The first month of 2021 has already given us predictably fantastic shows like WandaVision and surprise hits like Lupin, but this year is only getting started. The 2021 TV lineup is brimming with big names and even bigger IPs, from buzzy adaptations like Lord of the Rings to star-studded limited series like Impeachment: American Crime Story to a new horror series from the creator of The Haunting.
Of course, due to ongoing production delays amid the coronavirus pandemic, we know better than to assume everything currently slated for a 2021 release will actually air this year. But while nothing is for certain anymore, we still feel fairly confident in saying that there will be a slew of exciting new shows to watch in 2021 — some of which even have premiere dates! And sure, these dates might get pushed and some shows on this list might eventually get bumped until 2022, but we’ve rounded up the 26 new shows we’re most excited to (hopefully) watch this year.
Premieres: Thursday, Feb. 11 at 10/9c
The sole broadcast show to make this list, Clarice is a psychological thriller focused on the life and work of Clarice Starling one year after the events of The Silence of the Lambs. Taking over the role made famous by Jodie Foster, Rebecca Breeds stars as the titular FBI agent, who gets recruited to the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program in 1993 by Attorney General Ruth Martin (Jayne Atkinson), the mother of the woman Clarice rescued from Buffalo Bill. Exploring Starling’s traumatic childhood, the ways she learns to navigate a male-dominated field, and the ongoing emotional fallout from her time with Hannibal Lecter, Clarice promises to be an intimate and gritty portrait of this iconic character.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Disney+)
Premieres: Friday, March 19
While 2020 was a year without a new MCU film or series, 2021 is overflowing with exciting Marvel content to stream. Following the success of WandaVision, Disney+ will debut its next MCU series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier this spring. With Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprising their roles of Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, respectively, the six-episode series finds the title duo teaming up to defeat the anarchist group the Flag-Smashers after Sam took up on the mantle of Captain America in Avengers: Endgame.
Shadow and Bone (Netflix)
Premieres: April TBD
This high-profile adaptation of the Grishaverse books will blend Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone trilogy and Six of Crows duology into one cohesive series. The fantasy drama follows a young soldier, Alina (Jessie Mei Li), who discovers a power that might be able to unite her world, which has been divided by a massive barrier of darkness filled with unheard of horrors. The cast also includes Ben Barnes as General Kirigan, Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker, Archie Renaux as Malyen Oretsev, Amita Suman as Inej, and Kit Young as Jesper Fahey.
Despite the fact that the MCU killed off Loki, the fan favorite is getting his own show. Well, technically the alternate version of the fan favorite who escaped with the Tesseract in Avengers: Endgame and therefore created a new timeline is getting his own show. Tom Hiddleston will reprise the role of Loki in this crime thriller, which will follow the trickster traveling through time, influencing historical events, and tangling with the Time Variance Authority, the organization in charge of keeping the timeline intact. Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Richard E. Grant also star.
Ms. Marvel (Disney+)
Premieres: Late 2021 TBD
Newcomer Iman Vellani will star as Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Muslim Pakistani-American who becomes the superhero Ms. Marvel after gaining shape-shifting powers. Prior to gaining her powers, Kamala idolized Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), even writing her own fanfic about her. So it makes sense that after the character makes her small-screen debut in late 2021, MCU fans will see Kamala again in Captain Marvel 2, which is slated for a 2022 release.
The Book of Boba Fett (Disney+)
Premieres: December TBD
The upcoming Star Wars series centers on Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), a character who was first introduced in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. Forty-one years later, the beloved bounty hunter is getting his own show following the adventures of Boba Fett and his partner, mercenary Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen). Details on the project remain scarce, but it is confirmed to be set within the timeline of The Mandalorian, which showed Boba Fett and Fennec Shand taking over Jabba’s former post in Tatooine in a Season 2 finale end-credits sequence.
One of the many reboots coming in 2021, Bel-Air is a dramatic new take on The Fresh Prince. The hour-long project is inspired by Morgan Cooper’s viral video, which reimagined the beloved ‘90s sitcom as a drama. Bel-Air, which has already been given a two-season order by Peacock, will take the same premise of The Fresh Prince but set the story in the present day and showcase a deeper dive into the conflicts, emotions, biases the young Philly transplant is faced with. Will Smith and original Fresh Prince producers Quincy Jones and Benny Medina will executive produce the series, with Cooper set to co-write the script, direct, and serve as a co-executive producer.
Colin in Black and White (Netflix)
Created by Colin Kaepernick and Ava DuVernay, this drama will chronicle the football player’s early life, exploring how the acts and experiences he had in high school led him to become the activist he is now. Jaden Michael will star as Kaepernick, with Mary-Louise Parker and Nick Offerman playing his parents. Kaepernick will also narrate the six-episode series.
Cowboy Bebop (Netflix)
The classic Japanese sci-fi franchise is getting a live-action adaptation at Netflix. Based on the 1997 manga, which spawned an immensely popular anime adaptation, Cowboy Bebop is a space western chronicling the adventures of a group of bounty hunters. John Cho leads the cast as bounty hunter Spike, with Mustafa Shakir as his partner Jet and Daniella Pineda as the con artist Faye. While American live-action adaptations of anime rarely succeed with critics or fans (we still shudder when we think of Netflix’s abysmal take on Death Note), we have faith that Cowboy Bebop will be the rare one that lives up to the hype.
This eight-episode limited series is based on Beth Macy’s best-selling book about the ongoing opioid crisis in America. The show, written by Danny Strong and directed by Barry Levinson, will present portraits of various people affected by the drug epidemic, from miners in Virginia to people working for Big Pharma. The project has lined up an impressive cast, featuring Michael Keaton, Michael Stuhlbarg, Kaitlyn Dever, Peter Sarsgaard, Rosario Dawson, Will Poulter, Phillipa Soo, Jake McDorman, and Ray McKinnon.
Dr. Death (Peacock)
Joshua Jackson will star as Dr. Christopher Duntsch, a charismatic neurosurgeon whose patients come to him for routine spinal surgeries but leave permanently maimed or dead. Based on the hit non-fiction podcast of the same name, this limited series will explore the sinister motivations of Dr. Duntsch, the quest of the two physicians (played Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater) who set out to stop him, and the ways that the system failed to protect patients from him at every turn.
The Dropout (Hulu)
Based on the hit ABC Radio podcast of the same name, The Dropout stars Kate McKinnon as disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. The limited series will document the rise and fall of Holmes and her healthcare company, which claimed to revolutionize blood testing with its machines but was later exposed as a complete fraud. The Dropout will serve as Emmy winner McKinnon’s first series regular role.
Foundation (Apple TV+)
This sprawling sci-fi epic, based on the novels by Isaac Asimov, follows a group of exiles who work to save humanity and rebuild civilization amid the fall of the Galactic Empire. Asimov’s books are some of the most influential sci-fi works of all time, so expectations are high for the series. But with Jared Harris and Lee Pace leading the cast, we already know the performances are going to be on point. And based on the first teaser, it looks like Foundation may have everything else it takes to do justice to Asimov's work too.
Gossip Girl (HBO Max)
Set in the same universe as the original Gossip Girl, this HBO Max series centers on a new group of elite private school teens whose every scandalous move is documented online. While Kristen Bell will return as narrator, creator Josh Schwartz has clarified that the mystery of Gossip Girl’s identity will not be a factor in the new drama, since social media has replaced the need for a singular anonymous blogger. At this time, no other original cast members have been confirmed to appear in the sequel series, but the new drama has rounded up an exciting lineup of fresh faces. Whitney Peak, Thomas Doherty, Tavi Genvinson, Jordan Alexander, Savannah Smith, Zión Moreno, Eli Brown, Emily Alind, and Evan Mock will star as the new crop of salacious Upper East Siders.
The hit video game franchise is getting its first live-action adaptation in this upcoming sci-fi series. Starring Pablo Schreiber as the super-soldier Master Chief, Halo will honor the video game canon while telling an original story about a 26th century war between humanity and an alien threat known as the Covenant. The cast also includes Jen Taylor as Cortana, Natascha McElhone as Dr. Catherine Halsey, Charlie Murphy as Makee, Bokeem Wodbine as Soren-066, and Shabana Azmi as Admiral Margaret Parangosky.
Impeachment: American Crime Story (FX)
At long last, the much anticipated and much delayed third installment of Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story franchise is nearly here. Coming three years after Versace aired, Impeachment will tackle the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal, with Lewinsky on board as a producer. As with all Murphy projects, you can expect an all-star cast in Impeachment, including Beanie Feldstein as Lewisnky, Clive Owen as Bill Clinton, Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp, Betty Gilpin as Ann Coulter, Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones, Taran Killam as Steve Jones, and Billy Eichner as Matt Drudge.
Inventing Anna (Netflix)
The reigning story of 2019’s Summer of Scam is getting the TV treatment we’ve all been waiting for. Shonda Rhimes created and produced this limited series about Anna Delvey, a con artist who embedded herself into the New York social scene by pretending to be a Russian heiress. Her fraud was eventually exposed, and in 2019 she was convicted of multiple counts of attempted grand larceny, theft of services, and larceny in the second degree. Julia Garner stars as Delvey, with Anna Chlumsky, Laverne Cox, Anders Holm, Katie Lowes, Jeff Perry, Jennifer Esposito, and Anna Deavere Smith rounding out the cast.
Lisey’s Story (Apple TV+)
Another year, another Stephen King adaptation. Not that we’re complaining, though. J.J. Abrams is behind this psychological horror-romance, which stars Julianne Moore as the widow of a famous novelist who begins uncovering repressed memories about him. In the process, she learns that he wasn't exactly who she had believed him to be. King will write all eight episodes of the series, which Pablo Larraín will direct.
Lord of the Rings (Amazon)
Despite how little we still know about the series, Amazon’s Lord of the Rings already has the most hype out of all the upcoming adaptations heading to TV this year. The series won’t be a retelling of events put on screen before, but rather explore new storylines that occur thousands of years before The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films. The streaming service is pouring an inconceivable amount of money into bringing J.R.R. Tolkein’s universe to the screen (reportedly more than $1 billion), and they’re filming the project in New Zealand, where Peter Jackson’s acclaimed movies were also shot. It really seems like Amazon is going all-out to ensure this show’s success, and we’re excited to see if they can deliver a series even half as good as the celebrated books and films.
Midnight Mass (Netflix)
While there’s no word yet on a possible third season of The Haunting, creator Mike Flanagan has a new horror series to terrify us this year. Midnight Mass is set on an isolated island, where the inhabitants begin experiencing unexplained and frightening omens after the arrival of a mysterious young priest. The sure-to-be spine-tingling supernatural series stars Zach Gilford, Kate Siegel, Henry Thomas, Annabeth Gish, Rahul Kohli, Hamish Linklater, Michael Trucco, and Alex Essoe.
Nine Perfect Strangers (Hulu)
We probably won’t be getting another season of Big Little Lies, but Nine Perfect Strangers may be the next best thing. The limited series reunites Nicole Kidman with BLL creator David E. Kelly, is based on a book by BLL author Liane Moriary, and promises to be yet another juicy look into the lives of people with secrets to keep. The project centers around nine people who attend a ten-day retreat at a boutique wellness resort run by the unorthodox director Masha (Kidman). In addition to Kidman, the cast includes Melissa McCarthy, Luke Evans, Michael Shannon, Manny Jacinto, Regina Hall. Bobby Cannavale, and Samara Weaving.
Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)
The most exciting thing about Only Murders in the Building has to be the cast. Not only does this upcoming comedy feature the beloved duo of Steve Martin and Martin Short, but it also stars Selena Gomez (!!!) and Nathan Lane (!!!). Based on that information alone, we already love it, but the premise is pretty fun too. The comedy centers around three true crime fans (Martin, Short, and Gomez) who work together to solve a murder that took place in their apartment building. We’re betting plenty of shenanigans ensue.
Based on Min Jin Lee’s best-selling novel, Pachinko explores the hopes and dreams of four generations of a Korean immigrant family in an epic international saga. Per Apple, the big-budget drama will “tell the story of war and peace, love and loss, triumph and reckoning” as the sweeping saga journeys across Korea, Japan, and America. The series will be told in Korean, Japanese, and English, and comes from The Terror’s Soo Hugh.
Reservation Dogs (FX)
Taika Waititi, who has already given us one of the best comedies on TV in What We Do in the Shadows, is bringing his magic touch to FX again. The in-demand filmmaker will executive produce and write Reservation Dogs alongside Sterlin Harjo, who also directed the pilot. Per FX, the half-hour series will follow “four Native teenagers in rural Oklahoma who spend their days committing crime… and fighting it.” The first image from the series features stars D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Devery Jacobs, Paulina Alexis, and Lane Factor suited up in a clear homage to Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, and we can’t wait to see more.
The Underground Railroad (Amazon)
Oscar winner Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is bound to be one of the most talked about shows of the year. Set in an alternate history where the underground railroad is an actual train that people used to escape slavery in the South, the show will follow the journey of a young woman, Cora (Thuso Mbedu), as she makes her bid for freedom. Jenkins directed every episode of the limited series, which also stars Chase W. Dillon, Aaron Pierre, and Joel Edgerton.
Y: The Last Man (FX on Hulu)
Three years after FX first ordered a pilot and several recastings and behind-the-scenes changes later, we will finally get to see the much delayed Y: The Last Man adaptation this year. The post-apocalyptic show, based on the comic book of the same name, is set in the aftermath of a cataclysmic event that decimates every mammal with a Y chromosome except one cisgender man and his pet monkey. Ben Schnetzer will star as the sole survivor Yorick Brown, with the cast including Diane Lane, Amber Tamblyn, and Marin Ireland, among others.
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