Showmax brought South Africans four of the top six TV shows of 2021, according to Metacritic’s roundup of the TV shows mentioned on most critics’ Top 10 lists. This includes Succession and The White Lotus, ranked first and second respectively, as well as Hacks and Mare of Easttown.
Viewers have also loved local shows, with Showmax Originals The Real Housewives of Durban, Uthando Lodumo, Devilsdorp and The Wife all setting new viewing records for Showmax this year, as you’ll see when we release our Most Watched of 2021 lists in January 2022.”
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The best international TV series of 2021
Succession S3 – Binge now, first on Showmax
Succession is currently leading Metacritic’s round-up of the TV shows mentioned on the most Top 10 lists for 2021, having been named Show of the Year by everyone from Adweek to Complex to Vanity Fair. It’s also the most nominated series overall going into both the 2022 Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe awards.
Succession follows four very rich siblings behaving very badly while trying to win their father’s approval – and control of his company, a global media and entertainment empire.
As Vanity Fair says, “There’s no other show that’s as dramatically compelling or twistedly funny as HBO’s big hit Succession… the best showcase of performances on television…”
“It’s hard not to reach for hyperbole when talking about how Succession makes the viewer feel, because the show utilizes its interpersonal drama—almost always, the relationship between a child and their father—to dig into the reach and power of big money, embodied in the show by the titanic and offensive personality of patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox).”
“The stranglehold that extreme wealth has on everything—on all of our lives—is demonstrated by how the Succession cast dances like puppets to his tune, battered by his indifference but easily manipulated by his charm… Succession has become an indispensable fixture of the landscape—a balm that makes the widening wealth gap humorous instead of, you know, a harbinger of the end of days.”
The White Lotus S1 – Binge now, first on Showmax
The White Lotus is currently in second place on Metacritic’s round-up of the TV shows mentioned on the most Top 10 lists for 2021, having been named Show of the Year by The Globe and Mail, The Ringer, Slant and more.
Set over the course of a week, the HBO series gradually peels back the glossy veneer of picture-perfect travellers, cheerful hotel employees, and the idyllic island locale itself to reveal something far uglier beneath.
As The New Yorker says, “Who is the standout in Mike White’s fable of the maladjusted elite? Is it Jake Lacy as Shane, the fratty, entitled honeymooner? Murray Bartlett as Armond, the hotel manager on a drug bender? Natasha Rothwell as Belinda, the resort’s spa manager who has the last dredges of her optimism drained? Jennifer Coolidge as Tanya, the woo-woo loner who drains Belinda of that optimism? This series gave us some of the best performances of the year.”
Hacks S1 – Binge now on Showmax
Hacks is currently in second place on Rotten Tomatoes’ roundup of the Best TV of 2021 and in sixth place on Metacritic’s round-up of the TV shows mentioned on the most Top 10 lists for 2021, having been named Show of the Year by Decider and Paste.
The comedy-drama series centres on legendary Las Vegas comedian Deborah Vance (Jean Smart in an Emmy-winning performance), who takes on an entitled, down-on-her-luck Gen Z comedy writer (Hannah Einbinder in an Emmy-nominated performance) in a bid to find fresh material and remain relevant as her performance dates start to dwindle.
Decider calls it “as good as it gets… expertly penned… a deft blend of brilliant observational humor and relatable hilarity.”
Mare of Easttown – Binge now on Showmax
Mare of Easttown is currently in fifth place on Metacritic’s round-up of the TV shows mentioned on the most Top 10 lists for 2021, having been named Show of the Year by TVLine.
HBO’s Mare of Easttown dominated the Limited Series acting categories at the Emmys, with Kate Winslet winning Best Actress as small-town detective Mare Sheehan, who must investigate a murder while trying to keep her life from falling apart, and Evan Peters and Julianne Nicholson taking home the Supporting Actor and Actress categories as her colleague and friend respectively.
“HBO reliably serves up a twist-laden murder mystery for us to solve every year, it seems — but even without the murder, Mare still would have been must-see TV,” says TVLine.
“Yes, it gave us plenty of clues, but it also took its sweet time painting a deeply intimate portrait of a tight-knit small town where everyone knows everyone else’s darkest secrets. Kate Winslet shone, of course, in a complicated role that’s like nothing we’ve ever seen from her, but the excellent work from Jean Smart, Evan Peters and Julianne Nicholson just added more detail and texture to a masterfully observed human drama.”
What We Do in the Shadows S3 – Binge now, first on Showmax
What We Do In The Shadows features prominently on multiple Top 10 lists for 2021, including top five placements from Decider and Paste. It’s also at number 11 on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the best-reviewed TV shows of 2021, with a 100% critics’ rating, and was just nominated as Best Comedy, among other honours, at the 2022 Critics’ Choice Awards.
Based on the 2014 cult movie from the batty brains of nine-time Emmy nominee Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and Oscar winner Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, Thor: Ragnarok), What We Do in the Shadows follows four vampires who’ve “lived” together for hundreds of years – plenty of time to get on each other’s nerves.
As Decider says, “FX’s mockumentary series featuring the world’s dumbest vampires, What We Do In the Shadows, has been one of the best comedies on TV since it premiered in 2019.”
“But Season 3 felt like the show’s breakout year, in part because of the internet’s affinity for the brilliant slow-burn relationship between Nandor the Relentless (Kayvan Novak)—formerly a bloodthirsty leader, now a somewhat reluctant vampire going through a midlife crisis—and his human familiar, Guillermo de la Cruz (Harvey Guillén), formerly a soft-spoken servant, now a badass vampire slayer. It’s a season full of priceless, quotable moments.”
Special mentions: other shows featuring on critics’ Top 10 lists for 2021 and Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the best reviewed TV of 2021 include:
- The romantic comedy Love Life S2;
- The HBO drama Scenes from a Marriage;
- The horror Chucky;
- The teen cringe comedies PEN15 S2 and Chad S1;
- The sci-fi comedy Resident Alien;
- The superhero series Batwoman;
- The action series The Equalizer and Gangs of London;
- The sitcom Young Rock;
- The period drama The Pursuit of Love;
- Friends: The Reunion, as well as shows headed to Showmax soon, like the final season of Insecure; Yellowjackets; Dr. Death; In Treatment S4; The Good Fight S5; and Curb Your Enthusiasm S11.
Best International non-fiction
The Crime of the Century – Binge now, first on Showmax
The Crime of the Century was named Best Political Documentary at the 2021 Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards; cracked The Wall Street Journal’s list of the best TV shows of 2021; and has a 95% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
From Oscar- and Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, The Inventor), The Crime of the Century is a searing indictment of big pharma and the political operatives and government regulations that enable over-production, reckless distribution and abuse of synthetic opiates.
As FilmWeek says, “Only Alex Gibney can get his arms around the behemoth that is the opioid crisis in America… It will open your eyes and make you angry.”
In the Same Breath – Stream now on Showmax
In The Same Breath is in fifth place on The New Yorker’s roundup of the best films of 2021 as their top-ranked documentary. It’s also in Top 10 films lists from the likes of Slant and cracked Indiewire’s round-up of the best documentaries of 2021.
Winner of the Festival Favourites Audience Award at SXSW 2021, the HBO feature documentary illustrates the devastating toll of widespread misinformation in the earliest days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Directed by four-time Emmy nominee and 2020 MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Nanfu Wang (One Child Nation), who was born in China and now lives in the United States, the documentary explores the early confusion and parallel campaigns by authorities to try to contain the virus as well as shape the public narrative through misinformation, resulting in a devastating impact on citizens of both countries.
As Vox says, “It’s hard to imagine any pandemic documentary being better than In the Same Breath… a chilling, truly absorbing film with big implications for the future.”
Painting With John S1 – Stream now on Showmax
Painting With John is at #21 on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the Best TV of 2021, with a 100% critics’ rating,
Painting With John – written, directed by and starring John Lurie, co-founder of musical group The Lounge Lizards – is part meditative tutorial, part fireside chat. Each episode has John at his work table at his home in the Caribbean, honing his watercolour techniques and sharing what he’s learned about life.
The Playlist hailed the series as “one of the smartest shows on television,” placing it seventh on their best TV shows of 2021 list, and adding, “It’s a show about painting that’s not really about painting. Lurie uses the time to ponder questions about life, music, and art.”
“It becomes a series of deeply personal conversations with a genius as Lurie opens up about his own life, including his cancer treatment. We may have all been alone in January 2021, but John Lurie made that isolation easier to take.”
Special mentions: other non-fiction highlights featuring on critics’ Top 10 lists for 2021 include Tiger, about Tiger Woods; The Day Sports Stood Still, about Covid’s impact on sport; and Allen v. Farrow, about Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, as well as series coming to Showmax soon like How To With John Wilson S2 and We’re Here S2.
Minari – Stream now, first on Showmax
Minari ended the year in Top 10 lists by everyone from The Economist to NME after winning over 100 awards, including the 2021 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Korean star Yuh-jung Youn.
Minari is a moving semi-autobiographical drama about a family of South Korean immigrants who try to start a farm in rural Arkansas in the 1980s.
NME calls the film “a quiet exploration of the immigrant experience in America, especially when difficulties on the farm arise. But more than that, it’s a greater exploration of family and the sacrifices we make for one other. Star performances from (breakout child star Alan) Kim and Youn are joyous to watch, as are scenes following the family’s quest to make their new life work, no matter how much adversity is thrown their way.”
This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection – Stream from 3 January 2022 on Showmax
This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection is #5 on Metacritic’s list of the best reviewed films of 2021, with a 91% critics’ rating. It’s also at number 5 on Slant and 9 on The Playlist’s round-up of the best films of 2021.
The late, legendary Mary Twala (Black Is King) stars as a widow in Lesotho who rediscovers her lust for life when her village is threatened by the construction of a reservoir.
Produced by Urucu (The Wound), it was hailed by Vulture as “the first masterpiece of 2021… I recommend seeing it more than once: luckily, it’s so gorgeous and spellbinding that it invites repeat viewings.”
Palm Springs is another Showmax film featuring on Top 10 lists, while three other critics’ favourites – Promising Young Woman, Judas and the Black Messiah and Zack Snyder’s Justice League – are coming soon.
This year, Showmax also brought out the 2021 box office hits Wrath of Man and The Marksman; the 2021 Oscar winner Tenet; and Moffie, which has a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Baby Done, which has a 93% critics’ ranking on Rotten Tomatoes, premieres on Showmax on 30 December 2021.
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