It’s been a(nother) weird year thus far. But the TV has been excellent.
In fact, even though we can venture outside more these days, the top-notch television of 2021 has kept our couches as tempting as ever, thanks to addictive murder mysteries like HBO’s Mare of Easttown and one-sitting binges like Peacock’s Girls5eva.
Now that we’re halfway through the calendar year, we’re taking stock of the 20 best shows of 2021 so far, including freshmen gems like HBO Max’s Jean Smart vehicle Hacks, Netflix’s Grishaverse adaptation Shadow and Bone and Freeform’s ’90s-set thriller Cruel Summer.
But not every series on our list is brand-new to the TV landscape: We’re also recognizing returning shows like Apple TV+’s Dickinson, FX’s Snowfall and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which came back creatively stronger than ever for their most recent episodes. And we haven’t forgotten this year’s many terrific limited series, with breathtaking minis like Disney+’s WandaVision and Amazon’s The Underground Railroad included in our picks, as well.
Does our list of the year’s best TV (so far) match yours? If not, which new or returning series would you recognize? Scroll through the list below to see our 20 picks, then drop a comment with the shows you’ve loved in 2021.