few months, but 2021 will also see quite a few high-profile new projects debut on streaming platforms especially. Thus, I’m counting down the top ten TV shows I’m most looking forward to watching later this year. Bear in mind that this list is my personal opinion, and I can obviously only account for shows that I’m already keeping up with, not shows I have yet to watch.
I’m also going to do my best to select shows that are officially confirmed to be debuting, or releasing new seasons in 2021. Bear in mind though that television releases can sometimes be harder to pin down than movies or video games, especially while COVID-19 is still playing havoc with some shows’ production schedules. It takes a bit of guess work regarding how far along shows are in production at the best of times, and where gaps might be in streamers’ catalogues especially. Finally, watch out for some spoilers from previous seasons, if you haven’t watched some of these shows, and are interested in catching up on them at some point.
With that out of the way then, let’s get to it:
#10 – The Flash (Season 7)
Platform: The CW (U.S.), Netflix (Canada)
Genre: Superhero Drama
WHY: The Flash had a rough few years under The CW, but after a change in showrunner and story model, the series finally appeared to be getting back on track throughout its run in 2020. While the show’s previous sixth season was ultimately cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, the series still managed to end Season 6 on a surprisingly satisfying cliffhanger, leaving Barry’s speed continuing to diminish a little more every week, Iris remaining trapped in the ‘MirrorVerse’, and new arch-villain, Eva McCulloch/Mirror Master II having successfully returned to the real world, and quickly re-assuming control of her crooked corporation, McCulloch Technologies.
The CW sat out the entirety of the Fall 2020 ‘season’, save for the final episodes of Supernatural, so it’s anyone’s guess as to how long The Flash’s seventh season will ultimately be, or how it will ultimately be spaced out. This is especially apparent when one considers the virtual certainty that this flagship Arrowverse series will be renewed for an eighth season during this coming year. We do know however that The Flash is set to return for its seventh season in late February, serving as the lead-in for the series premiere of the newest Arrowverse show, Superman & Lois on the same night. That means we fortunately don’t have too long to wait to see what’s next for Barry Allen and Team Flash, even though fellow Arrowverse series, Batwoman will be beating it to the airwaves by nearly a month, likely because Batwoman requires significantly less post-production work than The CW’s other ongoing DC dramas.
It’s tough for DC fans like myself not to miss The CW’s long-running Arrowverse franchise a bit, following its shocking absence during Fall 2020. Sure, it’s not usually the cream of the crop when it comes to DC adaptations, but there’s something comforting about having it around, even when it’s disappointing. Beyond a comforting presence though, I’m eager to see The Flash hopefully retain its renewed momentum in Season 7. It’s finally hitting upon some genuinely exciting storylines again, plus Season 6’s surprisingly graceful conclusion leaves this fan-favourite superhero series primed to keep crushing it in 2021!
#9 – Better Call Saul (Final Season)
Genre: Legal Drama
WHY: We’ve reached the end of the line for Better Call Saul, and apparently for AMC’s Breaking Bad franchise in general. Fortunately, Better Call Saul has remained one of the best, most memorable shows in AMC’s lineup over the past several years, carrying on the legacy of Breaking Bad with a comparably riveting saga of tragedy for the man doomed to become criminal attorney, Saul Goodman. Jimmy McGill’s criminal origin story has already been confirmed by AMC to come to a close this year (barring any more COVID-19 complications), ultimately making it to one more season than Breaking Bad did, and it does feel like a fitting time to close the book on this twisted world of crime and misery.
As great as the series has often been on its own merits as well, it remains interesting to see Better Call Saul continue to be one of the few grounded, crime-oriented television dramas to efficiently penetrate the nerd sphere. Genre television is often the preferred meal of nerds like myself, who most heavily gravitate towards sci-fi, fantasy and superheroes most of all, on the big screen and the small screen. Something struck a chord with us when it came to the dark tales of Walter White and Jimmy McGill however, and for that reason alone, I’m eager to see how Jimmy’s story comes full circle this year. We don’t yet know exactly when the sixth and final season of Better Call Saul is set to hit AMC (probably late Summer/early Fall at this rate, since filming got delayed to early Spring due to the pandemic), but we know that it’s bound to be a big one, especially after Nacho tried and failed to assassinate Lalo during the closing moments of last season, at the same time that Jimmy and Kim resolve to conclude the Sandpiper case, by ruining their former superior, Howard Hamlin.
I think it’s safe to assume that the end of all these stories will not be a happy one, especially when characters like Kim, Lalo, Howard and Nacho are obviously not present during the events of Breaking Bad. There’s no reason to doubt that Better Call Saul will deliver at the finish line though, and I’m looking forward to being present for the unfortunate conclusion of this tragic ride.
#8 – Titans (Season 3)
Platform: HBO Max (U.S.), Netflix (Canada)
Genre: Superhero Drama
WHY: Titans was one of DC’s earliest-affected shows after the COVID-19 pandemic first shut the television industry down last year, only making it one day into filming before its upcoming season had to be suspended. Titans has since resumed production, thankfully, and its third season now seems to be on schedule for a belated premiere in 2021. This also provided some extra time for DC to start teasing new details about Season 3 at last year’s DC FanDome event, most notably the revelation that Titans will be moving full-time to Gotham City for its new season!
We already got a glimpse of Earth-9’s especially seedy, disgusting rendition of Gotham during Titans’ Season One finale, so the prospect of moving the series there for an entire season has lots of shady promise. We’ll also be seeing some inspired character additions this season, including a Hannibal Lecter-esque Scarecrow, now a begrudging criminal consultant for the GCPD, as well as former Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, who has become police commissioner in her father’s stead. Former ally, Jason Todd is also set to embrace his darkest side as the vigilante, Red Hood this season to boot! This all adds up to a ton of exciting drama for DC fans to look forward to, while also suggesting that Titans will get to enjoy a bigger budget and even more dark spectacle after its recent move to HBO Max in its native U.S. (though it will presumably remain a Netflix series for Canada, and other international markets).
Titans has always seemed to fall just shy of being a truly great superhero show in its first two seasons, but Season 3 seems like it’s definitely swinging for the fences! I’m looking forward to seeing whether it can finally elevate this very entertaining show to the outstanding pedigree of Doom Patrol, Harley Quinn and Young Justice, the other DC Universe refugees that have been relocated to HBO Max, following DC Universe abandoning TV production.
#7 – The Witcher (Season 2)
Genre: Fantasy Drama
WHY: The first season of The Witcher had plenty of room for improvement, but I still considered it one of the coolest and most ambitious productions to come out of Netflix in recent years. It’s taken some extra time to get Season 2 ready, time that was stretched out even further after the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily interrupted filming, but the show’s second season is supposedly headed our way during the first half of 2021.
Now that we’re no longer juggling multiple timelines of narration, The Witcher’s second season should hopefully be a little easier to follow. Beyond that though, the production values behind Season 1 were still outstanding, and I imagine that will remain true in Season 2, which still seems to be chronicling events before the first book in The Witcher’s original series of novels. Henry Cavill of course remains a huge draw as Geralt of Rivia, the titular Witcher, and while we don’t currently know much about the story plans for Season 2, I’m sure it will involve more terrifying creatures, more dark humour, and hopefully plenty more catchy Jaskier melodies. That alone has me pretty excited about this sophomore selection of episodes for Netflix’s apparent answer to Game of Thrones.
#6 – WandaVision (Miniseries)
Genre: Superhero Comedy
WHY: The first of my most anticipated shows to premiere this year, being only a week and a half out from its first episode at the time of writing, WandaVision was supposed to be fast-tracked into 2020 originally, before the COVID-19 pandemic ultimately nudged it back into an early 2021 premiere. That’s unfortunate, since it means that the Marvel movie drought of 2020 was exacerbated by an overall delay for Marvel Studios’ planned Disney+ miniseries initiative, which was originally supposed to begin last Summer with The Falcon & The Winter Soldier, a miniseries now delayed to this coming March.
Finally though, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is getting some early love in 2020 with WandaVision, a Scarlet Witch and Vision-centric miniseries that promises to be the MCU’s first full-blown comedy! The early trailers have so far been pretty kooky at best and downright bonkers at their most ambitious, and I’m just fascinated at what Marvel Studios is cooking up here. This is not only because WandaVision is the first MCU product to proudly identify itself as a comedy (at least, the first to successfully see the light of day), but also because it’s going to lay the initial groundwork for the MCU to start embracing the Multiverse, a plan that’s also supposedly driving this year’s still-untitled movie sequel to Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Much of WandaVision is predictably shrouded in mystery at this point, but like I said, we won’t have long to wait before we can see what this oddball miniseries is all about. Hopefully it delivers, because I’m definitely game to see an MCU television arm that can finally be acknowledged by the flagship movie catalogue!
#5 – Halo (Premiere Season)
Platform: Showtime (U.S.), Crave + Showtime (Canada)
Genre: Sci-Fi Drama
WHY: Showtime’s Halo series is on the vanguard of another new initiative for the television industry; Adapting video games into blockbuster live-action shows for both premium cable and streaming. The series was supposedly well into filming its debut season when it was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent shutdowns, though while we haven’t received a proper update since that time, it’s probably safe to assume that Halo is still on track to premiere at some point this year. Granted, the original plan was the start of this year, but thanks to the pandemic, I think it’s probably more realistic to expect its first season towards the end of 2021 at this point.
Still, Showtime throwing their money behind a video game adaptation is a big deal, especially one with the incredible legacy and catalogue of media that Xbox’s flagship Halo franchise has built up to this point. This series will even feature the video games’ protagonist, Master Chief in a lead role, played by Orange is the New Black’s Pablo Schreiber, and doesn’t appear to be holding back with the video games’ familiar threats, most notably the fanatical enemy alien faction, the Covenant.
As exciting as this sounds, Halo is a huge gamble for Showtime, especially after so many previous failed attempts to translate Halo to live-action. Even filmmaking giants like Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg have failed to crack a Halo adaptation in the past! Fortunately, Spielberg at least remains loosely involved with this Showtime series as a producer, with his Amblin Television studio participating in development, ensuring a continued commitment to high production values for this show. Even if it disappoints, I’m nonetheless ecstatic to see video games finally making the leap to premium television with Showtime’s Halo, and I’m incredibly curious to see what the premium provider has up its sleeve for this bold project!
#4 – Doom Patrol (Season 3)
Platform: HBO Max (U.S.), CTV Sci-Fi/Crave (Canada)
Genre: Superhero Dramedy
WHY: Doom Patrol remains one of my favourite superhero adaptations of all time, which is why I was quite sad to see its sophomore season artificially shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic last year. Fortunately, now that it’s been moved full-time to HBO Max in the U.S., and has been renewed for a third season, Doom Patrol is primed to make up that lost momentum in 2021!
The second season of Doom Patrol may have ended earlier than it was supposed to, but like The Flash, it found a surprisingly graceful and fitting way to wrap up its previous season, pandemic be damned. The show has currently left the entire eponymous team of anti-heroes covered in wax by the Candlemaker, unable to assist Dorothy Spinner in repelling the horrific monster, before he disappears into the ether with Dorothy during the season’s final seconds. Contrary to what the showrunners formerly claimed, it would appear that the Candlemaker will indeed remain a threat for at least the early portion of Doom Patrol’s third season, which will supposedly film early this year, for a likely Fall 2021 premiere.
I’m interested to see just how Dorothy and the Doom Patrol get out of a seemingly impossible situation, especially after Season 2 introduced many more delightfully eccentric obstacles to the show’s storytelling. Whether it was the stupidity-brewing Scants or the kink-policing SeX-Men, Doom Patrol is just getting started with its spectacularly strange ideas, while still retaining the heart and tragedy behind DC’s strangest team of superheroes. I imagine that Earth-21 will dodge the Candlemaker’s apocalypse in short order, but knowing this series, an equally appealing (and insane!) obstacle should quickly follow in its wake, and I just can’t wait to see what amusing weirdness Doom Patrol cooks up next!
#3 – Loki (Premiere Season)
Genre: Superhero Dramedy
WHY: Like WandaVision, Loki appears proudly eager to embrace the weirder and funnier side of the MCU, though it doesn’t appear to be going quite as deep into weirdness territory as WandaVision will. Even so, the first footage of Loki, the eponymous villain’s own Disney+ miniseries, has proven effortlessly entertaining, suggesting a history-skewing romp that will restore the formerly-deceased Asgardian trickster into MCU canon with aplomb!
Predictably, Disney and Marvel Studios are keeping Loki’s plot details under wraps, but what we can ascertain so far is that Loki’s theft of the Tesseract during the alternate-timeline 2012 events of Avengers: Endgame eventually results in him being tracked down and captured by the Time Variance Authority. Allowing the Tesseract’s powers to run amok in his name, Loki essentially traps himself in his own history-destroying crime odyssey, and the result is naturally a big old mess that someone (probably Loki himself) will have to clean up.
Loki has obviously thrived as one of the MCU’s best villains (and occasional anti-heroes), so it seems a natural fit to make him the subject of his own Disney+ miniseries. Reports also indicate that the events of Loki will also go on to influence Marvel Studios’ 2022 movie, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a la WandaVision. Could this mean more Multiverse building blocks to come in Loki? It sure looks that way! Whatever ends up happening with this miniseries though, I’m digging the concept, and I’m especially excited to have Loki back in the MCU, even if he may be restricted to an alternate timeline at this point.
#2 – The Lord of the Rings [Working Title] (Premiere Season)
Platform: Amazon Prime Video
Genre: Fantasy Drama
WHY: Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series, which still has yet to receive an official title at the time of writing (despite already being renewed for a second season well in advance of its premiere!), has been teased for a while now. Alongside Amazon’s development hell regular, Wheel of Time, this Lord of the Rings show will thrust Amazon Prime Video into the arena of chasing Game of Thrones’ success, which Netflix’s The Witcher, Starz’ American Gods and various other adult-oriented fantasy shows have been happy to do for a little while now. Considering that Game of Thrones seemingly takes plenty of inspiration from the Lord of the Rings franchise however, perhaps things are just coming back full circle.
What we do know about this Lord of the Rings series is that it will take place during the Second Age of Middle-earth, many centuries before the events of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, which take place during the Third Age of Middle-earth. This would appear to suggest that the series could be an origin story for the One Ring and the dark lord, Sauron, especially when we already know that royal elf priestess, Galadriel will be a part of the series’ ensemble. Oh, and apparently this series will feature nudity and hardcore violence, seemingly confirming that Amazon’s take on Middle-earth will be significantly more R-rated than the Peter Jackson movies that most people think of when they imagine this franchise. So, more like Game of Thrones then, go figure.
This is without any doubt one of the most ambitious television offerings of 2021, right up there with Showtime’s Halo series, and the various MCU miniseries coming to Disney+ this year. I can’t wait to get a first look at it (hopefully soon), but I’m already feeling that this will present an easy rival to Amazon’s current best series, The Boys (I wanted to put The Boys on this list, but we don’t know for sure if its third season is planning to release this year, so I didn’t feel it was eligible). The Witcher will also be scratching my fantasy itch quite nicely in 2021, but there’s just no substitute for Middle-earth, and I’m extremely excited to see how such a timeless world will ultimately be translated to streaming television!
#1 – The Mandalorian (Season 3)
Genre: Sci-Fi Drama
WHY: An obvious choice for #1, considering the sublime resolution of its second season late last year. Disney’s 2020 investor call confirmed that a third season of The Mandalorian is on the way for December 2021, and if Season 2’s conclusion is any indication, it will present a highly altered narrative direction for this mega-hit Star Wars series.
After Season 2 ended with Din Djarin and Grogu parting ways, following two seasons of Outer Rim-hopping adventures together, Djarin has seemingly found himself on another mission; To take back Mandalore from the Empire. Having inadvertently found himself in possession of the Darksaber, formerly stolen by the Empire and Moff Gideon, Djarin is now on the front lines of the battle for Mandalore, alongside Bo-Katan Kryze. This is definitely a far cry from Djarin’s former quest to deliver Grogu back to what remains of the Jedi, but considering the spectacular action and heartfelt character moments that have consistently made The Mandalorian such a delight so far, I have every bit of faith that the series will continue to excel in 2021, and 2022!
Disney+ will soon be packed to the gills with upcoming Star Wars shows, some being miniseries, and some being ongoing shows like The Mandalorian. Despite the glut of Star Wars content that’s poised to flood Disney+ over the next couple of years especially though, The Mandalorian still feels like the most special and exciting among these projects at this point. I’ve come to truly love this series, a series I credit with re-igniting my interest in a franchise that I’d mostly stopped caring about since Star Wars: The Phantom Menace confused my child self at the turn of the millennium. The Mandalorian is raising the bar for what television can accomplish, and heavily challenging the idea that television is innately inferior to movies, a ball that Game of Thrones formerly got rolling on HBO.
Most of all, I’m looking forward to seeing how The Mandalorian plans to keep raising the bar for both Star Wars and television alike towards the end of this year. It should come as no surprise, but I can easily declare The Mandalorian’s upcoming third season my most anticipated new TV season of 2021!
Which TV shows are you most looking forward to continuing or debuting in 2021? Don’t forget that there’s plenty of quality television that you probably missed, even during the 2020 lockdowns, so if you’re looking for something new to watch, take a chance on something different! Most importantly though, remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet! Be safe, don’t make inessential trips out of your home, wear a mask/face covering when you do go out, and most importantly, stay home when you’re not feeling well!
For now though, we’ve got lots of promising television to enjoy throughout 2021. Even if you are stuck at home, you’ll always have some great options to check out on your home screen!