21 Pop Culture Events to Look Forward to in 2021

From the arrival of the long-awaited Friends reunion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe revving back up, there's a lot to be excited about in 2021.

By Tierney Bricker, Billy Nilles Dec 30, 2020 8:00 AMTags
Pop Culture Events to Look Forward to in 2021NBC; Getty Images; ABC; Melissa Herwitt/E! Illustration

OK, we're just going to say it: 2020 sucked.

In a year like no other, our lives were put on hold thanks to a global pandemic that continues to wreak havoc as we speak. It's been a devastating time for so many, one that not even the brightest spots of pop culture could fully assuage. To say we're beyond ready for the clock to strike midnight on Dec. 31 and ring in 2021 is an understatement. We're sure you can relate.

And while we know we're putting a lot of pressure on the new year to help us forget about what we've just been through, there are already a handful of forthcoming pop culture events in the books that give us hope of brighter days ahead. (Seriously though, 2020 didn't exactly leave the highest of bars to climb over.)

From the long-awaited Friends reunion and the super-sized return of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the arrival of a new Bachelor on ABC and a Starboy on the Super Bowl Halftime Show stage, these are the 21 events that you need to put on your radar now!

2021 TV Premiere Dates

Get ready to mark your calendars!

The Return of the Tina Fey Joke Machine

Not only are Fey and Poehler returning for a fourth tour of duty as Golden Globes co-hosts when the 78th annual ceremony airs live on NBC on Feb. 28, but the 30 Rock creator plans to deliver the laughs with, not one, but two highly-anticipated new sitcoms. Up first is Mr. Mayor starring Ted Danson as an out-of-his-depth mayor of Los Angeles, debuting Jan. 7 on NBC. That'll be followed later in the year by Girls5Eva, a series about a one-hit-wonder '90s girls group taking another stab at their pop dreams. Starring Busy Phillips, Sara Bareilles, Paula Pell, Renée Elise Goldsberry and Ashley Park, the comedy will stream on Peacock.

Matt James' Season of The Bachelor

A Matt made in heaven, indeed. 

Let us count the reasons we are very excited for James' journey to find love: 1. He is the franchise's first Black Bachelor in its 25-season history. 2. Read number one again. 3. OK, go back and read it one more time before we move on because it's a big f--king deal and long overdue. 4. His season marks the first time in 12 years that a lead hasn't initially appeared on The Bachelorette, an exciting break from tradition. 5. He is BFFs with Tyler Cameron and their bromance needs to be televised. The world just needs it. 6. Um, have you looked at him or his 12 abs lately? 

The Launch of Discovery+

The streaming wars are about to get a major dose of reality as the Discovery suite of networks (Food Network, HGTV, TLC and more) get a platform of their own. Launching on Jan. 4, the service will not only feature exclusive content from Chip and Joanna Gaines, Bobby Flay and Giada di Laurentiis, Carla Hall and many more, it'll expand on the 90 Day Fiancé universe and also bring content from A&E, The HISTORY Channel and Lifetime into the fold. 

Inventing Anna

Ever since we heard that Shonda Rhimes had optioned the rights to the Anna Delvey story as part of her Netflix deal, we've been impatiently awaiting its arrival on the streaming service. With Julia Garner as the titular huckster and Anna Chlumsky playing the journalist who fell under her spell, the series, expected sometime in 2021, is bound to be a binge that'll have everyone talking. 

The Latest Live-Action Disney Remakes

We know not all retellings of animated classics are created equal, but we have high hopes for 2021's offerings. Like, who wouldn't want to see Emma Stone's "punk rock" take on the iconic 101 Dalmatians villain Cruella de Vil? (Well, aside from Dalmatians, of course.) And the fact that Cruella is directed by I, Tonya's Craig Gillespie means we are in for a wild ride, especially by Disney's standards.

Then there's the latest adaptation of Cinderella, with Camila Cabello stepping into the princess' famous glass slippers in her acting debut (NBD!) and Billy Porter playing the Fairy Godmother. Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo, we are not worthy to receive both of you. 

The 2020 Summer Olympics...in 2021

With freestyle BMX, karate, surfing and skateboarding set to make their Olympic debut, as well as baseball and softball returning for the first time since 2006, there's much to look forward to when the postponed games finally begin. Here's hoping the world's ready to come together in Tokyo as currently scheduled from July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021.

Adele and Rihanna's New Albums (Hopefully)

Do we have any proof that these two pop powerhouses will finally drop some new material in 2021? No, we do not. But considering it's been five years since we've heard anything fresh from either of them, we feel overdue. Each has a new album in the works. It's just a matter of when. Stay tuned.

The MCU Madness

Marvel will be your studio for all seasons. No, really it will as the superhero juggernaut is straight-up churning out content all year long, so break out your calendars 'cause we've got some planning to do.

The action begins on Jan. 15 with the debut of WandaVision starring Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany on Disney+. Right as that ends, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan suit up for Falcon and Winter Soldier's premiere on March 15. Expect double the handsome, double the fun.

And after its initial release date was pushed due to COVID-19, Scarlett Johansson's looong-awaited standalone Black Widow movie hits theaters on May 7, with Tom Hiddleston's Loki dropping on Disney+ the same month for some much needed mischief

Oh, you thought we were done? That's cute. Next up are two theatrical releases, Venom: Let There Be Carnage on June 25 and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on July 9. Then we have a bit of a breather until Nov. 5 with the release of ling, a.k.a. the movie that brings Angelina JolieKit Harrington and Richard Madden into the Marvel fold. 

Finally, Tom Holland's third and final solo outing as Spider-Man within the MCU arrives on Dec. 17.

Now excuse us while we go rest before happily turning our lives over to Marvel. 

What's In Store for DC

While Marvel's assembled a pretty stacked line-up, DC's 2021 is looking just as super, especially when you consider this year ended with the much-delayed and even more anticipated release of Wonder Woman 1984.

First up? Just the fan-demanded The Snyder Cut (Zack Snyder's Justice League), which will debut as a four-part miniseries in March and gift fans with Snyder's director's cut of the 2017 blockbuster after he exited the project during production in the wake of a family tragedy

Then in August, we've got The Suicide Squad, with Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn now reining in the group of misfit anti-heroes. Joining Margot Robbie and Joel Kinnaman in the deranged fun are Pete Davidson, John Cena and Idris Elba.

Plus, we've got Dwayne Johnson's Black Adam. Oh, and did we mention Warner Bros. announced that all 17 of its theatrical releases in 2021 will be available for a one-month exclusive window on HBO Max as well?

A League of Their Own

An adaptation of the classic 1992 film from Broad City's Abbi Jacobson starring, among others, The Good Place's D'Arcy Carden? Batter up, Amazon Prime. (Premiere date TBD.)

The Keanaissance Continues

Thought Keanu Reeves' 2019 run—with John Wick 3, Toy Story 4 and Always Be My Maybe, and just, like, being Keanu Reeves—was impressive? Well, just wait for his takeover this May. 

Not only is his fourth outing of John Wick being released, but Reeves is back in action as Neo with The Matrix 4. But, honestly, we're just most excited about getting fresh interviews and appearances from the man himself. 

Keeping Up With the Kardashians' Final Season

An era officially ends as Kim, Khloé, Kourtney, Kendall, Kylie and Kris say goodbye with the final season of KUWTK, hitting E! in early 2021. We're not crying already. You are.

HBO Max's Gossip Girl

Good morning, Upper East Siders!

Spotted on the steps of the Met in November: The young and ridiculously cool-looking cast of the upcoming reboot—that isn't going to have to play nice with broadcast network standards and practices anymore—looking very young and ridiculously cool and making us feel weirdly intimidated? And that's exactly the attitude we need the stars, including Evan Mock, Eli Brown, Zión Moreno, Jordan Alexander, Tavi Gevinson, Emily Alyn Lind, Savannah Smith, Thomas Doherty and Whitney Peak, to exude. You know we love it, XOXO.

The Weeknd's Super Bowl Halftime Show

Abel Tesfaye will show just how wrong the Grammys got it when he takes the stage at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., for the Super Bowl LV Halftime Show on Feb. 7. Expect to hear a medley of Starboy's biggest hits, including "Can't Feel My Face," "I Feel It Coming" and "Blinding Lights."

Stranger Things Season 4

COVID-19 production delays made the wait to find out just how Hopper (David Harbour) survived the Netflix hit's third season finale a little bit longer. Though a premiere date has yet to be announced, our return to the cursed town of Hawkins is just around the corner.

Feel Good TV

Sometimes you just need a cozy little show to watch while doin laundry or drinking a glass of vino, you know? Fortunately, there's three of those at the ready, thanks to Netflix. 

Firefly Lane, a heartwarming story of friendship spanning three decades starring Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke, premieres Feb. 3, while Sweet Magnolias, a charming tale of three life-long friends, will be back for a second season. And Virgin River, one of the streaming giant's sweetest surprises of the year, was renewed for a third season of making us wish the quaint Northern California town was a real place. Prepare for all the warm and fuzzies.

The Long-Awaited Return of Atlanta

It's been nearly three years since we last touched down with Earn, Alfred and the rest of the crew on FX's acclaimed comedy. And judging from creator Donald Glover's recent tweet on the topic, declaring seasons three and four to be "some of the best television ever made," it will have been well worth the wait. We don't know exactly when, but expect at least one, if not both, new seasons later this year.

The Friends Reunion (Finally)

It certainly wasn't HBO Max's day, month or year when the highly-anticipated reunion special gathering Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry in the same room for the first time in years had to be pushed off schedule for a full 12 months thanks to COVID-19. But with word that the gang is due to tape in March 2021, things couldn't be more exciting.

Nine Perfect Strangers

Were you obsessed with Big Little Lies? Still not over The Undoing? Well, get ready because we've got another limited series based on a bestselling novel for you to devour.

Nine Perfect Strangers has three people attached that know a thing or two about crafting a pop culture sensation. There's Australian author Liane Moriarty, who also wrote Big Little Lies. The upcoming Hulu miniseries is created by David E. Kelley, who also helmed BLL and The Undoing. And Nicole Kidman is set to star as a woman who hosts a wellness retreat that goes very wrong. 

Still not enough for you? K, a little greedy, but may we interest you in the rest of the cast? Melissa McCarthy, Luke Evans, Samara Weaving, Manny Jacinto, Michael Shannon and Bobby Cannavale. 

Lord of the Rings TV Show

You know Gollum with that damn ring? That's us with this highly anticipated prequel series, one we've been waiting for longer than Frodo's trek to Mordor.

Inspired by the fantasy book series by J.R.R. Tolkien, Amazon's Lord of the Rings series will explore new storylines set during the Second Age of Middle-earth. Series stars include Game of Thrones' Joseph Mawle, Homeland's Nazanin Boniadi and The Undoing's Ismael Enrique Cruz Córdova. (Premiere date TBD.)

Books to Look Forward to

As Liz Lemon once said: Yes to staying in more! And to that, may we add: Yes to reading even more than we did in 2020!

Some of our top picks in the new year include Taylor Jenkin Reid's Malibu Rising (May 25), Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's Good Company, Angie Thomas' Concrete Rose (Jan. 12), Caroline Kepnes' You Love Me (April 6), and Sharon Stone's memoir, The Beauty of Living Twice (March 30). 

(E!, NBC and Peacock are all part of the NBCUniversal family.)