Best TV shows of 2021: the 23 must-watch series coming to our screens

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From Inventing Anna to The Pursuit Of Love, these are the TV shows we cannot wait to start watching in 2021.     

We’re calling it: 2021 is going to be an excellent year for TV.

Despite filming delays brought on by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it seems a whole host of brilliant new TV shows will be coming to our screens next year.

There’s crime thriller The Rig, as well as the much-anticipated sixth season of Line Of Duty. The Handmaid’s Tale, too, will be back with season four, while The Confessions Of Frannie Langton looks set to be a must-watch for armchair detectives everywhere.

Elsewhere, we have Marvel’s Wandavision, Netflix’s Inventing Anna, and a third instalment of Penn Badgley’s You to sink our teeth into.

And let’s not forget that there are some excellent adaptations in the works, too: think Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit Of Love, Adam Kay’s This Is Going To Hurt, and Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends, to name but three.

With that in mind, then, these are some of the best new TV shows to look out for in 2021.

Please note that this article will be updated regularly to include new titles.

Wandavision 

Wandavision: Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) live a seemingly charmed life.
Wandavision: Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) live a seemingly charmed life.

Marvel fans will definitely want to check out Wandavision, which is due to hit Disney Plus in January. The show sees superheroes Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) living idyllic suburban lives. 

However, they quickly come to suspect that there is something incredibly sinister going on – and, considering (spoiler) Vision died at the end of Avengers: Endgame, we’re tempted to agree with them…

Release date: 15 January

Conversations With Friends

Normal People fans, rejoice! Conversations With Friends – the debut novel by author Sally Rooney – is getting its very own BBC adaptation, too.

It tells the story of two college students – Frances and Bobbi – living in Dublin, who form a complicated connection with an older married couple called Nick and Melissa.

Despite their obvious differences, the foursome quickly embark on a “complex ménage-à-quatre” that’s played out in a world of glamorous dinner parties, beautiful homes and holidays to Provence. But the strange new dynamic quickly shines a light on vulnerabilities no-one saw coming.

Release date: TBC

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 4

The Handmaid’s Tale will be back on Channel 4 in 2021, and, this time, it will take us far beyond Gilead’s reach.

“We’re really stretching the limits of our capabilities, production-wise, and we’re on the move a lot,” explains Elisabeth Moss, who plays the show’s eponymous handmaid, Offred/June.

“We’re not sitting in a studio between four walls very much, so it really is a bigger season and that’s taken a little [longer].”

This, alongside the explosive trailer above, makes two things abundantly clear. Firstly, June is no longer confined to her Commander’s house: she’s on the move, and none of the agents in Gilead’s theocratic society know where she is or what she’s planning.

Secondly, June has an army of her own, and the uniform of her loyal soldiers isn’t just red, but green and even blue. She has powerful allies, too, on her side. And she is a force to be reckoned with.

Especially as she knows, at long last, that she truly does have the power to do something big.

Release date: TBC

The Great

Channel 4’s The Great is, surprise, all about Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning). As in, yes, the longest-reigning female ruler in Russian history. But, while we may think we know everything there is to know about the so-called “Messalina of the Neva”, this show winds things back to when she was just Catherine the Teenage Outsider, shipped into a strange country for an arranged – and extremely ill-fated – marriage to Emperor Peter III (Nicholas Hoult).

Much like The Favourite before it, The Great keeps up a deliciously sardonic tone throughout. And, whether layered over scenes of searing drama or utter mayhem, it’s this which gives the show its edge.

This writer caught the series when it aired on Starzplay earlier this year, and rest assured that Fanning’s portrayal of a mutinous young woman on the brink of greatness feels wholly relatable, too. Especially if you’ve ever been manterrupted mid-meeting.

Release date: summer 2021

Inventing Anna

Created and produced by TV goddess Shonda Rhimes, this Netflix series is set to bring to life the true story of Anna Delvey, New York’s ‘fake heiress,’ who famously fooled the world when she claimed to be a German socialite setting up an art foundation, and scammed numerous high-flyers and financial institutions into funding her outrageously lavish style.

anna-delvey
Inventing Anna will explore the case of New York’s ‘fake heiress.’

Ozark’s Julia Garner will play the Soho scammer, while Anna Chlumsky of Veep fame stars as the journalist who formed a love-hate relationship with the magnetic con artist as she investigates her nefarious goings-on.

And let’s not forget that Laverne Cox – aka Sophia in Orange Is the New Black – plays a celebrity trainer who lingers on the periphery of Anna’s murky world.

Release date: TBC 

Nine Perfect Strangers

Adapted from Liane Moriarty’s novel of the same name, Nine Perfect Strangers – expected to air on Sky Atlantic – takes us to Tranquillum House, a remote health retreat run by a mysterious Russian woman named Masha (Nicole Kidman).

It is here that nine strangers, with very little in common, gather for a 10-day-long retreat. As you’ve probably guessed, though, their path to enlightenment doesn’t run smoothly.

And it isn’t long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question: should I run while I still can?

Release date: TBC

Ridley Road

Based on Jo Bloom’s novel of the same name, Ridley Road tells the story of a young Jewish woman who goes undercover at a fascist organisation in ’60s London.

“When Vivien Epstein (Aggi O’Casey) follows her lover into danger and he is caught between life and death, she finds herself going undercover with the fascists, not only for him but for the sake of her country,” reads the BBC’s synopsis of the four-part drama.

Release date: TBC

The Pursuit Of Love

Lily James in The Pursuit of Love.
Lily James in The Pursuit of Love.

Set in Europe between the two World Wars, the BBC’s adaptation of The Pursuit Of Love chronicles the misadventures of the fearless Linda Radlett (Lily James) and her daring quest to find true love at any cost.

While Linda’s heart takes her all over Europe, though, her best friend and cousin, Fanny Logan (Emily Beecham), decides to stay in England and follow a more conventional path.

And, as previously reported by Stylist, it’s not long before their diverging choices raise personal questions that remain intensely relevant today – questions about freedom, about love and sex, and the mystery of the human heart.

Release date: TBC

Line Of Duty: Season 6

Line Of Duty will be back on our screens in 2021, with Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar reprising their roles as the cops running AC-12 for a sixth season.

According to the BBC, this time they will face their “most enigmatic adversary” yet. And you better believe that adversary will come in the shape of Kelly Macdonald’s newcomer, DCI Joanne Davidson.

Release date: early 2021

This Is Going To Hurt

This Is Going To Hurt, the bestselling memoir that offers up a no-holds-barred account of Adam Kay’s time as a junior doctor, will be coming to BBC Two in 2021.

Just as is shown in the book, the series will see Adam (Ben Whishaw) struggling to adapt to life in a London obstetrics and gynaecology unit (known charmingly among medical students as the “brats and twats” unit).

Go in expecting to laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time.

Release date: early 2021

It’s A Sin

Russell T Davies has joined forces with Channel 4 to bring us the searing tale of It’s A Sin. The five-part drama will examine the lives of a group of young gay men who are hit by the outbreak of a new deadly virus, HIV, after they move to London during the 1980s.

In a statement, Channel 4 said: “Ritchie, Roscoe and Colin are young lads, strangers at first, leaving home at 18 and heading off to London in 1981 with hope and ambition and joy… and walking straight into a plague that most of the world ignores.

“Year by year, episode by episode, their lives change, as the mystery of a new virus starts as a rumour, then a threat, then a terror, and then something that binds them together in the fight.

“It’s the story of their friends, lovers and families too, especially Jill, the girl who loves them and helps them, and galvanises them in the battles to come. Together they will endure the horror of the epidemic, the pain of rejection and the prejudices that gay men faced throughout the decade.”

Olly Alexander, Omari Douglas, Callum Scott Howells, and Keeley Hawes will lead the drama.

Release date: TBC

Vigil 

BBC drama Vigil will, over the course of six episodes, follow the mysterious disappearance of a Scottish fishing trawler and a death on-board a Trident nuclear submarine, which brings the police into conflict with the Navy and British security services.

DCI Amy Silva (Suranne Jones) leads an investigation on land and at sea into a conspiracy that threatens the very heart of Britain’s nuclear deterrent.

Rose Leslie and Martin Compston will also star in the drama, which is being made by the same people behind Line of Duty and Bodyguard.

Release date: TBC 

My Name Is Lizzie

Niamh Algar will star as My Name Is Lizzie’s female undercover officer, codename ‘Lizzie James’.
Niamh Algar will star as My Name Is Lizzie’s female undercover officer, codename ‘Lizzie James’.

Based on true events, My Name Is Lizzie enters a dysfunctional world, where a female undercover officer, codename ‘Lizzie James’ (Niamh Algar), is asked to become sexual bait for a suspected killer.

As per Channel 4’s synopsis: “Five months on from the murder of Rachel Nickell, and The Met Police are still no closer to capturing the man they’re convinced is responsible.

“First identified through a BBC Crimewatch appeal, the evidence is stacked against Colin Stagg. The media feed a national obsession, covering every detail of the case and demanding justice. The police are determined to catch the man who, in their eyes, is guilty before he kills again.

“In desperation, the relatively young Detective Inspector leading the case, engages the nation’s most famous criminal profiler to devise a bold undercover operation which will see an attractive, young female officer start a relationship with Colin Stagg.”

And the result? One of the most controversial cases in police history.

Release date: TBC

Behind Her Eyes

Netflix’s adaptation of Sarah Pinborough’s novel follows single mother Louise (Simona Brown) who has an affair with psychiatrist boss David (Tom Bateman), before unexpectedly becoming friends with his wife Adele (Eve Hewson).

It’s only natural, then, that Louise soon “finds herself caught in a web of secrets and lies where nothing is what it seems.”

Release date: TBC

The Serpent

The Serpent, which stars Tahar Rahim as French conman and mass murderer Charles Sobhraj, is based on the true story of how he was caught and brought to trial.

The drama follows Herman Knippenberg (Billy Howle), a junior diplomat from the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok as he unwittingly walks into the web of crime that leads him to chase down the murderer in the twilight years of the Asian Hippie Trail.

Jenna Coleman will also star as Sobhraj’s partner and frequent accomplice, Marie-Andrée Leclerc.

Release date: TBC

You: Season 3

Victoria Pedretti and Penn Badgley as Love and Joe in You.

At the end of You season two, murderous Joe (Penn Badgley) and just-as-bad Love (Victoria Pedretti) moved out to the suburbs to raise their baby together. The final scene, though, saw Joe peeking through his garden fence and watching his neighbour read a book.

“This is just the beginning. Because this is where I had to be exactly where I had to be to meet You,” he said.

“There you were with your books and your sunshine, so close but worlds away. I will figure out a way. A way to get to you. See you soon, neighbour.”

We have a feeling things are going to get even creepier in season three…

Release date: TBC

The Confessions Of Frannie Langton

Sara Collins’ debut novel, The Confessions Of Frannie Langton, is going to be adapted into a four-part murder mystery for ITV.

For those who have yet to read the book, which is set against the dazzling opulence of Georgian London, it narrates Frannie’s journey from a Jamaican plantation to the grand Mayfair mansion of celebrated scientist George Benham and his exquisitely beautiful wife, Madame Marguerite Benham.

There, though, events take a fateful turn as the Benhams are found murdered in their beds and Frannie is accused of a murder she can’t remember.

Dragged away to prison, Frannie attempts to piece together the events of that night. She is deep into a laudanum addiction and unable to recall what happened. Will Frannie recall the haunting events of that night? All she knows is she loved Marguerite passionately and cannot believe she would have hurt her.

But if not Frannie, then who committed the double murder? And why?

Release date: TBC

Gone For Good

Based on the book by mystery and thriller writer Harlan Coben, Netflix’s Gone For Good revolves around Guillaume Lucchesi (Finnegan Oldfield), who thought he had drawn a line under the terrible tragedy which saw the two people he loved the most die: Sonia (Garance Marillier), his first love, and Fred (Nicolas Duvauchelle), his brother.

Ten years later, Judith (Nailia Harzoune), whose love has made his life worth living again, suddenly disappears during his mother’s funeral. To find her, Guillaume will have to face all the truths that were hidden from him by his family and friends, as well as those that he’d long decided to ignore.

For better, but mostly for worse…

Release date: TBC

Emily In Paris: Season 2

Lily Collins stars in Emily In Paris.

Netflix’s Emily In Paris is, as suspected, getting a second season. And, while creator Darren Star admits that he hasn’t thought about where all the different characters will end up, he has promised that the new episodes will see Lily James’ Emily come into her own.

“In season 2, she’s going to be more of a part of the fabric of the world she’s living in. She’ll be more of a resident of the city,” he told Oprah Magazine.

“She’ll have her feet on the ground a little more. She’s making a life there.”

Release date: TBC

The Netflix Afterparty

The Netflix Afterparty, a weekly comedy aftershow, will be a first-of-its-kind 18-episode Netflix series hosted by London Hughes, Fortune Feimster and David Spade (who also executive produces).

Each episode will focus on one of the latest Netflix films or TV shows to hit the cultural zeitgeist, with the stars of the title taking part in interviews, pop culture discussions and sketches.

And, each week, the co-hosts will also be joined by a different Netflix comedian to round out the panel. Sounds good, right?

Release date: TBC

The Rig

Predicted to premiere in the winter of 2021, Amazon Prime’s The Rig is a thriller that will be directed by Line of Duty and Bodyguard’s John Strickland.

The series follows the crew of the Kishorn Bravo oil rig, which is stationed off the Scottish coast in the dangerous waters of the North Sea.

“When the crew are due to return to the mainland, a mysterious and all-enveloping fog rolls through and they find themselves cut off from all communication with the shore and the outside world,” promises the official synopsis.

“As they endeavour to discover what’s driving this force, bonds are broken, allegiances formed and generational fault lines exposed. The crew of the Bravo will be driven to the limits of both their loyalties and their endurance, into a confrontation with forces beyond their imagination.”

Release date: TBC

Sex Education: Season 3

Netflix’s Sex Education will be back with a third season next year. And, while no official plot synopsis has been announced, it’s safe to predict that the new episodes will focus heavily on Otis (Asa Butterfield) and Maeve’s relationship.

After Otis and Ola (Patricia Allison) called it a day and he sent a voice message to Maeve (Emma Mackey) confessing his love for her, we were sure we’d get a happy ending.

But Isaac (George Robinson), who’s been crushing on Maeve since forever, decided to throw a spanner in the works and delete Otis’ message before Maeve could listen to it.

Will the starstruck lovers get it together in season three? Your guess is as good as ours, quite frankly.

Release date: TBC

Fate: The Winx Club Saga

Fate: The Winx Saga follows the coming-of-age journey of five fairies attending Alfea, a magical boarding school in the Otherworld where they must learn to master their magical powers while navigating love, rivalries, and the monsters that threaten their very existence,” shares Netflix.

From creator Brian Young (The Vampire Diaries), Fate: The Winx Saga is a live-action reimagining of the Italian cartoon Winx Club from Iginio Straffi.

Release date: early 2021

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Images: BBC/Netflix/Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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