There’s a lot of fall TV but also everything you should catch up on
The 2021 fall TV season is stacked with new releases. From the early premieres like Lucifer Season 6 to Y: The Last Man (RIP), Foundation and Succession season 3, to highly anticipated shows like Showtime’s Dexter: New Blood or Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop, there is and will always be tons to watch.
But maybe you’re looking for a show that’s already behind us, something you can watch in full at your own pace. Good news: We’ve pulled together a collection of some of the best shows that aired this past season, each one complete and ready to be binge — on Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus, HBO Max, and beyond — at the push of a button.
Brand New Cherry Flavor
Perhaps the grossest 2021 show you can catch up on, Brand New Cherry Flavor is an impressively nasty neo-noir occult tale of revenge that feels quite different from the usual Netflix series. Lisa Nova (Alita: Battle Angel’s Rosa Salazar) is a young indie director arriving in Hollywood in the hopes of making her big feature debut. When a down-on-his-luck producer takes advantage of her to boost his profile, she seeks revenge using the only means available to her: black magic. This, as you can imagine, doesn’t go according to plan — unless the plan is a memorably mean TV show with a hell of a twist in store. —Joshua Rivera
Brand New Cherry Flavor is available to stream on Netflix.
There is no concise way to describe everything Evil is; it’s an irreverent procedural, a psychological horror, a biting satire, and so much more. The one constant — besides the standout performances of stars Katja Herbers, Mike Colter, and Aasif Mandvi — is that Evil is wholly unpredictable. And somehow, this year’s second season was even more destabilizing for viewers than the first, as showrunners Robert and Michelle King (The Good Fight) added new layers and mysteries at a rapid pace before most of the lingering questions from season one had even remotely resolved. That’s because one thing Evil is decidedly not is a puzzle box show.
The questions Evil raises aren’t designed to inspire viewers to theorize and dispassionately pick apart the show looking for clues. The Kings’ series has always been more about the questions than answers, and the second season takes this philosophy to the next level through its riveting and completely buckwild explorations of Kristen’s (Herbers) possible possession, David’s (Mandvi) doubts ahead of his ordination, and whatever the hell is going on with Sheryl (Christine Lahti). All of this is why we can’t even begin to tell you what went on in Evil’s second season, but we can confidently say that it’s worth catching up on. —Sadie Gennis
Evil is available to stream on Paramount Plus.
Photo: Heidi Gutman/Peacock
On a joke-per-minute level, Girls5Eva is one of the best new comedies to premiere this year. A goofy-yet-sincere story about a teen girl group getting back together in middle age after one of their old songs go viral, it’s a sitcom that keeps the punchlines coming — with the added bonus of regularly featuring original songs that are equally funny. It’s only eight episodes long, but try to get it’s incredibly catchy theme song out of your head after watching it once. —JR
Girls5Eva is available to stream on Peacock.
While we’re still mourning the loss of GLOW, Heels has triumphantly arrived on the scene to provide a completely different perspective on the captivating world of professional wrestling. Stephen Amell stars as Jack Spade, the owner of the DWL, a small-town Georgia wrestling league in which Jack performs as a heel while struggling to drum up enough buzz and business for the league to be a real competitor. Alexander Ludwig plays Jack’s younger brother Ace, a face in the DWL whose ambitions and talent seem poised to take him to the big time.
The Starz drama makes sure to mine every bit of melodrama between the brothers in and outside of the ring, as their visions for the DWL’s future (and their own) clash far more often than they align. Heels does an excellent job grounding the drama by lifting so much of the story from real wrestling history, and wrestling fans will be thrilled at all the cameos sprinkled throughout the season. But where the show truly excels is in its exploration of the ways that reality and fiction often become indistinguishable in wrestling, and how the issues inside the ring often follow the performers home. However, the series is far more than Jack and Ace’s story. Heels pays equal attention to what it means to be woman in this world, delving into the challenges faced by Jack’s wife Staci (Alison Luff), his business partner Willie (Mary McCormack), and Ace’s valet and an aspiring wrestler Crystal (Kelli Berglund). —SG
Heels is available to stream on Starz.
Made for Love
Photo: John P. Johnson/HBO Max
Imagine, for a moment, you were married to, say, Mark Zuckerberg. Now imagine you were divorcing Mark Zuckerberg, and he wasn’t handling it well. Being on the outs with a guy who controls way too much of the world’s information would be pretty intense, no? That’s the premise of Made for Love, an absurdist comedy about Hazel Green (Cristin Milioti) and her messy divorce from tech magnate Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen), who put a chip in her brain that lets him monitor her every move. Based on the excellent book of the same name by Alissa Nutting, Made for Love breathes new life into breakup comedies by layering in the madness of modern technology, where convenience is exchanged for data, freely given. Few shows are this odd and thoughtful at once. —JR
Made for Love is available to stream on HBO Max.
The Owl House season 2
Season 2 of Disney Channel’s The Owl House kicked off this summer, and the first half is out on Disney Plus. This fantasy show follows a young human girl who finds herself in a world full of witches and demons, and decides to train as a witch’s apprentice under wacky con artist Eda. Full of magic, dynamic relationships, and funky world-building, The Owl House continues to up the stakes, as Luz tries to find a way back home to the human realm and discovers dark secrets about the Boiling Isles. But it’s not all heavy plot — The Owl House has plenty of humor and heart, as well as an adorable relationship between Luz and her former rival Amity. With the fate of the show up in the air, now is the perfect time to catch up. —Petrana Radulovic
The Owl House is available to stream on Disney Plus.
The Other Two
Photo: Greg Endries /HBO Max
If Girls5Eva is one of the best new comedies of 2021, The Other Two is one of the best old-but-really-kinda-new comedies of 2021. The first season of Saturday Night Live duo Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider’s sitcom aired in 2019 to little fanfare on Comedy Central. HBO Max, needing Content, wisely picked it up as an exclusive series. There, the safe-for-cable story of the brother-sister duo Cary (Drew Tarver) and Brooke Dubek (Heléne Yorke), and their uber-famous, Justin Bieber-esque little bro ChaseDreams (Case Walker), blossomed in all its weird, R-rated glory. In season 1, the older Dubeks struggled to find meaning in their lives as Chase blew up and their mom Pat (Molly Shannon) managed her successful son’s dreams. In season 2, now out in full, the pair … continue to struggle. Cary has become famous-by-association for being Chase’s gay brother, yet can’t make his acting career take off. Brooke has stepped up to be Chase’s manager, but the work — alongside dimwitted co-manager Streeter Peters (Ken Marino) — is simply hell.
The comedy of errors could easily stumble into upper-crust, woe-is-me territory, but Kelly and Schneider work at such a specific level, dragging entertainment industry archetypes, culling from Deadline headlines, brushing against serious mental health issues, and annihilating post-fame social media behavior, that it’s a bit like watching David Fincher concoct a comedy. Everything is laugh-out-loud right The Other Two when everything is going dreadfully wrong for these characters. HBO Max picked up a third season almost immediately after the finale, which makes sense: the show’s firing with 30 Rock cylinders and everyone who knows it wants more as soon as possible. —Matt Patches
The Other Two is available to stream on HBO Max.
Superman & Lois
Photo: The CW Network
Every modern Superman story must overcome a skeptical audience: Superman, the thinking goes, is either too powerful or too simple to tell a compelling contemporary story with. Superman & Lois responds to this apprehension with a relaxed demeanor and a simple answer: Superman stories are about connecting to other people. After starting a family, Clark Kent and Lois Lane are forced to move back to Smallville to find that the town is being exploited by a billionaire and gutted from the inside out. Working as a team, Kent and Lane must expose threats both superhuman and appallingly mundane while also raising two teen boys — one of whom has superpowers. While set in The CW’s Arrowverse, the series stands alone both in tone and plot, and makes for a neat, contained binge that doesn’t sprawl out. —JR
Superman & Lois is available to stream on The CW Website and HBO Max.
Photo by Kirsty Griffin / 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Sweet Tooth, based on Jeff Lemire’s acclaimed 2009 Vertigo comic of the same name, is my favorite Netflix show in years. The story centers Gus (Christian Convery), a part-deer, part-human hybrid 10-year-old boy born shortly after a virus wiped out a portion of the world population. Many now see the birth of a hybrid generation as the obvious cause of the outbreak, but as scientists on the case discover, the situation may be more complex that anyone’s ready to consider. But the disaster cripples society, and sends survivors into various corners of the world. Gus and his father (Will Forte) live off the grid in an old national park. Gus’ future protector, Jepperd (Nonso Anozie), wanders the land, escaping his violent past. While there’s a semblance of modern life left in walled-off towns and pop-up enclaves, nowhere is safe for a boy like Gus. This is where Sweet Tooth all begins.
Though diverting from the darkness of Lemire’s source material in significant ways, the eight-episode first season, spearheaded by writer-director Jim Mickle (Stake Land, Cold in July) and TV veteran Beth Schwartz (Arrow), constructs an authentically Amblin-esque adventure through a verdant post-apocalyptic world. The first episode is like a mini-movie. What follows could easily be an echo of The Walking Dead or The Last of Us, but through a vivid backdrop and the right amount of whimsy, Mickle and Schwartz find their own groove. (Fans of Mickle’s horror work won’t be disappointed either.) Sweet Tooth earned a season 2 pickup from Netflix earlier this fall, so jump on this one now so you’re ready for when it rolls around again in … 2022, hopefully? —MP
Sweet Tooth is available to stream on Netflix.
The Underground Railroad
Photo: Kyle Kaplan/Amazon Studios
Based Colson Whitehead’s 2016 novel of the same name, The Underground Railroad is easily one of the most stunning and accomplished television series to premiere this year that somehow hasn’t gotten nearly garnered as much love as it so rightfully deserves. Directed by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk), the series follows the brutal odyssey of Cora (Thuso Mbedu), a former slave who flees from a Georgian plantation alongside her fellow escapee Caesar (Aaron Pierre) aboard the Underground Railroad. Both Whitehead’s book and Jenkins’ adaptation transform the euphemistic network of safe houses and routes employed by abolitionists in the mid-19th century into an actual underground system built and maintained by emancipated free men and woman to shepherd fugitive slaves to safety, but that’s not the most extraordinary element when it comes to either the series or its source material.
The Underground Railroad is a dark and harrowing fable of freedom and survival, a speculative series that draws from history itself to shine an unflinching light on the myriad ways that America’s original sin has morphed and transformed both itself and the country at large in the most subtle and damning of ways. There’s not enough room in the space of paragraph to lavish this series with the praise it deserves for its evocative score, breathtaking cinematography, and captivating performances. If you’ve somehow put off or even forgotten about watching The Underground until now, you need to stop right now and start watching one of the most virtuosic television events of the year. —Toussaint Egan
The Underground Railroad is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.