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Hein’s Picks: The Ten Best Shows of 2021 (So Far)

PLUS: The Stanley Cup Finals, Monsters At Work, and A Capitol Fourth.
  • (Photos: Apple TV+, Netflix, Disney+, Freeform, HBO Max, FX)
    (Photos: Apple TV+, Netflix, Disney+, Freeform, HBO Max, FX)

    Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.

    Hard to believe that we've already reached the midpoint of 2021. What a year — and there's still six months to go!

    I'll be upfront: the week of July 4th has never been great for new television programs. Independence Day TV marathons are fantastic, but it's all old stuff.

    These marathons used to be the ONLY way to catch up on series that you might have missed. Streaming services and On Demand have stolen the thrill by having full series available at the click of a button. Even that click has been replaced by voice commands on many remotes.

    It’s catch-up time, but what should you watch?

    Since we're at the halfway mark, I'm looking back at my 2021 picks to determine where you should spend your valuable TV time. There have been plenty of "good" new shows this year and even a couple of "great" ones.

    Here's my 2021 Top Ten (so far)…

    10. Lupin (NETFLIX)

    A smooth French master criminal is inspired by a character from a book. The pilot alone is worth the watch.

    9. WandaVision (DISNEY+)

    Unique storytelling with Paul Bettany, Elisabeth Olsen and the fabulous Kathryn Hahn leading the way. MCU membership is not required but classic TV fandom definitely helps.

    8. Big Shot (DISNEY+)

    John Stamos at his best as an exiled college basketball coach rehabbing his image as he coaches a girls high school team. Funny, heartwarming with not too much Disney mixed in.

    7. Last Chance U - Basketball (NETFLIX)

    Hard-hitting profile of a Los Angeles junior college basketball team making its way through one tough season.

    6. 1971 - The Year That Music Changed Everything (APPLE TV+)

    This eight-part docuseries focuses on a year when music really meant something. Excellent use of archival footage and dangerous parallels between the politics of then and now.

    5. Cruel Summer (FREEFORM/HULU)

    One teen disappears as another stands accused. Each episode profiles the same day over a three-year period in the early 1990's. Great pilot, and my pick for guilty pleasure of 2021 (so far).

    4. Framing Britney Spears (HULU)

    The scrappy doc that brought the pop star back into the limelight. Learn why so many want to Free Britney!

    3. Hacks (HBO MAX)

    An aging Vegas female comedian gets unwanted help from an ostracized female comedy writer. Jean Smart, 2021 is your year.

    2. For All Mankind (APPLE TV+)

    This isn't a new series, but the second season is must-see TV. Binge both seasons to get the full effect.

    1. Mare of Easttown (HBO MAX)

    A small-town Pennsylvania detective investigates a local murder. Everyone in town is hiding something, including Emmy-winning (I'm declaring it early) Kate Winslet as Mare.

    And that’s not all... This summer alone, we've got plenty of early contenders for the back half of the year, including Mike White's The White Lotus, Nicole Kidman in Nine Perfect Strangers, Steve Martin and Martin Short in Only Murders In The Building, and the second season of my favorite show of 2020, Ted Lasso.

    (Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)

    America's Top Dog (A&E) – Season 2 of police and civilian dogs tackling a really tough obstacle course. Fetch on Tuesday.

    Big Timber (NETFLIX) – Chopping wood on Vancouver Island. Sprouts Friday.

    We The People (NETFLIX) – The Obama version of Schoolhouse Rock featuring your favorite musicians teaching civics. Drops Sunday.

    Final pucks, working monsters, and an Independence Day classic…

    Stanley Cup Finals (NBC)
    Wednesday June 30th 8pm

    Not sure who's playing yet as both Conference finals are going to seven games, but this will be Game 1 of the best playoffs in all of sports. 16 wins are what's required to hoist the finest trophy in sports.

    Monsters At Work (DISNEY+)
    Friday, July 2nd

    Twenty years after Monsters, Inc., the beloved Pixar franchise gets its own TV series on Disney+.

    Picking up right where the film left off, thanks to Mike and Sulley's discovery that laughter has ten times the power of screams, a top graduate of Monsters University must transform from a scarer into a jokester. Here’s hoping for a reprise of "Put that thing back where it came from or so help me!"

    A Capitol Fourth (PBS)
    Sunday, July 4th

    It's the 41st year of celebrating our nation's independence in Washington, DC. A laundry list of performers ranging from Jimmy Buffett to Pentatonix are set to perform, but let's face it… it's all about the orchestra and fireworks at the end.


    If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

    Happy 4th! Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.

    Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.

    TOPICS: Mare of Easttown, Apple TV+, Disney+, FX, HBO, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything, Big Shot, Cruel Summer, For All Mankind, Framing Britney Spears, Hacks, Last Chance U: Basketball , Lupin, WandaVision, Jean Smart, Kate Winslet