The 10 TV Shows That Defined 2021

We all know that 2020 was year of Tiger King & The Queen's Gambit, but what about 2021? Here are the shows going in the time capsule to teach future generations about this wild year.

By Cydney Contreras Dec 31, 2021 3:00 PMTags

When looking back on 2020, a few TV shows stand out in stark contrast to others: Tiger King and The Queen's Gambit.

Maybe it was because of the pandemic or sheer boredom, but for whatever reason, everybody watched these shows. They were so popular, in fact, they came to define the 2020 experience.

According to The Guardian, the Netflix series, starring Anya Taylor Joy, even sparked a renewed interest in the game of chess. International grandmaster Maurice Ashley told the British newspaper, "It's really had a pretty surprising, wonderful, electrifying effect on the fanbase, particularly of non-players."

We were a nation drawn together by the collective terror and boredom of the pandemic, leaving man of us on our couches, binging show after show—and for better or worse, 2021 wasn't much different.   


Of course, interest in the board game has since waned as people move on to new topics and curiosities in 2021. This year, it seems viewers were looking for a bit of romance and then some, with people tuning in to shows like Sex/Life and Bridgerton in record numbers.

Reality TV Stars Who Broke Up in 2021

There was also a healthy dose of fantasy thanks to WandaVision, a family-friendly Disney+ series that enticed viewers of all age groups. 

Here are the 10 shows that defined this past year.


Kim Kardashian gave this show a boost when she tweeted, "You guys have to watch Sex Life on Netflix!" It didn't hurt that Sarah Shahi and her on-screen lovers, Mike Vogel and Adam Demos, are pretty nice to look at. 


Another show with Kim K's stamp of approval is Shonda Rhimes' series BridgertonThe steamy period drama had people absolutely obsessed with its colorful fashion, romantic stories and talented cast members, all of which contributed to its record-breaking success. According to Netflix, 82 million people watched the series within the month following its release.  


The Roys may be terrible people but they make for good TV. Fans rejoiced when the Jesse Armstrong series returned to HBO after numerous delays in production, and finally offered a look at the fallout caused by Kendall's press conference.

Ted Lasso

The second season of Jason Sudeikis' upbeat Apple TV+ series was the topic of much debate this year, with some people arguing that the show was losing its charm. But, as the old saying goes, all publicity is good publicity. Need proof? The show took home four honors at the 2021 Emmy Awards in September.


The Disney+ series served up a sense of excitement and unpredictability with its weekly releases, sparking online discussions about MCU theories and the creation of dozens of memes—not to mention Kathryn Hahn's standout performance as Agatha Harkness, which inspired the upcoming spin-off series Agatha: House of Harkness.

And Just Like That...

This comedy reboot came with a lot of drama: the absence of Kim Cattrall's character, Samantha, the mid-season death of actor Willie Garson (the beloved Stanford Blatch) and the surprising episode-one demise of Mr. Big (Chris Noth, who shortly after the premiere faced multiple accusations of sexual impropriety). All that withstanding, the familiar fave—now with a much-needed diversity and social consciousness update—was like a cozy, familiar old friend.

The White Lotus

Mike White had viewers experiencing an array of emotions with this offbeat, raunchy comedy, which starred Jennifer CoolidgeSydney Sweeney and more beloved actors. And though this was originally a limited series, the initial episodes were so popular, HBO announced that they'd renewed the show for a second season just days before the series finale. 

Mare of Easttown

This HBO investigative drama had viewers hooked for many reasons, including but not limited to Kate Winslet's impressive Delco accent and the never ending plot twists. It also helped that Evan Peters played a dreamy detective.

Squid Game

Netflix's darkly addictive drama about greed and capitalism oddly inspired a surprising number of TikToks, Halloween costumes, memes and celeb theme parties. Never the less, the show was such a success, the streamer is considering two more seasons, according to series creator Hwang Dong-hyuk.

Selling Sunset

Between Christine's pregnancy and Chrishell's romance with Jason, there was more than enough drama for fans to talk about even before season four premiered in late November.