(Photo by Hulu)
The Best TV of 2021
Updated January 3, 2022
The pandemic might’ve continued to affect the box office in 2021, but the year gave us a wealth of quality television, including a total of 21 rare 100% Certified Fresh seasons (all of which joined the stellar seasons of Rotten Tomatoes’ 100% Club). The grand total of Certified Fresh TV seasons in 2021 was 94, which is less than the nearly 130 of 2020, but impressive nonetheless.
The first (of many) Marvel Cinematic Universe TV series in the works for Disney+ also made an impressive splash when WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, and Hawkeye finally premiered. Marvel’s animated What If? also did well, with a Certified Fresh Tomatometer score that also lands it on this list.
In the end, Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building came out on top with the most reviews on its perfect score.
To be Certified Fresh, seasons must score at least 75% on the Tomatometer, with at least 20 critic reviews (five of those from Top Critics). Note: Shows retain their Certified Fresh status even if they fall below that threshold, as long as the scores stay at 70% or above.
Read Also: The Best Movies of 2021
To break any ties, seasons that have the same score are then ranked by the overall number of reviews (season only or season and episodic scores together where episodic reviews can be counted). Ties between seasons with the same score and the same number of reviews are broken by the average rating out of 10 found under “See Score Details” link beneath their Tomatometer scores on each season’s page.
Need more suggestions? Check out our comprehensive list of the best TV and streaming shows of 2020 — there are a whopping 129 Certified Fresh TV seasons on last year’s list.
Did your favorite shows of 2021 make our list of the best-reviewed TV of the year? Tell us about your picks in the comments!
Adjusted Score: 80104%
Critics Consensus: Twisty and thrilling, if a tad long, Losing Alice is an engaging psychological drama with style to spare.
Adjusted Score: 80103%
Critics Consensus: Big Shot struggles to find much new to say, but it boasts strong performances, a sweet disposition, and, with a little perseverance, could become a show worth rooting for.
Adjusted Score: 83262%
Critics Consensus: Black & White's clunky format fumbles the fundamentals of storytelling, but this hybrid series nonetheless scores a touchdown in conveying Colin Kaepernick's truth.
Adjusted Score: 84397%
Critics Consensus: It taps into some fairly regular plot points, but when it dares to defy expectations and focus on its charming young cast, The Irregulars hints at something truly special lingering beneath the surface.
Adjusted Score: 86938%
Critics Consensus: Anchored by powerful performances from Lena Waithe and Naomi Ackie, Moments in Love is undeniably slow TV, but patient viewers will be rewarded with a surprising and mature season that wears its cinematic inspirations on its sleeve.
Adjusted Score: 81993%
Critics Consensus: Though definitely not for all tastes, Brand New Cherry Flavor is a delightfully deranged trip anchored by another incredible performance from Rosa Salazar.
Adjusted Score: 89016%
Critics Consensus: Though Scenes from a Marriage's straightforward approach at times struggles to justify its existence, Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac's crackling chemistry and impressive performances are a sight to behold.
Adjusted Score: 89365%
Critics Consensus: Kevin Can F**K Himself's ambitious blend of genres don't always gel, but searing social commentary and a stellar performance from Annie Murphy make for an engaging watch.
Adjusted Score: 88690%
Critics Consensus: Allen v. Farrow unearths new evidence in a well-known case to craft a compelling - if one-sided - indictment of society's complicity in upholding powerful people over seeking justice for those they've wronged.
Adjusted Score: 85687%
Critics Consensus: Though not all of its innovations pay off, The Investigation's deliberate focus on the aftermath of a heinous crime successfully eschews sensationalism while offering sobering insights into the harsh realities of seeking justice.
Adjusted Score: 87643%
Critics Consensus: While Exterminate All the Brutes perhaps packs a little too much into its limited runtime, it remains a powerful, necessary examination of the horrors of historical colonialism and its lingering impact on the world today.
Adjusted Score: 88587%
Critics Consensus: Harrowing and heartfelt, Dancing with the Devil at times trips over itself, but there's no denying the power of Demi Lovato's candid courage in facing their demons.
Adjusted Score: 94849%
Critics Consensus: The Chair is too short to achieve all of its ambitions, but spot-on observations about academia and a sturdy ensemble led by an empathetic -- and hilarious -- performance from Sandra Oh ensure it's never less than watchable.
Adjusted Score: 87832%
Critics Consensus: Cush Jumbo and Jared Harris make for thrilling combatants in The Beast Must Die, a coiled potboiler that excels with deft performances and rich atmosphere.
Adjusted Score: 99223%
Critics Consensus: An ambitious meditation on grief and faith that is as gorgeous as it is unsettling, Midnight Mass's slow boil is a triumph of terror that will leave viewers shaking - and thinking - long after the credits roll.
Adjusted Score: 85238%
Critics Consensus: Bloodlands at times threatens to buckle under the weight of its heavy load, but thrilling twists and incredible performances hold steady to create an engaging, challenging viewing experience.
Adjusted Score: 91262%
Critics Consensus: Game Changers doesn't quite flip the puck, but it has enough heart and good humor to make The Mighty Ducks proud.
Adjusted Score: 97714%
Critics Consensus: Dopesick at times sinks under the weight of its subject matter, but strong performances from Michael Keaton and Kaitlyn Dever and an empathetic approach to the very real people impacted by the opioid crisis make for harrowing drama.
Adjusted Score: 90508%
Critics Consensus: Servant's second season serves up a solid - if not always convincing - set of thrills with a better grasp on its dark humor.
Adjusted Score: 89992%
Critics Consensus: Though its tendency toward too-muchness may test some viewers' patience, slick stop-motion, a killer voice cast, and a seemingly endless well of jokes make M.O.D.O.K. an entertainingly chaotic diversion.
Adjusted Score: 90936%
Critics Consensus: Though it may be a bit too grounded for some viewers, Superman & Lois draws strength from unexpected places - without skimping on the action -- to carve its own path in a crowded superhero universe.
Adjusted Score: 94016%
Critics Consensus: Though it's not always as clever as it fancies itself, The Pursuit of Love's spot-on casting and stylish proceedings prove a delicious enough diversion.
Adjusted Score: 98929%
Critics Consensus: From gorgeous costumes to impressive -- if intimidating -- world-building, Shadow and Bone is an exciting adventure for fans and newcomers alike.
Adjusted Score: 98661%
Critics Consensus: Schmigadoon!'s clever inside-theater jokes may not be for everyone, but there's no denying the joy of seeing this talented ensemble sing (and dance!) their hearts out.
Adjusted Score: 88127%
Critics Consensus: Packed with blockbuster action and deft character beats, Falcon and the Winter Soldier proves itself worthy of Captain America's legacy with its globetrotting intrigue, mature social commentary, and the sparky rapport between stars Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan.
Adjusted Score: 101953%
Critics Consensus: Though its true intentions can get a bit murky, gorgeous vistas, twisty drama, and a pitch perfect cast make The White Lotus a compelling - if uncomfortable - viewing destination.
Adjusted Score: 93183%
Critics Consensus: Thorough and thoughtful, Hemingway's honest approach to its complicated subject avoids hagiography without diminishing the impact of his words.
Adjusted Score: 94318%
Critics Consensus: Anchored by a winsome ensemble, Young Rock is an endearing peek behind the curtain of both Dwayne Johnson's childhood and the wild world of wrestling.
Adjusted Score: 96016%
Critics Consensus: By pairing its emotional punches with stronger humor, Cobra Kai's third season finds itself in fine fighting form.
Adjusted Score: 94508%
Critics Consensus: Though it keeps viewers in the waiting room a little too long, Dr. Death is a horrifying tale of medical malpractice centered around Joshua Jackson's sufficiently unsettling performance.
Adjusted Score: 94587%
Critics Consensus: A bloody good time that benefits greatly from Brad Dourif's return, Chucky may not play well for non-fans, but franchise devotees will find its absurd humor and creative horror very much intact on the small screen.
Adjusted Score: 94316%
Critics Consensus: Woodstock 99 documents the notorious music festival like an unraveling horror film to visceral effect, presenting a flashpoint in cultural nadir while suggesting that it was also a sign of troubles to come.
Unfolding over three blazing hot days and nights of nonstop performances and heaving mosh pits, a July 1999 music festival... [More]
Adjusted Score: 94453%
Critics Consensus: If Pretend It's a City can't quite live up to its central duo's creative clout, it's still a delight to see their love for their city - and one another -- in full bloom.
Adjusted Score: 116848%
Critics Consensus: Part loving homage to TV history, part off-kilter mystery, WandaVision is a wonderfully weird and strikingly bold step into the small screen for the MCU - and a perfect showcase for Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany.
Adjusted Score: 94508%
Critics Consensus: Under director Garrett Bradley's thoughtful eye, Naomi Osaka is a nuanced, moving portrait of a young athlete learning how to navigate life on and off the court.
Adjusted Score: 96127%
Critics Consensus: Though it takes a few episodes to find its footing, a winsome ensemble, witty writing, and a willingness to engage with complex issues facing Indigenous peoples in modern America make Rutherford Falls a place worth visiting.
Adjusted Score: 97395%
Critics Consensus: As enigmatic as the cryptic itself, Sasquatch spins an intoxicatingly elusive yarn that will keep viewers searching even after the series ends.
Adjusted Score: 109080%
Critics Consensus: A delightful diversion from the MCU as we know it, Loki successfully sees star Tom Hiddleston leap from beloved villain to endearing antihero -- with a little help from Owen Wilson -- in a series that's as off-kilter, charming, and vaguely dangerous as the demigod himself.
Adjusted Score: 99611%
Critics Consensus: Maid takes great care with its sensitive subject matter to craft a drama that is not always easy to watch, but undeniably powerful, grounded by an outstanding performance by Margaret Qualley.
Adjusted Score: 104468%
Critics Consensus: What If...? may not add much to the larger MCU narrative, but surprising takes on beloved characters and some of the best action sequences in the entire franchise make for engaging viewing.
Adjusted Score: 97453%
Critics Consensus: Though it may have a bit too much going on, Cruel Summer's delicious twists and delightful turns from its young stars are never less than entertaining.
Adjusted Score: 96333%
Critics Consensus: Resident Alien takes a minute to settle into its skin, but once it does it finds fresh humor in a familiar framework and proves a perfect showcase for Alan Tudyk's singular comedic skills.
Adjusted Score: 97857%
Critics Consensus: Though Never Have I Ever's sophomore season at times suffers from tonal commitment issues, nuanced writing and an utterly charming cast make it easy to forgive and enjoy.
Adjusted Score: 99476%
Critics Consensus: Armed with an incredible voice cast, Revelation smartly updates Masters of the Universe while retaining the quirky charms of the original to create a show that's bound to please fans and newcomers alike.
Adjusted Score: 102365%
Critics Consensus: The Witcher's second season expands on its first in all the best ways -- and most importantly, it remains a whole lot of fun.
Adjusted Score: 101421%
Critics Consensus: Made for Love's satirical riffs on technology are undeniably clever, but the most valuable special effects in this twisty odyssey are Cristin Milioti's charisma and comedic timing.
Adjusted Score: 99961%
Critics Consensus: You takes its thrilling saga to the suburbs with superb results, made all the more delicious by Penn Badgley and Victoria Pedretti's committed performances.
Adjusted Score: 104119%
Critics Consensus: Squid Game's unflinching brutality is not for the faint of heart, but sharp social commentary and a surprisingly tender core will keep viewers glued to the screen - even if it's while watching between their fingers.
Adjusted Score: 107436%
Critics Consensus: With a superb ensemble and Barry Jenkins' singular eye, The Underground Railroad delicately translates its source material into a powerfully humane series that is as challenging as it is necessary.
Adjusted Score: 108460%
Critics Consensus: It may be too much of a good thing for some viewers, but The Beatles: Get Back offers a thrillingly immersive look at the band's creative process.
Adjusted Score: 96834%
Critics Consensus: A deliciously silly serving of edutainment, Waffles + Mochi is a delightful treat.
Adjusted Score: 98493%
Critics Consensus: Rick and Morty starts showing signs of fatigue with an uneven batch of adventures that are often more crude than clever, but a major shakeup to the status quo helps this season finish strong.
Adjusted Score: 111543%
Critics Consensus: Grounded by a career-best Kate Winslet, Mare of Easttown's ambitions at times exceed its reach, but its central mystery is supported by such strong sense of place and character it hardly matters.
Adjusted Score: 98373%
Critics Consensus: In Treatment returns with a solid fourth season that captures the spirit of the original while giving its new ensemble - led by an outstanding Uzo Aduba - plenty of room to shine.
Adjusted Score: 98372%
Critics Consensus: Sweetly nostalgic without sacrificing substance, The Wonder Years captures the magic of the original while adding necessary nuance and context to its tale of Black life in America.
Adjusted Score: 98509%
Critics Consensus: Stephen Amell and Alexander Ludwig sell hard in Heels, an impressive new drama that has compelling angles on both sides of the rope.
Adjusted Score: 98778%
Critics Consensus: Smart, sexy, and stylish, Lupin's highly bingeable second season is perfect summer viewing.
Adjusted Score: 102010%
Critics Consensus: Gorgeously animated and wildly creative, Visions is an eclectic, but wholly enjoyable collection of Star Wars stories that breathe new life into the galaxy.
Adjusted Score: 98435%
Critics Consensus: A deft blend of monster-of-the-week frights and low-key humor, Wellington Paranormal is a droll delight.
Adjusted Score: 100314%
Critics Consensus: Summoned by the devilish imagination of writer-director Yeon Sang-ho, Hellbound leverages its terrifying concept to thoughtfully explore human fallibility.
Adjusted Score: 99118%
Critics Consensus: With a winsome cast, picturesque setting, and plenty of heart, All Creatures Great and Smallis a gentle reminder that good drama can be as soothing as it is entertaining.
Adjusted Score: 100047%
Critics Consensus: While The Sex Lives of College Girls doesn't rewrite the syllabus for Anthropology 101, it succeeds gracefully as a warm-hearted romp on campus.
Adjusted Score: 100452%
Critics Consensus: Casual listeners' mileage may vary, but audiophiles and Beatles devotees will love seeing Sir Paul McCartney and producer Rick Rubin come together to talk shop.
Adjusted Score: 104556%
Critics Consensus: Station Eleven rewards patient viewers with an insightful and thematically rich assertion that -- even in the post-apocalypse -- the show must go on.
Adjusted Score: 103342%
Critics Consensus: Landscapers layers enigmatic style onto an already unbelievable true story with varying results, but Olivia Colman and David Thewlis ground the absurdity with outstanding performances.
Adjusted Score: 106254%
Critics Consensus: Emotionally engaging, superbly acted, and incredibly entertaining, Sweet Tooth will satisfy fantasy fans of all ages.
Adjusted Score: 106524%
Critics Consensus: Propelled by an exquisite cast, empathetic writing, and a distinct visual style, It's a Sin is an incredible feat of small-screen magic.
Adjusted Score: 109087%
Critics Consensus: Fans already buying what Sucession is selling will be pleasantly surprised to find its third season in crackling form - even if it gets a little too real from time to time.
Adjusted Score: 113730%
Critics Consensus: As comforting as a buttery biscuit from a friend, Ted Lasso's sophomore season is a feel-good triumph that plays into the show's strengths while giving its supporting team more time on the pitch.
Adjusted Score: 103611%
Critics Consensus: Smart, funny, and just nostalgic enough, Girls5eva's intelligent insights are brought to brilliant life by its talented quartet, whose individual gifts come together to make sweet comedic harmony.
Adjusted Score: 103476%
Critics Consensus: Omar Sy effortlessly hits every mark in Lupin, an engrossing espionage thriller that lives up to its source material and then some.
Adjusted Score: 105230%
Critics Consensus: Aimless afternoons yield absurd delights in Reservation Dogs, a low-key comedy that deftly captures the malaise of youth and Rez life thanks in no small part to its impressive central crew.
Adjusted Score: 108064%
Critics Consensus: With bold animation, bloody action, and an all-star cast led by the charming Steven Yeun, Invincible smartly adapts its source material without sacrificing its nuanced perspective on the price of superpowers.
Adjusted Score: 101699%
Critics Consensus: A celebration of art and life through the eyes of a delightful curmudgeon, Painting with John is a surprising, intimate feat of TV joy.
Adjusted Score: 101968%
Critics Consensus: Feel Good's second season is at once sharp and soft, a bittersweet examination of love and life that will leave viewers wanting more from Mae Martin ASAP.
Adjusted Score: 102103%
Critics Consensus: Time's heavy load can be challenging, but strong writing and a magnificent performance from Sean Bean make for an incredible, thought-provoking watch.
Adjusted Score: 102238%
Critics Consensus: For All Mankind's sophomore flight isn't without its hiccups, but compelling character work and a renewed sense of wonder make for thrilling viewing.
Adjusted Score: 102509%
Critics Consensus: An intoxicating blend of historical footage, candid interviews, and animation that deftly captures Liz Carmichael's incredible life, The Lady and the Dale is a wild ride.
Adjusted Score: 102237%
Critics Consensus: Authentically itself to the very last, Dickinson's final season delivers elegant closure like a well-structured stanza.
Adjusted Score: 102369%
Critics Consensus: With lurid twists, wild characters, and tons of spandex, LuLaRich is oh-so-good.
Adjusted Score: 102508%
Critics Consensus: The rare adaptation that exceeds its source material, Blindspotting deftly takes on complicated social constructs with comedic flair, crafting a show that's as funny as it is poignant while giving its incredible ensemble --- led by the captivating Jasmine Cephas Jones -- plenty of room to shine.
Adjusted Score: 102913%
Critics Consensus: Though it's entirely too short, Pose's final season is a joyously entertaining celebration of life that is not to be missed.
Adjusted Score: 102643%
Critics Consensus: With stronger writing and a never-better Hailee Steinfeld, Dickinson finds surer footing in its second season without losing any of its strange delights.
Adjusted Score: 99262%
Critics Consensus: Cobra Kai still delights in a fourth season that mines great fun from shifting alliances, chiefly the uneasy truce between Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso.
Adjusted Score: 103587%
Critics Consensus: The Great continues its revisionist reign stronger than before thanks to its addictive wit and marvelous cast -- huzzah!
Adjusted Score: 102778%
Critics Consensus: Carried on the wings of its cast's incredible chemistry and the strongest writing of the series so far, What We Do in the Shadows' third season is scary good.
Adjusted Score: 103048%
Critics Consensus: A triumph of sketch comedy, I Think You Should Leave's sophomore season dives deeper into Tim Robinson and Zach Kanin's strange minds with manically delightful results.
Adjusted Score: 103858%
Critics Consensus: Starstruck doesn't rewrite the rom-com datebook, but with a quick wit and a star-making turn from the dynamic Rose Matafeo it's easy to fall for anyway.
Adjusted Score: 103453%
Critics Consensus: It covers familiar ground, but with a feast of rare footage and a clear affection for its subject 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything is as edifying as it is entertaining.
Adjusted Score: 103318%
Critics Consensus: Smartly written, sharply performed, and sentimental without losing its sense of humor, Mythic Quest's stellar second season solidifies its place as one of TV's best workplace comedies.
Adjusted Score: 109254%
Critics Consensus: A genre mashup that blends smoothly, Yellowjackets presents an absorbing mystery with plenty of sting.
Adjusted Score: 105474%
Critics Consensus: Infectious energy, great songs, and a magnetic cast come together to make We Are Lady Parts a rocking comedy that is as subversive as it is hilarious.
Adjusted Score: 109119%
Critics Consensus: A prickling debut that pulls few punches, Hacks deftly balances its sharp critiques of the comedy world with more intimate moments, all the while giving the incomparable Jean Smart a role worthy of her talents -- and an excellent partner in Hannah Einbinder.
Adjusted Score: 113430%
Critics Consensus: Only Murders in the Building's silly approach to true crime obsessives is at once hilarious and insightful, thanks in large part to its extremely charming central trio.
Looking for more TV and movies to watch? Check out our guide to the best in streaming and TV, Binge Central.
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