The 21 best new TV shows to watch in 2021: Must-watch series on NOW TV, Netflix, Prime Video, BBC and more

Essential dramas, documentaries and comedies that are going to make 2021 a great year for TV.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 5 January 2021 - 11.15am
Channel 4 Elle Fanning as Catherine The Great

It’s time to bid farewell to 2020 – not a moment too soon – and despite the global pandemic halting lots of TV productions, 2021 still looks like an exciting year for new TV shows.

We’ve got new documentaries from Sir David Attenborough, yet more thrilling crime dramas, a serving of out of this world sci-fi and some seriously exciting new Netflix, NOW TV and Amazon Prime Video series to binge to our hearts content.

Here are the 21 must-watch shows for 2021...

New TV shows in 2021 on NOW TV and Sky

Your Honor

Coming soon to Sky Atlantic with NOW TV

It stars Bryan Cranston. It’s a ten-part morally murky thriller. It’s created by the producers behind The Night Of and The Good Wife. If you’re not excited by Your Honor, get someone to check your pulse.

In his first TV lead since Breaking Bad, Cranston plays a respected judge who tries to protect his son after he becomes involved in a hit-and-run, believing he can keep him safe if he tells no one.

A high-stakes game of lies, deceit and impossible choices, check out the nail-biting trailer to get a flavour of what’s to come.

Landscapers

Coming in 2021 to Sky Atlantic with NOW TV

Inspired by real events, the drama explores the lives of convicted killers Susan (Olivia Colman) and Christopher Edwards and asks how this devoted and mild-mannered couple came to kill Susan’s parents and bury them in the back garden of their Mansfield home, in a crime that remained undiscovered for over a decade.

Blackly comic and taking viewers into the surreal fantasy world that Susan and Christopher created for themselves, this promises to be a dark murder story quite unlike any we’ve watched before.

Intergalactic

Coming in Spring 2021 to Sky One with NOW TV

First look at Sky One's new sci-fi series Intergalactic

Starring Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark), Savannah Steyn (The Tunnel), Thomas Turgoose (This Is England), Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Sex Education), Natasha O’Keeffe (Peaky Blinders), Craig Parkinson (Line of Duty) and Oliver Coopersmith (Tin Star), Intergalactic is an ambitious and emotional new sci-fi series coming this Spring.

Featuring fearless galactic pilots, prison colony rebellions and a race towards a distant galaxy for freedom, it sounds like joyous and fantastical escapism.

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New TV shows in 2021 on Channel 4

The Great

Airs on Sundays at 9pm on Channel 4. Catch up on All 4. 

Nicholas Hoult in The Great Channel 4

A satirical, comedic drama about the rise of Catherine the Great from outsider to the longest reigning female ruler in Russia’s history, The Great is a love story that incorporates historical facts, occasionally.

A fun and anachronistic story of an idealistic, romantic young girl (Elle Fanning), who arrives in Russia and finds a dangerous, depraved, backward world that she resolves to change. All she has to do is kill her husband (Nicholas Hoult), beat the church, baffle the military and get the court onside.

It’s A Sin

Coming soon to Channel 4

Russell T Davies returns to Channel 4 for a series that looks every bit the equal of his groundbreaking 90s series Queer as Folk.

A story of joy and heartbreak, It’s A Sin takes us back to the 1980s through the eyes of young boys Ritchie, Roscoe and Colin who have started a new life in London. Taking us through the 80s and the AIDS crisis, Davies has described the show as a tribute those who lost their lives.

The series includes a young talented cast of newcomers, popstar Olly Alexander and established stars Keeley Hawes, Stephen Fry, Neil Patrick Harris Tracy Ann Oberman and Shaun Dooley

New TV shows in 2021 on ITV

The Pembrokeshire Murders

Airs on ITV on 11th, 12th and 13th January at 9pm

Luke Evans on the Welsh coast in The Pembrokeshire Murders ITV

Hollywood star Luke Evans delivers an incredible performance in this three-part true story of a serial killer and the incredible Detective Superintendent Steve Wilkins.

In 2006 Wilkins (Evans) reopened two unsolved double murder cases that had cast a shadow over the Dyfed Powys police force since the 1980s and through a combination of forensic science, sheer determination and, remarkably, footage of the ITV gameshow Bullseye, they were able to suddenly make inroads into the case.

The Pembrokeshire Murders is a stranger-than-fiction story that acts as a tribute to the power of humour endeavour and showcase one of the most extraordinary cold cases.

Grace

John Simm, Richie Campbell and Rakie Ayola star in ITV’s highly-anticipated adaptation of Peter James bestselling novels about Detective Superintendent Roy Grace.

Filmed in Brighton and the South Coast, the series will bring to life the addictive page-turners and twist-filled stories that have gripped millions.

Adapted by Russell Lewis (Morse, Kavanagh QC), we can expect the series to rank among the very best detective dramas.

New TV shows in 2021 on Netflix

Robin Robin

Coming Christmas 2021

First look at Netflix Christmas special for 2021 - Robin Robin Aardman/Netflix

It’s never too early to start looking forward to Christmas and Netflix and Aardman (Wallace and Gromot, Shaun the Sheep) have got a very special treat in store for 2021.

Robin Robin is the story of a bird raised by a loving family of mice, who undertakes the heist to end of heists to prove that she can be a really good mouse.

Featuring the voices of Richard E Grant, Bronte Carmichael and playing a villainous cat, Gillian Anderson, we can’t wait to snuggle down with this adventure in the winter.

Shadow and Bone

Coming April 2021

Anyone looking for something a little bit spectacular and fantastical in 2021, the first series from Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels fits the bill.

Starring Jessie Mei Li, Ben Barnes, Archie Renaux and Freddy Carter, Shadow and Bone will take us into a universe filled with magic powers, creatures, horrors and heists.

If you loved The Witcher, this will be right up your street this Spring.

Inventing Anna

Coming 2021

Netflix and Shonda Rhimes bring the incredible true story of ‘Anna Delvey’ to screens in a 10-part series based on Jessica Pressler’s New York Times article from 2018.

Anna Delvey, who was actually called Anna Sorokina, tricked New York society into believing she was a wealthy Geman heiress, who tricked people into paying for her lavish lifestyle with the story that she had a £46 million trust fund.

She was eventually caught out and convicted of multiple counts of attempted grand larceny, theft of services and larceny in 2019.

Firefly Lane

Coming February 3rd

Promising to deliver oodles of tears and joy, this series is based on the book of Kristin Hannah and stars Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke as childhood friends Tully and Kate.

Following their story over three decades of friendship, fall-outs, make-ups, jealousy and love, this is everything we need as we enter 2021 with aspirations for a better year.

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New TV shows in 2021 on the BBC

The Serpent

Available now on BBC iPlayer

Jenna Coleman and Tahar Rahim in costume for The Serpent BBC

Inspired by real events, The Serpent tells the remarkable story of how the conman and murderer Charles Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim) was brought to justice. Posing as a gem dealer, Sobhraj and his girlfriend Marie-Andrée Leclerc (Jenna Coleman) travelled across Thailand, Nepal and India in 1975 and 1976, carrying out a spree of crimes on the Asian ‘Hippie Trail’ and becoming the chief suspects in a series of murders of young Western travellers.

As Sobhraj repeatedly slips from the grasp of authorities around the world, Herman Knippenberg (Billy Howle), a junior diplomat at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok, unwittingly walks into his intricate web of crime. Knippenberg sets off an extraordinary chain of events that will see Sobhraj become Interpol’s most wanted man, with arrest warrants in multiple continents.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion

Coming to BBC iPlayer on New Year's Day

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion BBC

Not only can 90s kids relive their youth by binging every episode of The Fresh Prince on iPlayer from January 1st 2021, they can also check out the emotional HBO Max reunion special from 2019. What better way to start your year?

Will Smith joins fellow cast mates Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton), Tatyana Ali (Ashley), Karyn Parsons (Hilary), Daphne Maxwell Reid (Aunt Viv), Joseph Marcell (Geoffrey), DJ Jazzy Jeff and after a long-standing feud, Janet Viv (The original Aunt Viv) to look back at their time together on the iconic sitcom.

Fans will also love the tribute to James Avery, who played Uncle Phil on the show, who sadly died in 2013.

Around the World in 80 Days

Coming to the BBC in 2021

Around the World in 80 Days BBC

David Tennant takes on the role of literature’s greatest explorer, Phileas Fogg, in this epic eight-part adventure.

Rising French star, Ibrahim Koma (Je Suis Daddy, Mother Is Wrong), takes on the role of the mercurial Passepartout; an irrepressible chancer who falls into the role of Fogg’s ‘valet’ and Leonie Benesch (The Crown, White Ribbon) plays Abigail Fix, the young journalist determined to make her mark in a man’s world.

Bringing the classic novel to a new generation, we can’t wait to be dazzled and taken around the globe with this adventure.

A Perfect Planet

Airs on Sundays at 8pm on BBC One. Catch up on iPlayer.

David Attenborough BBC

David Attenborough returns to provide his distinctive voice and commentary to the BBC’s latest groundbreaking natural history series.

Across five episodes, the show will take in awe-inspiring views, from lands drenched by the Indian Monsoon to the slopes of fiery Hawaiian volcanoes, from the tidal islands of the Bahamas to the frozen wastes of Ellesmere Island.

Four years in the making, the series will explore the dramatic impact of the world’s newest force of nature: humans - and what can be done to restore our planet’s perfect balance.

The Pursuit of Love

Coming in 2021 to BBC One

Lily James and Emily Beecham in The Pursuit of Love

An adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s novel by Emily Mortimer, The Pursuit Of Love is a romantic comedy-drama about love and friendship.

Set in Europe between the two World Wars, the story follows the adventures and misadventures of the charismatic and fearless Linda Radlett, played by Lily James and her best friend and cousin Fanny Logan, played by Emily Beecham.

Also starring Dominic West, Dolly Wells and Andrew Scott, the series explores questions about freedom, love and sex, and the mystery of the human heart.

Time

Coming in 2021 to BBC One

Sean Bean and Stephen Graham in Time BBC

Written by Jimmy McGovern (Cracker, Accused, The Street, Hillsborough), Time brings together some of Britain’s finest acting talent including Sean Bean, Stephen Graham, Siobhan Finneran and Sue Johnston.

A visceral, emotional and high-stakes portrayal of life in a British prison; Mark Cobden (Sean Bean) is consumed by guilt after accidentally killing an innocent man.

Accepting his four year sentence and separated from his family, he meets Eric McNally (Stephen Graham), a caring prison officer doing his best to protect those in his charge. However when one of the most dangerous inmates identifies his weakness, Eric faces an impossible choice; between his principles and his family.

New TV shows in 2021 on Amazon Prime Video

The Underground Railroad

Coming in 2021

The first TV series from Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), The Underground Railroad has been one of Amazon Prime Video’s eagerly-anticipated TV series for quite some time.

An adaptation of Colson Whitehead's 2017 novel, the story follows an alternate history where the 19th century Underground Railroad was a literal railroad that American slaves used to flee the South and find freedom.

The series stars Thuso Mbedu, Chase W. Dillon, Aaron Pierre and Joel Edgerton.

Invincible

Coming soon to Prime Video

The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman has assembled an incredible voice cast including Jon Hamm, Mahershala Ali, Jonathan Groff, Zachary Quinto, Sandro Oh, Seth Rogen, Gillian Jacobs, mark Hammill, Steven Yeun and Jk Simmons for this adaptation of the Skybound/Image comic that ran for 15 years.

The adult animation revolves around seventeen-year-old Mark Grayson (Yeun), who’s just like every other guy his age 0 except that his father is the most powerful superhero on the planet, Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons).

But as Mark develops powers of his own, he discovers that his father’s legacy may not be as heroic as it seems.

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New TV shows in 2021 on BritBox

The Beast Must Die

Coming soon to BritBox

Jared Harris in BritBox's The Beast Must Die BritBox

A modern adaptation of the classic murder mystery novel written some 80 years ago, this BritBox original series tells the story of a grieving mother who infiltrates the life of the man she believes killed her son.

The script’s been adapted by Gaby Chiappe (Their Finest, Shetland, Vera) and boasts Chernobyl and The Crown star Jared Harris among its stellar cast.

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New TV shows in 2021 on UKTV

Briarpatch

Coming to Alibi channel in 2021

Rosario Dawson as Allegra Dill in Briarpatch Alibi/UKTV

A stylish crime drama that updates the pulp fiction genre for a new era.

Rosario Dawson (Marvel’s Daredevil, Sin City) leads the cast as no-nonsense detective Allegra Dill, who returns to her hometown following the murder of her sister and ends up in all-consuming battle with the Texas border-town San Bonifacio,

The ten-part series is based on the Ross Thomas novel of the same name also stars Jay R. Ferguson (The Romanoffs, Mad Men), Edi Gathegi (StartUp, The Blacklist), Brian Geraghty (Chicago P.D.), Kim Dickens (Fear the Walking Dead, Gone Girl), Alan Cumming (The Good Wife, Instinct) and Ed Asner (Dead to Me).

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