(Photo by Frank Masi/Netflix)
Is it any wonder that Netflix would own year 2 of the Covid-19 pandemic? With stay-at-home recommendations still in effect in parts of the nation and the roller coaster of advisories from government officials and agencies keeping people on their couches and jumping from one free streaming trial to another, there was one constant in home entertainment: monthly releases of, if not always great titles, at least new movies, series, and seasons of popular Netflix shows. One of the biggest stories in 2021 was that the streamer had reached 214 million subscribers – and expects that it will surpass 222 million by year end.
Netflix’s dominance was led by the releases of series Squid Game, The Witcher season 2, and animated Arcane: League of Legends (based on the popular Riot Games video game), as well as films like Red Notice, Don’t Look Up, The Power of the Dog, and The Harder They Fall.
But the streaming year wasn’t defined just by Netflix. Disney+’s series based in the Marvel Cinematic Universe —WandaVision, Loki, animated What If…?, and Hawkeye — and Star Wars series The Book of Boba Fett and animated The Bad Batch all contributed to the year’s collective streaming. Not to mention the big-budget films that found their way onto streaming platforms either simultaneously with their theatrical releases or in a much shortened window between theaters and streaming; Warner Bros. led that charge with Dune, Godzilla vs. Kong, and The Matrix Resurrections releasing on HBO Max and in theaters.
Disney+ released Raya and the Last Dragon, Cruella, and Jungle Cruise in a premium video on demand model called “Premier Access” that asked subscribers to pay for early home access to individual films in addition to their subscription fees. Black Widow also had a PVOD release that spurred a lawsuit filed in July from its star Scarlett Johansson, who claimed breach of contract on the PVOD release and that she lost income from Disney’s decision. The suit was later settled.
But the year’s biggest news wasn’t entirely about streaming — just mostly. Read on to catch up on the top TV and streaming news of 2021.
MCU TV DEBUTS AT DISNEY+
WandaVision, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe TV series debuts … After launching in India in 2020, Discovery networks debuted its streaming service, Discovery+, in the United States on Jan. 4, with programming from HGTV, Food Network, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, and Discovery Channel … Ethan Hawke and Ramy star May Calamawy joined the cast of the upcoming Disney+ Marvel series Moon Knight, in which Oscar Isaac stars as a Marine-turned-mercenary … Rumors — that are soon be confirmed to be true — circulate that Jodie Whittaker is about to quit as the first female Doctor in Doctor Who … On Jan. 8, the final episode of Jeopardy! hosted by the late, beloved Alex Trebek, airs. Taped in Oct. 2020, just 10 days before his death from pancreatic cancer, it ended his 36-year run as host … The first Critics Choice Super Awards, recognizing genre TV and movies, were held virtually and broadcast on the CW, with Amazon Video’s The Boys winning the most TV awards with four … Tom Brokaw announced his retirement from NBC News, where he worked for more than 50 years … On Netflix, Nicolas Cage hosted the documentary series History of Swear Words.
AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER FRANCHISE EXPANDS WITH NICKELODEON’S AVATAR STUDIOS LAUNCH
(Photo by Nickelodeon)
Fresh Avatar: The Last Airbender series is part of a slew of new plans announced for Paramount and Paramount+ on investor day, including rebooted Frasier and Criminal Minds, Halo series, and series adaptations of The Italian Job and Fatal Attraction … Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted the 78th Golden Globe Awards ceremony, held on both coasts for the first time, on NBC with Fey leading the show from the Rainbow Room in New York City and Poehler hosting from The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. The pandemic-delayed event honored Jane Fonda with the Cecil B. DeMille Award, and Norman Lear was honored with the Carol Burnett Award … Shock rocker Marilyn Manson was fired from American Gods and Creepshow after being accused of abuse by several women … The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV and became the first team to win the NFL Championship game in their own home stadium. The Weeknd was the halftime show performer … NBC launched Young Rock, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson starring in an autobiographical comedy about his quirky childhood and teen years growing up as the son of pro wrestling superstar Rocky Johnson … The reboot and remake trend continued in TV land: Peacock premiered a Punky Brewster reboot with original star Soleil Moon Frye raising her three children after divorcing her husband (Freddie Prince Jr.). Original series co-star Cherie Johnson, playing Punky’s BFF Cherie, also returned, though the series was cancelled after one season … Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch star in The CW’s Superman & Lois series, with the married couple returning to Smallville and raising their two sons … Showtime announced they were producing a TV movie of their cancelled drama Ray Donovan, with series stars Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight returning … Saturday Night Live aired its 900th episode on Feb. 6, with Dan Levy as host and Phoebe Bridgers as the musical guest … The Wayne Brady–hosted version of Let’s Make a Deal aired its 2000th episode on Feb.19.
ROYAL DRAMA TAKES OVER U.S. TV
(Photo by Joe Pugliese/CBS)
Expectations were high when Oprah Winfrey sat down for a two-hour chat with Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who, as it turned out, were just itching to spill some British tea about their estranged kin. Harry’s brother William, papa Charles, sister-in-law Kate, and even the Queen herself didn’t escape their shocking accusations during Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special, including that “the institution” — a.k.a. the royal family — had refused to help Meghan when she shared with them that she felt suicidal … In other chatty scandals, Sharon Osbourne was fired from the CBS daytime talk show The Talk after an on-air spat with co-host Sheryl Underwood (involving Osbourne’s defense of Piers Morgan’s criticism of Harry and Meghan’s interview with Winfrey) led to an internal investigation by CBS of allegations that Osbourne, the last remaining original host of the show, had made racist comments … CBS All Access was relaunched as Paramount+ … American Gods, Superstore, and American Housewife aired their series finales … Trevor Noah hosted the 63rd Grammy Awards, which had been postponed from January because of a surge in Covid-19 hospitalizations in Los Angeles. Beyonce won four statues, taking her overall total to 28 and setting the new record for most Grammys won by a female artist … The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the second MCU series at Disney+, debuted … The Simpsons aired its 700th episode, “Manger Things” on March 21.
NOMADLAND WINS THE MOST OSCARS AT DELAYED 93RD ACADEMY AWARDS PRESENTATION
(Photo by Joshua Richards, 20th Century)
The 93rd Academy Awards, postponed from February, aired on ABC (from two locations in Los Angeles), with Nomadland winning the most Oscars with three: Best Picture, Best Director for Chloé Zhao (the first woman of color to win), and Best Actress for Frances McDormand. Anthony Hopkins won for Best Actor (for The Father), and became the oldest winner ever in an acting category at age 83. Hopkins was a surprise winner, as the honor had been anticipated to go posthumously to Chadwick Boseman for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom … George R.R. Martin announced he is developing a Game of Thrones stage show that he’s planning for a Broadway debut in 2023 … Dr. Phil aired its 3,000th episode in syndication on April 2 … Ridiculousness aired it 650th episode, “Chanel and Sterling CCXCII,” on MTV on April 9 … HBO premiered Mare of Easttown, a limited series crime drama starring Kate Winslet as a small-town Pennsylvania police detective working on a murder case that hits close to home. Winslet and co-stars Evan Peters and Julianne Nicholson won Emmys for their performances … Chris Meloni returned to NBC and the Law & Order universe as his character Elliot Stabler with a new series, Law & Order: Organized Crime … The CW launched a Kung-Fu reboot … The 56th Academy of Country Music Awards aired on CBS (from three locations across Nashville) co-hosted by Keith Urban and Mickey Guyton, who became the first African-American woman to host … Wyonna Earp, Shameless, and MacGyver aired their series finales … Peacock announced a reboot of the original Queer As Folk series … Finn Wittrock was cast as the titular superhero in HBO Max’s upcoming Green Lantern series … Hilary Duff was announced as the star of Hulu’s How I Met Your Father, a spin-off of the CBS comedy How I Met Your Mother … Olivia Colman and Emilia Clarke joined the MCU via Disney+’s upcoming Secret Invasion series, which will also star Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, and Kingsley Ben-Adir.
NBC CANCELS BROADCAST OF 2022 GOLDEN GLOBES CEREMONY
(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
NBC announced it would not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes ceremony, after a condemnation of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association by advocacy group Time’s Up — which would later implode in its own scandal — over the group’s lack of diversity in its membership and revelations about its financial practices and other conduct that led to boycotts by agents, studios, and PR firms across Hollywood … AT&T and Discovery, Inc. reached an agreement to combine the assets of WarnerMedia (HBO, HBO Max, Warner Bros., CNN, TBS, and 50 percent of The CW) with Discovery (including Discovery Channel, Discovery+, Food Network, TLC, and HGTV) in a deal worth $43 billion. The deal is expected to close in 2022, with Discovery President and CEO David Zaslav leading the new company … MGM and Amazon signed an agreement for Amazon to acquire MGM, which would include a library of more than 4,000 movies (including the James Bond flicks) and more than 17,000 TV episodes (including Shark Tank, The Real Housewives franchise, and The Handmaid’s Tale) … Amazon Video released Oscar winner Barry Jenkins’ miniseries The Underground Railroad, based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Colson Whitehead. The project earned Emmy nominations for Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series and for Jenkins as Outstanding Directing … HBO Max premiered the dramedy Hacks, which won Emmys for Outstanding Writing and star Jean Smart as Outstanding Lead Actress for portraying a legendary Las Vegas comedian … Rebooted series that debuted: In Treatment on HBO and Rugrats on Paramount+ … Nick Jonas hosted the Billboard Music Awards on NBC, where The Weeknd won 10 awards from 16 nominations … HBO Max premiered the long-anticipated (and Covid-delayed Friends: The Reunion featuring all six original cast members … Series finales airing in May: Shrill, Jupiter’s Legacy, Prodigal Son, Mom, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, Special, Last Man Standing, NCIS: New Orleans, Black Lightning, and The Kominsky Method … Disney+ announced its developing a live-action Hocus Pocus 2 movie that will star original movie leads Bette Midler, Kathy Najimi, and Sarah Jessica Parker … Netflix picked up to series an Arnold Schwarzenegger father-daughter spy drama. It will be the action star’s first TV series, which he will also executive produce.
LOKI MAKES HIS TV DEBUT
Tom Hiddleston reprised his role from the Marvel movies to bring Thor’s adopted brother to TV in Loki, the third MCU series at Disney+. The first season featured six episodes, and a second season is in development … Other major June premieres: Sweet Tooth on Netflix and Kevin Can F**k Himself at AMC … Chris Harrison signed a non-disclosure agreement with ABC and ended his 19-year role as the host of The Bachelor universe series after a controversy erupted when Harrison defended a Bachelorette contestant who had attended a plantation-themed event and had allegedly bullied a high school classmate for dating Black men … Conan O’Brien ended his TBS talk show, Conan, which ended a 28-year talk show hosting career that began with Late Night with Conan O’Brien … Other series ending their runs in June: Younger, Pose, Bosch, Van Helsing, The Bold Type, and Keeping Up with the Kardashians … Reboots debuting in June: Meerkat Manor on Animal Planet, Tuca & Bertie on Adult Swim, and iCarly on Paramount+ … Peacock ordered a 10-episode series adaptation of the 2012 movie Ted, about the foul-mouthed talking teddy bear voiced by movie writer Seth MacFarlane … Showtime ordered a drama series sequel to the 1980 movie American Gigolo, with The Walking Dead and Punisher alum Jon Bernthal as Julian, the lead character played by Richard Gere in the film … Netflix announced Die Hard and The Fugitive writer Jeb Stuart, a writer for Netflix’s Vikings sequel, Vikings: Valhalla, will be the showrunner for its Assassin’s Creed video game–adaptation.
Read More: What We Could See in Sweet Tooth Season 2
S’ALL GOOD WITH BOB
(Photo by Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Tel)
If Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk has any doubt about just how beloved he is by fans and his fellow Hollywood community, he doesn’t any longer. After suffering a heart attack on the set of production of the upcoming final season of Saul, fans and friends and co-workers flooded social media with an outpouring of well wishes for the actor. Thankfully, he recovered quickly and thoroughly and Saul season six is scheduled to premiere in 2022 … Sportscaster Marv Alpert retired after a career that began in the 1960s … Major July series premieres: The White Lotus on HBO, Monsters at Work on Disney+, Power Book III: Raising Kanan on Starz, snd FBoy Island on HBO Max … Series finales airing in July: Atypical, Mr Inbetween, The Haves and the Have Nots, Good Girls, and Judge Judy … Reboots debuting in July: Gossip Girl on HBO Max and Behind the Music on Paramount+ … The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to win the city’s first league championship since 1971 … The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Montreal Canadiens in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals to win their second consecutive NHL championship … After a year postponement because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 Summer Olympics took place in Tokyo, Japan … Netflix gave The Shield creator Shawn Ryan a series order for the political conspiracy thriller The Night Agent, based on author Matthew Quirk’s 2019 bestselling book about a low-level FBI agent who gets caught up in a conspiracy that lead to the Oval Office … Michelle and Barack Obama are developing a Netflix anthology series, Blackout, about six different Black teenage love stories that all take place on the same night in New York City.
MAJOR DEALS ANNOUNCED FOR REESE WITHERSPOON, COURTNEY A. KEMP, AND TREY PARKER AND MATT STONE
(Photo by Toni Anne Barson/WireImage)
The Morning Show star Reese Witherspoon, Oscar winner, Emmy winner, bestselling author, and lifestyle brand entrepreneur became a multiple media mogul in August when she sold her Hello Sunshine production company to Blackstone for a valuation of $900 million. The company, whose projects include Big Little Lies and The Morning Show (which Witherspoon stars in) and the movie Gone Girl, will continued to be operated by Witherspoon and chief executive Sarah Harden … Power universe creator Courtney A. Kemp signed an eight-figure deal to create content for Netflix … South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone signed a new, $900 million deal with MTV Entertainment Studios to make new South Park episodes through season 30 (season 25 debuts in 2022), plus 14 movies for Paramount+ … Animated What If …? premiered as the fourth MCU series on Disney+ … Roberta Kaplan, chairwoman of Hollywood-tied advocacy group Time’s Up, resigns over her involvement in the defense of former New York governor Andrew Cuomo against sexual harassment claims. The resulting scandal rocked the organization to its core … Hulu premiered Only Murders in the Building, a mystery-comedy series starring Martin Short, Steve Martin, and Selena Gomez as three true-crime-obsessed neighbors who collaborate on a podcast in which they try to solve a real murder in their building … Reboots debuting in August: Fantasy Island on Fox and MTV Cribs on MTV … After using a series of guest hosts after Alex Trebek’s death, Jeopardy! producer Sony named Mayim Bialik and executive producer Mike Richards as the permanent host replacements. But less than a month after his hiring, Richards was fired as host and showrunner of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune after misogynistic and offensive remarks he made on an old podcast he hosted resurfaced. Bialik was named sole permanent host … Game of Thrones star Jacob Anderson was cast as star of Interview with the Vampire, AMC’s upcoming series adaptation of Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles novel series. He will play Louis, a role originated by Brad Pitt in the 1994 feature film adaptation …The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon aired its 1,500th episode on Aug. 12 … Peacock ordered a series adaptation of the classic baseball movie Field of Dreams, created by The Office producer (and baseball superfan) Michael Schur.
SQUID GAME: MORE THAN 1 BILLION SERVED
(Photo by Netflix)
How popular was Netflix’s Korean-language thriller Squid Game? It amassed more than 1.65 billion viewing hours less than four weeks after its Sept. 17 debut, replacing Bridgerton as Netflix’s most-watched series ever. Unsurprisingly, a sophomore season is in the works … Other Sept. premieres: NCIS: Hawaii (with Vanessa Lachey cast as the first female lead in the CBS franchise), Tha God’s Honest Truth on Comedy Central, La Brea on NBC, and The Problem with Jon Stewart on Apple TV+ … The Crown became the first drama series to sweep the major categories, winning seven awards at the 73rd Emmy Awards. Apple TV+’s biggest breakout hit so far, the feel-good comedy Ted Lasso, won four statues, including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actor for Jason Sudeikis, Oustanding Supporting Actor for Brett Goldstein, and Outstanding Supporting Actress for Hannah Waddingham … Dancing with the Stars’ season 30 featured a same-gender dance duo in the regular cast for the first time: singer/actress JoJo Siwa and professional partner Jenna Johnson, who were the season’s runners-up … Reboots debuting in Sept.: Doogie Kameāloha, M.D. (Doogie Howser reboot) on Disney+ and The Wonder Years on ABC … Series finales aired in Sept.: A.P. Bio, Lucifer, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine … NBC announced Law & Order, the original crime series in Dick Wolf’s frequently spun-off series, would return for its 21st season in 2022 … Fox Entertainment president Michael Thorn confirmed the network is considering a revival of 24, the real-time Kiefer Sutherland drama that marked its 20th anniversary in Nov. 2021 … After NBC cancelled Manifest, a save-the-show campaign by fans led Netflix to order a 20-episode final season for missing-plane drama.
NETFLIX REACHES 214 MILLION SUBSCRIBERS
(Photo by Des Willie/Netflix)
While announcing its Q3 earnings report, Netflix shared that it had added 4.4 million subscribers, bringing its total number of global subscribers to 214 million. The streaming service also said it expected to add another 8.5 million before the end of 2021 … DC FanDome 2021 offered new details on some of the biggest films coming out of the DC Universe (The Batman, Black Adam, The Flash), but also underscored HBO Max’s center of the DC TV effort with updates on Peacemaker, Titans, animated Harley Quinn, and more … The 500th episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit aired on NBC on Oct. 21 … The 500th episode of The Voice aired on NBC on Oct. 26 … The 500th episode of The Challenge aired on MTV on Oct. 27 … Mark Harmon left his role as the lead actor on CBS’ original NCIS series, but will continue as an executive producer on the series … AMC announced a fourth spinoff of The Walking Dead, a half-hour anthology series called Tales of the Walking Dead, for summer 2022 … Damian Lewis shocked Billions fans when he quit his role as Bobby Axe in the Showtime series at the end of season 5 … The Continental, Starz’ upcoming John Wick prequel series (which does not star Keanu Reeves), cast still-controversial actor Mel Gibson as a new character in the story … October premieres: Chucky on Syfy and Ghosts, the U.S. adaptation of a British series, on CBS … Reboots premiering in October: CSI: Vegas on CBS, Cops on Fox Nation, and 4400 on The CW … The CW announced it is also rebooting J. Michael Stracynski’s sci-fi drama Babylon 5 in 2022.
Read More: Everything We Learned at DC FanDome 2021
TV’S FAVORITE SERIAL KILLER DEXTER RETURNS
(Photo by Showtime)
Dexter: New Blood premiered on Showtime. The Dexter reboot sees Michael C. Hall reuniting with showrunner Clyde Phillips to tell a new chapter in the life of the Miami serial killer now wrestling with his dark passenger in rural New York. Phillips promised a “stunning” ending for the limited series, which has its finale on Jan. 9 … More reboots premiering this month: Head of the Class on HBO Max and The Game on Paramount+ … Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson, and Gal Gadot starred in the action adventure series Red Notice, a hit that amassed 328.8 million viewing hours in the movie’s first 28 days, making it Netflix’s most-watched movie ever … On the first-ever Disney+ Day, the streamer announced it has a total of 118.1 million subscribers and previewed 12 new Marvel series, including She-Hulk, Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel, and Agatha: House of Harkness … November series premieres: The Wheel of Time on Amazon Video, Cowboy Bebop on Netflix, Yellowjackets on Showtime, and Hawkeye (the fifth MCU series on Disney+) … Netflix cancelled Cowboy Bebop after one season … Series finales airing in November: Y: The Last Man, Narcos: Mexico, Supergirl, and F Is for Family … Surgeon and talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz quit his Dr. Oz daytime talk show as he announced his candidacy as a Republican to run for the U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania.
THE WITCHER RETURNS
(Photo by Susie Allnutt/Netflix)
The eagerly anticipated second season of The Witcher hit Netflix with Henry Cavill returning as monster-hunter Geralt of Rivia. The series now rivals Squid Game as the most popular Netflix title of 2021 based on visits on Rotten Tomatoes … Speaking of eagerly anticipated, The Book of Boba Fett, Disney+’s latest Star Wars series, launched on Dec. 29, giving franchise fans a little something to chew on of the long New Year’s holiday weekend … Sex and the City sequel series And Just Like That… on HBO Max crushed devoted fans in its first episode when Carrie Bradshaw’s husband, Mr. Big, died after suffering a heart attack while Carrie failed to even call 911. Shock number 2: With fans still reeling over Big’s death, Big portrayer Chris Noth was accused by multiple women of sexual assault. Noth denied all allegations, but his agent dropped him, he lost a $12 million deal to sell hi alcohol brand, and he was fired from his regular role on the CBS drama The Equalizer … It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia premiered its 15th season on FXX, making it the longest-running live-action sitcom in TV history … 1883, a Yellowstone prequel series starring country music superstars, and real-life marrieds Tim McGraw and Faith Hill as the grandparents of Yellowstone character John Dutton, debuted on Paramount+ and became the streaming network’s most popular series ever … Karate Kid 3 villain Thomas Ian Griffith reprises his role as Terry Silver in the fourth season of Netflix’s Karate Kid series, Cobra Kai … Amazon Video debuts Being the Ricardos, a biography of the marriage between Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem), written and directed by Aaron Sorkin … CNN fired news anchor Chris Cuomo after documents revealed he had participated in efforts to aid his brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in his defense against sexual harassment charges … Former 19 Kids and Counting star Josh Duggar was convicted of receiving and possessing child pornography following a two-year federal investigation by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas … Empire star Jussie Smollett was found guilty of five counts of felony disorderly conduct from a January 2019 incident in which he falsely told police he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime … The Goldbergs and Curb Your Enthusiasm star Jeff Garlin left his role as Goldberg dad Murray after several charges of inappropriate behavior on The Goldbergs set and multiple human resources investigations. His character will continue to appear on the series current, ninth season, in material already filmed … Series finales airing this month: Lost in Space, The Sinner, PEN15, The Walking Dead: World Beyond, and Insecure … The 1000th episode of The Late Late Show with James Corden and the 200th episode of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee aired on Dec. 8 … Jean-Marc Vallée, director of Dallas Buyers Club and series Big Little Lies and Sharp Objects, died of a heart attack.