Matt Roush’s Top 10 Broadcast TV Shows of 2021

Best Broadcast TV Episodes 2021, Blue Bloods, The Wonder Years, This Is Us
John Paul Filo/CBS; ABC/Matt Sayles; Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Too often ignored in year’s-end lists (and in awards nominations) are the gems that still keep us tuning into the broadcast networks.

While CBS’ new hit Ghosts made his overall Top 10, senior critic Matt Roush compiles a list of 10 more broadcast series and specials that helped define the 2021 TV year, from the final season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine to the long-running Blue Bloods and the revival of The Wonder Years.

The Wonder Years cast
ABC/Matt Sayles

The Wonder Years (ABC)

This warm reimagining of the nostalgic comedy transports us to a very different region of the 1960s: the Deep South, reminding us that coming-of-age stories are universal.

This Is Us Sterling K. Brown and Justin Hartley
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

This Is Us (NBC)

The Pearsons aren’t going away until 2022, but we’ve already got separation anxiety. TV’s first family of emotional turmoil has lost none of its ability to surprise — and jerk tears.

All Creatures Great and Small - Rachel Shenton and Nicholas Ralph - Masterpiece
Ed Miller/Playground Television

All Creatures Great and Small (PBS)

James Herriot’s animal stories never get old. We’re newly charmed by the latest Masterpiece adaptation, featuring Diana Rigg in one of her last roles as an eccentric dog owner.

Mom - Allison Janney
Robert Voets/CBS

Mom (CBS)

Christy (Anna Faris) left too soon, but “grateful alcoholic” Bonnie (Allison Janney) had support to the end from her friends in one of the great testaments to comic sisterhood.

The Good Doctor - Freddie Highmore and Paige Spara
ABC/Jeff Weddell

The Good Doctor (ABC)

Though autistic surgeon Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) has found love, he’s still just one crisis away from a breakdown in TV’s most inventive and wrenching medical drama.

Rebecca Breeds as Clarice Starling in 'Clarice'
Brooke Palmer/CBS

Clarice (CBS)

This intense Silence of the Lambs sequel, starring a compelling Rebecca Breeds as vulnerable Clarice Starling, deserved more than one season. No wonder so much of the good stuff is going to streaming.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Andy Samberg

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC)

ith one last caper, the wacky precinct that stole our hearts and tickled our funny bones signed off after eight seasons on two networks. As Jake would say: Noice.

Blue Bloods - Tom Selleck
John Paul Filo/CBS

Blue Bloods (CBS)

There’s something to be said for consistency. A stalwart on Fridays for 12 seasons, Blue Bloods never fails to satisfy with its blend of police and family drama.

Muhammad Ali PBS
Courtesy of PBS

Muhammad Ali (PBS)

Ken Burns’ majestic four-night portrait of the legendary and controversial boxer captured this celebrated figure in all of his bravado and complexity. A knockout.

Charlie Barnett as Eric Payne, Gabrielle Byndloss as Mallory, James Wolk as Joe Kimbreau, Natalie Martinez as Amy Kindelán, Wynn Everett as Celeste Kimbreau in Ordinary Joe -Season 1
Matt Miller/NBC

Ordinary Joe (NBC)

Is this anything-but-ordinary drama trying too hard, following a man (James Wolk) on three different life paths? At least it’s trying. We’re still intrigued.