Hannah Waddingham and Juno Temple as Rebecca and Keeley on "Ted Lasso."
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21 shows that got me through 2021

Why can’t there be a 2021 wrapped for the shows we watch? Brianna Taggart revisits the ones that helped her get through the year while gearing up for her first binges of 2022.

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I cannot tell you how much I wish we had a “Spotify Wrapped” for TV streaming services.

What show did I binge watch the quickest? What series did I rewatch the most? What genre did I hyperfixate on more than the others? How many episodes did I watch?


These are all questions that plague my mind, especially looking back at my nostalgia-filled rearview end-of-the-year mirror.

So, if Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV+, Paramount TV+, HBO Max and Disney+ won’t do it for me, I’ll just have to do it myself.

I posted a “20 shows that got me through 2020” article last year to revisit the stories that abetted my escape. It was calming to look back on all the characters that helped me get through the first year of a pandemic.

Now, it’s time to look back on characters and stories that helped me get through the second year of a pandemic.

Here are 21 shows that got me through 2021:

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Image by Netflix

Available on Netflix

I started the year with characters I’ve loved since I was a child (and a rebooted storyline I’ve loved since the first season came out in 2018 on Netflix). 

It’s fun starting new shows, but there’s often comfort with getting to watch something you already know you love. That’s what I got to do when the final season of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” came out at the tail-end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 (it literally came out on New Year’s Eve).


Overall, I thought the final season seemed rushed, but at least my favorite ship ended up together.


Fate: The Winx Saga

Image by Netflix

Available on Netflix

I was really in a “teens learning their powers at a magical boarding school” mood at the beginning of the year, huh?

This live-adaptation of Nickelodeon’s “Winx Club” (2004) follows Bloom as she adjusts to life in a magical world hidden from humans called the Otherworld. She tackles her newfound powers while taking a look at the past that brought her there.

This was a fun show to watch last January, and it was an interesting take as a reboot for an animated children’s show. While it didn’t receive the greatest reviews around, I thought it was a fun show to watch and gave me all the teen drama I could want.


Ted Lasso

Image by Apple TV+

Available on Apple TV+

My TV watching habits were kicked to a brand new genre for me after that. I went from magical boarding schools to a sitcom about a football-turned-soccer coach in London (I guess that phrase should actually be American football-turned-English football coach, huh?).

“Ted Lasso” is about an American football coach, Ted Lasso, moving to London to coach a team in the English Premier League with his assistant coach Beard. While Ted works on bringing the losing team together through optimism, his boss Rebecca works behind the scenes to try and bring Ted down. 


I was really taken by surprise. “Ted Lasso” almost instantly became my top comfort show. There’s so much to love with this series. It dives into complex characters, mental health, strong communication skills, love, loss and rediscovering ourselves all under a beautiful, cheerful blanket.


Sanditon

MASTERPIECE Sanditon Episode Five Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020; 9:00 – 10:00pm ET Desperate for unpaid wages, Young Stringer threatens a worker boycott of the annual cricket match with Sanditon’s gentlemen. Even Charlotte joins the game as simmering tensions boil over.. Shown from left to right: Charlotte Heywood (ROSE WILLIAMS) and Sidney Parker 9THEO JAMES) For editorial use only.

Available on ITV or PBS Masterpiece

I kept up with the British vibe but went back in time to the Regency Era with “Sanditon” later in January.

“Sanditon” is based off of Jane Austen’s final, unfinished novel by the same name. Charlotte Heywood, a bright young woman, moves from her rural town to a new, bustling city with the family who has been working on expanding it. She even starts to find love with the family’s Sidney Parker.

I binge-watched this entire first season in one night, and one word comes to mind when I think back on it: frustration. While I was completely happy to see Theo James rocking a top hat as Sidney, it seemed as though that love I had for it was doomed to begin with. Just as the novel was left unfinished, the show faced a similar fate. It was canceled. 

Then, through sheer dedication from the fans, it was miraculously renewed. Unfortunately, James, who played the male lead and love interest, has chosen to not reprise his role (so much for the pillow I bought with his character’s face on it). 

Fans are still hopeful Sidney Parker’s character will be recast. I’m hesitant but intrigued to see where Charlotte’s storyline goes from here.


Search Party

Image by HBO Max

Available on HBO Max

I hopped into a brand new genre from there — comedic modern mystery thrillers — and I never want to go back to a time before.

“Search Party” follows four friends as they become ensnared in an ominous mystery when a past college acquaintance goes missing.

Each season focuses on a new tone, constantly bringing this dark comedy to a new level. It’s hilarious, terrifying, complex and somehow very relatable. “Search Party” is a fabulous take on how people try to find their own purpose by attaching themselves to someone else’s narrative.

I’m obsessed. This easily became one of my favorite shows, and I don’t have to worry about it getting canceled mid-story, because the final season premieres Jan. 7, 2022 (that doesn’t happen very often for me *smiles with a tear in my eye*).


On My Block

Image by Netflix

Available on Netflix

My passion for fun mysteries didn’t let up! I scoured for more shows like “Search Party” and landed on “On My Block.” It’s like if “Search Party” had high school characters, less death and more gangs. It also has a “Goonies” vibe.

It follows four childhood friends as they navigate high school, crushes, loss, looking for treasure and trying to get their best friend out of a gang. 

“On My Block” went against all my expectations. The unique, wacky plot goes hand-and-hand with the harder topics like murder and kidnapping, and it works. This series also got all of its seasons, so yay for another not-canceled show!


Ginny & Georgia

Image by Netflix

Available on Netflix

Like many people this year, I watched “Ginny & Georgia” when it came out in February.

It starts out feeling like “Gilmore Girls” with 31-year-old mother Georgia, 15-year-old daughter Ginny, and Ginny’s brother moving to a new town – all with the similar, fun mother/daughter dynamic from “Gilmore Girls.” Both characters navigate new relationships in their new town, but not everything is as it seems. Georgia has a history she’s on the run from and it might just catch up to them before they know it.

OK, this show has been controversial. It handled racism very strangely, and it’s clear the white showrunner didn’t do her research. It’s cringey and poorly done. I feel bad saying how quickly I watched it and how entertained I was. “Ginny & Georgia” is definitely a guilty pleasure, and I hope season two does a better job. On the plus side, I was introduced to actor Felix Mallard in this series who played my favorite character Marcus Baker.


Locke & Key

Image by Netflix

Available on Netflix

I find it genuinely funny that I started “Locke & Key” because I heard Felix Mallard was in it just for him to hardly appear at all (he’s maybe in it for five to 10 minutes in the first season). Sometimes things just work out though. I had a great time watching this modern, teen fantasy show.

After their father is murdered, the three Locke siblings and their mother move into their ancestral home, Keyhouse, which they discover is full of magical keys that may be connected to their father’s mysterious death. As the Locke children explore the different keys and their powers, a demon awakens and will stop at nothing to steal them.

Shows like this can easily become cheesy and cringey, but it did a great job at avoiding that. The acting is great, and it has a really moving storyline based on the backstory that’s created. Overall, I’m a big fan and it’s renewed for a third season.

For more information on season two’s events, check out my interview with Jackie Veda actor Genevieve Kang here.  


Men in Kilts

Image by Starz

Available on Starz

February was also all about “Men in Kilts” starring Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish.

This road trip series follows “Outlander” actors Heughan and McTavish as they road trip around Scotland trying foods, activities and seeing the sites.

As an “Outlander” fan, I obviously had to watch it.

I vividly remember curling up on my couch with homemade pizza and a glass of Heughan’s “Sassenach” whisky on Valentine’s Day to start watching this. It was the perfect evening. Sometimes you just want a funny travel show to watch. There’s no heart-racing plots or emotional character moments. It was a joy. I also traveled through the Scottish Highlands in 2019, so it was fun to keep my eyes peeled for similar landscapes and landmarks.

Big fan.


Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Image by NBC

Available on the Roku Channel

Whoohoo, we’re at the only series that appears on both my 2020 and 2021 TV show lists. Felix Mallard also appeared in the new season. Sometimes we just win without trying.

“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” is centered around Zoey Clark’s life as she gains the power of being able to hear people’s “heart songs” through musical numbers only she can witness. All of the songs express those people’s thoughts/feelings. All while this is happening, she’s also dealing with her career, love, loss and grief.

This is one of the most powerful shows I’ve ever seen. It’s probably the best show I’ve ever seen. So of course it had to be canceled since it’s one of my all-time favorites. The best ones almost always do (I’m also looking at you, “Julie and the Phantoms”). 

The season two finale in 2021 was captivating. I haven’t been that mesmerized by a finale in a long time and this joins my list of favorites alongside “The 100” season four, “The Vampire Diaries” season two and “Game of Thrones” season five. I was on the edge of my seat, tears streaming down my face, needing to know what was going to happen next.

Unfortunately, it got canceled right after that. Hope wasn’t completely lost though. Fans rallied until the Roku Channel picked it up for a holiday themed conclusion movie, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas.” It was a fabulous homage to the characters and fans, but people are still hopeful for season three.


The Circle

Image by Netflix

Available on Netflix

Circle, press play on my favorite reality game show. Red heart emoji. Explosion emoji. Laughing face emoji.

“The Circle” is a Netflix social media reality game show. Each player gets to create their own social media profile — sometimes they play themselves and other times they catfish. The players interact with each other through the profiles they created and rank each other. The top two players become “influencers” and get to vote someone out. Then, a new player is added the next day. They also get their own snazzy apartment to live in. This, along with other hijinks the Circle comes up with, continues until the remaining players rank for the final influencer.

I originally watched the first season when it came out in 2020 and enjoyed it. The second and third seasons in 2021 brought this show to a whole new level for me though. I love it, and I’m not-so-patiently waiting for the next season.


The Irregulars

Image by Netflix

Available on Netflix

We’re at the point in the year where I really started to get into fantasy. “The Irregulars” kept popping up on my Netflix, so I had to give it a try. I’m glad I did.

It’s set in Victorian London and follows a group of troubled street teens who get manipulated into solving crimes for the sinister Doctor Watson and his mysterious street partner. Fantastical elements start to arise from these crimes.

This show brought together some of my favorite things: Sherlock Holmes, Victorian London, fantasy and teen drama.

I really liked it. Before this, I forgot just how much I love these types of stories, especially ones set in this time period. Fans even received good news! It has been renewed for a second season.


Shadow & Bone

Image by Netflix

Available on Netflix

My mind was stuck on fantastical teen shows with cool costumes after “The Irregulars,” and I hit the kruge jackpot when the book-to-TV show adaptation for “Shadow & Bone” by Leigh Bardugo hit the Netflix screen last spring.

“Shadow & Bone” centers on a group of teens in a fantasy world where people called Grisha have unique powers. Set in a world where the country has been divided by a dark force called The Fold, Alina Starkov accidentally discovers she has the powers that legend has foretold to solve it. The series also acts as a prequel for the fellow Grishaverse series “Six of Crows” as those characters are woven through the storyline.

I’ve always had hyperfixations, but “Shadow & Bone” was the turning point in the year for me.

I had the same feeling watching it as I did when I saw “The Hunger Games” in the movie theater for the first time. I was hooked. As soon as the first episode faded to black, I knew there was no going back for me. When I finished my binge watch the next day, I immediately ordered the books. I read the entire trilogy in a week (I had been in a reading slump for years). Then I read the “Six of Crows” series over a couple weeks. Fabulous.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since, and my excitement for season two knows no bounds. Ben Barnes is also a plus.


Cruel Summer

Image by Freeform

Available on Hulu

I took a break from my hyperfixation to watch “Cruel Summer” on Freeform, and it did not disappoint.

“Cruel Summer” takes place during three summers in the ‘90s following the storylines of two girls. Throughout the season, we get to piece together what led up to one of them getting kidnapped by their teacher, the aftermath of it and just how the other girl may be involved. 

It was reeling. “Cruel Summer” used the time jumps perfectly, and I cannot imagine the story shown any other way. The entire thing was eerie and dark but still showed bright spots amongst the characters. It also concluded wonderfully.


Young Royals

Image by Netflix

Available on Netflix

I love foreign teen romance shows, so of course I had to watch “Young Royals” when it premiered on Netflix in July.

“Young Royals” is a Swedish teen drama set at an elite boarding school. The story focuses on Prince Wilheim of Sweden’s budding gay romance with a fellow student. The series also explores the drama and fallout from it.

This is a fabulous series, and everyone looking for teen drama should watch it. It’s very well done with beautifully complex characters. It was also renewed for another season.


Panic

Image by Amazon Prime Video

Available on Amazon Prime Video

I was on the hunt for more teen dramas after “Young Royals” and somehow “Panic” on Amazon Prime Video initially escaped me. I made sure to change that though.

“Panic” is a book-to-movie adaptation of Lauren Oliver’s book of the same name. Set in a small town, high school graduates can choose to participate in the annual Panic competition to win a $50,000 cash prize the summer after senior year. After the rules start to change in this dangerous “truth or dare” type game, they have to decide for themselves whether or not the risk is worth it. 

Olivia Welch was one of the main reasons I had to watch it. Welch played the main character Heather Nill in “Panic” but she also played Samantha Fraser in Netflix’s “Fear Street” movies. Also, if there was anything I learned about myself this year, I can’t say no to shows that feature dangerous games.


Survivor

Image by CBS

Available on CBS All Access and Paramount TV+

Give me all the shows with games! “Survivor” was always a classic in my family growing up. While I slowly stopped watching it over the past few years, I was immediately wrapped back up in it this year.

“Survivor” is a reality game show that puts its contestants into tribes on an island somewhere. They have to build their own shelters and make their own food while dealing with Earth’s elements. Throughout this, they compete in challenges to win “immunity” and losing tribes have to vote someone off. When the tribes become smaller, they merge and have to compete solo. The players voted off during the merge become the “tribal council” and get to vote for the winner when there are three players left.

Season 41 really felt like a reset. There was more diversity than ever before and the stakes were higher than before. New advantages were thrown into the game, adding more risks to the contestants’ gameplay than ever before. I couldn’t look away. This show dominated my Wednesday nights, and I’m excited to see what season 42 looks like.


Squid Game

Image courtesy Netflix

Available on Netflix

I saved the most dangerous game show on my watchlist for later in the year, and holy smokes I’m glad I did. Nothing compares to “Squid Game.”

“Squid Game” is a North Korean drama where hundreds of people in desperate need of cash accept an invitation to play children’s games for money. The games quickly turn deadly as they maneuver the rounds. Only one player can win.

I never thought I’d be so invested in a game of tug of war. This was probably one of the darkest shows I’ve ever seen. It really shows how capitalism can ruin people’s lives and what they’re willing to put themselves through to have just the barest glimmer of hope.


You

Image by Netflix

Available on Netflix

Hello, you, one of my favorite guilty pleasures. I’m glad you were back with another, mysterious season. Oh how you always keep me on my toes, anxiously pressing play on each new episode. You just don’t know the effect you have on me.

OK I slightly regret that intro I just wrote about Netflix’s “You.” No one does a creepy inner monologue like Penn Badgley.

The series is centered around Joe Golberg’s (Badgley) obsession with certain women and the extremes he’ll go to in order to have a relationship with them. Season three was mind bending as it focused on his wife Love’s obsessions too. I couldn’t look away, and I just had to wait for Taylor Swift’s “Exile” to play in the finale. I’m never going to listen to that song the same again (*cringes over cut off toes*).


The Sex Lives of College Girls

Image by HBO Max

Available on HBO Max

“You” left me feeling rattled, so I was more than excited to settle into a fun college show.

“The Sex Lives of College Girls” is a young adult drama following four first-year roommates as they navigate this new transition in their lives while getting more comfortable about their sexualities. Mindy Kaling produces it, so audiences can expect humor and relatable characters.

I love the characters Kaling has helped come to life on the screen (“Never Have I Ever” on Netflix is another love of mine). Her comedy blends seamlessly with the real-world situations the cast faces in the series. With a title like “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” I was expecting a guilty pleasure, but I got a genuinely strong story instead. There’s nothing to feel guilty about watching this new show. 

I also kind of love that I started the year watching Gavin Leatherwood on “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” and got to end the year watching him on this show. Everyone go watch it. 


Selling Sunset

Image by Netflix

Available on Netflix

I started running out of shows to watch as 2021 began coming to a close. For some reason reality shows are my go-to when I need something to watch, and Netflix’s “Selling Sunset” was the winner.

“Selling Sunset” is about realtors at the Oppenheim Group in the Los Angeles area. Audiences get to watch them sell multi-million dollar homes, but the group’s dramatics are always at the forefront. 

I’m not going to lie. It’s fun watching these types of shows, taking sides in their drama. I love it. Season five cannot come fast enough.


Brianna Taggart

Brianna Taggart gets way too emotionally invested in TV shows and loves to bring her love of stories and writing to her work in journalism. She has two degrees in journalism and communication from the University of Minnesota Duluth and works full time at a weekly newspaper in Minnesota. When she’s not covering community news, she’s covering entertainment for Bri’s Binge right here on the Daily Planet.

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