The Best and Worst Streaming Shows of 2021

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There was quality TV everywhere in 2021, especially on streaming services.

There were so many amazing shows released in 2021 that it may be challenging to decide which one to binge on.

TV Fanatic staff compiled a list of the best streaming shows that aired in 2021, as well as the ones we deemed the worst.

Best of streaming cover cover photo

Grab some popcorn, chocolate, and enjoy hours of entertaining TV.

Scroll down to find out if your shows made the list.

Arcane (Netflix)-Best

Key Art Arcane Season 1 Episode 9

For an animated epic based on an online arena role-playing game like League of Legends, Arcane was a phenomenon that came out of nowhere to delight and intrigue both hard-core players and total newbies to the lore.

Gorgeous visuals, butt-kicking action, and a club-thumping soundtrack all contributed to the show's instant popularity as it rocketed to the top of Netflix charts in over fifty countries every time it dropped one of its three acts.

Season 2 is in the works, with the creators promising another installment as impressive as the inaugural offering.

Nine Perfect Strangers (Hulu)-Best

Tending to Masha - Nine Perfect Strangers Season 1 Episode 7

Nine Perfect Strangers built on Liane Moriarty's best-selling novel and made the series so much more dramatic and trippy.

They took the best parts and expanded the characters' arcs. The weird triangle between Masha, Yao, and Delilah was one of the best relationships.

We never knew Masha's true intentions as she drugged her guests. Did she want them to conquer their fears, or was it part of her sinister plan?

Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy shined in their emotional acting.

Tell Me Your Secrets (Amazon Prime)-Best

Tell Me Your Secrets Tall Poster

Lily Rabe and Amy Brenneman, together! Need we say more?

But this one packs a concussive punch. The morbid darkness of the plot leads to necessary and immediate bingeing—total drama and insanity, with stellar performances.

Sex/Life (Netflix)-Worst

Brad & Billie make out

We're still wishing the universe could restore the time we wasted watching this insipid, feckless series. Sex/Life is a worthwhile series to watch if you want to spend the entire time shredding it to pieces or kicks and giggles as you watch, mystified that the writing of a series could be that freaking bad.

It's all guilt and no pleasure, except for Sarah Shahi's Billie, usually seen writhing in something akin to ecstasy every ten minutes or so in the most gratuitous, irritating sex scenes ever. You can't find a single likable character in this series.

It's hard to say if Billie's supposed to be a feminist icon for tired, bored suburban moms or just a genuinely terrible person. Bad Boy Brad is every unoriginal toxic male trope wrapped up in leather and decent hair, and Cooper is just sad.

If 50 Shades of Grey didn't suck what's left of your soul, leaving you reevaluating the state of fiction as we know it, then Sex/Life will finish it off.

Outer Banks (Netflix)-Best

On the Run - Outer Banks

Outer Banks took what worked in Season 1 and excited the action by 1000 percent for Season 2. They were off and running immediately with the chase to find John B and Sarah in the Bahamas.

Season 2 excited the action by giving Pope his family mystery, which led the Pogues on a new adventure.

And Ward Cameron, played by the talented Charles Esten, had one of the best showdowns ever with his daughter. The emotions were so heightened. We can't wait until Season 3!

The Baby-Sitters Club (Netflix)-Best

Mimi's funeral - The Baby-Sitters Club Season 2 Episode 7

It may be hard to believe that an adaptation of a tween series made our best list, but Season 2 delved into meatier issues while still using the core material of the book series.

It didn't matter if you were a tween girl or a 40-year-old woman; you related to Stacey's issues with diabetes or Kristy's struggles fitting into a blended family.

The series featured its best episode when Claudia's grandmother, Mimi, died, as it delved into Japanese traditions and how a teenager handled grief.

Firefly Lane (Netflix)-Worst

Firefly Lane Duo

This series was one of Netflix's worst page-to-screen adaptations. They told it in three different timelines in each episode, very like a This is Us style, but only the teenage timeline was anything like the famous Kristin Hannah novel.

Both the 1980s and the 2000s timeline kept minimal source material accurate. While we enjoyed Tully and Kate's friendship, we're hoping Season 2 follows the book a little closer.

Dafne and the Rest (HBO Max)-Best

Dafne explores relationships

An HBO Max original dramedy from Madrid, Dafne and the Rest (aka Todo Lo Otro) explores relationships between a newly trans woman and her gay male ex-boyfriend and her best friend/roommate/love interest.

Showrunner and star Abril Zamora uses real-life friends to play with onscreen, and the result is a funny, sad, heartfelt tale.

Oh, and if you watch the English dubbed version, you'll even hear TV Fanatic contributor Kerr Lordygan as the American voice of Manuel.

WandaVision (Disney +)- Best

The Perfect Couple - WandaVision Season 1

WandaVision was brilliant in every sense of the word. The Disney+ series took the world by storm with its gripping mystery and unique style from many iconic TV sitcoms.

WandaVision perfectly captured each TV era in its episode structure and highlighted the talents of its cast, like Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, and Kathryn Hahn.

WandaVision shined and kept us in our eyes; it will take a lot for another MCU series to capture the same magic that this one did right.

Pretty Smart (Netflix)-Worst

Pretty Smart Friends

Pretty Smart suffered from slow pacing and a weak peak. This wasn't the first time that a TV series played off the trope of beautiful people who were dumb/shallow, but where those shows differed was that they gave nuance to their characters. Pretty Smart stayed in the same realm and didn't grow beyond its main idea. The dynamic between the sisters was interesting, but you're not going to get much depth out of the series.

Pretty Smart wasn't fun enough to carry ten episodes of misadventures for a friend-based sitcom.

Locke & Key (Netflix)-Best

The Lockes & Scott try to defeat Dodge

Locke & Key ended the Dodge storyline on a thrilling point. The series had a stellar first season, but Locke & Key Season 2 grew on that momentum and blew it out of the water.

The characters matured and took agency over their mission to stop Dodge. Plus, Locke & Key explored many deep plots, like loss, death, gaslighting, and the search for truth.

The sophomore slump was nowhere to be found here.

Shadow & Bone (Netflix)-Best

I See You Now - Shadow and Bone Season 1 Episode 6

Epic. Expansive. Magical. Shadow and Bone is an intriguing fantasy series that will quickly pull you into its action. If you're a fan of the book series, the TV show loves the source material while making needed shifts.

But if you're new to the world, it's easy to jump right in and fall in love with the seamless special effects, well-written characters, and captivating plot.

Squid Game (Netflix)-Best

Squid Game Duo

Squid Game was a cultural phenomenon. It took the world by storm with its simple concept of regular people playing children's games to the death for money.

The games were clever, the episodes were addictive, and the story was well-written. Squid Game easily won over everyone as a great series.

The only debate left was if you were a viewer who preferred the subtitles or the dubbed version. The battle still rages on.

Big Mouth (Netflix)-Best

Big Mouth key art

Big Mouth continued its trend of dirty jokes and hormone monsters for another season. And they owned every second of it!

Big Mouth Season 5 had lots of fun growing its characters and expanding on the world of puberty monsters. The hate-worms and lovebugs were excellent additions that affected the overall stories, like Missy's increasing hatred of Jessi or Nick's newfound crush.

The series didn't shy away from exploring unlikely romances and the debate of when to end a relationship/know when a relationship is over. Big Mouth is a fun guilty pleasure and easy binge for any binge-watcher.

Crossing Swords (Hulu)-Worst

Crossing Swords

For some reason, this show received a second season. Crossing Swords hails from the creators of Robot Chicken yet fails to meet any of the latter's quality of humor.

The humor is childish for adult animation, and hopefully, season two will be its swan song.

Did your favorites make our list? Chime in below in the comments.

Laura Nowak is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on X.

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