Confession: It was a real challenge to narrow this list down to 10. (Damn you, David Letterman!) So before we begin, allow me to name a few honorable mentions that didn't quite make the cut but nonetheless are worth your precious viewing time. Evil (Paramount+) only gets better, weirder, and more compelling in season 2; What We Do in the Shadows (FX) perfected the art of vampire world-building and delivered a truly amazing finale in season 3; wrestling drama Heels (Starz) is an ornery delight; and Ultra City Smiths (AMC+) is, as I've noted before, the Sistine Chapel of stop-motion animation. Check 'em out, won't you? And now, on to the main event.

The Year's Best Shows...

Dr. Death
Credit: Barbara Nitke/Peacock

10. Dr. Death (Peacock)

Joshua Jackson gives a career-best performance as Christopher Duntsch, a Texas neurosurgeon whose cocksure charisma hides deadly ineptitude. An arresting blend of body horror and agonizing suspense — with a dash of buddy-comedy banter from Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater as docs who help take Duntsch down — Dr. Death is a true-crime triumph. (Full review)

Credit: Gene Page/Hulu

9. Dopesick (Hulu)

With his adaptation of Beth Macy's opioid- crisis best-seller, Danny Strong lured us in with acutely human characters — a kind Appalachian doctor (Michael Keaton), an injured coal miner (Kaitlyn Dever) — then crushed our hearts like so many pills under a pestle. Purdue Pharma is no more, but Dopesick remains a damning testament to the Sackler family's legacy of pain. (Full review)

squid game
Credit: netflix

8. Squid Game (Netflix)

A bleak allegory about the systemic exploitation of the global working class. A pulpy survival thriller set against a candy-colored deathscape. Creator Hwang Dong-hyuk took the "Why not both?" approach, transforming kids' games into terrifying instruments of torture, and a debt-ridden dad (Lee Jung-jae, endlessly endearing) into an unlikely hero.

Credit: Liane Hentscher/TBS

7. Chad (TBS)

Did you hate Chad? I get it. This cringe comedy — starring Nasim Pedrad as a 14-year-old Persian boy — can be very uncomfortable. It's about an adolescent trying to fit in, always a painful (exhilarating, strange, hilarious) struggle. Give Chad another shot. To quote the heroically de- voted Uncle Hamid (Paul Chahidi), "We're screaming because we're happy! Join us!" (Full review)

Midnight Mass
Credit: Netflix

6. Midnight Mass (Netflix)

A small-town priest (Hamish Linklater) and a drunk driver fresh out of prison (Zach Gilford) receive an awesome power. What follows is a little masterpiece of grief and guilt — a rumination on faith, addiction, and free will filtered through a genre lens. Doubters called it "talky," but Midnight Mass made two men talking in a church rec room feel like a minor miracle. (Full review)

The Other Two
Credit: HBO Max

5. The Other Two (HBO Max)

Savage and sweet, this family comedy parodies the inanity of celebrity culture with blithe brilliance. Season 2 launched the Dubek clan (Molly Shannon, Drew Tarver, Heléne Yorke, and Case Walker) to new heights of fame, only to cut them down via sublimely ridiculous mishaps (an awkward nude selfie goes viral; a loose-lipped Lyft ride leads to a lawsuit). On The Other Two, no joke is too inside. (Full review)

Credit: Macall Polay/HBO

4. Succession (HBO)

Season 3 exposed the Roy family scions for who they really are: profoundly damaged kids playacting at adulthood. A coup is derailed by well-timed doughnuts; a family photo becomes a father-daughter power struggle; a lavish birthday party ends with a tearful meltdown. It seems the more these brokenhearted billionaires act out, the harder it is to look away. (Full review)

Credit: Anne Marie Fox/HBO Max

3. Hacks (HBO Max)

Two comedy writers on the brink of losing everything — Las Vegas legend Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) and millennial malcontent Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder) —reluctantly team up to save themselves. As the comedians chip away at each other's defenses with weaponized one-liners, the two stars reveal the fragile hearts of the gifted, deeply flawed women underneath. (Full review)

Credit: Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+

2. The Good Fight (Paramount+)

The law may belong to the people — but what if we the people can't be trusted? In the insidiously quirky fifth season of Robert and Michelle King's legal drama, an eclectic "judge" (Mandy Patinkin) opens a "court" in the back of a copy shop, and it doesn't take long for the dangerously delicate guardrails between democracy and mob rule to start crumbling.

Credit: Shane Brown/FX

1. Reservation Dogs (FX on Hulu)

Four teenagers — Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis), Elora (Devery Jacobs), Bear (D'Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), and Cheese (Lane Factor) — bum around their Oklahoma reservation, dreaming of a better life in California. Their friend Daniel (Dalton Cramer) is dead. "This place killed him," fumes Elora. "I'm not letting it kill me." Co-created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi, Reservation Dogs immerses us in a fully realized world from the outset, a place where hangout humor and magical realism nod hello on the street. As Elora and her buds try to scrape together cash, they learn lessons — sometimes under duress — from their elders, including Officer Big (played with mesmerizing equanimity by Zahn McClarnon). Frequently heartbreaking and always funny, Reservation Dogs is the coming-of-age comedy I never saw coming.

Best and Worst TV of 2021
The best TV shows of 2021.
| Credit: CBS;Ryan Redcorn/FX; Antony Platt/Hulu;Barbara Nitke/Peacock; Noh Juhan/Netflix; Macall Polay/HBO

And the 3 Worst...

Credit: Brooke Palmer/CBS

Clarice (CBS)

It places Thomas Harris' indelible character into a lifeless, grim-gray CBS crime procedural. It adds low-rent Silence of the Lambs "flashbacks" whenever it's told. 

American Horror Stories
Credit: FX on Hulu

American Horror Stories (FX on Hulu)

The Dick Wolf-ization of TV continues with this slapdash, self-referential spin-off — a lazy pastiche of gore and titillation.

THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH JAMES CORDEN- Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matt LeBlanc, and Matthew Perry
Credit: Terence Patrick/CBS

James Corden on Friends: The Reunion (HBO Max)

The host was just doing his job, sure. But his Flavor Flav hopped up on a case of Red Bull energy served as a grating contrast to the reunion's genuinely moving moments with the cast reminiscing on their own. (Full review)

A version of this story appears in Entertainment Weekly's January issue, on newsstands Dec. 17 and available to order here. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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