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The Best-Rated Shows On Metacritic In 2021

There's still a lot left in 2021, but dozens and dozens of TV series have already premiered or debuted new seasons. Some shows rode onto the scene on a wave of critical acclaim, while others have fizzled out after very little fanfare. Trying to figure out which ones to wade through and which ones to skip while couch-surfing next weekend? Metacritic, the site that curates reviews from the world's top critics and spits out an appropriate overall score, may be of help. Every year the site (which has been in existence since 1999) keeps a running list of the highest-rated shows along with lists of top TV shows by genre, those that have dropped in the last 90 days, and the best shows of all time.

If you're curious to see which shows have captured critical hearts this season, read on to see the series that are among the highest-rated shows on Metacritic so far in 2021.

It's a Sin

Welsh creator Russell T. Davies has amassed many loyal viewers over the years at the helm of series such as Doctor Who and Torchwood, not to mention the groundbreaking 1999 series Queer As Folk. In this fictional five-part limited HBO Max offering, the writer continues building his queer canon with a heartbreaking look at the AIDS pandemic as it rose to horrific heights in the 1980s. The story is told through a personalized lens as three 18-year-olds — Ritchie (Olly Alexander), Colin (Callum Scott Howells) and Roscoe (Omari Douglas) — leave home to begin new lives in London. There they experience the harrowing effects of the virus firsthand, while the story also highlights the ways in which those in power reacted, laying the necessary groundwork for subsequent LGBTQ+ rights movements. In its review, Variety reveals that "Davies has once again made great and painful art about time's passage," whereas Time declares that the series "Gets the big, emotional moments and moral arguments right."

Painting with John

Following a year of isolation, an unscripted TV show about a guy painting watercolors and reflecting on his life seems pretty on-brand for the world. This six-episode HBO series stars painter, musician, and actor John Lurie, who turned to the brush during his ongoing battle with Lyme disease. Each installment features Lurie living his best life at his remote home on a small Caribbean island. There he doles out gems in his gravelly voice while rolling tires down hills, knocking dead branches off trees, and painting intricate watercolors of his surroundings. His idiosyncrasies and weird musings are featured in full along the way. Decider admits that the show "does take some getting used to," but once you're "into the show's rhythms it feels like a relaxing way to end your day." The Los Angeles Times adds that "the mood is mostly meditative" but by the end, viewers may feel that they "have been told a story as much as having been shown a life."

Elizabeth Is Missing

This British series based on the novel of the same name by Andrea Gibb made its American premiere as part of PBS' Masterpiece programming in 2021. Elizabeth is Missing introduces viewers to the world of an 80-something-year-old woman named Maud Horsham (double Oscar winner Glenda Jackson), who suffers from Alzheimer's. In the series she believes that her best friend Elizabeth (Maggie Steed) has vanished, setting the stage for a mystery and an in-depth look at the heartbreaking realities of dementia and loss. As Maud searches for her dear friend, the story also touches upon how her family has been affected by her declining health. "The drama achieved two important things: providing a truthful portrayal of the condition, and reminding people caring for those with dementia that they are not alone," writes The Telegraph. "Every beat is heartbreakingly played," adds The Hollywood Reporter in its review. "This is a tightly told story well worth checking out."

The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song

PBS recruited host and professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. (Finding Your Roots) to present this four-hour series, from which he also wrote a bestselling novel of the same name. In the series, Gates explores the 400-year-old story of the Black church in America and how it has changed over the years. That includes a deeper look at the origins and purpose of the original Black Church, how it became a space of resilience and organization, and the autonomy and freedom that it provides. Along the way the show also explores the history of Black people bringing their faith traditions from Africa to the New World, making a form of Christianity their own. "The Black Church is a celebratory tour of American history, examining the regional contributions to the larger culture of worship, and the churches themselves," writes Salon. "Despite its traditional style, the series distinguishes itself through Gates' candid interactions with interviews who range from scholars and theologians to celebrities like Oprah and John Legend," adds Time.


This French mystery thriller from creators George Kay and François Uzan is inspired by the fictional gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, who was first conceptualized by writer Maurice Leblanc in 1905. The show follows a man named Assane Diop (Omar Sy), a thief out to avenge his father following an injustice involving a wealthy family. How will he do that? By stealing the same necklace his pops was accused of taking years ago. The first five of 10 episodes dropped in January and the back half will be released in summer 2021. According to Slate, the series "Doesn't waste a single minute, packing each and every moment full of suspense." And Rolling Stone comments that while Lupin bounces back and forth in time in order to tell the story of both the boy and the man (a thread that can sometimes be confusing), "The story itself has so much energy that it all flows together nicely."

All Creatures Great and Small

This reboot of the 1970s series of the same name (which was based on the books by James Herriot) follows a veterinarian grad named James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph, making his TV debut) in 1930s Yorkshire. The seven-part Masterpiece on PBS series tracks his journey as he takes an assistant position with established but eclectic veterinary surgeon Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West). Along the way he brings his humor, compassion and love of life to everyone around him. The first season wrapped in February, but a second season is on the way following a renewal. Paste reveals that the show "Is not a series that requires much from you, but gives plenty in return... it is a wonderful treat and a balm for the soul." Indiewire adds, "What's remarkable is how much of that bouncy, vibrant spirit this series is able to retain [of the previous version] while also bucking some of the expectations shows of its kind are usually saddled with."


Themes of toxic masculinity, winning, and the importance of community are just some of the topics explored in this Swedish-language series based on Fredrik Backman's novel of the same name. The show follows a small-town junior ice hockey team on the brink of a major win when allegations of assault surface and a scandal emerges. Over the course of five episodes, the HBO limited series showcases how the incident splits the community while also tackling the larger issues linked to current sports culture. Decider calls the series "A well-paced drama," while Daily Beast claims the show is "icy and enraged" and describes it as "a sobering portrait of tragedy wrought from not only toxic masculinity, but from equally noxious — and potentially more deadly — systems that nurture, amplify, and protect it." Indiewire adds that it's "a blunt story, stocked with direct lessons" and "life-or-death stakes" that are set up from the very first episode.


This quirky take on the story of Emily Dickinson (played by Hailee Steinfeld) has already had a full season to endear itself to viewers and critics alike. When the second season started streaming on Apple TV+ in early January, the lovefest for Emily in her fight against traditional societal and gender constraints continued. The coming-of-age story is about a woman fighting to be heard, but it's also about her trying to find herself during a time when women weren't actually supposed to do such things. In its new batch of episodes the show has perhaps further solidified its footing with critics, who note many improvements. Salon believes "Much about this new season feels more alive and humorous than its excellent first while maintaining the tension that makes its heroine real to us." The Hollywood Reporter adds, "No longer solely relying on dizzying tonal juxtapositions, the series flourishes thanks to this revamped balance between 21st-century absurdity and 19th-century poignancy."

Amend: The Fight for America

Will Smith hosts this six-part cultural Netflix documentary that examines the evolving fight for equal rights in America by tackling the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment. Along the way he recruits celebrity friends like Randall Park, Laverne Cox, and Mahershala Ali to explain and contextualize the subject matter, highlighting what has often been a lethal battle for historically marginalized members of society. Episodic topics include things like citizenship, resistance, control, and love. Variety argues that the series "balances enough to keep the viewer perpetually engaged, toggling between various manners of conveying information to move through big American stories." Salon adds, "It is one thing for historians to break down all the civil rights victories won through the hardest of struggles over decades of sacrifice, terrorism and death. It's something altogether more complex to bring all of that alive in a thoughtful way and make it speak to who and where the TV audience happens to be now."

Euphoria - F*ck Anyone Who's Not a Sea Blob

Many production schedules around the world were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. And on the heels of high critical praise for this teen-and-addiction-exploring HBO show (not to mention series star Zendaya, who won a historic Best Actress Emmy for playing Rue Bennett), production on the second season has also been delayed well past its original start date in early 2021. In its place are two special episodes: one that debuted in late 2020, and this one, which dropped in January 2021. The installment revolves around Jules (Hunter Schafer) as she celebrates the holidays and reflects on everything that happened to her in the previous year. "Schafer is emotionally raw in a way that feels completely genuine. She nails all of the emotional backflips that she's still processing without sinking into melodrama," writes RogerEbert.com. "This special installment of Euphoria slows things down and presents a truly gutting character study and a breathtaking performance from Hunter Schafer," adds Decider.


Few creatives have amassed the kind of passionate fanbase that M. Night Shyamalan built has over the years for films like The Sixth Sense and the Unbreakable trilogy, so it's not surprising that Apple TV+ renewed his latest show, Servant, for a third season only a few weeks ahead of the 10-episode second season's debut. (The renewal brings the director closer to his 60-episode goal for the series.) The show follows a couple (Lauren Ambrose and Toby Kebbell) who are in mourning following the loss of their infant son. To deal with their trauma they hire a nanny (Nell Tiger Free) to look after a doll that they now pretend holds their dead child's spirit. The second season delves even deeper into those dark supernatural elements, setting the stage for lots of twist-filled drama. "The sophomore season seems to be building steadily toward another chaotic and awful reckoning, and this is one nightmare I'm in no rush to escape," enthuses Entertainment Weekly.


This Marvel series started trending with fans immediately after its mid-January debut, throwing viewers into a frenzy over its twists, top-secret cameos, and homages to traditional sitcoms. The story revolves around Wanda Maximoff and Vision (Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, reprising their big-screen roles), who begin the series inexplicably living in an idyllic sitcom world — one that, viewers soon discover, isn't what it initially seems to be. Demand for new episodes has been strong from the beginning (Disney Plus even crashed briefly in February when too many people tried to watch the newly released Episode 7 at once), but critics have given it equal praise. TV Guide writes that the show is "impeccably and cleverly crafted as a mashup of the otherworldly and the nostalgic" and adds that "this insanely entertaining fantasia works on so many weird levels it doesn't matter if you're as confused as its principal players." Meanwhile The Independent declares WandaVision "the most purely intriguing thing the MCU has ever made."

The Great North

Fox has built a long history of animated primetime series with shows like The Simpsons, Bob's Burgers, and Family Guy. And while it's too early to tell if this new kid on the block will have similar success, the critics seem into the freshness of The Great North so far. The show is set in the frigid state of Alaska and follows the Tobin Family — father Beef (Nick Offerman) and his kids Judy (Jenny Slate), Wolf (Will Forte), Ham (Paul Rust), and Moon (Aparna Nancherla) — as they get up to typical Alaskan antics. Entertainment Weekly admits that it's "a straightforward family-sitcom dynamic," but that it's also "loaded up with endearing eccentricity... These are rich characters in absurd situations full of quotable dialogue." Vulture seems to agree, writing, "The Great North is often clever, performed by actors with distinctive voices that give the characters fully formed personalities, and about people trying to be good to each other while living in an out-of-the-ordinary place."

Pretend It's a City

Author and occasional actor Fran Lebowitz reunites with her friend Martin Scorsese for this seven-part limited Netflix docuseries. Through interviews and conversations, Lebowitz shares her opinions on the Big Apple, from her thoughts on the New York subway station and the terror of Times Square to the libraries and even the department of Sports & Health. Through it all, Scorsese attempts to paint a humorous picture of a woman with strong convictions who also just so happens to have a lot of stories about New York City. "Pretend It's a City is a tribute to two things Scorsese loves, Fran Lebowitz and New York City, and that affection is contagious for much, if not quite all, of its running time," praises The Hollywood Reporter. "Whether pointing out the irony of art auctions ("people applauded the price" but not the painting) or mocking her horrific luck with real estate, Fran Lebowitz's delivery is masterful. So, if the first episode hooks you, this is worth binge-watching," writes RogerEbert.com.

Allen v Farrow

There wasn't much advance notice for the February release of this four-part documentary series on HBO, which filmed in secret and traces the history of Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, and their adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow. The series uses home footage and interviews with family and friends to recall Dylan's upbringing while tracing her complicated history with Allen, choosing to tell the story from Dylan's side. (Allen declined to participate in the making of the series, although filmmakers use recorded narration from his 2020 memoir, Apropos of Nothing, to add his voice to the project.) The Los Angeles Times calls the series "a comprehensive, convincing and ultimately devastating documentary that threatens to burn what's left of his career and legacy to the ground." Vulture, meanwhile, muses that "The breadth of what the series tackles makes it much more compelling and thought-provoking than it would have been as a strict rehash of the Farrow-Allen split. On that more basic level, the doc does a solid job of re-contextualizing our understanding of the details surrounding that breakup, as well as Dylan's relationship with Allen."

The Lady and the Dale

This four-part HBO documentary series is the latest effort from brothers/collaborators Mark and Jay Duplass. It tells the story of Elizabeth Carmichael, the automobile businesswoman who promised to revolutionize the car industry with a fuel-efficient, three-wheeled car dubbed the Dale in the 1970s. The car didn't work and Carmichael was charged with fraud — and that's when the story took its most interesting turns. She went on the run in 1975 and while trying to find her, investigators discovered she was a transgender woman. Eventually she was convicted of conspiracy, grand theft, and stock fraud. "Her trans-ness is explored with tender nuance; carefully extricated from the more complicated parts of her story and contextualized in trans history," writes Indiewire, which gives the series a perfect score and also calls it "essential viewing." The Hollywood Reporter adds that the show is "a rollicking and twist-filled bio-doc that doesn't shy from Carmichael's many flaws while supplying ample context for the transgender experience a half-century ago."

For All Mankind

This Apple TV+ series starring Joel Kinnaman, Michael Dorman, Sarah Jones, and Sonya Walger returned for a second season in mid-February, continuing the fictional and dramatic alternate reality story of what would have happened if the global space race had never ended. In its new batch of episodes, For All Mankind continues to track its characters in the 1980s and speculates about where humanity may have landed in the wake of such events. The new season pulls harder on some of the threads set up during its initial run, and that creative choice to focus even more on its characters has resonated with the critics, too. Rolling Stone notes that "the characters feel more specific and three-dimensional now," while Paste adds, "There's a lot more going on in the second season than the issue of guns on the moon... the series continues to excel at balancing its sprawling ensemble of characters."