summer 2021

29 TV Shows We Can’t Wait to Watch This Summer

Plus 127 more debuts worth keeping an eye on.

(clockwise from top left) Lupin Part Two, Loki, Physical, Monsters at Work, Kevin Can F**k Himself! Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Marvel, Netflix, Apple TV, AMC and Disney+
(clockwise from top left) Lupin Part Two, Loki, Physical, Monsters at Work, Kevin Can F**k Himself! Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Marvel, Netflix, Apple TV, AMC and Disney+
(clockwise from top left) Lupin Part Two, Loki, Physical, Monsters at Work, Kevin Can F**k Himself! Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Marvel, Netflix, Apple TV, AMC and Disney+

It’s been years now since “television” referred exclusively to broadcast and cable programming. Ever since Netflix’s House of Cards started raking in Emmy nominations back in 2013, original streaming series have not only proliferated across the TV landscape, they’ve in many ways reshaped it, serving as the foundation of a parade of new streaming services and upending the previously established paradigm of “summer TV,” which implied a handful of lower-profile debuts amid a sea of reruns with which to bide our time until the big fall premieres rolled around.

That’s no longer the case, even on the broadcast-cable spectrum, which has to a certain extent embraced streaming’s agnosticism toward the idea of a universal TV “calendar.” That said, summer 2021 is really all about the streamers — including newer entrants to the field like Peacock and Discovery+ — which are pumping out an array of high-profile series debuts (Loki, Nine Perfect Strangers) and new seasons of buzzy audience faves (Ted Lasso, Lupin, The Good Fight), while their broadcast and cable brethren keep pace with a combination of eye-catching prestige fare (The White Lotus, Kevin Can F**k Himself) and dependable comfort viewing (The Bachelorette, the alleged Tokyo Olympics).

It’s in many ways a familiar mix of summer-viewing options, but what’s striking about this year’s summer lineup is how diffuse it is, scattered across nearly a dozen distinct streaming services (or networks’ streaming offshoots) in addition to the existent galaxy of broadcast and cable channels. Consequently, it’s all too easy to miss a potential new favorite that’s buried in the mix — even for us here at Vulture, where we shamefully relegated Ted Lasso to the “other debuts” section of our 2020 summer preview. We are, after all, only human, traversing this increasingly vast and confusing terrain in search of televisual treasure. So with the caveat that this time next summer we could all be talking about a series that doesn’t even appear on this list — or has yet to announce a premiere date as of publication — allow us to guide you through some of the high points we’re keeping an eye on, as we venture into the wilds of summer TV 2021.


We Are Lady Parts

(Peacock, June 3) This British comedy about a Muslim female punk band would be worthy of notice purely for its insistence on upending stereotypes. In other films/series about the Muslim community, parents are always insisting on finding spouses for their children, but in We Are Lady Parts, the eventual lead guitarist of the band, Amina (Anjana Vasan), is intent on finding a husband, while her mother encourages her to take her time. Some Americans tend to think of hijab as symbolic of oppression, but there is nothing oppressed about the band’s badass manager, Momtaz (Lucie Shorthouse), who wears a headscarf and a niqab through which she is constantly blowing vape smoke. We Are Lady Parts not only feels like a landmark for representation of Muslim women on TV, it’s also filled with energy and just tons of fun to watch. —Jen Chaney

Lisey’s Story

(Apple TV+, June 4) All eight of the episodes of Lisey’s Story, based on Stephen King’s 2006 novel, were written by King himself. That’s an unusual level of involvement for the author, who tends not to get quite so creatively involved in the many screen realizations of his work. The result is a surreal drama/thriller about widow Lisey Landon (Julianne Moore), whose author husband (Clive Owen) left behind some potential manuscripts that a persistent professor (Ron Cephas Jones) wants to get his hands on, so much so that Lisey may be in danger if she doesn’t release them. The series is an exploration of memory, a work of suspense, and an opportunity to see Children of Men stars Moore and Owen playing a couple once again. —JC

Sweet Tooth 

(Netflix, June 4) Okay sure, you are dunzo with pandemic stories; the human race being wiped out by a virus is no longer an appealing postapocalyptic premise for you. Absolutely fair. Sweet Tooth is an appealing version of it, though, a Netflix adaptation of a comic series by Jeff Lemire that does have a viral apocalypse, but also has cute human-animal hybrids and Will Forte. —Kathryn VanArendonk

The Bachelorette Season 17

(ABC, June 7) There is zero chance you don’t already know roughly what The Bachelorette is and whether you want to watch it. But this season, starring previous contestant Katie Thurston, is the first Bachelor franchise season in a while that might look quite different. Rather than Problematic Bachdaddy Chris Harrison, this summer’s season will be co-hosted by previous Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe. Will it be the same without Harrison? Probably, but who knows! —KVA


(Disney+, June 9) So far, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s foray into television has produced one intriguing riff on a sitcom, with WandaVision, and one more forgettable and generic buddy drama, with Falcon and the Winter Soldier. With Loki, we can only hope things swing back to the experimental, and there’s a good amount of promise in the trailers so far. Tom Hiddleston’s meddling Norse God is recruited by Owen Wilson (Marvel’s ability to rope in big names, always a wow) into some sort of Time Variance Authority where he has to clean up all the messy timeline anomalies he helped create. Can Marvel do its own riff on Doctor Who? They’ll certainly generate as many Hiddleston memes as possible or die trying. —Jackson McHenry

Betty Season Two

(HBO, June 11) Watching Betty last May in the midst of COVID lockdowns was the most I missed the city of New York, while still actually living in New York. The series expands on the world of New York introduced in the movie Skate Kitchen, with a fractious clique of young women skaters traversing various boroughs, doing various substances, almost always in dappled sunlight. The second season comes just as the city starts to reopen, and what better way to readjust to post-vaccine summer than by watching whatever chaos the Betty girls get into this time around. —JM

Love, Victor Season Two

(Hulu, June 11) The first season of Love, Victor, a gay coming-of-age story spun off from the film Love, Simon, felt like a Goldilocks in search of just the right tone: Too adult for Disney+, for which the show was written and shot, it ended up on Hulu, where its sweet YA story lines could feel comparatively tame. The second season, with Victor newly out to his friends and family, feels like a chance for the show to capitalize on the possibilities of being on a new platform, and hopefully to dig deeper in the reality of being an out teen. Among the interesting narrative possibilities, there’s Victor’s tense relationship with his parents (Ana Ortiz does great work as his conflicted mother) and a chance for a show to depict adolescent sexuality that goes beyond a chaste makeout session or two. According to Hulu’s episode titles, there is an episode called “The Sex Cabin,” so, Victor, welcome to the world of acting more like Normal People. —JM

Lupin Season One, Part Two

(Netflix, June 11) Listen, I don’t see how you couldn’t want more of Omar Sy as a suave gentleman thief. Plus, you can consider watching Lupin’s capers to be summer French lessons. —JM


(Starz, June 13) A sort of sideways expansion from the original Sundance film, Blindspotting brings Jasmine Cephas Jones, who played the girlfriend of Rafael Casal’s character, into the spotlight. When Miles is arrested, Ashley moves in with his half-sister and mother, played by Helen Hunt. The movie tried to do a lot at once with its comedic-slash-dramatic take on life in Oakland, and the show has seemingly just as much on its mind, though with more space to explore it all. At the least, it’ll give Cephas Jones, a breakout from Hamilton, a big role to dig into. —JM

Tuca & Bertie Season Two

(Adult Swim, June 13) It’s been two years since we last saw Tuca & Bertie, which Netflix canceled in 2019 before Adult Swim thankfully picked it up. Now that the anxious songbird voiced by Ali Wong and the horny toucan played by Tiffany Haddish are back on TV, it’s almost like they never left. In the first of the new episodes, Bertie is freaking out about finding a new therapist, and Tuca creates a dating reality series for herself called Sex Bus. Classic Tuca, classic Bertie. —JC

The Celebrity Dating Game

(ABC, June 14) If it’s summertime, it’s time for ABC to load up on game shows. Which is why The Dating Game is returning in the form of a dating show, on which celebrities like Taye Diggs and Iggy Azalea try to find a perfect match. Zooey Deschanel and Michael Bolton co-host and, I assume, will wind up making a Christmas album together at some point. —JC

Elite Season Four

(Netflix, June 18) One surefire way to make a climate-crisis summer even hotter? Elite. With two murders solved and not a single therapy appointment booked, season four of the Spanish Netflix YA drama is off to a fresh start after several students graduate and move to New York City. The rest of the show’s fatally horny teens are left at a prep school with more rich troublemakers than Constance Billard. New kids encroach on their turf with looks that will kill if provoked and zero allegiances. With its return, Elite brings the kinds of chaos that can only be caused by underdeveloped brains with overdeveloped wallets. Gossip Girl wouldn’t know where to start. Besos, besos. —Zoë Haylock 


(Apple TV+, June 18) Apple TV+’s summer dramedy starring Rose Byrne might look a bit like GLOW on first blush. Byrne plays a woman who becomes obsessed with aerobics in the early ’80s and eventually becomes a fitness-lifestyle guru, and the show is full of spandex and sweatbands. It’s much darker than GLOW, though, a funny but incredibly bleak trip into one woman’s body-focused inner monologue. —KVA

Evil Season Two

(Paramount+, June 20) In its creepy, bonkers, often very funny first season, Evil was one of the weirdest shows to make its devilish home on network TV. Thanks to some occult meddling from the higher-ups at Viacom, it’s moved to streaming, so who knows what that will unleash (probably not too much, since it was written and shot for CBS). Created by The Good Wife and The Good Fight’s Robert and Michelle King, Evil has a team of occult investigators, with Katja Herbers as the skeptic and Mike Colter as the hot priest, take on a series of spooky cases of the week, often involving New York’s finest theater actors. Looming behind it all, there’s the delightfully malevolent Michael Emerson, who, per the second-season trailer, may even stab someone with a cake topper. —JM

Rick & Morty Season Five

(Adult Swim, June 20) The glimpses we’ve seen of Rick & Morty’s fifth season in trailers and animatics show us how even a grizzled old sociopath and his idiot nephew can grow and change. For one, the show seems to have finally leaned into its secret weapon, the Spencer Grammer-voiced teen Summer Smith, rather than relegating her to B-plots. Sarah Chalke’s Beth — or is that Space Clone Beth? — also seems to be a major part of the action. The unique alchemy of Rick & Morty has always rested on the pairing of Dan Harmon’s meta-genre parody precision and existential questioning with Justin Roiland’s keyed-up insanity. It’s unlike anything else, least of all its imitators, which is why we’re looking forward to this season and the rest of Adult Swim’s 70-episode order beyond it. “A hundred years of Rick & Morty,” as it were. —Rebecca Alter

The Good Fight Season Five

(Paramount+, June 24) In one of 2020’s most hilarious but infuriating COVID TV interruptions, the last shot we saw from The Good Fight was an image of a cryopreservation tank holding Jeffrey Epstein’s dismembered … uh … member. The new season will be different, certainly — regulars Delroy Lindo and Cush Jumbo have both left the series, and The Good Fight will have to write through their departures (though both will reportedly return in a guest-star capacity to close out their stories). But there are so many other possibilities for the always timely series in season five! Maybe Diane somehow has to defend an insurrectionist? Marissa accidentally becomes Q? Something-something buttless cicadas? —KVA

Kevin Can F**k Himself

(AMC, June 20) First of all: Good luck trying to find a series with a better title than this. Kevin Can F**k Himself is compelling for other reasons, including the fact that it casts Annie Murphy in her first major post-Schitt’s Creek role, as a housewife who feels like she’s living in a CBS multi-cam comedy whenever she’s at home with her obnoxious husband (Eric Petersen). But as soon as she’s away from him, the blunter aspects of her reality come into sharp, single-camera focus. Kevin Can F**k Himself is an experiment with format, two comedies in one, and a sly commentary on the way traditional sitcoms have shaped gender dynamics. —JC

The Conan finale

(June 24, TBS) Nearly ten months after Jay Leno and NBC’s asshattery forced Conan O’Brien to step down from The Tonight Show in 2010, he started hosting Conan on TBS. Now that 11-year run is coming to an end, as O’Brien prepares to start a new, nontraditional talk show on HBO Max, and also continue to argue with his assistant Sona Movsesian on his podcast, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend. Point is: Conan the person is not going away, but Conan the show is, with an hourlong final episode that looks back at the show’s most memorable moments. —JC

Other June premieres

America’s Got Talent Season 16 (NBC, 6/1)
The Haves and the Have Nots Season 8 Part 2 (OWN, 6/1)
Lego Masters Season 2 (Fox, 6/1)
Family Karma Season 1 (Bravo, 6/2)
Hunting Atlantis (Discovery, 6/2)
Married at First Sight: Couples Cam Season 3 (Discovery, 6/2)
MasterChef Season 11 (Fox, 6/2)
Alone Season 3 (History, 6/3)
Beat Shazam Season 4 (Fox, 6/3)
Creator’s File: GOLD (Netflix, 6/3)
The Fungies (HBO Max, 6/3)
Jersey Shore Family Vacation Season 5 (MTV, 6/3)
Summertime Season 2 (Netflix, 6/3)
Why Women Kill Season 2 (Paramount+, 6/3)
Dom (Amazon, 6/4)
Feel Good Season 2 (Netflix, 6/4)
Meerkat Manor: Rise of the Dynasty (BBC America, 6/5)
Pushing the Line (Discovery+, 6/5)
Celebrity Family Feud Season 7 (ABC, 6/6)
The Chase Season 2 (ABC, 6/6)
Domina (Epix, 6/6)
Little Birds (Starz, 6/6)
War of the Worlds Season 2 (Epix, 6/6)
Cartel Crew Season 3 (VH1, 6/7)
Infamy: When Fame Turns Deadly (VH1, 6/7)
Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries Season 2 (Acorn, 6/7)
The Encore (BET, 6/9)
Vanderpump Dogs (Peacock, 6/9)
The Cube (TBS, 6/10)
Trolls: Trollstopia Season 3 (Hulu and Peacock, 6/10)
Weekend Getaway With Michelle Buteau (Discovery+, 6/10)
Home Before Dark Season 2 (Apple TV+, 6/11)
The Republic of Sarah (CW, 6/14)
Card Sharks Season 3 (ABC, 6/16)
Dave Season 2 (FXX, 6/16)
Penguin Town (Netflix, 6/16)
Battle of the Brothers (Discovery+, 6/17)
Black Summer Season 2 (Netflix, 6/17)
Holey Moley Season 3 (ABC, 6/17)
When Nature Calls (ABC, 6/17)
Us (PBS, 6/20)
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark Bonus episode (HBO, 6/21)
College Bowl (NBC, 6/22)
Chopped: Alton’s Maniacal Baskets (Food, 6/22)
David Makes Man Season 2 (OWN, 6/22)
Motherland: Fort Salem Season 2 (Freeform, 6/22)
This Is Pop (Netflix, 6/22)
In the Dark Season 3 (CW, 6/23)
Too Hot to Handle Season 2 (Netflix, 6/23)
Making It Season 3 (NBC, 6/24)
Bosch Season 7 (Amazon, 6/25)
Central Park Season 2 (Apple TV+, 6/25)
The Choe Show (FX, 6/25)
Sex/Life (Netflix, 6/25)
The Mysterious Benedict Society (Disney+, 6/25)
A Discovery of Witches Season 2 (AMC, 6/27)
America’s Top Dog Season 2 (A&E, 6/29)
Sophie: A Murder in West Cork (Netflix, 6/30)


Monsters at Work

(Disney+, July 2) Finally, a Pixar workplace comedy! Set after the events of Monsters, Inc., this series follows Sully (John Goodman) and Mike (Billy Crystal) as they are put in charge of the Monsters, Inc.’s, new effort to harvest children’s laughter instead of their screams of terror. New characters are introduced, including a young upstart, Tylor (Ben Feldman), who wants to work on the Sully and Mike team, and Tylor’s boss Fritz, who has the voice of Henry Winkler. —JC

The White Lotus 

(HBO, July 11) I can think of no one better than Mike White, creator of Enlightened, to skewer the world of a New-Agey, exclusive Hawaiian resort. That’s the setting of his new limited series The White Lotus, which stars Murray Bartlett, late of dreaming up a peri-peri pop-up on Looking, as a resort manager on a downward spiral who works alongside Insecure’s Natasha Rothwell. The vacationers at that resort are an all-star cast that includes Connie Britton with Steve Zahn playing her husband, Jake Lacy with Alexandra Daddario as his new bride, Molly Shannon as their mother, and finally, the one and only Jennifer Coolidge (hi!) as Tanya McQuoid, a “wealthy, unstable woman recovering from the death of her mother, traveling alone to the hotel, looking for love and in desperate need of a massage.” It will probably be worth it just to hear Coolidge pronounce the words “Tanya McQuoid.” —JM

The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony

(NBC and affiliated networks, July 23) The delayed 2020 Summer Olympics — also known as The Tokyo Olympics: We’re Really Still Doing This? is, as of this writing, still set to kick off on July 23 with an opening ceremony broadcast from Olympic Stadium. The hoopla of that splashy beginning leads into two weeks jam-packed with competitions both classic (gymnastics, swimming) and new to the Games (surfing and skateboarding!). —JC


(Apple TV+, July 16) Among the most highly anticipated summer releases in the incredibly niche “Vulture staff members” audience category, Apple TV+ has a comedy this summer in which Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key get trapped in a Brigadoon-esque situation where the whole village operates as a cursed Rodgers-and-Hammerstein-esque movie musical. Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Jaime Camil, and Jane Krakowski are also in it. Um, we’re pumped. —KVA

Ted Lasso Season Two

(Apple TV+, July 23) The sleeper TV hit of last summer, Ted Lasso returns so we can watch Jason Sudeikis, as Ted, bake special biscuits, try to pump up his team when they’re feeling down, and prove that humans can be as folksy and kind as all get-out. Oh, and though I have seen none of the new episodes, I can promise you this: As Rebecca, Hannah Waddingham will continue to look very, very glam and very, very tall. —JC

Other July Premieres

Top Chef Amateurs (Bravo, 7/1)
Young Royals (Netflix, 7/1)
The Beast Must Die (AMC+, 7/5)
Big Brother Season 23 (CBS, 7/7)
Love Island Season 3 (CBS, 7/7)
Backyard Bar Wars (TruTV, 7/8)
grown-ish Season 4 (Freeform, 7/8)
Impractical Jokers Season 9 (TruTV, 7/8)
Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness (Netflix, 7/8)
Leverage: Redemption (IMDb TV, 7/9)
The Real Housewives of Potomac Season 6 (Bravo, 7/11)
Wellington Paranormal (CW, 7/11)
Miracle Workers Season 3 (TBS, 7/13)
Naomi Osaka (Netflix, 7/13)
Good Trouble Season 4 Part 2 (Freeform, 7/14)
The Outpost Season 4 (CW, 7/15)
Making the Cut Season 2 (Amazon, 7/16)
McCartney 3, 2, 1 (Hulu, 7/16)
Turner & Hooch (Disney+, 7/16)
90 Day: Caribbean Love (Discovery+, 7/18)
Dead Pixels Season 2 (CW, 7/18)
The End (Showtime, 7/18)
Power Book III: Raising Kanan (Starz, 7/18)
Chip ’N’ Dale: Park Life (Disney+, 7/23)
Masters of the Universe: Revelation (Netflix, 7/23)
Roswell, New Mexico Season 3 (CW, 7/26)
Behind the Music (VH1 7/29)
Burden of Truth Season 4 (CW, 7/30)
Turning the Tables With Robin Roberts (Disney+, 7/30)
Watch the Sound With Mark Ronson (Apple TV+, 7/30)


Mr. Corman

(Apple TV+, August 6) Joseph Gordon-Levitt has already done so much with his career: been a sitcom child star, transitioned into action movies and rom-coms, directed a movie about porn addiction, and then seemingly stepped away from it all to get really into online video. Now, he’s back with a TV show. Gordon-Levitt created, directed, and stars in Mr. Corman, where he plays a fifth-grade teacher at a public school in the San Fernando Valley who had aspirations toward a career in music. Apple describes the series with what is pretty much an aggressive attack on millennials: a “relatable dramedy speaks for our contemporary generation of 30-somethings — rich with good intentions, poor with student loans, and yearning to become real grown-ups sometime before they die.” On a lighter note, the one press photo we have shows JGL sitting down to a keyboard, so at least there will be songs! —JM

Riverdale Season Five, Part Two

(August 11, The CW) After this season’s time jump, the hot teens of the crime-filled town of Riverdale are no longer actually teens, but are as messy as ever in their new high-school-adjacent lives as 20-somethings. The CW drama is always off-the-wall, sometimes delightfully so, sometimes ploddingly, but it’s maintained an ability to swerve into wild genre pastiche (at this point, aliens seem to be involved) and will definitely serve up an absurd musical number or two. —JM

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season Eight

(NBC, August 12) This will be the last season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and it’ll also be the only season to take place after 2020’s massive Black Lives Matter protests, which sparked significant conversations about the role of cop shows on television. It’ll be sad to say good-bye to the fine officers of the Nine-Nine, but it’ll also be fascinating to see how the show has chosen to pivot over the last year. —KVA

Nine Perfect Strangers 

(Hulu, August 18) Do you miss Big Little Lies? What if you took another Liane Moriarty novel and adapted it once again starring Nicole Kidman, except this time the cast also included Melissa McCarthy, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Shannon, Manny Jacinto, Samara Weaving, and Regina Hall? Yeah! Yeah. —KVA

The Chair

(Netflix, August 27) This Netflix series starring Sandra Oh as the first female and POC chair of the English department at the fictional Pembroke University was co-created and showrun by Amanda Peet, which is quite cool; it’s also produced by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, making this the pair’s first post-Game of Thrones series to make it to air, which is quite unexpected, given the much smaller scope of this six-episode, half-hour modern-day dramedy. The cast, however, is anything but lightweight, featuring not only Oh, but also Jay Duplass, Holland Taylor, and Bob Balaban, among others. —Genevieve Koski

Only Murders in the Building

(Hulu, August 31) Steve Martin and John Hoffman (Grace and Frankie) created this comic thriller about three people — Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez — who become obsessed with a murder in their apartment building and start a podcast to track the details in the case. Wonder if someone will create a podcast that analyzes the podcasting in Only Murders in the Building? —JC

Other August premieres

Ultimate Slip ’N’ Slide (NBC, 8/8)
Fantasy Island (Fox, 8/10)
DC’s Stargirl Season 2 (CW, 8/10)
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 2 (Paramount+, 8/12)
Heels (Starz, 8/15)
Bachelor in Paradise Season 7 (ABC, 8/16)
Coroner Season 3 (CW, 8/19)
The Walking Dead Season 11 (AMC, 8/22)
The Ultimate Surfer (ABC, 8/23)

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29 TV Shows We Can’t Wait to Watch This Summer