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How to Stream Variety’s 10 Best Shows of 2021

Ben Bowman

As we race to the end of 2021, it’s time for critics to unveil their year-end best-of lists. Judging by the lists of Variety's critics, it’s likely you missed some of the best TV of the year. Just three shows make both lists, so you have 17 excellent series to delve into. Here are the lists, with each critic’s favorite show listed first.

From Netflix to HBO Max, Hulu, Prime Video, and even Peacock, there’s something here for everyone to stream.

Caroline Framke's Top 10

  • High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America

    26 May 2021

    Black food is American food. Chef and writer Stephen Satterfield traces the delicious, moving throughlines from Africa to Texas in this docuseries.

    Framke describes her favorite show as “a gorgeous, wrenching series that recontextualizes how Black people have shaped American food throughout this country’s history.”

  • 地下鉄道 ~自由への旅路~

    13 May 2021
  • メディア王 ~華麗なる一族~

    3 June 2018
  • Reservation Dogs

    9 August 2021

    This comedy follows the exploits of four Indigenous teenagers in rural Oklahoma who steal, rob and save in order to get to the exotic, mysterious and faraway land of California.

  • The Other Two

    24 January 2019

    A former professional dancer, Brooke, and her brother, an aspiring actor, try to find their place in the world while wrestling with their feelings about their 13-year-old brother Chase’s sudden rise to internet fame.

  • Hacks

    13 May 2021

    Explore a dark mentorship that forms between Deborah Vance (Jean Smart), a legendary Las Vegas comedian, and an entitled, outcast 25-year-old (Hannah Einbinder).

  • Love Life

    27 May 2020

    A romantic comedy anthology series which follows a different protagonist each season on the journey from first love to last love, with each half-hour episode chronicling one of their relationships.

  • Saved by the Bell

    25 November 2020

    When California governor Zack Morris gets into hot water for closing too many low-income high schools, he proposes they send the affected students to the highest performing schools in the state – including Bayside High. The influx of new students gives the over privileged Bayside kids a much needed and hilarious dose of reality.

  • イエロージャケッツ

    14 November 2021
  • Top Chef

    8 March 2006

    An American reality competition show in which chefs compete against each other in culinary challenges and are judged by a panel of professional chefs and other notables from the food and wine industry with one or more contestants eliminated in each episode.

    Framke’s #10 pick was filmed entirely within a bubble to keep the contestants safe from COVID-19.

Daniel D'Addario's Top 10

  • The Investigation

    28 September 2020

    Copenhagen Police’s Homicide unit, headed by Jens Møller, tries to solve the murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall.

    D’Addario writes about his top pick, “This series lies in wait to be discovered by a new audience. You will not regret having watched it.”

  • メア・オブ・イーストタウン / ある殺人事件の真実

    18 April 2021

    A detective in a small Pennsylvania town (Kate Winslet) investigates a local murder while trying to keep her life from falling apart. The stellar cast features Jean Smart, David Denman, and Guy Pearce.

  • 地下鉄道 ~自由への旅路~

    13 May 2021

    This is one of three shows to make both critics’ lists.

  • Exterminate All the Brutes

    7 April 2021

    Hybrid docuseries offering an expansive exploration of the exploitative and genocidal aspects of European colonialism, from America to Africa, and its impact on society today.

  • Hacks

    13 May 2021
  • Philly D.A.

    20 April 2021

    A groundbreaking inside look at the long shot election and tumultuous first term of Larry Krasner, Philadelphia’s unapologetic District Attorney, and his experiment to upend the criminal justice system from the inside out.

  • メディア王 ~華麗なる一族~

    3 June 2018
  • POSE/ポーズ

    3 June 2018
  • Watch the Sound with Mark Ronson

    30 July 2021

    Oscar and Grammy Award-winning producer and artist Mark Ronson explores the intersection of technology and musical innovation with his heroes and fellow hitmakers—including Paul McCartney, DJ Premier, Charli XCX, Dave Grohl, and Questlove.

  • Framing Britney Spears

    5 February 2021

    Her rise was a global phenomenon. Her downfall was a cruel national sport. People close to Britney Spears and lawyers tied to her conservatorship now reassess her career as she battles her father in court over who should control her life.

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