Clockwise from top left: “The Underground Railroad,” “Chad,” “City of Ghosts,” “Hacks” and “Run the World” are among the best TV shows of 2021.
Tv Shows In Los Angeles
We love a season preview, don’t get us wrong. But when the question you get asked most often is “What should I watch right now?” looking into the future has its limits. So instead of a calendar of summer premieres we’re most excited about, we’re changing things up with a list of the best TV shows of 2021 (so far), curated by The Times’ TV team.
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From the edgy (“Mare of Easttown,” “WandaVision”) to the under-the-radar (“City of Ghosts,” “The Gloaming”), the 15 titles below are sure to have something for everyone. Read on to find a summer’s worth of TV recommendations to queue up on the nights you (still) want to stay in.
After more than a year of pandemic life, we know you’re ready to get off the couch. Here are this summer’s TV shows that deserve an exception.
The comedy “Chad,” which stars former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Nasim Pedrad as the most awkward teenage boy ever (if that’s even possible), has been in the works for a while — it was promoted a few years ago, even before “PEN15.” So my expectations were low when I tuned in for the premiere. But I was taken with Pedrad’s convincing performance and the overall sweetness of the tone. Plus, the comedy is sharp and the cast’s chemistry is strong. I realize the show isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I believe “Chad” has the potential to grow on you if you give it a chance. (Available on: TBS) —Greg Braxton
Los Angeles is often misunderstood by those who don’t bother to see it beyond superficial pop culture clichés and hot outsiders. A solid rejection is “City of Ghosts,” an all-ages animated series that follows a group of kids looking for ghosts around town to document their stories. As quirky and sweet as it is soothing and informative, the show is a celebration of L.A.’s often-overlooked history, diverse communities and neighborhoods. The series also shows that topics like discrimination, gentrification and cultural appropriation can be tackled in ways that even younger viewers can understand. (Available on: Netflix) —Tracy Brown
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Another splintered New York adventure from executive producers Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (“30 Rock,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), Meredith Scardino’s satirical musical comedy charts the turbulent reunion of a briefly famous ’90s girl group. A wondrous, motley cast whose combined experience includes pop music, sitcoms, “Saturday Night Live” and Broadway – Sara Bareilles, Busy Philipps, Paula Pell and Renée Elise Goldsberry – mocks old and new culture, mixing humiliation and empowerment. Like many show business stories, it is at once anti-sentimental and sentimental as hell. (Available at: Peacock) —Robert Lloyd
One of the joys I’ve experienced as a TV reporter over the years is discovering a series I know absolutely nothing about. The only things I knew about Starz’s “The Gloaming” before it premiered were that it had a weird title and the network had sent me a creepy light in the shape of a baby’s head as a promotion. My TV was tuned to Starz when the first episode came on and I was instantly hooked. The show takes place in Australia’s Tasmania, and the landscape is both moody and fantastic. There’s an unsolved old crime, a gruesome murder mystery, attractive but damaged characters, ghosts and witchcraft. Watching this series is like going on vacation. Watch it with the lights off. (Available on: Starz) —Greg Braxton
Jean Smart continues her well-deserved career renaissance in “Hacks,” a bitingly funny and surprisingly touching comedy about comedy – and more. She stars as Deborah Vance, a legendary Joan Rivers-esque stand-up whose Las Vegas act has become stale. To spice up her thrashing, her agent pairs her with Ava (Hannah Einbinder), an entitled 20-something comedy writer whose career has stalled thanks to an insensitive tweet about a closeted politician. The yawning generation gap between the women eventually gives way to a kind of cautious understanding of the fickle nature of their industry. (Available on: HBO Max) — Meredith Blake
Obviously there is the accent. The way Kate Winslet has mastered the Philadelphia bent of her character in HBO’s “Mare of Easttown” — generating dozens of headlines and inspiring a skit on “Saturday Night Live” — is more than enough of a reason to tune in in. But the crime drama is also one of the most tense and riveting mysteries on TV. Winslet plays Mare Sheehan, a former high school basketball star who now serves as a local detective in a fictional small town in Pennsylvania’s Delaware County – known affectionately by residents as Delco. As tired of her job as she is tenacious, Mare is haunted by the unsolved disappearance of the daughter of a former teammate as she tries to investigate the recent murder of a teenage girl – all while dealing with her own personal turmoil. It’s a good mix of a slow burn and a nail biter (wait until you get to that bathtub scene!). The cherry on top is the fantastic stage work between Winslet and Jean Smart, who plays Mare’s mother, Helen. The duo’s mother-daughter dynamic, alternating between moments of epic comedy and heart-wrenching drama, makes for scenes worth replaying … and turning into memes; #sneakerfart (Available on: HBO, HBO Max) —Yvonne Villarreal
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A show about art that is itself an art project. John Lurie’s quasi-sequel to his 20th-century “Fishing With John” series, which mixes the staged and unstaged in unfathomable proportions, finds the former saxophonist and indie film actor living in tropical semi-isolation, riffing with his (more amused than admired) hired help, remembering the old days, contemplating the new days, and making detailed stream-of-consciousness watercolors. He also pretends to be an elephant, but tells you, “I’m not really an elephant. My name is John.” (Available on: HBO, HBO Max) —Robert Lloyd
In their eight-part “Independent Lens” documentary about newly elected Philadelphia Dist. Atty. Larry Krasner, whose reformist fervor becomes one of the city’s central focal points, filmmakers Ted Passon, Yoni Brook and Nicole Salazar achieve that rarest of feats: producing “political” television that succeeds in dramatizing, on a human scale, the most pressing issues of the moment — thorns still attached. As Krasner and his hand-picked advisers face recalcitrant prosecutors in their own juvenile division and judge bent on maintaining their “discretion” (read: power), the “Philly D.A.” emerges as a complex, compelling portrait of a system in the throes of change, trading neutrality for honesty, balance for truth. Plus, it features a variety of characters — such as bail reform activist LaTonya Myers — and a number of set pieces — including a closed-door meeting about Krasner’s victory speech — so sublimely memorable you’d never mistake it for fiction. (Available on: PBS, PBS Passport) —Matt Brennan
Heather B. Gardner, left, Kevin Powell, Norman Korpi, Julie Gentry and Andre Comeau in “The Real World: Homecoming: New York.”
Reality TV returned to its kinder, gentler roots this year with “The Real World: Homecoming: New York.” The nostalgic six-episode series follows the original cast of “The Real World,” now in their 40s and 50s, as they return to the SoHo loft where they filmed the groundbreaking MTV show in 1992 and reflect on their unexpectedly transformative role in American pop culture. For Gen X and older millennials who grew up watching the early seasons of “The Real World” on MTV, the reunion feels like our very own “Big Chill” moment and serves as a reminder that reality TV, though it is often maligned, can also be a force for positive social change. (Available at: Paramount+) — Meredith Blake
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Starz’s hopeful comedy series takes the “Sex and the City” formula and elevates it. By the end of the debut season’s eight episodes, I was deeply invested in each of the four ambitious and capable women at the center and loved the strong and honest bonds they shared. And because it makes hanging out in Harlem hotspots look so glamorous and fun, the show has cured me of all the anxieties I once had about rejoining society post-pandemic. (Available on: Starz) —Ashley Lee
Bigfoot lore, true crime and weed culture meet in “Sasquatch,” Hulu’s three-part docu-series about the mysterious 1993 murder of several men in the Emerald Triangle, a stretch of wilderness known for its natural beauty, marijuana production and Yeti sightings. Who, or what, mutilated their bodies? The question is at the center of this all-too-exciting tale, which features a cast of characters that includes Hells Angels, “squatchers,” tweakers, and guys with names like Bobo. Subplots galore, including a thread about the region’s fascinating evolution from a 1970s hippie utopia to a high-stakes drug syndicate of booby-trapped connections where the number of missing persons is higher per