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16 Netflix Original Series to Be Excited About in 2021

The live-action "Cowboy Bebop," Ewan McGregor in "Halston," and Ava DuVernay's "Colin in Black and White" highlight the Netflix 2021 slate.

Netflix 2021 Series Preview Jamie Foxx Kristen Bell John Cho

Jamie Foxx, Kristen Bell, and John Cho all star in new Netflix series set for 2021

Skip Bolen / Netflix / Elizabeth Goodenough / Everett Collection

With serious competition coming from Disney+ and HBO Max, not to mention the volatile task of churning out content amid a pandemic, Netflix has plenty of challenges ahead in 2021. But the reigning titan of streaming remains a necessary utility for most TV consumers — weathering all storms put in its path — so for as different as the new year is bound to be, one question still matters most: What buzzy original series can Netflix release to keep subscribers happy?

Below, IndieWire has collected 16 new shows that are bound to get people talking, from long-anticipated adaptations (“Cowboy Bebop”) to the next lavish Ryan Murphy period drama (“Halston”) to hidden gems with awards potential (“Maid,” “Inventing Anna,” and “Pieces of Her”). (Plenty of returning shows will keep audiences streaming as well, so take a look at the bottom of this article for six new seasons of established favorites.)

To be clear, these upcoming programs are either already scheduled or fully expected to premiere this year, so you can rest assured in what’s coming. The pandemic will continue to wreak havoc on scheduling, but these titles are in a prime position to come out sooner rather than later. In the list below, learn all about Netflix’s 2021 dramas, comedies, limited series, and more, from plot descriptions and cast lists to production timelines and possible premiere dates. So go ahead and get excited. Netflix isn’t running short of content, and time will tell if it’s got the most new shows you want to see.

“The Crew”

Genre: Comedy Series:
Release Date: Production completed. Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Kevin James, Freddie Stroma, Paris Berelc, Sarah Stiles, Jillian Mueller
Showrunner: Jeff Lowell

Following in the footsteps of fellow late ’90s sitcom stars like Ashton Kutcher as well as his good buddy Adam Sandler, Kevin James is making the move to Netflix — and he’s taking the multi-cam format with him! “The Crew” sees James playing Bobby Spencer, a NASCAR crew chief who’s rankled when his boss steps down and puts his daughter, Catherine (Jillian Mueller) in charge of the titular group. The two butt heads over how best to build a winning car, as Bobby’s old school approach clashes with the “tech reliant millennial’s” style. Tune in to watch Gen X and pre-Gen Z clash, compromise, and, of course, come together for the betterment of the team.

“Dad, Stop Embarrassing Me”

Genre: Comedy Series
Release Date:
Production complete. Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier, Kyla-Drew
Director: Ken Whittingham (pilot)
Showrunner: Bentley Kyle Evans

Inspired by Jamie Foxx’s relationship with his daughter, we can’t say for sure if “Dad, Stop Embarrassing Me” was born from the one-time Oscar winner’s turn in “Project Power,” or hosting the game show “Beat Shazam,” but certainly one of those projects evoked enough teenage mortification to provide the title. Continuing the Foxx connections, his closest collaborators on the new Netflix multi-cam comedy share a professional history with the star. On camera, Foxx will be joined by his former “In Living Color” co-star David Alan Grier, while the series’ showrunner, Bentley Kyle Evans, served as an executive producer on “The Jamie Foxx Show.” In case that’s not enough Foxx ties, the lead will play multiple roles, so get ready for all the Foxx you can handle from this one.

“Shadow and Bone”

Genre: Drama Series
Release Date: Production complete. Q2 2021
Cast: Ben Barnes, Jessie Mei Li, Archie Renaux, Freddy Carter, Kit Young, Amita Suman
Showrunner: Eric Heisserer

Based on the fantasy book series by Leigh Bardugo, “Shadow and Bone” follows a teenage orphan named Alina Starkov (played by Jessie Mei Li) who discovers a power inside her that has the potential to unite a divided country. Can it fend off the creatures lurking in perpetual darkness, waiting to feast on human flesh? Can it topple General Kirigan, aka The Darkling, the leader of a group of people called the Grisha who can wield elements (fire, wind, etc.) at their command? Maybe, but odds are more magic will be needed to survive and bring about lasting peace, in this literally dark and definitely gritty adaptation from “Arrival” and “Bird Box” screenwriter Eric Heisserer.

BIRDS OF PREY, from left: Chris Messina as Victor Zsasz, Ewan McGregor as Roman Sionis, 2020. ph: Claudette Barius / © Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection

Ewan McGregor in “Birds of Prey”

©Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection


Genre: Limited Series
Release Date: Production complete. Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Krysta Rodriguez, Rory Culkin, Rebecca Dayan, Sullivan Jones, David Pittu, Gian Franco Rodriguez
Executive Producers: Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan, Dan Minahan
Writers: Ryan Murphy, Sharr White
Director: Dan Minahan (pilot)

Despite mixed reviews for his initial Netflix originals, design has never been a problem for Ryan Murphy, which could bode well for “Halston,” the prolific producer’s latest limited series about the mononymous fashion designer, Halston. Starring Ewan McGregor as the Iowa-born, Studio 54-bred artist, the five-episode biopic tracks his growth through the ’70s and ’80s into an internationally renowned brand, before a hostile takeover costs him everything — even his name. Speaking of names, “Halston” is filled with them: Krysta Rodriguez will play Liza Minnelli, Rory Culkin is Joel Schumacher, and, this being a Murphy joint based in history, you better believe more notables of yesteryear will appear. Whether this ends the creator’s cold streak is a little more up in the air.

“Jupiter’s Legacy”

Genre: Drama Series
Release Date: Production complete. Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Josh Duhamel, Ben Daniels, Leslie Bibb, Andrew Horton, Elena Kampouris, Mike Wade, Matt Lanter
Executive Producers: Steven S. DeKnight, Dan McDermott, Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, Sang Kim
Writers: Steven S. DeKnight (pilot), Mark Millar (author)
Director: Steven S. DeKnight (pilot)

Following the success of “The Umbrella Academy” (and the MCU, DCEU, Amazon’s “The Boys,” The CW’s entire programming block, etc.), Netflix is doubling down on the superhero genre with “Jupiter’s Legacy,” an adaptation of “Kingsman” and “Kick-Ass” comic book creator Mark Millar’s graphic novels. The new drama saw showrunner, writer, and director Steven S. DeKnight exit halfway through the shoot over creative differences, but Sang Kim stepped in, and now “Jupiter’s Legacy” is set to roll out Season 1 in 2021, telling the story of the world’s first generation of superheroes struggle to pass the torch to their super-children. Whether they’re able to carve out a smooth transition is less in question than whether “Jupiter’s Legacy” can establish a clear future of its own amid all the hubbub.

“The Upshaws”

Genre: Comedy Series
Release Date: Production complete. Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Mike Epps, Wanda Sykes, Kim Fields
Showrunners: Regina Y. Hicks, Wanda Sykes

Another multi-camera comedy from Netflix, “The Upshaws” bills itself as a return to the “funny and complicated” Black family sitcoms of the past, where everyone watching can laugh along with the live audience while learning a few things at the same time. Mike Epps, Kim Fields, and Wanda Sykes star as a working-class family in Indiana, who may not always get along — or get it right — but they’re trying their best. Epps’ Bennie Upshaw owns a garage; Fields plays Regina, his wife, who works at a local hospital, and Sykes is her sister, Lucretia, who lives off disability benefits but constantly berates Bennie for not doing better by his wife and kids. Together, they’ll tackle raising the children in 2021 America, finding laughs wherever they can. Here’s hoping “The Upshaws” fills the TV gap left by NBC’s “The Carmichael Show.”

“Sweet Tooth”

Sweet Tooth Netflix

“Sweet Tooth”

Courtesy of Netflix

Genre: Drama Series
Release Date: Production complete. Confirmed for 2021
Cast: Christian Convery, Nonso Anozie, Adeel Akhtar, Stefania LaVie Owen, Dania Ramirez, Aliza Vellani and Will Forte, with James Brolin as the voice of the narrator.
Executive Producers: Linda Moran, Robert Downey Jr., Susan Downey, Amanda Burrell, Jim Mickle
Writer/Director: Jim Mickle

Following up “Dolittle” with another family-friendly, animal-related adventure, Team Downey (producers Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey) has adapted Jeff Lemire’s DC Comics’ series, “Sweet Tooth,” into a live-action TV show. In it, Gus finally leaves his home in the forest only to discover the outside world has been devastated by a cataclysmic event. So he does what anyone would do: He finds a new family made up of half-human, half-animal children just like him. Oh, did I forget to mention that Gus is part deer? My bad. “Sweet Tooth” partially revolves around how these so-called “hybrids” came to be, but it’s unclear where else this four-quadrant adaptation will go, given the original comic dealt with more adult topics like busting up prostitution rings and mad scientists’ evil experiments on pregnant women. Tune in to find out! Or, you know, watch “Dolittle” again. Either way, the Downeys will be happy.


Genre: Drama Series
Release Date: In production. Slated for 2021.
Cast: Margaret Qualley, Andie MacDowell, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose
Executive Producers: Margot Robbie, John Wells, Tom Ackerley, Brett Hedblom, Erin Jontow, Molly Smith Metzler, Stephanie Land
Showrunner: Molly Smith Metzler

Margaret Qualley, four years removed from her breakout turn in “The Leftovers” and her star-proving performance in “Novitiate,” is finally front and center in a show of her own. “Maid” is adapted from Stephanie Land’s memoir “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive,” chronicling a single mother named Alex (Qualley) who takes up housekeeping to fend off poverty and homelessness. Produced by Margot Robbie, “Maid” is told primarily from Alex’s point of view, though look for co-stars Nick Robinson (“A Teacher”), Andie MacDowell, and Anika Noni Rose to make their own major impact on a grounded examination of poverty in America.

“Cowboy Bebop”

Genre: Drama Series
Release Date: In production. Slated for 2021.
Cast: John Cho, Mustafa Shakir, Daniella Pineda, Alex Hassell, Elena Satine, Geoff Stults, Tamara Tunie, Mason Alexander Park, Rachel House, Ann Truong, Hoa Xuande
Writer: Christopher Yost
Director: Alex Garcia Lopez (pilot)
Showrunners: Scott Rosenberg, Josh Appelbaum, Jeffrey Pinkner, Andre Nemec

One of the biggest anime series of all time is getting a live-action version in 2021. “Cowboy Bebop,” based on the 1998 worldwide hit series, follows a rag-tag crew of bounty hunters hired to hunt down the solar system’s most dangerous criminals, while fleeing from their own complicated histories. A space western with ambitious world-building, staging, and storytelling, “Cowboy Bebop” pushes the originality envelope even further with its jazz-fueled soundtrack and existential themes, which should make it one of the most fascinating new series of the year, no matter how well these showrunners pull off a tricky adaptation.

“Inventing Anna”

Genre: Drama Series
Release Date: Production completed. Slated for 2021.
Cast: Julia Garner, Anna Chlumsky, Katie Lowes, Laverne Cox, Alexis Ford, Arian Moyaed, Anders Holm, Anna Deavere Smith, Jeff Perry, Terry Kinney
Executive Producers: Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers
Writer: Shonda Rhimes (pilot), Jessica Pressler (author)
Director: David Frankel (pilot)

Another young actress being elevated to the lead of her own show, “Inventing Anna” centers on Julia Garner (“Ozark”) as the eponymous fraudster known as Anna Delvey. In 2013, the Russian-born Anna moved to New York City and pretended to be a German heiress in order to work her way into the good graces of New York’s top-tier social scene, only to con all those upper-class night owls out of nearly $200,000. “Inventing Anna” is based on Jessica Pressler’s New York Magazine article “How Anna Delvey Tricked New York’s Party People” and features “Veep’s” Anna Chlumsky playing a fictionalized version of the reporter. But aside from its Emmy-certified cast (which also includes Laverne Cox), the series is executive produced by Shonda Rhimes, making it a must-see for any drama-loving TV fan, whether they’re thrilled to see Garner in her own show or not.

“Midnight Mass”

Genre: Limited Series
Release Date: Production completed. Expected in 2021.
Cast: Zach Gilford, Kate Siegel, Annabeth Gish, Hamish Linklater, Henry Thomas, Robert Longstreet, Crystal Balint, Rahul Abburi, Matt Biedel, Alex Essoe, Rahul Kohli, Kristin Lehman, Igby Rigney, Annarah Shephard, Samantha Sloyan, Michael Trucco
Executive Producers: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard, Trevor Macy
Creator/Writer/Director: Mike Flanagan

A “mysterious” visitor. “Miraculous events.” “Frightening omens.” Throw in an isolated island setting, and you’ve got a recipe for great horror — just ask “The Third Day.” But no, I kid: Details on “Midnight Mass” are tough to come by, but Mike Flanagan’s next serialized Netflix offering isn’t likely to share much DNA with HBO’s 2020 limited series starring Jude Law. For one, I doubt there’s a live episode. For another, this one involves a priest and a totally new cast, including a few Flanagan favorites, like Rahul Kohli (“The Haunting of Bly Manor”), Henry Thomas (“The Haunting of Hill House” and “The Haunting of Bly Manor”), and Kate Siegel (both “Hauntings” and “Hush”). With those names involved, maybe it’s a secret “Haunting” sequel? No, it is not, but we’ll be paying close attention to “Midnight Mass” as more details emerge.

[Correction: An earlier version of this article credited Rahul Abburi instead of Rahul Kohli. Both Mr. Abburi and Mr. Kohli are in “Midnight Mass,” but only Mr. Kohli was also in “The Haunting of Bly Manor.” The author apologizes for this error.]

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, Amy Adams, 2020. © 20th Century Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

Amy Adams in “The Woman in the Window”

20th Century Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

“The Woman in the House”

Genre: Limited Series
Release Date: In production. Slated for 2021.
Cast: Kristen Bell
Executive Producers: Will Ferrell, Jessica Elbaum, Brittney Segal, Kristen Bell, Hugh Davidson, Larry Dorf, Rachel Ramras
Showrunners: Hugh Davidson, Larry Dorf, Rachel Ramras

Will “The Woman in the House” premiere before “The Woman in the Window”? Given the state of the world, it’s hard to say whether director Joe Wright and screenwriter Tracy Letts’ COVID-delayed adaptation of A.J. Finn’s highly sought after novel will make it to screens before Kristen Bell’s dark comic take on a “Rear Window” mystery, but here’s hoping they premiere close together, if only to confuse every single person on the planet. Not only are the titles mere syllables apart, but the Netflix limited series follows a single woman (Bell) who spends her days inside, staring out the window, until she’s alarmed by inexplicable actions across the street. Did she witness a murder, or is she just imagining things? While the film version of these events will play its intense mystery as-is  — Adams still needs that Oscar! — the TV take will offer a bit of levity to break up the suspense. Still, in an early effort to help both marketing departments, say it with me now: “House” will hit Netflix, and “Window” will be… in theaters? Probably? Darn it, I thought I had a catchy cheat sheet. Sorry.

“Inside Job”

Genre: Animated Comedy Series
Release Date: Pre-production. Expected for 2021.
Executive Producers: Shion Takeuchi, Alex Hirsch
Showrunner: Shion Takeuchi

Shion Takeuchi, who worked at Pixar and wrote for “Gravity Falls” and “Disenchantment,” makes her showrunning debut with “Inside Job,” an animated workplace comedy set in a shadow government where every conspiracy theory is true and one woman has to keep things under control. Whether the Illuninati are trying to tighten their grip on the world or lizard people have infiltrated the White House, “Inside Job” takes every threat seriously, while entertaining audiences with sharp, adult-focused comedy. Takeuchi signed an overall deal with Netflix in 2019, and the streamer ordered 20 episodes of her debut series, so look for more from this talent in the foreseeable future.

Colin Kaepernick at arrivals for Camp: Notes on Fashion Met Gala Costume Institute Annual Benefit - Part 4, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY May 6, 2019. Photo By: Kristin Callahan/Everett Collection

Colin Kaepernick in 2019

Kristin Callahan / Everett Collection

Colin in Black and White

Genre: Limited Series
Release Date: Pre-production. Expected for 2021.
Cast: Jaden Michael, Mary-Louise Parker, Nick Offerman, and Colin Kaepernick (narrator)
Executive Producers: Ava DuVernay, Michael Starrbury, Colin Kaepernick
Writers: Ava DuVernay, Michael Starrbury, Colin Kaepernick

Inspired by the early life of activist and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, “Colin in Black and White” is a six-episode limited series tracking the athlete’s high school years. Jaden Michael (most recently seen in “The Bug Years” and “Blue Bloods”) will play Kaepernick, Nick Offerman and Mary-Louise Parker will play his adoptive parents, Rick and Teresa, and Colin Kaepernick himself will narrate the series. The biography also reunites Ava DuVernay and Michael Starrbury, who last worked together on Netflix’s landmark original, “When They See Us.” (Starrbury co-wrote the fourth and final episode with DuVernay, who also directed.) Though planned as a limited series, if successful, there’s no reason to think Kaepernick’s vast depth of experience and knowledge couldn’t be extended to his college and professional life, as well.

“Pieces of Her”

Genre: Drama Series
Release Date: Pre-production. Expected for 2021
Cast: Toni Collette, Bella Heathcote
Executive Producers: Lesli Linka Glatter, Bruna Papandrea, Mikie Spiro, Charlotte Stoudt
Writer: Charlotte Stoudt (pilot)
Director: Minkie Spiro (pilot)

From “Homeland” writer/producer Charlotte Stoudt and director/executive producer Lesli Linka Glatter, “Pieces of Her” is an adaptation of Karin Slaughter’s 2018 novel about a mother/daughter relationship sent spinning by tragedy and revelation. On her 31st birthday, Andrea (Bella Heathcote) is caught in a deadly shooting that’s put to a sudden and violent end by her mother, Laura (Toni Collette). Jarred by her mom’s actions and unaware that the woman she knew would be capable of such decisive action, Andrea doesn’t have long to piece together the truth. Laura’s secret past resurfaces, and Andrea embarks on a cross-country escape to put her life back together. “Pieces of Her” will also be directed by TV veteran Minkie Spiro (“”The Plot Against America,” “Barry,” “Better Call Saul”).

“True Story”

Genre: Limited Series
Release Date: Pre-production. Expected for 2021
Cast: Kevin Hart, Wesley Snipes
Executive Producers: Charles Murray, Eric Newman, Kevin Hart, Stephen Williams
Writer: Eric Newman
Directors: Stephen Williams, Hanelle M. Culpepper
Showrunner: Charles Murray

To be clear, “True Story” is not, in fact, a true story. This might be confusing, and I don’t just mean because of the title. The dramatic limited series stars Kevin Hart as “Kid,” a world-famous comedian who gets into a bad situation overnight with his wayward older brother that could ultimately cost him his career. But hey, Kid’s brother is played by Wesley Snipes, and Kevin Hart and Wesley Snipes are not actual brothers. So there you go. It’s not real.

All jokes aside, “True Story” is loaded with potential. Not only is Newman a talented writer and Snipes an actor capable of churning out gold, but the first four episodes are directed by Stephen Williams — the Emmy-winner behind “Watchmen” Episode 6 — and the last four are handled by Hanelle M. Culpepper (“Star Trek: Discovery,” “Counterpart”). Come to see Hart act in a drama (while still playing a comedian); stay to see what Williams and Culpepper can do with the camera.

And Six Returning Series Set for 2021:

“Never Have I Ever” Season 2
“Dead to Me” Season 3
“Sex Education” Season 3
“The Baby-Sitters’ Club” Season 2
“Ozark” Season 4 (Part 1)
“The Witcher” Season 2

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