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The best TV shows of 2021. Scenes from Starstruck, The White Lotus, and Pose.

The best TV shows of 2021

This year was weird, but at least there was a lot of great television to help us cope! Co-hosts of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour Linda Holmes and Aisha Harris are here to tell us their favorite television shows of 2021. If you need a new binge, look no further.

Linda’s top shows of the year:

The White Lotus

HBO’s The White Lotus is a social satire following guests and employees at a high end resort in Hawaii. The relationship between a wealthy white woman played by Jennifer Coolidge and a spa employee played by Natasha Rothwell “was one of the most heartbreaking things I saw on TV all year,” Linda said. “A lot of people who have gone and enjoyed the hospitality of hotels or resorts will feel a little indicted by it, which I think is appropriate.”


HBO Max’s Starstruck is a romantic comedy limited series starring creator Rose Matafeo as Jesse. The story follows Jesse’s on-again-off-again romance with a famous actor, Tom Kapoor played by Nikesh Patel, who she met by chance at a club. “It’s such a funny, warm, really just lovable show,” Linda said.

Mare of Easttown

Linda calls HBO’s Mare of Easttown an “exceptionally good show.” Kate Winslet stars as Mare, a detective investigating the murder of a young mother in small-town Pennsylvania. Linda was particularly taken by the show’s focus on Mare’s relationship with her best friend Lori, played by Julianne Nicholson.

Aisha’s top shows of the year:

Pose Season 3

Pose from FX is about the underground LGBTQ ballroom scene that bloomed in the 1980s. In its final season, the characters, many of whom are trans, queer people of color, grapple with the AIDS epidemic. “There are some things that might be a little bit over the top,” Aisha said, “but that’s part of what I love about it. It’s too much, but also just the right amount.”

Only Murders in the Building

Only Murders in the Building is a comedy from Hulu starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez. The trio investigates a potential murder in their Upper West Side apartment building. “The way in which the show skewers true crime and our obsession with true crime and podcasting is so spot on,” Aisha said. She promised not to give anything away, but Aisha added that the series “really stuck the landing.”

The Other Two

The HBO Max comedy The Other Two follows siblings Brooke and Cary Dubek, played by Heléne Yorke and Drew Tarver, after their younger brother accidentally becomes famous. “It’s interesting to watch these two older siblings be jealous of their younger brother getting the fame they wanted while also trying to capitalize on it,” Aisha said.

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