From Succession to Squid Game, here are CBC Entertainment’s top show picks of 2021

CBC’s entertainment reporters watched a lot of TV in 2021. As the pandemic continued, streaming giants and networks rolled out new shows to capture the attention of housebound audiences. To help you wade through the excess, here are some of their favourites.

Succession (HBO)

Where to start with the many highlights of Succession? The cringe-inducing delights of Kendall crooning Billy Joel. Roman’s accidental pic share with his dad. The continuing aspirations and humiliation of Shiv and what appears to be the surprising accession of Tom. As the Roy family attempted to head off an attack from Kendall’s sudden burst of moral virtue, Season 3 continued to serve up moments of wonderful actors playing horrible people. How the Roy children rebound in Season 4 remains to be seen but we’re looking forward to the coronation of Cousin Greg as Duke of Europe. —Eli Glasner

WATCH | The official trailer for Succession Season 3:

Sort Of (CBC)

After seeing the end of everything from Kim’s Convenience to Schitt’s Creek, Baroness von Sketch Show to Cardinal and even Anne With an E, the future of Canadian TV’s “golden age” looked like it was in peril. Luckily, Bilal Baig’s off-kilter comedy Sort Of proved that there’s still a wealth of untapped talent. 

The story of self-discovery and self-doubt follows Baig’s character Sabi — a gender-fluid, underemployed nanny — as they struggle to just get by. Equal parts funny and sad, Sort Of is great for fans of Fleabag, or anyone who wants to laugh along to a character study. —Jackson Weaver

WATCH | The official trailer for Sort Of:

Only Murders in the Building (Disney+)

What happens when Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez make podcast? You’re left with a hilarious thriller about true crime addicts involved in an ongoing crime themselves. The 10-part mini-series on Disney+ follows three residents trying to solve the murder of a fellow resident in their chic Upper West Side apartment building. While it may seem like an odd trio, they are actually perfect for each other — feeding off each other’s wittiness and anxieties. —Arti Patel

WATCH | The official trailer for Only Murders in the Building:

Mare of Easttown (HBO)

Academy Award winner Kate Winslet disappeared into her role as Mare, a detective hell-bent on solving the murder of a local girl in sleepy Easttown, Pa., where everybody knows everybody and their business. The seven-episode show is both harrowing in its difficult depiction of grief — Mare reckons with her son’s suicide as she works a case disturbingly close to home — and hopeful in its ambitions for family and love. —Jenna Benchetrit

WATCH | The official trailer for Mare of Easttown:

The Morning Show, Season 2 (Apple TV+)

At the end of Season 1, the Morning Show’s co-anchors Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston) and Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) blew the whistle on the fictional UBA network, exposing #MeToo complicity and coverups. Season 2 layers in the pandemic. Panicked media executives attempt to hold it all together as character insight deepens, the drama gets soapier and tension remains taut as disgraced former anchor Mitch Kessler (Steve Carell) hides out in Lake Como. —Laura Thompson

WATCH | The official trailer for The Morning Show Season 2:

WandaVision (Disney+)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe pulled no punches when it released WandaVision. As the first miniseries made by the studio, it pulled from classic American sitcoms, Tom King’s Eisner-winning comic series The Vision, and — perhaps most notably — The Twilight Zone to create an impressive and unsettling family drama. Excellent acting by stars Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany and Kathryn Hahn cemented its place as a top show of 2021 and even landed Hahn a (spoiler-heavy) spinoff series. —Jackson Weaver

WATCH | The official trailer for WandaVision:

The White Lotus (HBO)

Hell is disguised as paradise in HBO’s cunning social satire The White Lotus. When a weeklong stay at a Hawaiian resort starts to turn sideways – both for its ensemble of rich, entitled guests and put-upon, overworked staff — viewers are taken for an uncomfortable (but nonetheless fun) ride. Creator Mike White spins a web of distrust and murderous fury, smartly commenting on the island’s colonial history, the performative liberalism of its guests and the unyielding tension between society’s haves and have-nots. —Jenna Benchetrit

WATCH | The official trailer for The White Lotus:

Hawkeye (Disney+)

With the new Disney+ series, Marvel has finally given us a Hawkeye that does justice to what worked so well in the comics. Heavily inspired by the Matt Fraction / David Aja series, Hawkeye is basically Die Hard with bows and arrows. It’s about a guy trying to get home to his family for the holiday when a series of hilarious but irksome opponents (i.e. the tracksuit mafia) are in the way. Jeremy Renner manages to be likable while the arrival of Hailee Steinfeld as his wannabe partner keeps things lively. —Eli Glasner

WATCH | The official trailer for Hawkeye:

Squid Game (Netflix)

South Korean sci-fi hit Squid Game raked in 1.65 billion — yes, with a b — hours of streaming on Netflix. In the 10-episode series, poverty-stricken characters are invited to participate in an enigmatic competition where they must play childhood games at the risk of their own death. It’s no mystery why viewers were enthralled: With its charismatic cast, its twisted sense of violence and its universal themes of power and injustice, Squid Game united a global audience for the biggest television event of the year. —Jenna Benchetrit

WATCH | The official trailer for Squid Game:

Married at First Sight, Season 12 & 13 (Lifetime)

The Married at First Sight format is as literal as the title suggests: strangers are legally married upon meeting for the first time. We were bestowed two quality seasons this year starting at the altar, shifting to daily life as cohabiting spouses before “decision day” eight weeks later — when individuals decide if they want to stay married or get divorced. It’s got all the components of binge-worthy reality TV — lies, betrayal, bombshells and some real, actually solid soulmate-style connections. —Laura Thompson

WATCH | The official trailer for Married at First Sight Season 13:

Insecure (HBO)

It’s often hard to let go, and for Insecure fans, this season was tough. For their final season, creator and star Issa Rae said goodbye to a beloved cast and five years of evolving friendships, good sex and a snippet of what life is like for a young entrepreneurial Black woman in Los Angeles. While Rae’s love interests and friendship with co-star Yvonne Orji have been the crux of all seasons, this year fans can expect closure for all cast members, truly a beautiful (and sad) goodbye. —Arti Patel

WATCH | The official trailer for Insecure Season 5:

Christin Hakim

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