January 24, 2022

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The Greatest TV Episodes of 2021

The Best TV Episodes of 2021

Tv right now is available in large parts, as anybody who spent seven-plus hours with the Beatles over Thanksgiving weekend can attest. However simply as a marathon jam session can yield a few tight singles, probably the most memorable TV continues to be typically the well-crafted particular person episode. As Mike Hale, Margaret Lyons and I finish one other 12 months’s binge as TV critics for The New York Occasions, listed below are just a few of the installments from 2021 that topped our private hit parades. JAMES PONIEWOZIK


Greater than 30 European actors — together with stars like Isabelle Huppert, Juliette Binoche and Jean Reno — have graciously and sometimes mercilessly lampooned themselves on this French dramedy, enjoying shoppers or potential shoppers or indignant former shoppers of the fictional expertise company ASK. On this Season 4 episode, an American stepped in, and Sigourney Weaver, talking greater than satisfactory French and enjoying herself as an totally charming manipulator, was flawless. (Streaming on Netflix.) MIKE HALE

Loads of kids’s reveals are cute however “Metropolis of Ghosts” can also be stunning, and its poetic wistfulness about Los Angeles can be at house on a premium cable drama. As an alternative it’s on this plucky, naturalistic cartoon about ghost-hunting children who’ve a podcast. I cherished each episode of this present. However I picked “Bob & Nancy” as a result of it’s a few marionette theater, and thus it toys with concepts of animating the inanimate — wealthy floor for a present in contact with the spirit realm. (Streaming on Netflix.) MARGARET LYONS

This teen kidnapping thriller took all of the hallmarks of prestige-y crime reveals — break up timelines, darkish lighting, tangential secrets and techniques — and repackaged them with a kicky ’90s YA flare. It was one of many juicy highlights of the summer time. However reveals like this are solely nearly as good as their finales, and “Merciless Summer time” managed the trick of each a contented ending and an exciting, darkish twist. (Streaming on Hulu.) MARGARET LYONS

Texting generally is a crutch for TV reveals, a manner to make use of pop-up bubbles to present characters phone-enabled telepathy. Not so on this playful, good half-hour, by which Dave Burd’s up-and-coming rapper made (and misplaced) a date with Doja Cat. As the 2 musicians courted with their thumbs, “Any person Date Me” confirmed how context and time can change the that means and studying of the smallest on-line (mis)communication. Thumbs-up emoji! (Streaming on Hulu.) JAMES PONIEWOZIK

Every season of this space-race different historical past is a multistage booster rocket. The slow-moving early episodes expend plenty of gasoline, constructing power and narrative power till the present reaches escape velocity. (My aerospace engineer readers, I encourage you to not fact-check my metaphors.) The white-knuckle Season 2 finale moved with the deftness of a docking maneuver, as a U.S.-Soviet battle on the moon and a threatened conflict on Earth required danger and sacrifice on two celestial our bodies and factors in between. (Streaming on Apple TV+.) JAMES PONIEWOZIK

The music and group of the Black church co-starred in two praiseworthy hours of TV. The Aretha Franklin bio-series peaked because it centered on the recording of the 1972 “Superb Grace” reside album at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, fusing the artist’s previous and current in a crucible of soul. In “Pose,” a grim analysis led Pray Inform (Billy Porter) again to his hometown and church group, each to confront the homophobia that drove him from it and provides voice to the music that sustained him. (Stream “Genius: Aretha” on Hulu; purchase “Pose” on Amazon.) JAMES PONIEWOZIK

This CW drama a few blind lady and her buddies, who run a rescue-dog company and get entangled in drug dealing and homicide, is not more than a serviceable thriller. However the rapport amongst its central characters, Murphy (Perry Mattfeld), Jess (Brooke Markham) and Felix (Morgan Krantz), has developed into one of many extra plausible and shifting portrayals of friendship on TV. When Murphy discovered herself stranded in an odd nation, the power of these ties was the muse of a taut and agonizing hour. (Streaming on Netflix.) MIKE HALE

Pressure and deception pump by the veins of this breakneck procedural a few British internal-affairs unit, and no present does cliffhangers higher. You can level to only about any episode; this one, with one of many heroes following a presumably soiled cop into an deserted industrial park as a result of that’s what the job known as for, was off the charts. (Streaming on BritBox.) MIKE HALE

In simply 13 minutes, this elegant quick a few big’s corpse that washes up on a seaside someday captures, in an ideal snapshot, humanity’s tendency to desecrate marvels, to behold a world-changing occasion and resolve merely to hold on. Based mostly on a brief story by J.G. Ballard, “The Drowned Big” is rendered right here in principally lifelike animation, with the enormous’s clean-shaven cheeks, tidy fingernails and muscular chest proven in aching element. In an period when so many reveals simply mix collectively, this episode stands out for its mild contact and unhappy creativeness. (Streaming on Netflix.) MARGARET LYONS

Submit “Nice British Baking Present,” a number of actuality competitors sequence have gone away from the cutthroat in favor of the nice and cozy and fuzzy, and maybe no present is hotter and fuzzier than the craft competitors “Making It.” Every episode has its charms however “All of the Holidays at As soon as” was particularly thrilling, as a result of not like a few of the present’s grander tasks, crafting your individual Halloween costume is fairly commonplace fare, even for layfolk. The contestants’ giddy pleasure in presenting their creations to the judges was matched solely by my very own giddy pleasure at seeing their foolish and spectacular costumes. Jess received together with her excellent alien-abduction costume however when every little thing is that this enjoyable, don’t all of us win? As a bonus, this episode additionally included Melañio telling a narrative a few bat in a rest room, a story that can hang-out me for the remainder of my days. (Streaming on Hulu.) MARGARET LYONS

Having provide you with among the finest pandemic-inspired episodes of 2020, this video game-industry comedy is gunning for TV’s excessive rating in stand-alones. This installment gave the again story-obsessed sport author C.W. Longbottom (a splendidly blustery F. Murray Abraham) his personal flashback as a struggling sci-fi writer within the Nineteen Seventies — a humorous and poignant story of irony, skilled jealousy and success at a value. (Streaming on Apple TV+.) JAMES PONIEWOZIK

Ry Russo-Younger’s three-part documentary about her lesbian moms and the sperm donor who sued them for parental rights, threatening to drag aside her household, constructed to a strong and eloquent conclusion. It each affirmed the significance of the battle her moms fought and questioned the assumptions of everybody concerned. (Streaming on HBO Max.) MIKE HALE

One so not often will get to obtain or ship a “flip in your TV proper now” textual content, particularly in my line of labor. So for that twin thrill alone this interview earned a spot in my coronary heart. It was the form of programming that hardly exists anymore: a tell-all community particular by which celebrities share real new data with Oprah, the patron saint of soul-baring. There have been Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, aglow within the California solar, decrying racism and candidly discussing psychological well being crises. Which might have been sufficient, however additionally they reset the royal narrative, gave Oprah eggs, fought again tears and gazed lovingly at each other — all whereas sitting in chairs offered by Christopher Knight from “The Brady Bunch.” Tv, child! I really like you! MARGARET LYONS

Mutsuko Erskine had never acted earlier than her daughter, Maya, cast her to play Maya’s mom in Hulu’s brutally humorous teen comedy. Generally daughter is aware of finest. This showpiece episode, by which an opportunity assembly with an ex-husband led Yuki to look down a street not taken, was a wealthy vignette of an immigrant’s expertise and a refined efficiency to cap off the position, actually, of a lifetime. (Streaming on Hulu.) JAMES PONIEWOZIK

Who would have thought that the origin story of Comedian Guide Man, performed partly as an affectionate sendup of a Wes Anderson movie, can be so pretty? (Streaming on Disney+.) MIKE HALE

This brutal and only-as-sentimental-as-it-needs-to-be drama a few rogue C.I.A. agent and a younger Black entrepreneur, companions within the crack wars in early Eighties Los Angeles, nonetheless doesn’t get sufficient consideration. That’s very true of the tales written by the novelist Walter Mosley, like this chilling, tightly packed episode about rage, revenge, gentrification and eager to go straight. (Streaming on Hulu.) MIKE HALE

A number of installments of this superhero psychodrama, set in a bizarro-world model of basic sitcom codecs, may have made this listing. However may as effectively begin initially, by which Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Imaginative and prescient (Paul Bettany) performed home on a Fifties stage set whose made-for-TV perfection turned horrifyingly (and ingeniously) fallacious. (Streaming on Disney+.) JAMES PONIEWOZIK

“Shadows” is among the funniest reveals on TV proper now, and “On line casino,” the place the gang heads to Atlantic Metropolis, was my favourite episode this season. Nandor (Kayvan Novak) turns into entranced by a “Huge Bang Principle” slot machine — “‘bazinga’ is the conflict cry of Sheldon,” he explains — and in good, cascading horror, this results in the entire dissolution of his understanding of the universe. “Shadows” is its finest when the vampires’ grandiosity clashes with their vulnerabilities, particularly their excitability, and I’ll by no means see one other in-house advert on a lodge TV with out pondering that it’s Colin Robinson’s favourite present. (Streaming on Hulu.) MARGARET LYONS

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