11 Must-Watch Shows And Movies Debuting In 2021
SOLDEN, AUSTRIA - JANUARY 07: Daniel Craig poses at the photo call for the 24th Bond film 'Spectre' at ski resort on January 7, 2015 in Soelden, Austria. (Photo by Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images)
Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images

No matter where you stand politically we can all agree on something.

Good riddance, 2020.

It was an awful, terrible, no good year on many levels, including the pop culture front. Cancel Culture roared back to life. Propaganda invaded many movies and TV shows. Late night hosts actively mocked audience members, as did some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

The list is extensive, and nauseating.

What better reason to look ahead to pop culture items we’ll see and hear in the new year, goodies that appear both apolitical and potentially great.

“The Many Saints of Newark” – HBO’s “The Sopranos” unofficially kicked off the new Golden Age of Television. The mob drama changed the rules for small screen storytelling, from its gritty tone to narratives that continued from show to show, season to season. It wasn’t the first to employ that approach, but few did it more effectively.

Now, show creator David Chase is bringing us back to Newark, N.J. for a prequel to the groundbreaking series. Chase’s big-screen directorial debut, “Not Fade Away,” had little impact on the zeitgeist. Chances are his “Saints,” which he wrote but didn’t direct, will have a different reception.

Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini, will play a young Tony Soprano in the film slated for a March 12 HBO Max/theatrical release.

“No Time to Die” – It’s Craig, Daniel Craig’s fifth and final turn as 007, and the wait has been excruciating. The disappointing “Spectre” hit theaters in 2015, and it took time to create a new adventure, woo Craig back for one last time and wait out a global pandemic.

We don’t know how “No Time to Die” will reach us – HBO Max? Netflix? Old-fashioned theaters? A combo plan? No matter. The wait for Bond’s latest adventure should end in 2021.

That leaves a larger issue, though.

Will this be the Bond we all know and love, or a newer, woke model who eschews Bond girls and hyper-masculinity? We’ve gotten snippets to make us fear the latter, but it’s likely being overplayed by media outlets eager to retrofit the classic character to their progressive desires.

Chances are Bond will still be Bond in 2021. Let’s hope it’s more like “Casino Royale” Bond than “Quantum of Solace,” though.

“Reagan” – Hollywood abhors the nation’s 40th president. Will Ferrell once flirted with a project depicting Ronald Reagan as comically senile during his second term. More recently, we saw a Reagan-like figure given a demeaning cameo in “Wonder Woman 1984.”

This … will be different.

“Reagan” is a full-bodied biopic of the Gipper, starting from his youth and capturing his remarkable Oval Office tenure. Dennis Quaid plays President Reagan, with Jon Voight, Penelope Ann Miller and Kevin Dillon fleshing out a large, and still expanding, cast. Expect “Reagan,” currently shooting with COVID-19 precautions in place, in the fall of 2021.

“Fast and Furious 9” – Do we really need yet another sequel in this franchise? Of course, and here’s why. Hollywood is losing its populist touch. Modern storytellers too often try to lecture, or focus solely on sending a message, with their art. It often falls on deaf ears, proving a disconnect between artist and audience.

The “Furious” movies are different. The creative team behind the franchise knows the formula by heart, and it’s one many movie goers adore. Fast cars. Beautiful women. Family … lots of talk about family. And a cast of colorful characters who are both funny and larger than life.

We’ll get more of the same on May 28 (presumably in theaters), and what a relief it’ll be.

“Mission: Impossible 7” – Speaking of irresistible formulas, Tom Cruise found one of his very own in the middle of this spy franchise. Yes, the first three installments proved entertaining, but they felt like cookie-cutter blockbusters. They didn’t have a strong identity … yet. By the time part 4 came around, “Ghost Protocol,” the franchise started making sense.

Adding co-horts like Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames gave the “M:I” series more personality and heart. Cruise’s Ethan Hunt remains the focus, but the series took a page out of the “Furious” handbook with startling results. “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” (2018) delivered some of the most rousing action scenes of the last decade. 

“Zack Snyder’s Justice League” – Everyone should cheer the project’s HBO Max arrival if only to shush Comic Book Nation. Super fans have been clamoring for the “Snyder Cut” of the mediocre supergroup movie ever since its 2017 debut.

Joss Whedon took over for Snyder mid-production after a personal tragedy rocked the “300” director’s life.

Now, we’ll see if it was worth all the yammering, although there’s no firm release date yet.

Foo Fighters, “Medicine at Midnight” – If rock music isn’t dead it’s either on life support or eyeing hospice. A quick peek at the 2020 music charts show mostly geriatric rockers grabbing headlines, from Fleetwood Mac to The Beatles (still!).

Dave Grohl’s underrated outfit returns with its 10th album, and the first since 2017’s “Concrete and Gold.” The Feb. 5 release promises more smart, old school rock from the Nirvana alum and co. The first single, “Shame Shame,” hits some familiar beats but feels more melancholy, fitting given the current times.

“Cobra Kai,” Season 3 – Hollywood can’t stop resurrecting its past, be it prequels, sequels or gender-flip reboots. It’s exhausting, but once in a navy blue moon such a project scores a bullseye.

“Cobra Kai” masterfully continues the “Karate Kid” story, muddying the waters between hero and villain. Season one, which debuted on YouTube, found us cheering on Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), not the aging “Kid” (Ralph Macchio. That first season also poked fun at the new woke by laws.

YouTube’s foray into original programming flamed out, but Netflix rode to the rescue and made “Cobra Kai” an even bigger hit. We’ll see how season 3, debuting Jan. 1, tweaks the reimagined “Kid” template.

“The Chosen,” Season 2 – Remember the knock on faith-based movies and TV shows? Corny. Preachy. Micro-budgeted. Amateurish (and that’s being kind). The old rules no longer apply, especially not with this sharp production.

The VidAngel team made the life and times of Jesus Christ into a smart, satisfying series with both grit and soul.  Now, they’re hard at work on a Season 2, continuing a production funded by the fans. Yes, this massively successful show likely wouldn’t exist if it relied on the traditional Hollywood ecosystem.

The Untitled Dana Carvey Podcast – Dennis Miller hung up his podcasting mic in 2020, a terrible loss for those addicted to his smart, right-leaning quips. This may cushion the blow, at least a little.

The uber-talented Carvey, one of Miller’s very best guests, told his former “Saturday Night Live” colleague he’s launching his own show in 2021. Few “SNL” stars transformed the sketch show quite like Carvey, even though he didn’t find massive film success like Aykroyd, Murray, Murphy and Chase. 

No matter. Carvey’s quick wit and genius-level impressions make him a clown of the first order. Who knows what, or who, we’ll hear on his upcoming podcast. Just know he eschews partisan comedy in favor of pure, unadulterated laughs.

“Only Murders in the Building” – There comes a time when audiences realize a master showman won’t be around forever. Steve Martin doesn’t look 75 by any stretch, but at that age it’s clear we won’t have his sophisticated wit around forever.

So this project, which he co-created for Hulu, could be a late career comeback from a man who’s been making us howl for decades.

The series co-stars his frequent collaborator, Martin Short, along with Selena Gomez. The story involves three true crime addicts who stumble upon a murder and must combine their intellectual firepower to solve it.

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