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The 10 Best Shows of 2021

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The 10 Best Shows of 2021

2021 in TV was a year of wacky reality shows, buzzy mysteries (“Mare of Easttown,” “Only Murderers in the Building”) and the return of favorites such as “What We Do in the Shadows” and “Succession.” That’s not to mention that the superhero genre continued to have its stronghold over pop culture, and the influx of more shows from Indigenous creators than ever before.

Keeping all of that in mind, here are our picks for the best shows of the year.

“Yellowjackets,” (Showtime)

You wouldn’t think that “Lost” meets “Big Little Lies” is a series concept that works – it sounds too random. But boy, does it. In this gritty, surprising, captivating new show with a high-concept premise, a girl’s soccer team in the 1990s gets stranded in the wilderness after a plane crash. Twenty years later in the present day, four middle-aged women (who are former soccer player survivors of that incident) played by an all-star cast including Christina Ricci, Melanie Lynsky, and Juliette Lewis try to move on with their lives, even as the past haunts them. No wonder it’s already been renewed for a Season 2. (LS)

Christina Ricci stars as one of the survivors of a plane crash in “Yellowjackets.”
Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME

“Station Eleven,” (HBO Max)

Squeaking in at the very end of the year (it just came out), it’s understandable if you missed this one – or if you simply don’t want to watch it, since it’s about a pandemic. But if you can stomach the subject matter, this show about life in a post-apocalyptic scenario is complex and full of heart. It lingers more on how people use art and human connection to survive than the actual mechanics of the virus. (LS)

Mackenzie Davis stands outside in a field looking serious wearing layered clothes.
Mackenzie Davis stars as Kirsten in post-apocalyptic series “Station Eleven.”
Ian Watson/HBO Max

“Cruel Summer” (Freeform) 

Soapy teen dramas are fun but rarely tend to be among the best of the year. However, “Cruel Summer” was better than it had any right to be. With a fun ‘90s setting, multiple timelines that didn’t get convoluted, and a captivating central mystery of what really happened when popular Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt) went missing – only to return a year later to find that social outcast Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia) stole her life – the show hit all the right notes. It ended up delivering a more satisfying story than some prestige TV mystery series, to boot. (LS)

Olivia Hold sits in a food court with Fory Gutierrez.
Olivia Holt starred as popular girl Kate in twisty mystery “Cruel Summer.”
Freeform

“WandaVision” (Disney+) 

Marvel fatigue is real. But, “WandaVision” showed that superhero stories don’t have to be homogenous; they can be wacky and weird and experimental. Even if you have mixed feelings about superheroes taking over the entertainment industry, “WandaVision” showed that there’s still plenty of room for creativity within it. (LS)

Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen gaze into each other's eyes.
Vision (Paul Bettany) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) in “WandaVision.”

“The White Lotus” (HBO)

Part social satire, park dark comedy, part murder mystery, all with a cast of characters you love to hate and a gorgeous Hawaii setting – no wonder this was the buzzy show of the summer. It had something for everyone, and a slew of all star performances from veterans like Jennifer Coolidge and Steve Zahn and star-making turns from Murray Bartlett and Jake Lacy. Even though the story ended on a bitter note, the ride was well worth it. (LS)

Alexandra Daddario and Jake Lacy smile at each other while he wears sunglasses and she wears a lai.
Alexandra Daddario and Jake Lacy as the newlywed couple Rachel and the odious Shane in “The White Lotus.”

“What We Do in the Shadows” (FX)

The series about a group of bickering vampires residing in Staten Island lost none of its comedic flair in its third season — despite (sort of) killing off Energy Vampire Colin Robinson (Mark Proksch). Clever writing and bloody good chemistry between stars Proksch, Matt Berry, Nastasia Demetriou, Kayvan Novak and Harvey Guillen added up to a fun, watchable half-hour each week.

Nastasia Demetriou in “What We Do in the Shadows” on FX.

“Breeders” (FX)

Martin Freeman and Daisy Haggard as parents Paul and Ally were back for Season 2 of the sometimes-profane family comedy, dealing with their now-teenaged kids — ‘nuf said — while growing apart from each other as the season progressed. Light comedy mixed with emotional resonance sets this series apart. It will return for a third season in 2022.

Daisy Haggard and Martin Freeman in the thoughtful dramedy “Breeders.”

“Ten Year Old Tom” (HBO Max)

Steve Dildarian, the creator of “The Life and Times of Tim” returned after 13 years with this animated, droll gem centered around Tom (Dildarian), the titular 10-year-old (going on 40) who sees the world through weary, bemused eyes.

“Ten Year Old Tom” from creator Steve Dildarian, who also voices the lead character.
Credit: HBO Max

“In Treatment” (HBO)

I had my doubts about reviving a series that last aired in 2010, but Emmy nominee Uzo Uduba as therapist Brooke Taylor — trying to help her patients while dealing with her own conflicts (including drinking and an iffy personal relationship) — nailed it, with help from a stellar supporting cast including John Benjamin Hickey and Anthony Ramos.

Uzo Aduba as Dr. Brooke Taylor in “In Treatment” on HBO.

“Maid” (Netflix)

Margaret Qualley and real-life mother, Andie MacDowell, were terrific as a young woman trying to raise her daughter on her own — under often-brutal circumstances — and her free-spirited mother lost in a world of her own broken dreams.

Margaret Qualley in “Maid,” in which she co-starred opposite her mother, Andie MacDowell.
RICARDO HUBBS/NETFLIX

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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