45 Best Shows On Hulu In 2021 – Looper
Even with all of the fantastic streaming platforms available to choose from these days, from Amazon Prime Video to Paramount+, Hulu remains one of the best in the business thanks to its affordable pricing options and wide selection of programming. While Netflix offers a wider film library, Hulu and Netflix are comparable in terms of TV series offered, with Hulu offering more recent network TV content as well as plenty of critically-acclaimed Hulu Original shows to choose from. Since many of Hulu’s shows drop new content weekly, viewers even have the option to tap into that event-television energy that gets lost on most streaming services.
From new originals to hidden gem cult classics, there’s something for anyone across every genre. So you don’t miss anything, we took a deep dive to find the best content on the platform. Be sure to add Hulu’s 45 best shows of 2021 to your watch list, so you catch the best of what the streamer was serving up this year.
Hulu Original “The Great” followed up a fairly successful first season by fine-tuning what works well, ultimately earning nearly universal acclaim on Rotten Tomatoes. This wickedly addictive piece of period comedy-fanfiction shares more DNA with “Reign” and Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” than more sober kin like “The Tudors,” unapologetically infusing its tale with anachronisms, obscenities, and modern turns of phrase. The “occasionally true story” recounts the eponymous long-ruling Enlightenment-era monarch (and later, empress), whose efforts to modernize Russia include overthrowing her husband Peter III after turning his court against him.
Spun like a wild yarn told by a drunken aunt at Christmas dinner, “The Great” is more interested in capturing the tumultuous spirit of the era than getting the facts straight. Elle Fanning’s Catherine is paradoxically yet believably sweetly, naive, and ruthlessly Machiavellian all at once. Her interactions with the uncomfortably endearing and ultimately doomed party boy husband Peter III (Nicholas Hoult) are chock full of snappy dialogue and dysfunctional chemistry. As delightful, witty, and energetic as it is absurd and occasionally profound, the series heaps on delicious, macaron-hued 18th-century costumes and guest appearances from Gillian Anderson and Jason Isaacs that add to the fun.
Based on journalist Beth Macy’s “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America,” this eight-episode Hulu Original miniseries attempts to humanize the opioid crisis while painting a dark picture of the forces behind it. Starring Michael Keaton, Peter Sarsgaard, and Kaitlyn Dever, the series uses multiple timelines alongside fictionalized and real narratives to offer a gritty, critical look at corporate greed in the medical industry and its role in fueling the opioid epidemic. “Dopesick” is a lot to take in at times and verges on biting off more than it can chew, but in the end, it accomplishes what it set out to do — create outrage against the pharmaceutical giants at the center of the story.
As its consistently high rating on Rotten Tomatoes reflects, Hulu’s “PEN15” is much more than just cringe comedy. The two-season series tells the hilarious and often heartbreaking story of the pain-plagued period of adolescence between sixth and eighth grade. “PEN15” features thirtysomething Millennials and real-world besties Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine as fictionalized versions of their middle school selves. Set in the AOL era, the story follows Anna and Maya as they navigate the challenges of existing in the limbo state between childhood and adulthood with their friendship as a lifeboat.
In this refreshingly honest retelling, everyone is a bully, even themselves, and things like dating, sexual attraction, and family relationships are devastatingly difficult. Unlike many nostalgia-heavy explorations of adolescence, “PEN15” lives there happily, but never just to reach easy cringe-inducing laughs. Instead, as Erskine explained in Entertainment Weekly, it’s more like “immersive therapy,” a safe space to look back and lovingly work through the heartache and trauma of such a difficult adjustment period.
Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, Hulu’s original series “11.22.63” is a science fiction miniseries that delves into time travel via a mysterious portal in the pantry of a diner, of all places. The action begins when the diner’s owner, Al Templeton (Chris Cooper), reveals the intertemporal doorway to his friend, high school teacher Jake Epping (James Franco), and persuades him to travel back in time to stop JFK’s assassination. Al’s “rabbit hole” always deposits travelers to precisely 11:58 a.m. on October 21, 1960, and brings them back two minutes after they originally left no matter how much time elapses in the past, making Jake’s journey to the past an extended stay.
Unlike many time travel stories, “11.22.63” spends less time with the whizz-bang sci-fi aspects, focusing instead on the Alice in Wonderland experience of a man out of his own time and whether it would be possible or even wise to change the past if given the chance. Although not necessarily an essential King adaptation, it’s an enjoyable jaunt if you don’t look too closely at the finer details.
“Castle Rock” is a Stephen King series that features the primary King mythos more prominently. This anthology psychological horror series was promising in its first two seasons, garnering solid reviews and plenty of interest among Stephen King fans, but ended up an unfortunate casualty of a mid-pandemic shakeup. Much more than just a basket for Easter eggs, “Castle Rock” focuses on weaving together a complete picture of the overall King mythology through an exploration of a different legacy story each season.
The series stood apart for its more cerebral approach to familiar tales and more complex and layered treatment of good and evil than the source material. The show is in many ways a love letter to fans of the King’s body of work, but the series can still resonate less with casual viewers. There’s plenty to love between the eerie tone, decent thrills, and stellar performances from actors like André Holland, Lizzy Caplan, Barkhad Abdi, as well as King veterans like Sissy Spacek, Tim Robbins, and Bill Skarsgård.
Based on Celeste Ng’s 2017 novel, “Little Fires Everywhere” is an eight-episode Hulu miniseries that explores race, gender, and socioeconomic issues through a microcosm by focusing on the lives of two mothers in Shaker Heights, Ohio, during the 1990s. The series stars Reese Witherspoon as affluent Elena Richardson and Kerry Washington as working-class mom Mia Warren.
As the lives of the two women intersect, the external constructs shaping their lives come into focus, as do questions about how these constructs are passed on to the next generation. With Washington and Witherspoon serving on the production staff, the result is an engaging drama with an ending that leaves viewers with plenty to think about.
Marvel’s “Runaways” is an original Hulu teen superhero drama based on the Marvel comic book series with the same name. Lauded for its inclusive casting and defiance of stereotypes, the three-season series follows the adventures of six exceptional LA teens with sketchy supervillain parents. On the run from their parents, these superteens must work to stop their parents and the organized crime syndicate their folks are part of.
Although this series was canceled after three seasons, the showrunners managed to give it a sense of completion. Overall, the series is a fun watch that stands out as both a superhero show and a teen drama thanks to some snappy writing and plenty of enjoyable chemistry among the ensemble cast.
Hulu Original “Shrill” is a half-hour comedy series based on writer-comedian Lindy West’s “Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman,” an award-winning personal essay anthology humorously exploring issues related to the author’s lived experience. Co-written by and starring Aidy Bryant of “Saturday Night Live” fame, “Shrill” is replete with witty insight into intersectional issues related to body size and gender, particularly how they impact relationships, the professional world, and sense of self, as noted by The Guardian.
As intense as the subject matter can be, it’s all served up with enough good-natured humor and self-ownership to keep things light. Aidy Bryant’s protagonist Annie Easton is smart, genuine, and relatable as she learns to stand up for herself and lean on her support system in a world of microaggressions.
“Harlots” explores a fascinating and often overlooked side of 18th-century life through the lens of protagonist Margaret Wells, a madame and brothel owner whose two daughters are born into the family business. The show features plenty of refreshingly complex female characters and a stellar cast that includes Samantha Morton as Wells, Jessica Brown Findlay as her daughter Charlotte, Danny Sapani, Lesley Manville, and Liv Tyler. Despite its high Rotten Tomatoes ratings and ample critical praise, the series premiered its final season in 2020 with Hulu opting to end the series while the magic was still going strong, as Angela Griffin explained in a Hello! interview.
“Harlots” was inspired by historian Hallie Rubenhold’s “The Covent Garden Ladies,” which explores a real-world directory of sex workers published in the mid-to-late 18th-century. Like its source material, “Harlots” paints a rich and interesting picture of their world and its unique superposition between social ranks in 18th-century society. The series offers a decadent drama that doubles as a mediation on women’s experience in their world and the modern one.
Seth Rogen’s time-travel comedy “Future Man” may not be steeped in earth-shaking cultural commentary, but it’s easily one of the most fun and creative sci-fi series ever written. Gratefully, Rogen and company don’t spend much effort on hashing out whether any of the show’s time travel mechanics make sense, as they’re far more focused on making sure the series is a wild ride from start to finish.
The series stars Josh Hutcherson, who viewers will recognize as Peeta from “The Hunger Games,” as Josh Futturman, an underachieving research facility janitor and avid gamer. When Futturman beats his favorite game, “Biotic Wars,” a bit of intergenerational confusion gets him pulled into a wacky time travel adventure by future anti-Biotic soldiers Tiger (Eliza Coupe) and Wolf (Derek Wilson). Appearances from Ed Begley Jr., the late Glenne Headly, Haley Joel Osment, Keith David, Awkwafina, and Rogen himself add to the magic as the trio of unlikely heroes zips around the decades while trying to undo an apocalyptic future. Despite the show’s pure silliness, it’s still surprisingly well-written sci-fi, with its second season garnering strong marks on Rotten Tomatoes.
Hulu’s “Dollface” is one of those rare series that Rotten Tomatoes critics abhor but audiences adore. Despite the mixed reviews, if the showrunners build on what works, then future seasons could prove promising. The single-camera comedy series stars Kat Dennings as Jules Wiley, a young web editor who gradually drifts apart from all of her friendships as she settles into monogamy. When her guy suddenly dumps her, Jules realizes she has no close friends left to take comfort in after years spent wrapped up in a relationship.
Jules’ efforts to find herself again and reconnect with the women she had long since blown off are laced with surrealism and heart. The result is a charming look at the challenges of resurfacing from a long-term relationship in the modern world. As noted by The Spool, while the show’s efforts to explore feminist topics can be a bit clunky, there’s still plenty of witty insight, heartfelt storytelling, and general whimsy that together add up to an enjoyable series.
Created by and starring Julie Klausner, “Difficult People” is easily one of the most hilarious shows on Hulu or any platform. With Amy Poehler on the production team and boasting nearly universal acclaim on Rotten Tomatoes, the dark comedy follows the New York lives of misanthropic besties Julie Kessler and Billy Epstein, who is played by a perfectly cast Billy Eichner. While “Difficult People” was canceled after its third season, it remains one of the best comedies on the platform.
Regulars like Gabourey Sidibe, James Urbaniak, Cole Escola, and Andrea Martin round out the effervescent cast. Beyond that, the series is chock full of far too many fantastic guest appearances to count, with sparklers like John Cho, Amy Sedaris, and Fred Armisen appearing. Smart, situational humor with crackling chemistry between Klausner and Eichner make this series a pure pleasure to watch, and the horror of uncomfortably relatable mundane interactions is even more potent today.
Starring Aaron Paul of “Breaking Bad” and “Big Love” fame, “The Path” is a complex and brooding exploration of cult living, particularly from the perspective of cult leadership. The series balances insightful writing with a strong cast that includes the likes of Hugh Dancy, Michelle Monaghan, and Rockmond Dunbar.
The series focuses on the evolution and eventual ascension of a new leader to the fictional Meyerist movement, a 6,000-member cult based on the New-Agey teachings of founder Stephen Meyer. Sensitively written, the series shows how easily someone can be drawn into a cult mentality, as well as the near-impossibility of untangling from a cult for those indoctrinated into one from birth. While “The Path” was canceled after three seasons, it is a worthy drama that shouldn’t be missed.
With Hulu’s mid-pandemic release of “Animaniacs” in 2020, Xennial latchkey kids the world over rejoiced. An Amblin and Warner Bros. joint production, the revival perfectly captures the spirit of the original 1993 animated series, almost as if it never ended. Instead, it seems almost like the series simply got locked up in the Warner Bros. tower until Yakko, Wakko, and Dot finally broke loose while everyone was busy with lockdown drama and supply chain woes. Now they’re free once more to run amok, trampling over today’s topical issues just as freely as they did in the ’90s.
Viewers won’t find anything new here, and that’s okay. With the revival, series producers wanted to capture the same “lightning in a bottle” of the 1993 show, as executive producer Wellesley Wild told Variety. That meant tackling today’s world with its many cultural, technological, and societal changes since the turn of the millennium with exactly the same eye-rolling guffaw humor it always had.
If the lockdown has taught the world anything, it’s that the crowdsourcing power of obsessive true crime fans can help solve some pretty wild mysteries. Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building” is a whimsical love letter to those among us who spend their time out binging true crime podcasts and dreaming of going full Veronica Mars themselves.
Starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez, the series follows three New York neighbors who, fueled by their mutual love of true crime podcasts, team up to create their own while investigating a murder in their own building. Infused with subtle melancholy and delicate absurdism often found in Steve Martin projects, the intergenerational comedy boasts high marks on Rotten Tomatoes thanks to the gorgeous musical score, clever mystery, and the offbeat chemistry of the main cast.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” is a critically-acclaimed adaptation of the dystopian Margaret Atwood novel of the same name that expands significantly on the source material. Painful and beautiful to watch at the same time, the narrative serves as a warning against theocracy and religious extremism.
Sometime in the near future, the impact of environmental destruction causes global fertility rates to drop off a cliff. After a devastating series of terrorist attacks against the United States government, a powerful group of religious extremists launches a civil war and takes over much of the country, renaming it Gilead. Under the new regime, women have lost all rights, and many are enslaved under Biblical law. Under Gilead law, these “fallen women” are forced to bear children for powerful men and their wives.
Although the subject matter is timely, it’s the production details that elevate this story beyond a mere exploration of trauma. In her role as handmaid June, Elisabeth Moss’s range and grasp on the importance of nuance is masterful. Composer Adam Taylor’s haunting, emotional score underlines every episode perfectly. Beyond that, the artistry of the show’s costume design, set design, color palettes, and camera work, especially the drone work, transforms each scene into a visual masterpiece.
Like the 2018 film “Love; Simon,” “Love, Victor” is based on Becky Albertalli’s young adult novel “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” and set in the same world. Like “Love; Simon,” the Hulu series is a coming-of-age story that explores issues related to self-discovery and coming out as an LGBTQ youth. Sweet, funny, and honest, the series proves a hopeful teen drama that follows teenage Victor as he navigates the challenges of life as a gay teen in a working-class family.
“Love, Victor” has received universal acclaim on Rotten Tomatoes as well as earning a GLAAD award. Beyond that, critics and audiences alike have praised the series for its heartfelt writing and intersectional representation.
Starring Kristen Bell as the eponymous Veronica Mars, this fan-favorite originally ran for three seasons on UPN and The CW from 2004 to 2007 and was later briefly revived by Hulu for a fourth season. The series follows the investigations of Veronica Mars, a once-popular girl living in a wealthy California town. She and her dad, former sheriff Keith Mars (Enrico Colantoni), have been ostracized by their community after Veronica’s best friend is murdered, and her dad accuses the wrong powerful person of committing the crime.
Following these events, Veronica works alongside her dad doing P.I. work, and it seems there’s plenty to investigate in a town like Neptune, California. Solid writing, clever mysteries, and Kristen Bell’s unique brand of affable sarcasm elevate this series above the typical young adult fare. Ultimately, “Veronica Mars” is a fun watch for anyone who enjoys light detective shows along the lines of “Psych,” “Moonlighting,” or “Murder, She Wrote.”
Based on Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s 2014 mockumentary film of the same name, “What We Do in the Shadows” is every bit as funny as the material it’s based on. Like the 2014 film, the FX series marvelously blends comedy and horror elements under the premise of an unseen film crew following around a group of vampire roomies.
Traditional vamps Nandor (Kayvan Novak), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), and Laszlo (Matt Berry) share a Staten Island home with energy vampire Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch) and Nandor’s familiar, Guillermo (Harvey Guillén). There, the flatmates spend their nights snacking on humans, hanging with the neighbors, and getting caught up on vampire politics. Richly comedic characterizations by the ensemble cast, silly scenarios, and snappy writing make this series consistently through all three seasons, earning it high marks on Rotten Tomatoes.
Based on mystery writer C.J. Box’s “The Highway,” ABC’s “Big Sky” isn’t necessarily the most compelling thriller on network television. However, it is a solid example of a smartly-paced drama with just enough mystery and intrigue to make it a satisfying watch. Starring Katheryn Winnick of “Vikings” fame and featuring the always-enjoyable John Carroll Lynch, “Big Sky” is a reasonably straightforward crime narrative set in Montana, where ex-cop Jenny Hoyt’s personal tragedies draw her into a mystery involving a human trafficking ring, drugs, and murder.
While the characterizations could use work and the writing is fairly trope-happy, as noted by Forbes, the show is a fine example of prime-time junk food. At the very least, the performances from Lynch, Winnick, Brian Geraghty, and Jesse James Keitel all work together to make it an enjoyable ride.
Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s FX anthology horror series “American Horror Story” is ten seasons in and still going strong, with at least three more seasons in the future, according to Newsweek. The magic of this series lies in Murphy and Falchuk’s unique brand of storytelling, where nothing is off the table and everything is just a little too over-the-top in the most delicious possible way. Each “American Horror Story” season has its own unique setting, subject, and tone, exploring traditional horror mythos under the umbrella of the series’ overarching in-world rules and mythology.
Everything terrifying, absurd, or bizarre is fodder for the Murphyverse. This means viewers see witches, hauntings, vampires, clowns, politics, the apocalypse, and conspiracy theories in “American Horror Story.” Reusing the same superb ensemble cast across seasons and stories draws invisible lines between characters, subtly layering in themes of free will and nature versus nurture. All of that is served up with enough visual splendor and camp to remind viewers that in the end, it’s all just good fun.
Inspired by a South Korean drama and produced by Daniel Dae Kim of “Lost” and “Hawaii Five-0” fame, “The Good Doctor” is a medical drama that follows the life of surgical resident Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore). Shaun’s medical genius and autism bring a unique perspective to San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital, where he pursues his residency.
The series is a rare example of a show that’s inspirational without being too cheesy. Highmore has drawn critical acclaim for his depiction of autism on “The Good Doctor” as nuanced and layered, and the show has steadily improved over the course of its five seasons. In many ways, the series is a typical medical drama. However, it’s the show’s focus on Dr. Murphy’s interpersonal relationships that make the show worth watching, particularly as Shaun works through past trauma and navigates relationships and personal loss.
“The Act” is a crime drama that retells the tragic and disturbing true-crime story of Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard. The eight-episode limited series stars Patricia Arquette as Dee Dee Blanchard, whose torment of her teenage daughter, played by Joey King, via Munchausen syndrome by proxy brings about her own demise when Gypsy and her boyfriend take Dee Dee’s life.
The series depicts the extent of the abuse Gypsy suffered as well as its devastating effects on her ability to grow into a functional adult. With well-paced storytelling and engaging performances from a central cast that includes Chloë Sevigny, this series is a must-watch for anyone who watches true crime.
Earning wide acclaim on Rotten Tomatoes, “Ramy” has already earned its series creator Ramy Youssef a Golden Globe and other awards. The half-hour comedy-drama stars Youssef as Ramy Hassan, a deeply flawed first-generation Egyptian American and millennial trying to find his place in a community as a Muslim.
“Ramy” explores issues of identity, personal growth, and faith while presenting a nuanced look at the challenges faced by children of immigrants living in the space between two cultures and trying to understand where they fit in. It also offers a much-needed multifaceted look at a culture that is too seldom portrayed in an empathetic light, as noted by PBS.
Based on the comic book series of the same name, “Y: The Last Man” is a post-apocalyptic drama in a world where a catastrophic event targets every living mammal with a Y chromosome, causing them to bleed out in moments on a global scale. Countless lives are lost among both men and women. Among humans assigned male at birth, only underachieving magician Yorick (Ben Schnetzer) remains alive along with his male pet capuchin monkey, Ampersand. And, coincidentally or otherwise, his mother (Diane Lane) is the new president.
Like most apocalyptic series, “Y: The Last Man” explores life in a world with no functional infrastructure and scarce resources. Where it stands apart is imagining that world dominated by women. While the series saw decent ratings, it was canceled after the first season due to contract issues at FX. Since the series has a strong following, don’t be surprised if this show gets picked up on another network or streaming service in the future.
Based on Scott Ryan’s 2005 film “The Magician,” FX’s Australian “Mr Inbetween” is part crime drama, part black comedy. The half-hour series stars Ryan as antiheroic hitman Ray Shoesmith as he tries to balance his relationships with family and friends against his life as a murderous criminal. The fact that Ray is a generally down-to-earth fellow outside of his hired killer gig only adds to the offbeat dryness of the comedy.
A satisfying dramedy with strong reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, the series excels at deadpan humor. Beyond that, Rolling Stone notes that the series brings a fresh take to what is essentially the same old antihero story with its emphasis on relationships and compartmentalization.
Another series from the creative team of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, “9-1-1” follows a group of L.A. first responders through their personal and professional lives, centered primarily around LAFD Station 118. The series bears its creators’ characteristic flair with its over-the-top storylines and absurd scenarios. However, the key difference in “9-1-1” is the amount of truth behind these stories, with most of them quite literally ripped from the headlines, as noted by Bustle.
Week after week, the can-do first responders deal with natural disasters, impalements, and every manner of emergency imaginable. Like everything this duo touches, everything is served up just a little too heavily to be taken at face value but always accompanied by just enough melodrama to tip off viewers that they’re in Ryan Murphy’s universe. This combination is exactly what makes this series an absolute delight to watch. The fact that there’s more than enough Angela Bassett to go around is just the icing on the cake.
“Rick and Morty” is much more than just an obscene adult animated series, although undoubtedly, it is most certainly that. However, it’s also a surprisingly insightful and brilliantly creative science fiction series. The story follows the adventures of alcoholic mad scientist Rick Sanchez (Justin Roiland) as he drags his teenage grandson Morty (also played by Roiland) across space and time on countless bizarre and terrifying adventures. The series is as much about their family drama as it is about traipsing through the multiverse.
Created by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland for “Adult Swim,” “Rick and Morty” began its life as a riff on “Back to the Future” and evolved into an exploration of sci-fi tropes and family ties with enough of its own complex mythology and worldbuilding to generate an interdimensional wormhole. The show’s chaotic pace and vibrant, oft-trippy visuals are balanced with a clear vision that keeps things on track.
“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is one of those shows that’s been on the air forever and still has a loyal following after all these years. With a history-making Season 15 premiering in 2021, now is as good a time as any to find out why people are constantly quoting this comedic meme machine.
The half-hour comedy stars Danny DeVito as Frank Reynolds, who, along with adopted twins Dee (Kaitlin Olson) and Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and their friends Charlie (Charlie Day) and Mac (Rob McElhenney), runs South Philly Irish bar Paddy’s Pub. The bar itself is poorly run and generally unprofitable, and unlike the good people of Cheers, the Gang at Paddy’s Pub is known for their morally depraved behavior, which frequently fuels their hilarious misadventures.
Set in the fictional Ontario community of Letterkenny, this Canadian series began its life as the YouTube web series “Letterkenny Problems” back in 2013. The series has generated enough popularity to have already spawned two spinoffs, “Littlekenny” and the upcoming “Shoresy,” per The Sudbury Star.
The half-hour sitcom focuses on life in small-town Canada. In Letterkenny’s rural community of about 5,000 residents, everyone falls into neat categories, from the hockey players to the hicks. Loaded with witty dialogue and interesting slice-of-life characters, “Letterkenny” has resonated with U.S. fans as well as Canadians since its release on Hulu, developing something of a cult following in the States. The show is also a great place to pick up a little rural Canadian slang.
2021 saw network staple cop comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” wrap up its eighth and final season after a good run, and the entire series is available to watch on Hulu. With an outstanding ensemble cast that included Andy Samberg, Terry Crews, Melissa Fumero, and Chelsea Peretti, just to name a few, the half-hour police sitcom centers around the detectives and officers stationed at NYPD Brooklyn’s 99th Precinct.
The show’s ability to tackle heavier topics like police brutality and systemic racism without sacrificing its humorous tone as well as its portrayal of LGBTQ individuals drew critical praise. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” won numerous awards, including two Golden Globes and a GLAAD award. Warm, goofy, and fun to watch, the series is a rare example of a show that remained consistent throughout.
Already renewed for a fourth season before the third has aired, the Emmy-winning FX series “Atlanta” is a testament to Donald Glover’s genius. A show Glover himself once called “‘Twin Peaks’ with rappers,” per The Hollywood Reporter, “Atlanta” offers enough onion-like layers of references and symbolism to make multiple viewings of the best episodes worthwhile.
The surrealist half-hour comedy-drama follows Princeton dropout Earn (played by Glover) as he and his cousin Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) try to better their lives by finding success via the Atlanta music scene. Clever, painful, and introspective, the series brilliantly manages to explore complex racial and societal questions and defy genre boundaries without ever losing its footing as a cerebral dramedy.
Based on Luke Jennings’ thriller novella series “Codename Villanelle,” “Killing Eve” is a captivating BBC production starring Sanda Oh as eponymous MI6 agent Eve Polastri. Personality-wise, Eve seems at first to have more in common with Bridget Jones than James Bond, but her darker edges gradually take on more definition as she is sucked into a mutual obsession-slash-archenemy relationship with psychopathic assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer).
Created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, “Killing Eve” is smart, funny, and dark. Oh and Comer’s magnetic chemistry and dazzling performances have earned them numerous awards, including an Emmy for Comer and a Golden Globe for Oh.
Originally meant to serve as a prequel to “The Walking Dead,” “Fear the Walking Dead” has evolved into a parallel story with a distinctively different tone that has earned the series its own fandom. While “The Walking Dead” generally follows a group of survivors from rural areas in the southeastern United States, “Fear The Walking Dead” follows a band of LA survivors as they make their way through northern Mexico and Texas.
Throughout the series, “Fear The Walking Dead” gradually takes on a western flair, which it embraces fully in Season 4 with its “zombie western” soft reboot, per The Hollywood Reporter. Although the rules and overarching lore seem a bit inconsistent at times, “Fear The Walking Dead” continues to tell a story worth watching seven seasons in.
Created by Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett, who previously worked together on “Nikita,” “12 Monkeys” is a time-travel story loosely adapted from Terry Gilliam’s 1995 film with the same name. Like the film it was adapted from, and that film’s source material, the 1962 short film “La Jetée,” the series was conceived to tell a complete story with a mind-bending time-travel twist. “12 Monkeys” is a rare example of a series that sticks the landing, staying on track for most of its four-season arc within the boundaries of its mythology.
The premise finds James Cole (Aaron Stanford) traveling back in time to stop a deadly pandemic from wiping out most of the global population, leaving behind a decaying world of scavengers and little else. While his initial efforts fail, he meets, recruits, and falls in love with present-day virologist Cassie Railly (Amanda Schull). However, the more Cole tries to unwind the mystery of the virus, the more tangled up it seems to become.
The series is brimming with engaging performances from Emily Hampshire, Kirk Acevedo, Barbara Sukowa, Noah Bean, Todd Stashwick, Tom Noonan, and Alisen Down. The series does an excellent job of mitigating its dark content with delicately placed comic relief, and its time travel mechanics are clever enough to give viewers a fun puzzle that keeps them searching for clues.
Co-created by and starring Joseph Gilgun, “Brassic” is a British dramedy set in Hawley, a fictional town in northern England where bipolar eccentric Vinnie (Gilgun) and his friends grow pot and commit larceny. More than just a buddy comedy, the series offers an honest and insightful look into the pain of living with and caring for someone with mental health issues without dwelling on them, all based on Gilgun’s personal experience with bipolar disorder, as he told NME.
As always, Gilgun is a pleasure to watch thanks to his intense and animated acting style. The series shows a gritty, edgy corner of life in the U.K. but never ceases to be funny in doing so.
A Freeform network supernatural drama, “Fort Salem: Motherland” imagines an alternate reality where the world is ruled by women, magic is real, and the Salem witch trials ended in a treaty. In the present day, the U.S. Army recruits witches to battle a faction of magic-wielding terrorists. The ambitious supernatural fantasy follows a group of young witches as they enlist in the fight.
Although the series will end after three seasons, it gained a loyal fan base among fans of fantasy and supernatural fiction, especially for its inclusive representations of LGBTQ and diverse women, per Syfy. For anyone who enjoys plenty of creative worldbuilding, “Fort Salem” is a fun ride that excels as a young adult genre entry.
Seth MacFarlane’s love letter to “Star Trek,” “The Orville,” has managed to amass its own fandom over its first two seasons. However, the show’s second season proved that MacFarlane was capable of more than just parody, stepping up the game from Season 1 to nearly universal acclaim on Rotten Tomatoes for Season 2.
“The Orville” stars MacFarlane as Captain Ed Mercer, whose assigned first officer happens to be his ex-wife, Commander Kelly Grayson (Adrianne Palicki). Like “Star Trek: The Next Generation” flagship Enterprise, the Orville is a luxury space exploration vessel that looks a lot like a working cruise ship in space and has its own diverse crew of humans and various sentient beings. While critics felt that Season 1 was a mishmash of wacky outer space adventures with a solid cast, Season 2 gave viewers something unexpected and worthwhile — intelligent science fiction and worldbuilding.
Airing from 2003 to 2015, British comedy duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb’s “Peep Show” is a cringe-inducing cult favorite and still manages to be one of the funniest comedies on Hulu today. Also starring Paterson Joseph and Olivia Colman long before she became royalty, the highly-rated series, per Rotten Tomatoes, uses unsettling point-of-view camera angles and thought-bubble voice-overs to depict the awkward lives of London flatmates Mark and Jez.
The magic of this show is in how Mark and Jez somehow manage to be horribly unlikeable and entirely too relatable all at once. The show’s absurd situational comedy and laugh-out-loud performances won “Peep Show” a handful of awards, including a pair of BAFTAS over the years, and earned it a spot on The Guardian’s “100 Best TV Shows of the 21st Century” list.
“Deutschland 83” is a Cold War-era espionage thriller showcasing the high-strung diplomatic tensions of the Communist Bloc’s waning years. Part historic drama and part action thriller, “Deutschland 83” creates a realistic vision of life on both sides of the East-West German border in the 1980s.
Starring Jonas Nay as loyal socialist foot soldier Martin Rauch, this American and German production goes to great lengths to earnestly portray the difficulties of living within the communist system and how that life starkly contrasted to the freedoms enjoyed in the West. A well-placed 1980s pop culture soundtrack underscores a sense of otherworldly nostalgia throughout the series. The eight-episode series is the first in a trilogy and is followed by “Deutschland 86” and “Deutschland 89,” per The Guardian.
In a world that already has more than enough zombie stories to go around, it might seem like there’s no way to tell the same old story in a fresh way, but “Zomboat!” begs to differ. Although the British series is not set to produce any more episodes, the first season, which is available on Hulu, is a fun diversion that follows four millennials as they attempt to flee Birmingham, albeit very slowly by canal boat.
Brimming with dry humor and “Shaun of the Dead” vibes, the series was beloved among critics such as The Guardian and fans alike. Since there are dozens of canal locks to get through when escaping Birmingham from zombies, many fans are holding out hope that the show will rise from the dead one day.
Inspired by the award-winning 1988 series of the same name, “The Wonder Years” is a slice-of-life situational comedy that follows the same general premise as the original, reflecting on life in the 1960s through the adult narration of its awkward adolescent protagonist. However, where the 1988 series followed a middle-class white adolescent boy, the 2021 series, narrated by Don Cheadle, follows a Black middle-class youth in Birmingham, Alabama.
With original “Wonder Years” star Fred Savage on board as a producer, writer, and director, the series captures the same nostalgic warmth of the original as it takes viewers through world-changing 1968 events. Charming, funny, and sweet, the series is already a favorite among critics and has earned strong reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
Set in rural northeastern Oklahoma, Taika Waititi and Sterlin Harjo’s “Reservation Dogs” is a long-needed wellspring of Native talent and experiences. The first series to be filmed exclusively in Oklahoma, the low-key FX comedy is brimming with gifted Indigenous North American writers, directors, actors, and musical artists.
Understated, offbeat, and emotional, the series, which has received nearly universal acclaim on Rotten Tomatoes, follows four teenage besties who want more than anything to get out of Oklahoma. Elements of surrealism and imagery from a place that doesn’t typically get much airtime lend a dreamy feel to this bittersweet coming-of-age story. Meanwhile, complex, soulful storytelling blends with wry humor to make this one of the most charming and hilarious shows on TV right now.
Freeform rarely serves up content with broad appeal, but “Cruel Summer” is an intense drama that offers a well-crafted blend of nostalgia and mystery that elevates it above the network’s standard fare. The novel narrative approach uses color filters and three timelines to tell the story of two teenagers across three years in the mid-1990s. The shifts between each timeline feel jarring at times but highlight the dramatic transformation each underwent during that time.
The heavy storyline deals with the aftermath of one girl’s abduction and the other’s rise to popularity and subsequent fall from grace as she’s accused of secretly knowing her counterpart’s whereabouts and saying nothing in order to take over her life. The series stands out for its unique storytelling style, powerful performances from leads Olivia Holt and Chiara Aurelia, and brutal portrayal of the challenges of adolescence in the ’90s.
Created by “Rick and Morty” alums Justin Roiland and Mike McMahan, “Solar Opposites” was originally pitched to Fox before getting dumped and then picked up by Hulu. Recently renewed for its fourth season, the story follows a family of intergalactic-traveling aliens forced to relocate to the United States.
To say that this series is slightly more grounded than “Rick and Morty” simply means it’s somewhat less of a head trip and leans more into the serialized story format. However, like “Rick and Morty,” “Solar Opposites” offers up a similar visual style and is still utterly brimming with all the obscenities, smart sci-fi tropes, and all the gratuitous violence a growing mad scientist could want.
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May 15, 2022 at 03:44PM