Monday, September 20, 2021
Sept. 20, 2021

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These are the best TV shows of 2021, so far

It’s likely you didn’t catch them all, but you still can


You might swear you spent the pandemic watching every worthwhile show. But I doubt it.

No matter how much you relied on television during the Great Isolation, it’s likely you missed something special. But thanks to streaming services, it’s not too late to catch up. Here are 10 shows, listed in alphabetical order, that stood out during the first half of 2021.

“Big Shot”: The reboot of “The Mighty Ducks” was supposed to be Disney’s big sports showcase, but this series about a scrappy girls’ basketball team took the title. Watching “Full House” heartthrob John Stamos transform from Bobby Knight into Mister Rogers in record time may induce dizziness, but the series has enough heart — and thrilling buzzer-beating shots — to keep you in the game. (Disney+)

“Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry”: Lots of today’s pop stars are using the documentary format simply to boost their public image. But R.J. Cutler’s film about the 19-year-old phenom is so much more. A 140-minute running time may seem excessive, but the veteran director uses every second to show how the Grammy winner handles — and mishandles — balancing the pressures of superstardom with the challenges of being a moody teenager. (Apple TV+)

“Chad”: Nasim Pedrad, underappreciated during her time on “Saturday Night Live,” came into her own in this brilliant sitcom, playing a 14-year-old boy with a serious lack of social skills. Like Michael Scott from “The Office,” he’s got a hunger to be loved, or at least be acknowledged in the hallway. He’s also just as hilarious. (TBS)

“Hacks”: Just when you thought shows about stand-up comics had become as stale as jokes about airline food, along comes this laugh-out-loud series about a Joan Rivers-like comic who reluctantly takes on an upstart writer to freshen up her Vegas act. Jean Smart is wonderful, as always, but give equal credit to her bantering partner Hannah Einbinder, daughter of “SNL” alum Laraine Newman. (HBO Max)

“Hemingway”: Another Ken Burns doc, another masterpiece. After poring over all three episodes about the author, you’re likely to be more impressed than ever with Ernest Hemingway the artist and less so with Hemingway the human. (PBS)

“Last Chance U: Basketball”: The sports series shifts from the gridiron to the hard court without missing a beat. This time around, the focus is on the East Los Angeles Huskies, a community college squad made up of players desperate to make it to the Big Show. You won’t need to be a hoops fanatic to get swept up in the drama. (Netflix)

“Mare of Easttown”: There’s plenty of logistical holes in this detective yarn, but Kate Winslet’s performance is so compelling that you’ll overlook its shortcomings. (HBO Max)

“Sweet Tooth”: There are plenty of series set in the apocalyptic future, but this one stands out by borrowing heavily from old tales like “Pinocchio” and “The Wizard of Oz.” (Netflix)

“Resident Alien”: This quirky Syfy drama, a mix of “The X-Files” and “Northern Exposure,” centers around an extraterrestrial (Alan Tudyk) masquerading as a doctor in a small Colorado town. There are lots of reasons to check it out, but the biggest draw is watching Tudyk’s character warm up to his human condition. (Peacock)

“We Are Lady Parts”: Tina Fey’s sitcom “Girls5eva” got a lot of well-deserved attention, but this British sitcom about another girls’ group is even better. Anjana Vasan is terrific as the introvert who sets aside her quest for a husband — and her stage fright — to play lead guitar in an all-Muslim punk band. The show’s original tunes rock almost as hard as its covers of “Nine to Five” and “Creep.” (Peacock)