- Netflix has released a fresh slate of original shows in 2021, and there are still more to come.
- Shows like “Sweet Tooth,” “Yasuke,” and “Penguin Town” received rave reviews from critics.
- Other series, like “Jupiter’s Legacy,” “The Crew,” and “Sex/Life,” missed the mark among reviewers.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Summary: Narrated by Patton Oswalt, the charming documentary series centers on the colony of penguins that comes to nest in a seaside South African town each year.
Critics showered “Penguin Town” with praise, calling it sweet and refreshing.
“With the requisite beautiful photography and a funny but warm narration from Oswalt, ‘Penguin Town’ is definitely something you can either binge or dip in and out of,” Joel Keller wrote for Decider.
Summary: The theatrical documentary series “The Lost Pirate Kingdom” takes a look back at legendary tales of piracy on the high seas.
Critics said that history fans would get a kick out of the docudrama.
“This wildly popular new documentary series features top-drawer reenactments starring serious British actors,” Brad Newsome wrote for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Summary: “Last Chance U: Basketball” follows a group of young athletes in East Los Angeles as their basketball coach puts them on track to fulfill their college dreams.
The docuseries earned high praise from critics and lived up to the hype of the original “Last Chance U” that started in 2016.
“The pivot from football to basketball only serves to deepen the brilliance of ‘Last Chance U,'” Jean Henegan wrote for Pop Culture Maniacs.
Summary: Narrated by Peter Dinklage, each episode of “How to Become a Tyrant” breaks down how historical dictators rose through the ranks, controlled information, and held on to power.
Although it treads into dark territory, the series was praised as educational and riveting.
“It offers a creative way of introducing viewers to the concepts associated with dictatorship and tyranny,” Melissa Camacho wrote for Common Sense Media.
Summary: In a dystopian future where a pandemic has decimated the planet and children are born as animal hybrids, a young antlered boy (Christian Convery) sets out to find his mother with a reluctant protector (Nonso Anozie).
“Sweet Tooth” was hailed by critics as dark, fantastical, and cleverly crafted.
“It’s a gentle, delightful series that has a vein of tragedy running through it but it’s not overwhelmingly dark,” wrote critic Wenlei Ma for News.com.au.
Summary: Inspired by the collection of stories by Maurice Leblanc, the French show follows gentleman thief Assane Diop (Omar Sy) as he sets out to avenge his father’s unjust death.
Most critics have had nothing but high praise to report for the first two seasons of “Lupin,” which were both released this year.
Kelly Lawler wrote for USA Today, “Between Sy’s sparkling charm as the thief with a heart of gold and the beauty of Paris as a backdrop, ‘Lupin’ certainly steals the screen, if not priceless necklaces and paintings from evil billionaires.”
Summary: A sequel to “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” the animated series finds He-Man (voiced by Chris Wood) and his companions banding together to battle Skeletor (voiced by Mark Hamill) in the lands of Eternia.
Critics said “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” proved itself as a worthy follow-up to the original show.
“The new Netflix series honors its predecessor in ways notable and sly, while also humanizing its larger-than-life heroes and villains,” Nick Shager wrote for the Daily Beast.
Summary: In feudal Japan, a samurai named Yasuke (voiced by LaKeith Stanfield) must take up his sword once more to protect Saki (voiced by Maya Tanida), a young girl with mystical powers.
The Japanese-American anime blew critics away by putting an inventive spin on a real-life historical figure.
“‘Yasuke’ beautifully blends the legend of the first Black Samurai with fantasy elements, topped off with a soulful performance from LaKeith Stanfield and stunning animation sequences,” wrote critic Collier Jennings.
Summary: On “Pretend It’s a City,” humorist Fran Lebowitz and filmmaker Martin Scorsese explore New York City and all its quirks.
Critics called the series an odd and delightful deconstruction of one of the most fascinating cities in the world.
“‘Pretend It’s a City’ is a wonderful tribute to New York City and the art of conversation,” Robert Levin wrote for Newsday.
Summary: In a world where an unstoppable dark force spreads, a young woman named Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) discovers that she can summon light. At the same time, a thieving crew is sent on a mission to kidnap the new Sun Summoner.
Hailed as a fitting adaptation inspired by the book series “Shadow and Bone” and “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo, the show was a hit with most critics.
“There’s plenty to like about ‘Shadow and Bone,’ not least its 19th-century Russia-inspired aesthetic, and at eight episodes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome,” Richard Phippen wrote for NME.
Summary: Thousands of years after humans have vanished from the planet, two farming robots discover a little girl and raise her in secret.
Critics enjoyed the science-fiction-infused anime, calling it original and surprisingly emotional.
Critic Kate Sánchez wrote, “‘Eden’ is short, it’s sweet, and it’s extremely wholesome. Truthfully, it’s a light and beautiful story for dark times.”
Summary: The drama delves into the high-profile lifestyle of fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick and his impact on the industry.
Although critics praised Ewan McGregor’s leading performance, some reviewers felt like “Halston” fell flat when it came to Ryan Murphy’s plotting and overall direction.
“Murphy keeps such a tight rein on Halston’s world that the designer is unable to breathe as a subject,” Naomi Fry wrote for The New Yorker.
Summary: A single mother named Louise (Simona Brown) welcomes trouble when she falls for her boss David (Tom Bateman) while befriending his wife Adele (Eve Hewson).
“Behind Her Eyes” had plenty of surprises up its sleeve, but some critics questioned whether it had the character, plot, and writing to back up its intriguing twists.
“You might love the exceptionally audacious ending or you might hate it, but you’ll certainly talk about it either way,” Roxana Hadadi wrote for Roger Ebert.
Summary: A country singer (Katharine McPhee) takes an unconventional career turn when she becomes the nanny to a father (Eddie Cibrian) and his five children.
“Country Comfort” didn’t receive overwhelming praise, but some reviewers saw potential in the serviceable sitcom.
“It may not be great art, but for certain kinds of viewers it’s the comfort the title promises,” Joyce Slaton wrote for Common Sense Media.
Summary: Indiana couple Regina (Kim Fields) and Bennie Upshaw (Mike Epps) navigate bumps in their marriage as they raise a household of kids.
Critics were split on their consensus of “The Upshaws,” with some finding it endearing and others calling it outdated.
“[Wanda] Sykes and her co-creator Regina Y. Hicks’ largely listless series would’ve fit right into the network TV comedy landscape 20 years ago,” Inkoo Kang wrote for The Hollywood Reporter.
Summary: “Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness” follows Leon S. Kennedy (voiced by Nick Apostolides) and Claire Redfield (voiced by Stephanie Panisello) in the aftermath of a zombie outbreak.
Based on the video-game franchise of the same name, the CGI animated series earned a mixed reception from critics.
Critic Huw Saunders wrote that the series “is nothing special, but never aggressively bad either.”
Summary: After meeting as kids, Tully Hart (Katherine Heigl) and Kate Mularkey (Sarah Chalke) experience their next 30 years side by side as best friends.
Critics were charmed by Heigl and Chalke’s lead performances, but many felt like the acting overshadowed the show itself.
“By most metrics, ‘Firefly Lane’ is simply not a good show,” Judy Berman wrote for Time. “Yet despite its many limitations, there’s something lovable about it.”
Summary: CEO Rebecca Webb (Hannah Ware) oversees MatchDNA, a company that claims to pair up soulmates base on DNA samples.
Critics felt like “The One” relied on recycled ideas and squandered what could have been an interesting show.
“I doubt ‘The One’ is anyone’s perfect match,” Lucy Mangan wrote for The Guardian.
Summary: After a NASCAR team owner retires, his daughter Catherine (Jillian Mueller) takes charge and shakes things up — much to crew chief Kevin Gibson’s (Kevin James) chagrin.
Critics found the cast likable but largely agreed that “The Crew” failed to bring anything new to the sitcom genre.
“The cast is charming enough … [but] the characterizations aren’t enough to make up for the fact that ‘The Crew’ just isn’t that funny,” Dan Caffrey wrote for AV Club.
With a wealth of source material, the show got too muddied in the intricacies of world-building, according to critics.
“For a series about superheroes, ‘Jupiter’s Legacy’ moves in what feels like slow motion,” Brian Lowry wrote for CNN.
Summary: At a magical boarding school in the Otherworld, a group of young fairies gets a handle on their powers as they fall in love and fight monsters.
The live-action adaptation of the “Winx” cartoon series was picked apart by critics.
In her review for The Beat, Therese Lacson wrote that it “ends up being just another teen show that failed so miserably it’s only worth a hate-watch.”
Summary: Billie Connelly (Sarah Shahi) threatens to implode her peaceful suburban life with her husband (Mike Vogel) when she pursues her ex-boyfriend Brad (Adam Demos).
Critics said that “Sex/Life” wasn’t the comedic drama it billed itself to be.
“Dig a little deeper and you’ll find a very naked truth: ‘Sex/Life’ is nothing more than a series of dimly-lit sex scenes propped up by groan-inducing dialogue,” Thomas Mitchell wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald.