The Biggest TV Shows To Watch In 2021
The entertainment industry may have ground to a halt in 2020, but there's plenty to look forward to in 2021 and beyond.
2020 was a year full of delays and postponements across most entertainment, and TV was no exception. It felt as though everything from superheroes to sci-fi was put on hold or shoved into the indefinite future thanks to production shutdowns and schedule shuffles. It's not all doom and gloom, however--with any luck, 2020's misfortune will make for a jam-packed 2021 with all the projects we were looking forward to watching this year settling into their new time slots in the near future.
Unfortunately, one of the byproducts of 2020's massive upheaval is a lot of "to be determined" premiere dates, even into next year. And while we'd love to give you some guarantee that everything on this list will absolutely, positively be hitting small screens in 2021, we're not oracles. That said, we've done our best to keep our ears to the ground and or eyes on the horizon in terms of tracking productions picking back up and filming progressing through the pandemic uncertainty. Rest assured, we're looking forward to shows like Lord of the Rings, Y, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier as much as you are.
The good news is that there are a handful of up-and-comers who have locked in their premiere dates, like WandaVision, the MCU's first streaming TV show, heading to Disney+ on January 15 and Cobra Kai Season 3, which is set to hit Netflix on January 8.
Check out those and more here in our breakdown of 2021's most anticipated shows to look forward to.
Cobra Kai Season 3
Netflix, January 8, 2021
The first two seasons of the Karate Kid spin-off Cobra Kai screened on YouTube Premium, but for Season 3, the show is moving over to Netflix. This is great news for fans of the continuing adventures of Daniel and Johnny, 30 years after the original hit ‘80s movies. And fans of the films who haven’t had the chance to see Seasons 1 and 2 will also be able to catch up on those on Netflix too.
Disney+, January 15
With The Falcon and the Winter Soldier delayed until next year, WandaVision will be the first MCU show to hit Disney+. We've known for some time that it wouldn't be a standard superhero show, and the recent trailer revealed just how strange it promises to be. Vision (Paul Bettany) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) are now living in suburbia, trying to maintain "normal" lives, and much of the trailer suggests this will be presented in a classic sitcom format. But as MCU fans know, Vision was killed in Infinity War--something the trailer alludes to--and things are definitely not what they seem.
Lord of the Rings
Amazon Prime Video, TBD
Peter Jackon's Lord of the Rings films elevated fantasy as a pop culture genre and cemented Tolkien's seminal series as essential for new generations. Those movies may be decades old, but they hold up just as well now, so it's a good thing that isn't a reboot or re-telling of the same story. Instead, it's set thousands of years earlier. The cast and talent involved are largely unproven, but then, so were the creators of HBO's Game of Thrones at one point, so we're looking forward to this one nonetheless.
The Wheel of Time
If Amazon's Lord of the Rings show is a disappointment, the streaming service will have a backup: the upcoming Wheel of Time adaptation. We don't know much about the series, an adaptation of Robert Jordan's 14-book fantasy epic. Last we heard, they were still . But we're hopeful we might see the show in 2021.
Avatar: The Last Airbender (live-action)
Netflix is working on a live-action adaptation of the beloved Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender. This isn't the first time such a thing has been attempted, but there's a good chance this will be better than the loathed 2010 movie (low bar, we know). That said, the cartoon's original creators recently. Time will tell, and we're hoping to see this show in 2021.
The Witcher Season 2
The Witcher was one of Netflix's most popular shows in 2019, and it's a no-brainer that the streaming service has a second season in the works. Showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich has said that , and that the story will be more linear than Season 1, which . There's also a spin-off on the way, , though we likely won't see that for a while yet.
Cassian Andor show
Rogue One's Cassian Andor may have met a tragic fate at the end of his debut movie, but that won't stop him from getting his . The untitled project is returning Diego Luna to the role of Cassian, the resistance spy who helped secure the plans for the original Death Star at the cost of his own life. Though not much is known about the show, it can be safely assumed to be set some time before the events of Rogue One, and is confirmed to be a spy thriller in tone and genre, in keeping with Andor's character. Alan Tyduk is returning to voice Cassian's droid pal K-2SO, and Genevieve O'Reilly is returning as Mon Mothma as well. A premiere date has yet to be announced for the project.
We learned in early 2020 that , and we're still hoping to see it in 2021. The show will relate in some way to the lauded 2019 Bong Joon-Ho film of the same name, though at the time of the series' announcement, it was unclear whether it's an English-language remake, a continuation of the movie's story, or something else.
The Expanse Season 6
Amazon, likely 2021
Amazon announced that before Season 5 had even begun streaming on the Prime Video service. We don't know much about it yet, as we'll have to wait and see what happens in Season 5. But given what a good home Amazon has been for the series (after ), we're expecting more greatness. If production goes smoothly and Amazon sticks to a consistent release schedule, we're expecting The Expanse to release in late 2021.
Cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter got his own TV show a few years ago, and now it's the turn of his Silence of the Lambs nemesis, FBI Agent Clarice Starling. Clarice stars Rebecca Breeds (Pretty Little Liars) in the title role, and the show is set six months after the events of Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal showed that there was plenty of mileage left in that character, so with any luck this new look at Starling should prove to be a successful new addition to the roster of great crime TV shows. It also stars Kal Penn (Designated Survivor), Michael Cudlitz (The Walking Dead), and Nick Sandow (Orange is the New Black).
Y: The Last Man is one of Vertigo's most beloved comic books. The series followed a man (Yorick) and his monkey (Ampersand), who were the last two males on the planet after a disease wiped out everything with a Y chromosome. Getting this comic adapted has been a bumpy ride, though. It was a TV show, then a movie, then a TV show once again. Most recently, Eliza Clark (The Killing) has taken over as showrunner, writer, and executive producer. Comic creators Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra spoke about the show at NYCC 2019 saying this will be the series comic fans deserve. Let's hope FX does this amazing comic justice.
AHS Season 10
It's almost nine years since the hugely popular anthology show American Horror Story premiered, and the series doesn't show signs of finishing any time soon. In January, it was renewed for another three seasons, and Season 10 will arrive this year. The only image we've seen from the new season so far is this poster, which suggests an aquatic horror theme. The cast this time includes Home Alone star Macauley Culkin, as well as Kathy Bates, Billie Lourd, Finn Wittrock, Lily Rabe, Adina Porter, Leslie Grossman, and Angelica Ross. And fans will be excited to learn that series favorites Sarah Paulson and Evan Peters are also returning.
I Think You Should Leave Season 2
Tim Robinson's sketch show I Think You Should Leave was bizarre, easily one of the weirdest sketch comedy series in years. Robinson's unique brand of humor is absurdist and pushes the envelope for how far it's willing to go to deliver its comedy. While we don't know a lot about the upcoming season, series co-creator Zach Kanin told Variety that The Lonely Island will be involved.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
CBS All-Access, TBD
For many viewers, the best thing about Star Trek Discovery Season 2 was the addition of Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike. Mount wasn't the first actor to play Pike, but his charming, charismatic performance made him an immediate fan favorite, and there were demands for him to get his own show almost as soon as that season ended. In May 2020, it was confirmed that this is happening, and Mount, Ethan Peck (as Spock), and Rebecca Romijn (as Number One) will return for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. The new show will be set a decade before the original Star Trek series, and will follow the trio on adventures around the galaxy in the Enterprise.
Falcon and Winter Soldier
Disney+ may not pump out the quantity of original content that Netflix does, but it does have the most-hyped shows and movies, primarily from the worlds of Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was set to debut in August 2020, but will now arrive in 2021. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan return to play their respective roles, and they'll be joined by Daniel Brühl reprising his role of Zemo from Captain America: Civil War.
Batwoman Season 2
The CW, TBD
There's a pretty big change in the second season of The CW's Batwoman. Ruby Rose played the hero in Season 1, but she has now quit the series and the role of Kate Kane wasn't recast. Instead, a new character is taking on the Batwoman mantle. Ryan Wilder has been created specifically for the show, and will be played by Javicia Leslie, best known for her roles on CBS's God Friended Me and BET's The Family Business. Wilder is described as "likable, messy, a little goofy and untamed," and while we won't know what villains or adventures she will get involved in, it's exciting to see what Leslie will bring to the role.
We got a first look at Hulu's upcoming Marvel TV show, MODOK, at 2020's New York Comic-Con, where we learned that it was going to be a Robot Chicken-like stop-motion animation extravaganza featuring one of the Marvel Universe's weirdest villains. MODOK is, essentially, a floating head with baby limbs whose only real mission is to prove his intellectual superiority while also ruling the world. In this show, however, he's also a family man--which is sure to make for some truly absurd hijinks for everyone involved. Currently MODOK has no release date on the schedule, but is set to hit Hulu some time in 2021.
Since the 1970's, Marvel 's "What If…?" comics series has theorized about what would happen if key events in Marvel history had turned out differently. What if the Avengers didn't exist? What if Captain America became President? What if Uncle Ben didn't die? Marvel will be applying this concept to the MCU in their upcoming animated series on Disney+ of the same name. Featuring vocal performances from the original film actors, "What If…" will feature cosmic historian The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) as the series' narrator. The first episode will ask: What if Peggy Carter took the Super Soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers? Sounds intriguing.
Thanos killed Loki in Avengers: Infinity War. But then, Avengers: Endgame gave the God of Mischief an out, when he stole the Tesseract after the Battle of New York and escaped custody. Tom Hiddleston will reprise his role as Loki, who exists in a new, alternate timeline that's unburdened by the events of Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok. Expect lots of Easter Eggs and additional subversions of established events.
Law & Order: Organized Crime
Originally scheduled for Fall 2020, the latest iteration of Law & Order is expected to debut later this year. Starring a returning Christopher Meloni as Elliot Stabler, who we haven't seen since Season 11 of Law & Order: SVU, the show will deal with Stabler's personal life and his new role as head of the NYPD's organized crime unit. In other words, it's Law & Order; some iteration of it has been on the air for the past three decades. You know what to expect at this point.
House of the Dragon
Has enough time passed since the Game of Thrones series finale for the public to embrace another Westeros adventure? We'll find out when House of the Dragon debuts on HBO. The show will trace the history of the Targaryen family--specifically, it'll focus on King Viserys I (Paddy Considine)--who ruled Westeros two centuries before the events of Game of Thrones--and his children, who fought for the throne in a bloody civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons. Unfortunately, we're not expecting to see it until 2022.
Cowboy Bebop (live-action)
There have been some really unfortunate live-action anime adaptations in recent years, from Ghost in the Shell to Death Note. However, we can't help but look forward to seeing a new take on one of our favorites, Cowboy Bebop. While as recently as November, there's no release date yet for Netflix's live-action adaptation, but we have high hopes that it might stream in 2021.