the year in tree-view

The Best TV Trees of 2021

Photo-Illustration: Vulture

Wouldn’t it be nice to just look at some pretty trees? As we close the book on 2021 and its televisual output, what if instead of only thinking about TV in terms of best and worst, ambition and escapism, performance and accomplishment, bingeing and weekly releases, impact and style and design and innovation and inspiration and pleasure, we could also think of it in terms of all the lovely trees that appeared onscreen this year.

Like, actual trees. It was, on balance, a good year for trees in the real world, but in the many worlds unfolding on our TV screens, it was a fantastic year for trees.

For instance, consider this beautiful tree from Nine Perfect Strangers.

The show has its faults, absolutely, but you cannot fault its trees. This one is somehow majestic, but without being huffy about it, you know?

Here’s a tree from Schmigadoon. It’s clearly a fake tree, which adds to its charm. The fakeness makes me less worried about the health of this particular tree; under other circumstances, you’d have to wonder if it were maybe suffering from a fungal infection.

Sure, we’ve all seen the Squid Game doll. But how much attention have you paid to the thing she’s standing in front of?

This is a tree from The Great. Beautiful. Look how knobby and spare and yet lush!

Ouch. Cowboy Bebop: when trees become weapons.

This one is a shot from Reservation Dogs, which contains both actual trees, and trees of a more winking sort. (He’s holding a big canister of pot.)

Some very evocative spirit-world tree work on Reservation Dogs, too.

Sometimes trees have creepy symbols on them; here’s a good example from Yellowjackets.

But sometimes the trees are the symbols. This is a very striking one from Dickinson, yet another example of what happens when great television really appreciates the beauty of a tree.

Some glorious upward-angled tree shots from The White Lotus. I feel like if you’re into Richard Powers’s The Overstory this might be the one for you, but I haven’t made it very far into that book yet, so instead I’m just enjoying the warm, diffuse lighting.

More from The White Lotus, a show where even the trees feel uneasily caught between nature and colonialism.

A bad-news tree in La Brea.

The suggestion of a tree in Kendall’s VIP Succession tree house.

Whatever else you want to say about Yellowstone, it has excellent foliage. Plus this shot really gets to the heart of the show: an incredible ancient tree surrounded by a grassy green field that has to be irrigated in order to sustain the Dutton family’s ostensibly superior claim to the land.

This tree is so happy to be here. A lot of what you’re seeing is shrubbery, particularly around the borders. I feel like all the bushes would be very gossipy, and that tree in the middle is like, “Sshhhhh, guys, shhhh! I’m trying to hear what they’re saying. C’mon!”

This Great British Bake-off tree is mortified.

The Best TV Trees of 2021