10 of the best and 10 of the worst TV shows that came out this year

Only Murders in the Building next to Gossip Girl reboot
Some shows that debuted in 2021 were a critical hit, but others flopped. Hulu; Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max
  • Critics said some of 2021’s new shows were amazing and others were pretty terrible. 
  • Inventive shows like “Only Murders in the Building” and “Squid Game” became critical hits. 
  • “Alter Ego,” “Walker,” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” failed to win over critics.

Three true-crime lovers find friendship in “Only Murders in the Building.”
Selena Gomez, Martin Short, and Steve Martin on Hulu's 'Only Murders in the Building.'
Selena Gomez, Martin Short, and Steve Martin on ‘Only Murders in the Building.’ Hulu
Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

Summary: On this Hulu original, three neighbors (Martin Short, Selena Gomez, and Steve Martin) bond over their shared love of true-crime podcasts after a murder happens in their apartment building. 

Critics praised the comedic drama for its witty dialogue, magnetic characters, and riveting storytelling. 

“The show creates a unique character dynamic that’s not only emotionally affecting, but ripe for the comedic picking as well,” Lauren Coates wrote for the Mary Sue

The Korean drama “Hellbound” has endless thrills.
Hellbound
‘Hellbound’ is on . Netflix
Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

Summary: On Netflix’s supernatural horror “Hellbound,” society starts to spiral out of control after people begin hearing predictions of their deaths. 

“Hellbound” earned rave reviews for its magnetic acting performances and daring plot twists

“It’s hard to keep your eyes away from ‘Hellbound’ because the concept is so enticing and addictive,” wrote Daniel Hart in a review for Ready Steady Cut

“Hacks” is a dark comedy that pulls the curtain back on stand-up.
Jean Smart on 'Hacks' standing on a dirt road
Jean Smart on ‘Hacks.’ HBO
Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%

Summary: On the HBO series “Hacks,” legendary stand-up comedian Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) reluctantly teams up with young writer Ava (Hannah Einbinder) after her Vegas residency expires. 

The darkly clever “Hacks” garnered acclaim from critics for its powerful female leads. 

“‘Hacks’ is a biting, hilarious and insightful comedy laced with genuine pathos,” wrote critic Wenlei Ma

A soccer team fights for survival on “Yellowjackets.”
Yellowjackets - two girls with air masks on a plane
‘Yellowjackets’ is a thriller. Showtime
Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

Summary: On the Showtime thriller “Yellowjackets,” a girls’ soccer team crash-lands in the northern wilderness and tries to stay alive as horrific events unfold. 

Critics praised “Yellowjackets” as a captivating mystery that was difficult not to binge. 

“Genuinely frightening and thoroughly unmissable,” Emma Specter wrote for Vogue

Four best friends dream big in “Reservation Dogs.”
Reservation dogs fx
Taika Waititi is an executive producer on ‘Reservation Dogs.’ FX
Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

Summary: On this FX show, four Indigenous teens (Devery Jacobs, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Lane Factor, Paulina Alexis) defend their turf as they craft ways to save money for a cross-country move. 

Critics called “Reservation Dogs” a coming-of-age story filled with heart. 

“‘Reservation Dogs’ is not only funny, even hilarious at times, but is also charming and wise when it comes to knowing what to want to tell and how to tell it,” Alberto Carlos wrote for Espinof. 

“Invincible” revolves around a teenager and his legendary father.
Invincible
‘Invincible’ is an animated series on . Amazon Prime
Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

Summary: Based on a comic book, the Amazon Prime series “Invincible” follows Mark Grayson (voiced by Steven Yuen) as he tries to follow in the footsteps of his superhero father (voiced by J.K. Simmons). 

Dark, disturbing, and impossible to pull your eyes from, “Invincible” was praised as a breath of fresh air in the world of animation. 

“Anyone who loves superheroes in any shape or form will want to add this series to their viewing list,” praised critic Collier Jennings

Freshmen enter a new chapter in “The Sex Lives of College Girls.”
Alyah Chanelle Scott, Pauline Chalamet, Amrit Kaur playing Uno at a table on 'The Sex Lives of College Girls.'
Alyah Chanelle Scott, Pauline Chalamet, Amrit Kaur on season one of ‘The Sex Lives of College Girls.’ Courtesy of HBO Max
Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

Summary: Four college freshmen (Pauline Chalamet, Amrit Kaur, Reneé Rapp, and Alyah Chanelle Scott) embrace newfound freedom on their New England campus. 

Critics called the HBO comedy hilarious, likable, and achingly relatable. 

“A rare TV show that really delves into the multifaceted and endlessly entertaining world of undergraduate shenanigans,” Proma Khosla wrote for Mashable

A woman escapes her tech-obsessed husband on “Made for Love.”
Cristin milioti made for love
‘Made For Love’ is based on a 2017 novel written by Alissa Nutting. John P. Johnson/HBO Max
Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Summary: Based on a novel by Alissa Nutting, the show follows a woman (Cristin Milioti) who stays with her father (Ray Romano) after realizing that her controlling husband (Billy Magnussen) has implanted a chip in her brain that allows him to watch her every move. 

When reviewing the HBO show, critics lent particular praise to Millioti’s incredible central performance.

“Cristin Milioti puts in a gripping lead performance that shows exactly why her star is rapidly ascending, and each episode that passes draws the audience further into Made for Love’s frenetic, imaginative story of female agency,” Audrey Fox wrote for We Live Entertainment

On “Squid Game,” contestants put their lives on the line for millions.
Squid Game
‘Squid Game’ is one of ‘s most popular shows of all time. Netflix
Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Summary: On the Netflix drama “Squid Game,” Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae) sees a shot at redemption when he’s invited to compete in a violent string of games for the chance at millions. 

Critics called “Squid Game” a can’t-miss thriller with powerful themes, visually stunning sets, and unique characters. 

“A masterful show that truly changed the game in storytelling,” praised film critic Kristen Maldonado

A young mother tries to break through the poverty line on “Maid.”
Rylea Nevaeh Whittet and Margaret Qualley on 'Maid.'
Rylea Nevaeh Whittet and Margaret Qualley on ‘Maid.’ RICARDO HUBBS/NETFLIX
Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

Summary: When a drunken fight goes too far, Alex (Margaret Qualley) leaves her boyfriend (Nick Robinson) and tries to start a new life for her and her daughter. 

Critics said “Maid” was an illuminating and well-acted drama with a rewarding story. 

“The Netflix miniseries illustrates the endless Catch-22 poor people in America face,” Alison Herman wrote for the Ringer.

On the other hand, critics didn’t enjoy watching bounty hunters traverse the galaxy on “Cowboy Bebop.”
Cowboy Bebop
‘Cowboy Bebop’ is a remake. Geoffrey Short / Netflix
Rotten Tomatoes score: 46%

Summary: On the Netflix remake of “Cowboy Bebop,” Spike Spiegel (John Cho), Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir), and Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda) head up a band of bounty hunters chasing down the toughest criminals in the galaxy. 

A fun cast and dazzling special effects couldn’t save “Cowboy Bebop” from comparisons to its animated predecessor. 

“‘Cowboy Bebop’ brings a lot of style and flash but fails to tap into what made the anime classic so great,” Sam Stone wrote in a review for CBR

Teens are pursued by a killer in “I Know What You Did Last Summer.”
I know what you did last summer reboot
Madison Iseman stars on ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer.’ Amazon Studios
Rotten Tomatoes score: 40%

Summary: A teenager (Madison Iseman) and her friends find themselves stalked by an anonymous killer a year after they witness a fatal accident. 

Critics called the Amazon Prime show a tough slog to sit through and often felt like the teens’ dialogue was out of touch. 

“There’s no fun to be found in this glossy yet charmless reboot, which takes a swing at bringing the slasher film to the TikTok age and misses by miles,” Beth Webb wrote in a review for Empire

“Clarice” follows Agent Clarice Starling as she returns to the field.
Clarice cbs
Rebecca Breeds stars on ‘Clarice.’ CBS
Rotten Tomatoes score: 39%

Summary: The CBS thriller “Clarice” centers on FBI Agent Clarice Starling and her career following the events of “The Silence of the Lambs.” 

Reviewers largely felt like “Clarice” came across as a flimsy adaptation of the original source material.

“In a television landscape littered with gruesome procedurals and compelling female protagonists, ‘Clarice’ feels less like a trailblazer and more like a three-decades-later attempt to catch up,” Zaki Hasan wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle

A natural disaster splits a city in two in “La Brea.”
La Brea - two people looking scared in the woods
‘La Brea’ aired on . NBC
Rotten Tomatoes score: 38%

Summary: On the NBC drama “La Brea,” a massive sinkhole devastates the center of Los Angeles and puts the victims in the center of a primeval world. 

Overall, critics said that “La Brea” had an interesting premise with a terrible payoff. 

“For a series that opens on a massive sinkhole eating up an entire L.A. neighborhood, La Brea feels too middle-of-the-road to make much impression at all,” Angie Han wrote in a review for The Hollywood Reporter

The reboot of “Gossip Girl” ushers in a new group of private schoolers.
A still from HBO Max's 'Gossip Girl.'
Jordan Alexander on ‘Gossip Girl.’ Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max
Rotten Tomatoes score: 36%

Summary: A new group of Manhattanites, including Julien (Jordan Alexander), Zoya (Whitney Peak), and Kate (Tavi Gevinson), try to root out which friend is sharing their secrets online.

Despite the best efforts of the cast, critics said “Gossip Girl” was little more than a poor imitation of the original show

“We’re here for the drama — for rich, beautiful teens being terrible to each other,” Jenna Guillaume wrote for Sydney Morning Herald. “But the new ‘Gossip Girl’ is not quite that, adding in a layer of power and race dynamics that it doesn’t seem fully capable of unpacking.”

A cowboy returns home after a tragedy on the remake of “Walker.”
Jared Padalecki in 'Walker'
Jared Padalecki on ‘Walker.’ The CW
Rotten Tomatoes score: 33%

Summary: On The CW show “Walker,” widower and father Cordell Walker (Jared Padalecki) returns home to reconnect with his children and get down to work. 

Although critics mostly agreed that “Walker” had room to grow, it didn’t leave a great first impression on reviewers. 

In a review for IGN Movies, Alicia Lutes described the series as a “generic, paint-by-numbers family drama.”

“Mayor of Kingstown” tackles the prison industrial complex.
Mayor of kingstown
Jeremy Renner on ‘Mayor of Kingstown.’ Paramount+
Rotten Tomatoes score: 29%

Summary: On this Paramount+ drama, power brokers Mike (Jeremy Renner) and Mitch McLusky (Kyle Chandler) attempt to bring order to their town. 

Critics wrote the off “Mayor of Kingstown” as overly morose and dreadfully doll. 

“A dour, flavorless combination of familiar crime-drama elements, led by Renner at his most glum,” Josh Bell wrote for CBR

A death unravels a marriage on the crime thriller “Intruder.”
Intruder - woman on phone and man in back looking concerned
‘Intruder’ is a show. Channel 5
Rotten Tomatoes score: 29%

Summary: On the British drama “Intruder,” a wealthy couple (Tom Meeten and Helen Behan) consider lying to the police after they kill an intruder in their home. 

Critics said that the Channel 5 show was overtly silly to the point of entering “so-bad-it’s-good” territory. 

“It possesses the kind of one-star stupidness that, if properly embraced, can take you to a place of five-star wonder and amusement,” Deborah Ross wrote for the Daily Mail. 

The soapy drama “Sex/Life” explores a marital affair.
Sex/life netflix
Some critics thought ‘Sex/Life’ was so bad it was funny. Netflix
Rotten Tomatoes score: 23%

Summary: Housewife Billie (Sarah Shahi) puts her suburban life with her husband Cooper (Mike Vogel) on the line when she pursues a relationship with her ex-boyfriend (Adam Demos). 

According to critics, the Netflix drama fell victim to uneven plotting and lackluster characters. 

“‘Sex/Life’ drowns itself in the shallow end, so to speak, by failing to even generate much heat,” Judy Berman noted for Time magazine.

“Alter Ego” is a singing competition with a twist.
Alter Ego - alien creature CGI with a microphone
‘Alter Ego’ is a singing competition. Fox
Rotten Tomatoes score: 17%

Summary: On the Fox competition show, singers turn into CGI characters and try to impress judges Grimes, Will.i.am, Alanis Morissette, and Nick Lachey. 

“Alter Ego” lost points with critics who found it to be a charmless shadow of big TV hits like “The Voice” and “The Masked Singer.” 

“‘Alter Ego’ is yet another attempt to replicate ‘The Masked Singer,’ but is just a lifeless clone that doesn’t have a reason for existing,” Andy Dehnart wrote in a review for Reality Blurred.