From epic fantasy to anarchic animation: TV trends to watch in 2021 | TV and radio

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Suitors to thrones

For the second year in a row, there’s a Game of Thrones-shaped chasm in the timeline: The House of the Dragon prequel won’t launch until 2022. This presents an opening for rivals with deep pockets. Netflix’s medieval gorefest, The Witcher, is back for a second season, joined on the platform by the witchcraft saga Shadow and Bone (April). And Amazon Prime Video is set to launch two terrific, terrific franchises: The Wheel of Time adapts Robert Jordan’s hefty novel series, starring Rosamund Pike, while we could finally see his long-awaited adaptation of Lord of the Rings, which is set to be the most expensive TV show of all time at $ 1 billion.

Return series







Bomb H… Service line. Photograph: Aiden Monaghan / BBC / World Productions

Between the disruption of Covid and some shows taking their time, 2021 has a high share of returnees. On the dramatic front, expect another Euphoria special (January, Sky Atlantic), Kelly Macdonald guest on Line of Duty (Spring, BBC One), a Fargo as Chris Rock (Channel 4), others releases for Sex Education, Stranger Things (Netflix), American Gods (January 11, Amazon Prime Video) and The Morning Show (Apple TV +). Cheer can be found in the comedies This Time With Alan Partridge (BBC One), Inside No 9, Motherland (two BBC Two), Pls Like, Back to Life (two BBC Three), Pen15, Insecure (both Sky Comedy), another outing for Taskmaster (Channel 4) and Donald Glover’s ace in Atlanta (BBC Two). Mitchell and Webb’s Back (January 21, Channel 4) are also back.

A gallery of rascals




Lawyer in place ... Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill in Better Call Saul.



Lawyer in place… Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill in Better Call Saul. Photograph: Greg Lewis / AMC / Sony

Telly likes a bad ‘one. This year is no different, as TV’s first villainous family, the Roys, return for a third Succession (Sky Atlantic) outing. Glenn Howerton is back as the terrible Professor Dr Carson in AP Bio (January 18, Sky Comedy); his other, even more sociopathic sitcom, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Netflix) has been renewed for four more seasons. Elsewhere, Shonda Rhimes’ drama Inventing Anna (Netflix) sees Julia Garner playing fake heiress Anna Delvey, with hopes that despite delays, sleazeball Saul Goodman will return for a final season of Better Call Saul ( Netflix) this year.

Capping new comedy




Get punky ... Lady Parts.



Get punky … Lady Parts. Photographie: Channel 4

You won’t be able to move for merriment in 2021: Frank of Ireland (Channel 4) teams up brothers Brian and Domhnall Gleeson for silly comedy in Dublin, while New Zealand stand-up Rose Matafeo has a one-night stand with an A-lister in Starstruck (BBC Three). Greg Davies cleans up crime scenes in new sitcom The Cleaner (BBC One), while Jane Horrocks is an ambulance driver in Bloods (Sky One). There is a full series for Comedy Blap Lady Parts (Channel 4), about a Muslim female punk group, and Gbemisola Ikumelo is developing her Brain in Gear (BBC Three) short, winner of the Bafta. For something more sketchy, there’s the inventive duo Lazy Susan and the absurd Ellie and Natasia (both BBC Three).

American exceptionalism




Action Mandalore ... Boba Fett.



Action Mandalore … Boba Fett. Photographie: Atlaspix / Alamy

The golden age of American television drama continues into another year. Moonlight director Barry Jenkins adapts Colson Whitehead’s slavery novel The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime Video) and Mare of Easttown (Sky Atlantic) from HBO, Kate Winslet investigates a murder in a small town in Pennsylvania. For something less earthly, there’s the Asimov Adaptation Foundation (Apple TV +) and the Star Wars spin-off The Boba Fett Book (December, Disney +). And Ryan Murphy is preparing, as always, a number of shows: Expect Halston (Netflix), an Ewan McGregor biopic on the fashion designer, and American Crime Story: Impeachment (BBC Two), which is attack on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. .

Marvel makes moves

After having conquered the cinema, the universe of Marvel still expands with a series of overpowering shows on Disney +. The first is the trippy WandaVision (January 15), which sees Avengers duo Scarlet Witch and Vision trapped in a 1950s sitcom. This will be followed by four more series: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (March 19), Loki ( May), Ms Marvel and Hawkeye (both late 2021). Competition comes from DC, whose Arrowverse stable of shows hosts Superman and Lois (UK broadcaster TBC) and the first Black Batwoman (E4).

High notes of a small island




Whale of a Time ... Colin Farrell in The North Water.



Whale of a Time… Colin Farrell in The North Water. Photograph: Nick Wall / BBC / Harpooner Films

The British drama had a record year in 2020. Can 2021 match it? The first signs are encouraging. Russell T. Davies confronts the AIDS crisis in the 1980s drama It’s a Sin (January 22, Channel 4). The North Water (BBC Two) teams up with Colin Farrell and 45-year-old director Andrew Haigh for a 19th-century whaling drama, while Landscapers (Sky Atlantic) sees Olivia Colman in a dark, comedic shock. Stephen Merchant plays serial killer Stephen Port in fact-based drama Four Lives (BBC One), while Ridley Road (BBC One), written by Sarah Solemani, is inspired by 1960s Jewish anti-fascist groups in east London . Domina (Sky Atlantic) follows power games in ancient Rome through the wife of Augustus Caesar, and Queen & Slim star Jodie Turner Smith turns heads in a provocative drama about Anne Boleyn’s last days (Channel 5).

Keep it real




Cake until you do ... The Great British Bake Off.



Cake until you do… The Great British Bake Off. Photography: Love Productions

Unscripted television has played a vital supporting role in 2020, with The Great British Bake Off (fall, Channel 4) and Strictly Come Dancing (fall, BBC One) credited with keeping morale high. Both will bring more comfort in 2021, as will the return of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK (January 14, BBC Three), and we could see a delayed sixth season of Queer Eye (Netflix). After a year away from working on her base tan, Love Island (summer, ITV2) is set to return. Also expect a deluge of documentaries: The Fall of the House of Maxwell (BBC Two) traces the downward spiral of Robert’s elite family to Ghislaine; New Labor (BBC Two) receives five-part treatment from the team behind the Beeb’s Thatcher series; and Tiger (possibly Sky Documentaries) traces the rise, fall and resurgence of a golf legend.

Lots of entertainment




Space Cowboys ... Rick and Morty.



Space Cowboys… Rick and Morty. Photography: Channel 4

Pixar Popcorn (January 22, Disney +) is a collection of shorts around some of the studio’s most beloved characters, followed by the Monsters Inc spin-off Monsters at Work (early 2021). Star Trek: Lower Decks (January 22, Amazon Prime Video) is an adult comic book spin-off focused on “one of Starfleet’s lesser ships” created by Rick and Morty editor Mike McMahan. (all 4), who is expected to be back for his fifth season at some point as well. Then there’s the alternate history of Marvel’s superheroes What if …? (Disney +) and the Bloody-looking Invincible (Amazon Prime Video). And, following his cancellation from Netflix, gloriously lawless bird comedian Tuca & Bertie is heading to Adult Swim in the US, with a UK broadcaster yet to be announced.

Superior Subtitled Drama




Off the Wall ... Deutschland 89.



Off the Wall … Deutschland 89. Photographie: Anika Molnar / Amazon Prime Video

Deal or no deal, chic series keep flowing from the continent. Gomorrah (Sky Atlantic) is back for a fifth outing; its creator Roberto Saviano has another of his novels adapted in Zero, Zero, Zero (January, Sky Atlantic), a transcontinental drug trafficking drama starring Andrea Riseborough. Germany is well represented: the final season of Deutschland 89 (February, Channel 4) tackles the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the spooky miniseries Hausen (Spring, Sky Atlantic) puts a modern twist on the horrors of haunted houses . Finally, the team behind The Bridge and The Killing embarks on the jet-set with Bullets (January 29, All 4), a terrorist thriller that hovers between Georgia, Belgium and Finland.

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