The 2021 cultural calendar is dotted with question marks: When will movie theaters feel safe again? When will Broadway reopen? When will indoor art fairs stop sounding like potential superspreaders? Will live music return in time for Lady Gaga’s rescheduled Chromatica tour in late summer, if not Coachella in April? At least we can count on good ol’ television to keep us entertained no matter how long the vaccine rollout takes.
While it’s true that TV production suffered from extensive delays in pandemic-stricken 2020—with broadcast primetime schedules taking a particular hit—there are plenty of new shows in the pipeline for the next few months. Netflix is, somehow, planning to release even more originals in 2021 than it did throughout this crowded year; highlights include Shonda Rhimes’ take on the juicy saga of scammer Anna Delvey and a docudrama based on the early life of Colin Kaepernick, which the activist football player created with Ava DuVernay. The insurgent Disney+ has set to work on dozens of new shows from its Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and Disney brands, beginning with Marvel’s ambitious-looking WandaVision in January. At Amazon, Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk director Barry Jenkins helms an adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer-winning novel The Underground Railroad. Not to be out-highbrowed, HBO is updating Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage.
And that’s only a fraction of what broadcast, cable and the swelling ranks of streaming services have on their schedules for 2021. Here’s a (relatively) brief list of forthcoming shows that have caught our attention.
WandaVision (Jan. 15)
Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany star as Wanda and Vision in this mind-bending Marvel show that sends up family sitcoms. The trailer suggests that Wanda may be hopping between parallel universes or timelines or just seeing things. Marvel Studios has said the plot of WandaVision will set up the movies Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness and Spider-Man: Homecoming 3.
Falcon and The Winter Soldier (March 19)
Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprise their roles as Captain America’s best friends and sidekicks, fighting crime after Steve Rogers has decided to retire. Daniel Brühl, the baddie from Captain America: Civil War, will return as the villain Baron Zemo and Emily VanCamp will return as Sharon Carter.
Everyone’s favorite bad guy from the Marvel universe lives again. Though Loki died in Avengers: Infinity War, a different version of Loki was introduced during the time-hopping sequences of Avengers: Endgame. That parallel universe Loki stole the Tesseract from the Avengers and is now off to have his own adventures. Owen Wilson and Gugu Mbatha-Raw join Tom Hiddleston in the show.
Dug Days (Fall)
This Up spinoff features Dug, the delightful talking dog from that 2009 Pixar film, acclimating to his new life in suburbia following the movie’s events.
Hawkeye (Late 2021)
Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye has been trying to retire for years. Now that he has his family back, he will finally get the chance. In this show, he will train a new Hawkeye, Kate Bishop (played by Hailee Steinfeld) for the job.
Firefly Lane (Feb. 3)
This multi-decade story of friendship stars Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke as besties who see one another through thick and thin.
Cowboy Bebop (TBA)
John Cho stars in a live-action remake of the beloved Japanese anime series about bounty hunters tracking down the solar system’s greatest criminals.
Inventing Anna (TBA)
Julia Garner, Anna Chlumsky and Laverne Cox star in the Shonda Rhimes-produced series about real-life con artist Anna Delvey. Delvey successfully manipulated high-profile insiders in New York’s party scene to fund her lavish lifestyle.
The Woman in the House (TBA)
Kristen Bell will star in this comedy-thriller about a woman who thinks she sees a murder from her house. The series will skewer the many Gone Girl follow-ups with oddly similar names: The Girl on the Train, The Woman in the Window, Luckiest Girl Alive.
Ewan McGregor will play the titular famed fashion designer. Ryan Murphy is executive-producing the series, so expect it to be very juicy.
The Upshaws (TBA)
Wanda Sykes stars as the matriarch of a working-class Black family in Indiana struggling to make it work in a new family sitcom.
Dad, Stop Embarrassing Me (TBA)
Jamie Foxx stars and produces this comedy based on his life with his own family, and in particular his relationship with his daughter.
Margaret Qualley and Andie MacDowell (daughter and mother in real life) star in a drama about a single mother who takes a housekeeping job to make ends meet. The series is inspired by Stephanie Land’s memoir.
Colin in Black & White (TBA)
Ava DuVernay and Colin Kaepernick created this semi-fictional series based on Kaepernick’s adolescent years as a Black teen growing up with an adopted white family. Jaden Michael, Mary-Louise Parker and Nick Offerman will play the leads.
The Underground Railroad (TBA)
Moonlight director Barry Jenkins’ long-awaited adaptation of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Colson Whitehead novel is finally landing on Amazon in 2021. The semi-fantastical story follows a slave named Cora as she escapes to the North using a literal underground railroad.
The Lord of the Rings (TBA)
It wouldn’t be a shock if we had to wait more than a year for this mind-bogglingly elaborate, expensive prequel to J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy novels—which was announced way back in 2017 and went back into production this fall after COVID-related delays. But hey, the show did announce 20(!) new cast members in December. That’s probably a good sign.
Lena Waithe executive-produced this show about a Black family that moves to an all-white neighborhood where they meet real and supernatural threats.
Pursuit of Love (TBA)
Lily James has been cast in this 1920s-era rom-com, alongside Dominic West, Andrew Scott and Emily Mortimer.
Tell Me Your Secrets (TBA)
Lily Rabe stars in a thriller that blurs lines between victim and predator.
Frank of Ireland (TBA)
Brian Gleason will play a misanthrope and his brother Domhnall Gleeson, his wingman, in this Irish comedy.
Tracy Oliver Untitled Project (TBA)
Tracy Oliver, best known as the co-writer of Girls Trip, and Amy Poehler are producing a show about four women navigating relationships and work.
Fleabag‘s Hot Priest himself, Andrew Scott, stars as the Tom Ripley based on Patricia Highsmith’s five novels (which also served as the basis for the Matt Damon starrer The Talented Mr. Ripley).
Did we need a ninth season of this crime drama about a psycho killer who kills other psycho killers? Probably not. Are we getting one? Of course we are, because the original was popular. Will it be any good? We wouldn’t bet on it, but only time will tell.
Painting With John (Jan. 22)
“Bob Ross was wrong. Everybody can’t paint,” says the musician, actor and underground icon John Lurie in the trailer for this follow-up to his cult-classic 1991 series Fishing With John. Also? His trees are not happy. Fortunately, even those who can’t be taught to paint should learn something from Lurie’s irreverent, philosophical musings.
Scenes From a Marriage (TBA)
This new adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s series will star Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain.
The Nevers (TBA)
A group of women gain supernatural abilities in Victorian era London.
The White Lotus (TBA)
A social satire set at tropical resort from Enlightened creator Mike White. Connie Britton, Jake Lacy and Jennifer Coolidge star.
In Treatment (TBA)
Uzo Aduba stars in a reimagining of the HBO series that starred Gabriel Byrne and ran from 2008 to 2010.
Mare of Easttown (TBA)
Kate Winslet will play a small-town detective investigating murder. The supporting cast includes Watchmen‘s Jean Smart and Boardwalk Empire‘s Julianne Nicholson.
Station Eleven (TBA)
Emily St. John Mandel’s dystopian novel about a disease that kills most of earth’s population found new popularity in 2020. An adaptation starring Mackenzie Davis and helmed by Hiro Murai, who directed much of Atlanta, is on its way to HBO’s streaming service.
Gossip Girl sequel (TBA)
A new chapter in the Gossip Girl saga will center on a different set of New York City high school students. But unlike their predecessors (the series ended in 2012), these ones have to contend with social media.
The Sex Lives of College Girls (TBA)
Mindy Kaling is writing a new comedy about college students awkwardly navigating the challenges of their love lives.
Tokyo Vice (TBA)
Ansel Elgort and Ken Watanabe will star in this crime drama based on the memoir by Jake Adelstein.
Rutherford Falls (Spring)
Executive produced by Parks and Recreation and Good Place creator Mike Schur, this comedy centers on Nathan Rutherford (Ed Helms) as he fights the moving of a statue in a small Northeast town bordered by a Native American reservation.
A one-hit-wonder girl group from the ’90s reunites in this comedy from executive producers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. Sara Bereilles, Busy Phillips, Paula Pell, Renee Elise Goldsberry and Ashley Park will star.
Dr. Death (Peacock)
In this adaptation of the popular true crime podcast, Joshua Jackson plays a sadistic doctor, with Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater co-starring as fellow doctors who begin to investigate him.
Fresh Prince reimagined in modern day as a serialized one-hour drama focusing on Will’s journey from West Philadelphia to Bel-Air. Executive produced by Will Smith.
The Saturday Night Live sketch and 2010 movie is now a television series, too. Will Forte will play the uber-patriot off-brand MacGyver who is released after a decade in prison.
The Dropout (TBA)
Kate McKinnon will play Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, who scammed high-profile business leaders into investing in a technology company that was producing a nonexistent blood test.
Nine Perfect Strangers (TBA)
Nicole Kidman and David E. Kelley are teaming up for yet another adaptation of Lianne Moriarty’s work following the success of Big Little Lies. (Their work on another HBO adaptation, The Undoing, also garnered quite a lot of attention, if less critical acclaim, in recent months.)
Michael Keaton stars in this limited series that will explore the American opioid crisis through the wrenching stories of families affected by it, from executive producers Danny Strong (Empire) and Warren Littlefield (The Handmaid’s Tale).
The D’Amelio Show (TBA)
Sixteen-year-old Charli D’Amelio, as the only TikTok user with more than 100 million followers, is basically the platform’s own Kim Kardashian. And like Kim, she’s bringing her whole family (including older sister Dixie, 19, also a TikTok star) along for the brand activation ride in this eight-episode look at how the D’Amelio girls and their parents are dealing with overnight fame.
Hip Hop Uncovered (Feb. 12)
This six-part doc from director Rashidi Natara Harper promises to distinguish itself from the glut of hip-hop series (including two about the Wu-Tang Clan alone) that have emerged over the past few years by taking a street-centric look at an art form the American mainstream both venerates and condemns.
Y: The Last Man (TBA)
An FX on Hulu exclusive, this adaptation of the comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where every creature with a Y chromosome—except this one guy and his pet monkey—has been annihilated. The extremely female-led cast includes Diane Lane, Olivia Thirlby, Ashley Romans and Amber Tamblyn.
The Old Man (TBA)
Jeff Bridges, also an executive producer, stars as the old man in question, in this thriller about an ex-CIA operative adapted from the Thomas Perry novel. The impressive supporting cast includes John Lithgow, Amy Brenneman, Alia Shawkat and Gbenga Akinnagbe.
Reservation Dogs (TBA)
Taika Waititi grew up Māori in New Zealand. Sterlin Harjo grew up Seminole-Muscogee in Oklahoma. And together, they’re helming this groundbreaking comedy about Indigenous teenagers.
American Horror Stories (TBA)
According to creator Ryan Murphy, this American Horror Story spin-off will consist of “16 one hour stand alone episodes delving into horror myths, legends and lore…many of these episodes will feature AHS stars you know and love.”
Legendary sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov’s far-future space opera trilogy Foundation comes to the small screen in this 10-episode series starring Jared Harris, Lee Pace and lots of expensive special effects.
The Watch (Jan. 3)
Terry Pratchett’s beloved Discworld novels provided inspiration for this escapist fantasy series about misfit crime fighters charged with saving the world.
Bridge and Tunnel (Jan. 24)
Escape to Manhattan in 1980, where a group of college grads from working-class Long Island seek their fortune. Fingers crossed for some Last Days of Disco vibes.
Resident Alien (Jan. 27)
The wonderful Alan Tudyk—a staple of geek media, from Rogue One to Doom Patrol to Firefly—gets a rare leading role, in a comic-book adaptation that casts him as an space alien who must pose as a small-town doctor while plotting the destruction of the human race.
All Creatures Great and Small (Jan. 10)
Masterpiece imports this seven-part series from Britain’s Channel 5, the first adaptation since the ’70s of James Herriot’s beloved novels about a veterinarian in 1930s Yorkshire. Critics on the other side of the Atlantic loved the remake; as the UK Observer put it, “there is a treasured place in the hearts of both left and right for a simpler pre-COVID-19 time, when arguments were settled less by nuance and context, but by just how far you could get your hand up a cow’s arse.” Quite.
Hemingway (April 5)
The latest deeply researched offering from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick is a six-hour docuseries about America’s most macho modernist writer.
Mr. Mayor (Jan. 7)
Ted Danson stars as a privileged man failing up into the position of mayor in a comedy from Tina Fey and Robert Carlock.
Call Your Mother (Jan. 13)
An empty nester show, from New Adventures of Old Christine creator Kari Lizer, starring Kyra Sedgwick.
Clarice (Feb. 11)
This Silence of the Lambs spinoff takes place a year after the detective meets Hannibal Lecter. She returns to the field to investigate serial killers and sexual predators.
The Great North (Feb. 14)
Jenny Slate, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally and Will Forte all voice characters in the Alaska-set, animated family comedy from the team behind Bob’s Burgers.
Walker (Jan. 21)
Millennials, wanna feel old? Jared Padalecki, of Supernatural and Gilmore Girls fame, takes over for Chuck Norris in this reboot of the CBS series about a Texas Ranger with two teenage daughters.