New year, new TV, beautiful Black people.
2021 is stacked to the brim with some of the biggest names in film taking their talents to the small screen of television, and it is worth celebrating. With less than two weeks until spring gets sprung, the changing of the seasons comes with many cinephiles and TV watchers locking in as a new slew of shows begin to air on cable and streaming services.
You’ve likely heard the insane line-ups of content coming to Disney Plus, Amazon, Netflix, HBO Max, and Peacock, but for every eagerly-anticipated series, there is hope that heavy hitters like Atlanta and Underground can return for their upcoming third seasons. In a time where most people had more than enough time than expected to sit on their couches and watch television, it looks like 2021 is not going to be much different than last year.
The good news is that there are a wealth of hotly anticipated (and rumored) shows, from the return of Jamie Foxx to the small screen to new epic fantasy and animated worlds to get lost in. Here are all of the things to keep on your radar, and for even more things to watch and listen to in 2021, check out our lists of artists, directors, and women in film pathmakers.
The 63rd Annual Grammy Awards (March 14)
Yes, yes, this is technically not a show, but the Grammys are an annual watch for Black Twitter and our families. Originally scheduled for Jan. 31, the spread of the pandemic in Los Angeles caused a necessary postponement. Now, the ceremony, which is to be hosted by Trevor Noah, organized and in motion—we will gather once again to possibly watch a H-Town reunion with Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé live on stage.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (March 19)
Ask anyone who has been watching WandaVision this winter and you’ll understand just how well Marvel properties work as TV shows. The hype train continues as Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprise their roles for Disney+’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Their team-up will come with unlikely results as comic book stans and lovers of the MCU will be excited to see how long these two impatient heroes can stand to work together.
Genius: Aretha (March 21)
Need a fix to hold you down before Jennifer Hudson’s take on Aretha Franklin’s life hits theaters and streaming services? Don’t worry, National Geographic have you covered with their own take. Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) puts on that expensive mink for Genius: Aretha, which will bring audiences into the Queen of Soul’s life. With Courtney B. Vance, David Cross, and Antonique Smith attached, Erivo as Franklin is certainly going to be one to watch with the Black Twitterati.
Invincible (March 26)
Based on a comic by The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and artist Cory Walker, Invincible could possibly become your favorite show and you ain’t even know it! With animation that’s a cut above other shows you see on TV these days, Invincible is about Mark Grayson, a high school student who finds out his dad is Omni-Man, a Superman-like superhero figure carrying a dark secret. With Steven Yeun (Minari) and JK Simmons (Spider-Man: Far From Home) playing the son and father, respectively, Invincible brags an ensemble of big names—including Zazie Beetz, Sandra Oh, and Mark Hamill.
Law & Order: Organized Crime (April 1)
Ten years after he quit Special Victims Unit and left Mariska Hargitay (his partner) hanging to appear in very un-SVU shows like Underground and Pose, Christopher Meloni—and his character, NYPD detective Elliot Stabler—return for NBC’s newest Law & Order series. Subtitled Organized Crime, the now-60-year-old actor will put the badge on to stop underworld bosses in an hour or less. To help everyone jump into the deep end with ease, the premiere episode will be an SVU reunion of sorts, as Meloni and Hargitay will appear together in a crossover event.
Dad Stop Embarrassing Me (April 14)
The real is back! In this upcoming Netflix series, Jamie Foxx loosens up the tie to make his anticipated return to television. Dad Stop Embarrassing Me is pulled from his experiences in raising his daughter Corinne Foxx. The two serve as producers of the show, which has kept plot details to a minimum, but the premise is enough to create a line down the block and then some. David Alan Grier, Porscha Coleman, and Kyla-Drew will also star in this must-see comedy from the Foxxhole.
Big Shot (April 16)
Before Giannis Antetokounmpo became America’s favorite Greek import, we all loved John Stamos. The former Full House star has hopped into Disney+’s impressive slate of shows for Big Shot, where he plays a tempermental college basketball coach who loses his job and must take a job at an elite all-girls private high school. Joining Stamos in this comedy-filled ride are Yvette Nicole Brown (Avengers: Endgame) and Monique A. Green (How to Get Away with Murder), making this a show the whole family can watch together.
Godfather of Harlem (April 18)
Audiences were wowed by the inaugural season of Epix and BET’s Godfather of Harlem. For stars Forest Whitaker (Bumpy Johnson) and Giancarlo Esposito (Congressman Adam Clayton Powell), their back-and-forth continues as 1960s Harlem crime goes to another level with Italian mobsters attempting to sever Bumpy’s vital heroin pipeline. Meanwhile, Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch) must choose between a violent or nonviolent response to the near-constant threats to his life, making this next season of Godfather a must-see event for any loyal (or newcoming) watcher.
The 93rd Annual Academy Awards (April 25)
The Oscars, much like the Grammys and Golden Globes, were supposed to be us watching our favorite stars laugh, love, and celebrate wins in-person. Respectfully, the Academy is still planning to stage a live show at the Dolby Theatre, albeit with some significant changes to make safety a priority. Utilizing multiple locations will force the Oscars (and us as viewers) to experience an awards ceremony like none other, while continuing to adapt to the requirements of the pandemic. If you think that we’re going to miss seeing Regina King winning another golden statue, then you don’t know how much we love our Black queen.
Pose (May 2)
The third and final season of the award-winning, gag-inducing, history-making, and iconic FX drama, Pose, is sadly airing this spring. Spotlighting the ferocious house mothers of New York’s underground ball culture seems bittersweet since we were just getting to see Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) and Angel (Indya Moore) flourish on (and off) screen. With AIDS becoming the leading cause of death in America and a new upstart house getting vicious against the House of Evangelista, it seems that the characters of Pose will have to contend with their legacy. Expect the series finale to air with a loud extravaganza on June 6.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch (May 4)
The hype surrounding Disney+’s The Mandalorian has encouraged sci-fi fans to dive into all things Star Wars. Thankfully, last year’s “sizzle reel” trailer revealed a lot of content from that galaxy far, far away, and The Bad Batch should be right up there on everyone’s list. Functioning as a sequel to the animated series The Clone Wars, the Bad Batch, or Clone Force 99, find a crew of clone soldiers who possess extraordinary abilities taking on mercenary missions as they try to figure out who they are in the way of war. Dee Bradley Baker returns to voice all of the clone troopers in this series, as well as Ming-Na Wen (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), who reprises her role as Fennec from The Mandalorian. Tell a friend to tell a friend to not miss this one!
Ziwe (May 9)
Brooklyn’s own Ziwe Fumudoh continues to build on her successes as a comedian and comic writer with her own show, Ziwe. After putting in time with everyone from The Daily Show to Desus and Mero, Ziwe adds star to her growing resume as the main draw for this variety show heading to Showtime this spring. Featuring interviews, musical numbers, guest stars, sketches and more—including unscripted interactions with everyday people—Ziwe will host and show run this laugh-inducing project you must add to your watch queue.
The Underground Railroad (May 14)
Someone call Barry Jenkins and tell him thank you for being able to finish this long-awaited adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s novel, The Underground Railroad. Under the talented director’s watchful lens, we are taken back to the antebellum South and introduced to Cora Randall (Thuso Mbedu), a young woman chasing freedom and alluding a bounty hunter (Joel Edgerton) who was never able to capture her mother in the past. The ten-episode limited series for Amazon Prime looks like another exciting moment from the Moonlight visionary, and this spring we’ll all celebrate his latest success.
Loki (TBD May 2021)
While still pending an official release date, Tom Hiddleston’s role as the god of mischief will call Disney+ home and we all cannot be more excited. Keeping our fingers crossed for Loki to stick with its ambiguous May release date, this MCUtv show will continue from the events of Avengers: Endgame, and find Loki altering reality, involved in a host of misadventures, and (possibly) battling the forces that catch up to him in the process. With time being the overarching theme for Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, audiences will have to be a bit patient with theirs as we watch for the illest dude from Asgard to return to the screen this spring.
Dave (TBD Spring 2021)
Say what you want about the rapper Lil Dicky, but you cannot deny that his FX show was a sleeper hit on Hulu. The world was less haywire than what it is now, making the comedy about the aspiring rapper a hopeful exercise in what it would like once the then-pre-COVID-blasted summer hit. Dave, which boasted special guest appearances from the likes of Young Thug, YG, and Kourtney Kardashian, was renewed last May, and we can only expect another level of hijinks for the “Freaky Friday” rapper soon to come.
Bel-Air (TBD Spring 2021)
Cinematographer Morgan Cooper’s surprise reimagining of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air made many studio execs and screenwriters say out loud, “Why didn’t I think of that?” After striking a deal with Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Westbrook Productions, Peacock has given Bel-Air a green light, a two-season order, and will convert the sitcom into a drama. Now a one-hour event, the show will have the same premise as the original, but set in present-day. It will also deal with issues that were impossible to be addressed by its predecessor. Throw on your favorite cardigan, practice your Carlton dance, and get ready to see how timeless this show really is when it returns soon.
Colin in Black and White (TBD Spring 2021)
Another highly anticipated show on this writer’s list, Colin in Black and White is a coming-of-age drama that was created by athlete-and-activist Colin Kaepernick and acclaimed director Ava DuVernay. Unlike Dwayne Johnson’s Young Rock, this show focuses on the football player’s formative years in high school and tracks his journey of becoming a quarterback. Starring Jaden Michael (Vampires Vs. the Bronx) as the young QB Kaepernick; Mary-Louise Parker (Weeds) and Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) play his adoptive parents. A six-episode series, Kaepernick will also appear and lend his voice as the narrator of the dramatic series. No premiere date has been announced, but circle your calendar as soon as one gets announced.
Kevin L. Clark is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and curates ESSENCE’s The Playlist. Follow him @KevitoClark.
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