This godforsaken year is almost over, so now is a great time to look to the future. The good news is that with TV and movie production slowly, carefully ramping back up with enhanced COVID-19 protocols, 2021 is going to be a welcome return to normalcy pop culture-wise. A whole bunch of your favorite shows will be returning for their next season after a pandemic delay—looking at you, Handmaid’s Tale and Succession—while other highly anticipated new shows like Inventing Anna and Nine Perfect Strangers will finally be hitting our screens. Oh, and then there’s basically the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe casually descending on Disney+, ending the truly cruel MCU hiatus we’ve all been living through. Here are 15 TV shows that should be on your radar in 2021.
Headspace Guide to Meditation (January 1)
Let’s be honest—we could all use a little help staying grounded, calm, and sane as we leave behind what is objectively one of the worst years in recent history. On New Year’s Day, the beloved meditation app Headspace will bring its unique blend of quirky animations and easy-to-follow meditation advice to Netflix. The series will consist of eight 20-minute episodes—all narrated by former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, whose soothing voice will be familiar to anyone who’s ever used the Headspace app—that teach basic mindfulness techniques before segueing into a guided meditation. The perfect counterprogramming to doomscrolling.
Dickinson Season 2 (January 8)
The wait is almost over, Emisue shippers: Apple’s innovative comedy about a young Emily Dickinson returns this winter. Hailee Steinfeld reprises her title role in the sophomore season, which will apparently focus on Dickinson’s “deeply ambivalent relationship to fame.” Showrunner Alena Smith has also described the new season as being, in part, a dramatic adaptation of Dickinson’s poetry, which has us very intrigued.
Search Party Season 4 (January 14)
The fourth season of HBO Max’s blackly comic thriller centers on an intriguing reversal—instead of being the searcher, Alia Shawkat’s Dory is now the searchee. After Dory was kidnapped by her stalker in the season 3 finale, the new season sees her friends “begin to connect the dots that Dory might not be touring Europe as her faked social media suggests.” The new season will also feature a host of guest appearances including Busy Philipps, Susan Sarandon, and Ann Dowd.
WandaVision (January 15), The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (March 19), Loki (May), Ms. Marvel (Fall 2021)
After so many years of relentless Marvel Cinematic Universe releases, the last eighteen months has brought a real MCU drought—the last movie released in theaters was Spider-Man: Far From Home in the summer of 2019, with COVID-19 delaying the planned 2020 release of both Black Widow and Eternals. And though it may still be a while before you see your MCU faves on the big screen again, Disney+ is about to revive many of them in the comfort of your own home.
The first series headed to Disney+ is WandaVision, a time-travellng romantic comedy centered on Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch. March will see the arrival of highly anticipated Captain America spinoff series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which brings together Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson and Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes in what’s sure to be a homoerotic superhero team-up for the ages. Later in spring, Tom Hiddleston’s mischievous Thor villain Loki will premiere in his own series, a crime caper which picks up shortly after the events of Avengers: Endgame. And finally, in an unconfirmed slot in late 2021, Ms. Marvel will introduce Kamala Khan, the MCU’s first Muslim superhero.
Batwoman Season 2 (January 17)
In one of the more dramatic non-COVID-related TV stories to break in 2020, The CW announced that Batwoman star Ruby Rose would not be returning in the title role for season 2. But fear not—the role has been recast in a history-making way, with Javicia Leslie becoming the first Black woman to play the iconic superhero on the small screen. Leslie’s character is described as a “likable, messy” former drug runner who now lives in a van with her plant—and “would steal milk for an alley cat and could also kill you with her bare hands.” Sign. Us. Up.
Euphoria Special Episode: Part 2 (January 24)
It’s been a long hiatus for fans of HBO’s Euphoria, which premiered in 2019 but was one of the many shows whose spring production was halted by COVID-19. December marked the release of the first of two special episodes, which serve as a bridge between season 1 and season 2. The second ep, catchily titled “F*ck Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob,” will focus on Hunter Schafer’s Jules. It’s not clear when the show will return for its second season, but don’t rule out fall or winter 2021.
Nine Perfect Strangers (TBD 2021)
If the absolutely buck-wild finale of The Undoing has left you with some serious Nicole Kidman withdrawal symptoms, you’ll want to mark your calendar for Hulu’s adaptation of Nine Perfect Strangers, a novel by Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty. The show reunites Kidman with David E. Kelley, who wrote both BLL and The Undoing, and takes place at “a boutique health-and-wellness resort that promises healing and transformation.” Nine stressed-out city dwellers—played by an all-star lineup including Melissa McCarthy, Regina Hall, Michael Shannon, Luke Evans, and Manny Jacinto—meet at the retreat, where the resort’s director (Kidman) sets out to heal and rejuvenate their minds and bodies. But this being Moriarty, you can bet there’s something a lot more sinister going on.
Inventing Anna (TBD 2021)
Though Shonda Rhimes has already produced a handful of Netflix shows since making her deal with the streamer, this highly-anticipated show is the first for which she’s credited as creator. Based on the bombshell New York Magazine article by Jessica Pressler (who also wrote the article that became Hustlers), Inventing Anna tells the absolutely wild story of Anna Delvey, a young German woman who conned New York’s elite into believing she was a wealthy heiress. Ozark’s Julia Garner plays Delvey, leading a cast that also includes Laverne Cox, Anna Chlumsky, and Scandal alums Katie Lowes and Jeff Perry.
Succession: Season 3 (TBD 2021)
HBO’s towering family drama about a media mogul and his dysfunctional children deservedly swept the Emmys this year, but its third season has been on an indefinite hold thanks to COVID. Showrunner Jesse Armstrong said a few months ago that the hope was to begin filming season 3 “before Christmas,” and though nothing has been officially confirmed, rumor has it that production has now begun. That being the case, season 3 is likely to premiere in 2021—perhaps in the same late summer slot as season 2—so buckle up, fuckleheads. The new season will delve into the aftermath of Kendall’s (Jeremy Strong) scorched-earth press conference, which puts Logan’s (Brian Cox) future in jeopardy.
You: Season 3 (TBD 2021)
Based on Caroline Kepnes’s deeply creepy and darkly funny novels about a charismatic stalker, Netflix’s You has walked a tonal tightrope in both of its seasons so far: part satire, part soapy thriller, part chilling exploration of toxic masculinity. Season 2 ended with the tables turned on Penn Badgley’s Joe Goldberg, whose latest crush Love (Victoria Pedretti) turned out to be just as violently unhinged as him. Season 3 will find Joe and a heavily pregnant Love starting a new life together in the Los Angeles suburbs, and will surely tell the story of how they live happily ever after with no conflict or bloodshed whatsoever. Yep. For sure.
The Mandalorian: Season 3 (Christmas 2021)
There was a lot to take in during Disney’s gargantuan announcement event on December 10, so this might have slipped your notice, but following a wildly successful second season, Star Wars spinoff series The Mandalorian is confirmed to return for a third run sometime around Christmas 2021. And though details about the new season are scarce, it’s shaping up to be just as addictive and satisfying as the rest of the show. “We’re living in a universe that is huge and [that has] so much to explore,” Giancarlo Esposito (aka Moff Gideon) told People recently. “I think this show is going to start to lay the groundwork for the depth and breadth that’s going to come in season 3 and season 4, where you’re really gonna start to get answers.”
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