Best American TV Shows

When part of the world opens up again, it is easy to feel overwhelmed with opportunities suddenly available to us, including on television. Last year television was, firstly, a coping mechanism, secondly, a distraction, and thirdly, an art; in 2021, our downtime may just be downtime. This spring, viewers had more opportunities to experience the dark saga of a Pennsylvania detective and her equally hectic hometown, or the surreal, grueling tale of a woman escaping slavery through the heart of America. And if you are looking for laughter, Tina Fey will help you, and Assane Diop took away our hearts and thoughts along with a certain necklace.

Just six and a half months a year, and so many great new series already that our critics found it difficult to narrow the list down to 10. Mythic Quest, We Are Lady Parts, It’s a Sin, The Investigation, WandaVision and Top Chef pandemic season are all great have handled their projects, from parodying the gaming industry to tracking the AIDS epidemic through a London group of friends. But our picks of the best TV series of 2021 so far stand out for how much they’ve managed to keep our attention. Television has to fight hard for our attention these days. Here are the TV shows that have held him back. -Alison Herman

10. Lupine

It’s hard to say which show will become an overnight sensation on Netflix — currently, tons of subscribers are infatuated with the mediocre, already canceled NBC series that is a shameless imitation of Lost. But perhaps the streamer’s sweetest surprise of the year has been French imports, offering a fresh take on the classic gentleman thief. Rather than revamping Maurice LeBlanc’s iconic 20th century Arsene Lupine for modern times, Netflix’s Lupine finds its protagonist, Assan Diop (Omar Cy), inspired in every sense of the word.

The deceiving charm of «Lupine,» Netflix’s latest hit show

Seeking revenge for his father’s unfair conviction and death, Assan carries out extravagant robberies throughout Paris in the mischievous style of his idol, resulting in several classic robberies in 10 episodes of the series (which were released in two parts). He only lacks a hat and a monocle, although he has a great collection of Nikes sneakers. But all of Assane’s tricks have also gotten a modern twist that doubles as social commentary. As a black man, Assan uses the racism and humiliation he faces to his advantage — stealing a diamond necklace from the Louvre by posing as a janitor is easier when no one pays attention to him. There is a risk that Lupine’s clever tricks will eventually lose their magic — let’s call it the «Assassin Eve» effect — but until then, the show remains as charming as its crafty protagonist. «-Miles Surrey

9. Starstruck

Every few years, it seems, an absurdly talented multi-genator makes himself a star with a homemade star car set in London. Phoebe Waller-Bridge did it with Crashing and Fleabag; Michaela Coel did it with Chewing Gum and I May Destroy You. Now there’s Rose Matafeo, the New Zealander whose criminally charming Starstruck took HBO Max by storm this spring. Matafeo writes and stars in the classic romantic comedy storyline that barely stretches into a six-part sitcom; Her heroine, wandering aimlessly, who divides her time between classic romantic professions like babysitting and flower delivery, has a one-night relationship with movie star Tom Kapoor (Nikesh Patel) and then spends a chaotic year dealing with the aftermath. Think of Notting Hill, but with an indie movie theater instead of a bookstore and a post-coital dance to Return of the Mack instead of Hugh Grant’s stuttering at a press conference. (Unrealistically beautiful apartments have remained the same.)

Best American TV Shows
A group of young male friends cheering and watching American football game on TV. They are sitting on a sofa in the modern living room. The TV set is on the loft brick wall. It is evening ouside the window.

In recent years, romantic comedies have had great success on television, stretching over several seasons, which allowed the creators to delve into the nuances of relationships. Starstruck proves you can make a star in just one season. Tom Kapoor is not the only one who can dazzle us with charisma. »

8. Search party

The most predictable aspect of the poignant satire on Millennials Search Party is its unpredictability. The series began as a Nancy Drew-style missing person mystery led by the wandering 20-year-old Brooklyn resident Dory (Aaliyah Shoukat), and it has continued to reinvent itself. The series willingly used elements of Hitchcock’s thrillers, court dramas, and in the fourth season — the horror of being held against your will in the spirit of Stephen King’s Misery.

The moment of reckoning comes in the «Search Party
During the search for the missing person, Dory was responsible for the death of two other people; she is now kidnapped by a self-proclaimed superfan (Cole Escola, giving out serious Norman Bates vibes) who wrote ravages her in a creepy styrofoam replica of her apartment. The impromptu prison forces Dory to face her guilt, narcissism, and self-destructive tendencies, culminating in a surreal finale in which every seasonal iteration of the character finds herself in a kind of purgatory. (Spoiler alert: The show has been renewed.) There is no doubt that the Search Party will continue to evolve in season 5, and that it will be both thematically rich and sarcastic. »

7. Girls 5 Eve

In just eight episodes of Girls5Eva, there are more jokes than most sitcoms in 22. This is Tina Fey’s promise, fulfilled here by Fay’s creator and longtime collaborator Meredith Scardino. (As a meta-graceful note, the show airs on Peacock, a streaming service that itself could be an excerpt from 30 Rock.) But the sheer number of monosyllabic lines also testifies to the potential in the idea: the girl group of the late 90s and early 80s is reuniting to give their career a second chance in middle age. The laughter doesn’t come at the expense of Girls5Eva themselves — at least most of them; The scene in which Vicky’s diva (Renee Elise Goldsberry) is too self-absorbed to notice that she hasn’t actually slept with her boyfriend she likes is slapstick in the best sense of the word. Instead, Girls5Eva takes aim at the ridiculous, sexist machine that surrounds women in the Top 40 world, creating a satire that combines giddy joy and seething frustration. Thanks to composer Jeff Richmond and female lead Sarah Bareils, the songs themselves — «New York Lonely Boy» and the theme song — are very good. But disgusting managers, infinity pool incidents and fake marriages with boy bands are too much. »

6. Mare from Easttown

«A Small Town Detective with Personal Demons Investigates a Grisly Murder» is a log line that can be applied to countless prestigious dramas, but the HBO miniseries Easttown Mare still brings something new — and I mean not just Delko’s heavy accent. The central puzzle may have been a hook and certainly kept viewers guessing until the (truly unexpected) killer was revealed in the finale. But Easttown Mare did better for portraying a grim yet vividly realized portrait of a community that had suffered long before poor Erin McMenamin was found dead in the river — a truth reflected in the city’s eternally grumpy detective sergeant and former high school star. basketball Mare Sheehan (superb Kate Winslet).

The motherly rumble of Easttown Mare

Despite the dark theme, some of Easttown Mare’s best moments were also the brightest: Mara Helen’s mother (Gene Smart) obsessed with playing Fruit Ninja during the Manhattan cocktail spill, Evan Peters playing the famous drunkard, and the bizarre presence Guy Pearce as the professor of creative writing who was widely considered a depraved assassin because he was played by Guy Pearce. (Alas, he just really enjoyed talking about a book he wrote.) In moments big and small, Mare made every detail feel as important as everyone else. It is already rumored that Mare will return for the second season, but we will not tempt fate: One murdur durdur is enough. -Surrey

5. Made for love

Poor Christine Milioti. She — or rather, her heroines — are constantly stuck in a metaphysical limb, usually because some dumb and / or creepy man put her there. After Palm Springs and USS Callister from Black Mirror, Milioti’s final act of escape was Made for Love, a satire on technology created by the twisted minds of novelist Alyssa Nutting and showrunner Christina Lee. Hazel Green (Milioti) is a chaos gremlin, married to control freak billionaire Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen, master of male insecurity). Somehow, their impulsive marriage lasted 10 years, perhaps because Byron quickly took Hazel to the Hub, a hermetically sealed bubble where there is no weather, no desires, or even smells. But when Hazel escapes from there, she sets off a chain of events that blur the fine line between obsession and the brutal need to abolish free will. The dangers of technology are already clear. Made for Love shows how our discomfort tools actually reinforce our personal flaws, be it self-doubt or a tendency to run away from problems. If only each of us had a dolphin named Zelda to help us get out of our prisons. »

The boring sci-fi satire «Made for Love» will implant itself in your brain.

4 the underground railway

The biggest criticism of Underground Railroad, the Pulitzer Prize-winning film adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s novel of the same name, has nothing to do with the miniseries content, but Amazon’s decision to release all 10 episodes at once. NSIt’s tempting to think how strongly the Underground Railroad debate could be sustained if the episodes were aired weekly — which would be more appropriate for a project of this magnitude and theme — the series remains an outstanding artistic achievement unparalleled.

Spirit of the Underground Railroad by Barry Jenkins
The show marked director Barry Jenkins’ transition from film to television, and his Underground Railroad footprint is unmistakable, from frequent camera holding ups to stunning scenery for every location (Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Indiana) along the way. the fugitive enslaved Kora (Suso Mbedu). The film «The Underground Railroad» is dedicated to a dark, still not eradicated spot in the history of this country, and in the hands of Jenkins, this material turns into a spectacular spectacle that tells not so much about suffering as about the immeasurable power of perseverance. »

3. District Attorney of Philadelphia.

This is another 2021 series about crime and justice in the Philadelphia area, but without the Oscar-winning actress in the title role, it is certainly more obscure. Philly D.A. is the latest in a series of works using the long narrative tail of television to explore the complexities of urban governance. Steve James ‘The City Is So Real traced the 2019 Chicago Mayors’ Race, in which the victorious Laurie Lightfoot ran as a pseudo-progressive candidate; Fred Wiseman’s film City Hall traced the day-to-day internal workings of Boston’s public services. The Philadelphia District Attorney has divided the difference between politics and governance. The first episode follows Larry Krasner’s rebel campaign as he tries to become a prosecutor and is deeply skeptical of the prosecution and the criminal justice system in general. The next seven episodes show what happens next: resistance to institutional change, difficulty keeping our promises, and conflicting views of what it means to do the right thing for the people of Philadelphia. Each hour is organized around a specific topic, from juvenile justice to probation. But directors Ted Passon, Yoni Brook and Nicole Salazar are consistent in their refusal to glamorize the dirty work of turning ideology into politics. The newly nominated Krasner is an interesting subject, a man with a mission, not afraid to ruffle feathers, for better or worse. It’s unclear if his approach is too confrontational for his own good, and the Philadelphia District Attorney is reluctant to answer simple answers.

2. For all mankind

When AppleTV + launched in November 2019, the most watched series was, unsurprisingly, The Morning Show: a drama with a stellar cast that seemed to have been crafted in a lab to win Emmy nominations. But the hidden gem of Apple’s early catalog was inexplicably a sci-fi epic of what it would have been like if the Russians had landed first on the moon and the 1960s space race never ended. (I know I’m a space nerd, but seriously, how can that sound not intriguing ?!) The first season of For All Humanity was by no means perfect, but the series created an alluring vista of familiar Cold War tension on the unfamiliar terrain of the lunar surface.

For All Humanity continues to make giant leaps in its second season
In the second season, which pushes back to 1983, For All Humanity more than lives up to its early promises. A new batch of episodes is a masterclass in serial narrative, in which a complex web of disparate storylines on Earth and the Moon come together in a thrilling finale that pushes two world powers to the brink of nuclear Armageddon. As pure popcorn entertainment, moon-centered war cannot be surpassed, but the reason For All Humanity resonates is because of the rich character arcs that follow astronauts, their families, astronauts, mission control workers, Ronald Reagan’s phone calls. NASA and so on, and give the action real emotional weight. All in all, season two is one small step toward making For All Humanity the next great drama. «-Surrey

1. Hacks

Okay Boomer: Maybe leaving for Las Vegas after a horrific divorce isn’t a sign of weakness, but of resilience. This is just one of the many lessons that disgraced TV writer Ava (Hannah Einbinder) is learning from her new boss, Joan Rivers, Lucille Ball, Elaine Mae and others named Deborah Vance (Gene Smart). Created by three Broad City alumni, Hacks wisely eschews the real stand-up that Deborah and Ava are starting to work on — we don’t even see Deborah’s climax in her new hour — in favor of the prickly, friendly dynamic that emerges between them. Personal and professional heartache evolved Deborah into a highly competent but somewhat callous machine; early success did not prepare Eva for any hard work, let alone a complete rethinking. But «Hacks» is not just a two-way move. It is also an exploration of the strange bubble that is forming around the rich and famous, from the workaholic businessman to the personal blackjack dealer and grown-up daughter. Gene Smart is the center of this hermetically sealed universe and is rightfully a contender for a post-pandemic Emmy. However, The Breaks is a discreet ensemble and a tribute to the fact that there is much more to a legend’s career than just one fabulous diva on stage.

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