- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Your THR critics have already written at length about the very finest TV shows, episodes and performances that 2021 had to offer. But then there were the standout moments and contributions that couldn’t be encapsulated by anything so basic as a 10-best list — that stuck in our heads because they felt so odd, so funny, so singular in some way. Some came from shows we’ve already lavished tons of praise on elsewhere; others were from shows we might have breezed past entirely if not for the one thing that ensured we’d never ever forget them. Below, a year in 2021 represented in superlatives.
Most Improved: The Witcher
It’s not as if season one of the Netflix favorite were devoid of delights, but it’s a wonder how much easier it is to enjoy the show now that you don’t need a whole Pepe Silvia wall to keep track of its many timelines. — A.H.
Most Unimproved: NYC Epicenters 9/11 -> 2021 1/2
Through three episodes, Spike Lee’s intensely personal documentary about two decades of adversity seen through the eyes of New York City seemed likely to make best-of-the-year lists. Then the fourth episode was a bizarre embrace of 9/11 conspiracy theories that Lee/HBO solved by trimming 30 minutes from the last segment and replacing them with nothing. — D.F.
Best Song By a Fake Girl Band: “Nasty Girl” in Queens
Between Girls5eva, We Are Lady Parts and Queens, 2021 was a banner year for fictional girl groups on TV. But top honors go to the last of those for putting together the supergroup that turn-of-the-century dreams are made of — and for delivering a genuine banger with “Nasty Girl.” — A.H.
Best Show You’re Definitely Not in the Key Demo For: The Baby-Sitters Club
It’s just my guess that the tweens don’t spend their time reading lists put out by the Hollywood trades! Netflix’s The Baby-Sitters Club surely has “older” fans who grew up on the books as well, fans whose nostalgia has been rewarded by a rather amazingly sharp series. The second season put the nifty young cast — plus grownups played by Alicia Silverstone, Mark Feuerstein and the great Marc Evan Jackson, among others — through all manner of relatable drama from first love to first grief. It’s a show that’s always better than you’re expecting. — D.F.
Best Twilight Homage: The kickball game in What We Do in the Shadows
Love it or hate it, that infamous baseball scene from the first Twilight is an indelible part of vampire lore. Of course What We Do in the Shadows had to pay it homage — and of course the What We Do in the Shadows version ends with the human love interest shrugging off her lovelorn vampire, dashing all of his Edward-and-Bella dreams. — A.H.
Best Italian Getaway: Succession
One of the things Succession does best is making viewers feel jealous of the crazy getaways that, in turn, make all of the show’s characters feel bad. Even in our COVID moment, Logan’s brief sojourn in Sarajevo didn’t induce jealously, but the trip to Italy for Caroline’s (Dame Harriet Walter) wedding surely did. — D.F.
Worst Italian Getaway: TIE! The Morning Show and Anna
Only the writing staff behind The Morning Show thought it was a good idea to not just keep Steve Carell’s Mitch around, but give him a limp rom-com of a storyline set against a green screen representing Italy. Excruciating. Every second. Quality wasn’t the problem with AMC+’s Anna, one of the year’s most haunting and beautifully shot shows, but who wants to visit a post-pandemic Sicily overrun by near-feral pre-adolescents? — D.F.
Most NSFW Christmas Special: “The 400-Year-Old Virgins” in Big Mouth
Leave it to Big Mouth to acknowledge what no other Christmas special dares to: that the holidays would be vastly improved by a healthy dose of Santa dick. — A.H.
Biggest Mood: Karl Havoc in I Think You Should Leave
Prankster Carmine Laguzio (Tim Robinson) starts with grand plans, only to realize in the middle of them that he is simply done — he cannot, he will not, he is not going to push through because he doesn’t even want to be around anymore if it means being in that oppressive Karl Havoc suit. Who in 2021 cannot relate? — A.H.
Best Bad Acting: Keyla Monterroso Mejia of Curb Your Enthusiasm
The current season of Curb has featured the usual cavalcade of Larry David’s celebrity pals, but the performer stealing every second of screen time has been newcomer Mejia, playing an inept actress Larry has been blackmailed into casting. There are lots of ways to embody “bad” acting, but Mejia has found countless zany shadings. — D.F.
Catchiest Theme Song: “Agatha All Along” in WandaVision
If you weren’t constantly catching yourself humming this tune under your breath for at least two weeks after the episode aired, you’re made of stronger stuff than us. — A.H.
Best Plot Twist: “How To Appreciate Wine,” How To With John Wilson
The principle treat of HBO’s blend of documentary and comedy is tracing the seemingly mundane question Wilson ponders in the episodic title through to whatever absurd or emotionally exposed place things have gone by the end. It’s hard to explain how Wilson’s desire to learn about enology leads to a confession about his experiences with a cappella and then … well, you’ll have to see for yourself! — D.F.
Best Movie Monologue Adapted for Television: The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift speech in Saved By the Bell
Damn right this is a cinematic classic worthy of being immortalized in high school drama contests. — A.H.
Best Remake/Reboot/Revival: The Wonder Years
It was another year of unabated reboots and revivals on the small screen, and viewers were quick to dismiss pointless offerings like Head of the Class and Turner & Hooch. Saladin K. Patterson’s new version of The Wonder Years, on the other hand, used the format of the much-loved coming-of-age series for a very personal and specific story that echos what was best about the original, while carving its own sincere-but-funny path. — D.F.
The James Van Der Beek Prize for Outstanding Celebrity Performance as a Super Obnoxious Version of Themself: David Duchovny in The Chair
The actor (who really did pursue a Ph.D. in English before his onscreen career took off) delivers a pitch-perfect parody of celebrities with inflated academic pretensions: “Is this hostility because Pembroke is like this lower-tier Ivy and I went to Princeton? And Yale?” — A.H.
Cleverest Premise: Kevin Can F**k Himself
Kevin Can F**k Himself revealed that while bumbling sitcom husbands get up to predictably goofy hijinks, their long-suffering wives may or may not be starring in dark crime dramas about drugs and murder. Just something to chew on the next time you stumble across a rerun of King of Queens. — A.H.
Most Heartwarming Pandemic: Sweet Tooth
Y: The Last Man had a CG monkey. The Bite had half of Broadway. Station Eleven had Shakespeare. But when it comes to dealing with the aftermath of a global pandemic, only Netflix’s graphic novel adaptation had an adorable, syrup-loving deer-boy and the big-hearted group of heroes trying to protect him, taking a dark world and making it impressively sweet. — D.F.
Most Original Sex Scene: The new orifice in Brand New Cherry Flavor
If you could not stomach the sight of Roy (Jeff Ward) and Lisa (Rosa Salazar) reinventing sex by taking advantage of the all-new pseudo-vagina that magically opened up on the side of her torso, and simply had to reach for the skip button … we get it. But anyone who did watch the whole disturbing sequence isn’t likely to forget it anytime soon. — A.H.
Best Supporting Accent: Delco in Mare of Easttown
Prior to the spring release of HBO’s Mare of Easttown, a good percentage of the country wasn’t even aware that Philadelphia and the surrounding environs had an accent. Seven weeks later, we were all experts on why “water” should be spelled “wooter” and how broad the a’s in “WaWa” should be pronounced. — D.F.
Best Supporting Snack: Honeycomb in Squid Game
Maybe it’s because Cadbury’s Crunchie isn’t a part of the American diet, but for all of the culturally specific elements in the fall breakout Squid Game, the one I’ve seen most people perplexed by is a round, flat candy called “dalgona” or “ppopgi” or just honeycomb. Rarely has high-stakes tension looked so delicious and so likely to cause cavities. — D.F.
Most Unhelpful Spirit Guide: William Knifeman in Reservation Dogs
Just because someone’s dead doesn’t mean they’re wise, as Bear (D’Pharoah Woon-A-Tai) learns when he’s visited by the decidedly uninspiring spirit of a rando warrior (Dallas Goldtooth). The couple from Ghosts would probably agree. — A.H.
Best Series About a Methodical Serial Killer Who Thinks He Only Kills Bad People and Now Obsesses About Fatherhood: You
Netflix’s You lacks the originality to ever equal vintage Dexter. That said, Showtime’s own Dexter revival had the bad timing to arrive just weeks after the third season of You did a far superior job of exploring just how hard it can be to balance wanton homicide, fatherhood and florid internal monologues. — D.F.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day