In the year of COVID, everyone had to manage what to do with an abundance of free time from fighting the “COVID-19” (pounds) to watching every TV series out there. Sure, working from home became popular, but admit it—people “finished their work early” frequently. Again, they were faced with all that free time. What is there to do?

Working in the garden? Meh. Working out? Sure, but there is a risk of getting callous hands. Working for a raise? That could be a clever idea, but usually, one worth doing the following Monday. Here’s an idea:

Binge [binj]

(n.) – A period or bout of excessive indulgence, as in eating, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, etc.

(v.) – indulge in an activity that leads to excess

What used to imply hedonism and getting ess-faced now means faceplanting into a couch with a bowl of Cheetos and watching T.V. for about 19 hours straight. Binge-watching is the newest addiction, and people love it because it’s amusement. Think about it: “a” is the article in Latin meaning “non” or “not,” and “muse” means “to think.” Binge-watching doesn’t require thinking.

Ready to sign up for that? Millions of people worldwide did this year, and here are the top 10 TV series to prove it. Despite the streamer or network, these Top 10 series created the most butt-marks in couches today.

Here are the Top 10 Binge-worthy TV series of 2021:

10. Hacks

The exciting part about this series featuring Jean Smart, the woman of this TV year (more on that later), is that some may know her from “Designing Women” or “24” or even “Kim Possible” (she was Dr. Ann Possible). Yet, as Deborah Vance, she is all those roles in one. She is the Queen of Vegas and a schlepping stand-up comic in residency who hires an up-and-comer Ava (played superbly by a real-life newcomer Hannah Einbinder) to spruce up her act.

The hijinks ensue, and Smart captures us all. You want to hate Vance as she challenges Ava Daniels on everything, but that’s only because she is perpetually stuck in time believing her press. As we discover, she isn’t stuck—she chooses to stay there for many reasons. If you like dramedies, this one should be necessary for your binge list.

T.V.: HBOMax (1 Season)

9. Ted Lasso

Buy in. Suck it up. Ted Lasso is the warm hug people have been missing this winter. Jason Sudeikis is part Phil Jackson, part Bob Ross. He’s also part superhero because he saved AppleTV+. Period.

Ted is an affable coach from the South who takes his ball overseas for some English football lessons. His folksy and schmaltzy approach to coaching and counseling is mesmerizing. Sport is the backdrop. A study on life is what this series is truly about for the average viewer. Lasso’s “happy-happy joy-joy” fixation is endearing, specifically how he uses his backwoods witticisms to reach his players.

Season 2 of this TV series alone is worth a trial for this streamer. Watch them both, and folk may keep it to catch up on whatever else Tom Hanks is throwing down these days.

TV: AppleTV+ (2 seasons)

8. Invincible

We are in the halcyon days of CBMs, but as many of them compete for the sizzle, “Invincible” gets right to the steak. If you go to a CBM solely for the pomp and circumstance, this will not be your jam. But, if you can watch an animated comic book series with as much giddiness as the latest Marvel or D.C. movie in IMAX, you will adore this Simon Racioppa depiction (“The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance,” “Fangbone”) of Robert Kirkman’s beloved Image comic.

And if that doesn’t impress you, what about the impressive and bodacious voice acting talent of Steven Yeun, J.K. Simmons, and this newcomer named Mark Hamill. (There’s a future for this guy.) It’s an animated series that makes you proud it’s animated. The plot twists, characterization, and tremendous build-up for Grand Regent Thragg and the surprising Omni-Man. Good on Image Comics for finally etching some room in the Marvel vs. D.C. tug-of-war.

T.V.: Prime Video (1 Season)

7. Reservation Dogs

This is the series you wish you knew about before now because you could have missed a gem. Devery Jacobs plays Elora, who is usually with her three partners-in-crime Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis), Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), and Cheese (Lane Factor). Together, these indigenous and mischievous teens bum around their Oklahoma reservation for whatever they can get their hands on through harmless crimes of opportunity.

Co-created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi, “Reservation Dogs” is a thought-provoking dramedy that tugs at your heartstrings while the world tugs at theirs. As they plot to steal enough money to get them out of the reservation en route to California, you root for these four. This is a welcomed, original TV series, and not at all what you think it will be once you begin watching it.

T.V.: F.X. on Hulu (1 Season)

6. Small Axe

In a year when the world is waking up to the stark reality of bigotry, and racial injustice, the expanding swell of diversity in thought and perception should have embraced this series and made it something for the Library of Congress Archives. Yes, this is that good.

One problem: Everyone was so busy waking up, they slept right through this five-part, eye-opening, soul-rendering series. And each story is a separate movie, ripe with gripping plots, characterization, and a dynamic story.

Steve McQueen, Oscar-winning director of “12 Years a Slave” and powerful voice of the Black community, created an anthology of historical tales of pride and civic duty from the Black diaspora. These stories span a few decades to establish an inexorable link that should be broken again.

BBC/Prime Video (1 season)

5. WandaVision

How does this TV series show up in the middle of this austere list of socially conscious focus and headlining actors? Well, it earned that prestige (also, this is our list…get your own). Kevin Feige must have sat down with some Disney Imagineers and passed around a fat one because a tale of two superheroes in the middle of a “Leave It to Beaver” sketch is crazy. If only that were all to this series.

As “WandaVision” take us on a journey of schmaltzy tropes, we learn much more, like new struggles, new heroes (Teyonah Paris plays Monica Rambeau and makes us yearn for “Captain Marvel 2”), and villain origins (Kathryn Hahn is Agatha Harkness…and yes, she earns her show). What looks like an experiment becomes a stark reality of Marvel’s greatness.

Disney+ (1 Season)

4. Maid

The masses went to another series on Netflix, which will be discussed later, and missed one of the most riveting socioeconomic depictions of real life in the past decade. Alex (played marvelously by Margaret Qualley) flees an abusive relationship in the middle of the night with her daughter (Rylea Nevaeh Whittet), destined for anything better than the life she faces with dread every day.

Her Bohemian bipolar mother, her real-life mother, Andie MacDowell, is part inspiration and desperation. Alex must make it on her own, and she finds a job as a maid to make ends meet, both financially and emotionally. If Alex’s abuser is not the enemy of this series, the U.S. government takes that role. Alex’s plight is wrapped in so much red tape that it’s a wonder she doesn’t die in the first season of suffocation.

The exploitation of poverty is on trial here and Alex’s trek to triumph is the judge showing us that anyone can make it out of the hole they find themselves in, no matter what.

Netflix (1 season)

3. Mare of Easttown

She’s a long way from being propped up as a hood ornament on the Titanic, but Kate Winslet is back, capturing audiences in a role most fans wouldn’t consider—a detective in “Mare of Easttown.” In this premiere TV series, Mare (short for Marianne) is a tortured soul searching for an enigmatic murderer. Throughout the series, she must leap over the pitfalls of losing her son and a missing girl she still can’t find.

Winslet is…well, Winslet. She’s awe-striking. Co-starring Julianne Nicholson and Jean Smart (See? It’s her year), we see the distance a mother is willing to go for those she loves and what she believes. Through an obstacle course plot, we navigate through twists and turns as we learn everyone has secrets, and the closer you get to the truth, the farther away you are from an answer.

HBOMax (1 Season)

2. Squid Game

You have heard so much about this series and have already seen it…more than once. There is so much to unpack in this Korean masterclass story – the allegory about caste systems, stances on how society should fight back, and the points of view on how the simplest of things are tools for evil.

This series is anything short of a marvel because it entertains and educates all at once. And, right when you are captivated enough in the story and engrossed in the commentary of what is going on, you find out the one truth – YOU are the enemy. (If you have seen it, you know.)

Inequality is spreading like wildfire. Bigotry abounds with people judging you within seconds. And the violence is unapologetically gratuitous. It sounds a bit like life. Wait until you see this TV series.

Netflix (1 Season)

1. The Underground Railroad

When a historic series comes to air, people want to load up the disclaimers, protest, and anti-inflammatory rhetoric because the series may depict things that aren’t too kosher today. Yes, slavery would be one of those things, and everyone can shut up. Any tale about The Underground Railroad is not a story that needs to be watered down.

Fair warning: This is visceral TV. You will react. And as natural as this phenomenal series looks, it still comes short of the stark reality innocent people experienced for more than 400 years. Notwithstanding that, this is some of the most captivating television you’ll see in years. And next to Kunta Kinte being dog-whipped for not going by Massa’s name in the ‘70s, “The Underground Railroad” is about as raw and powerful as it gets on this harrowing subject matter.

From the rich cinematography and this stellar cast, there is no denying the undeniable skill and care Barry Jenkins (“If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Moonlight,” “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”) puts into telling a story. And when you have one that has been shared with generations, it had to be near perfect. It was.

Bring the tissue and plan to sit in silence after the credits roll on. You’ve been warned. TV:

Prime Video (1 Season)

 

*Credit Featured Image: Mohamed Hassan/Pixaby/Creative Commons

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