The Television Shows That Defined the Summer

by The Cowl Editor on September 16, 2021

Arts & Entertainment

The Television Shows That Defined the Summer

A Look Back at Some of the Season’s Best Programs

Madison Palmieri ’22

Summer 2021 was certainly one to remember. As the world opened back up after months of uncertainty owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, people enjoyed being out and about, spending time with friends and loved ones.

However, when they needed to unwind, they turned to the small screen. Whether viewers were looking for lighthearted comedies or heavy-hitting dramas, the various cable networks and streaming platforms available had something for everyone. 

Now, as the weather turns colder and we swap out our t-shirts and shorts for sweatshirts and jeans, let’s take a look back at the most enjoyable, memorable, and acclaimed television shows of summer 2021.

Although Cruel Summer premiered on Freeform on April 22, its title and subject matter—not to mention its bingeability and stellar performances—secure its spot among the best programs to air in the recent months. The American teen drama thriller takes place across three summers in the 1990s and centers around the odd relationship between two teenage girls. One of the girls, Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt), is a popular socialite; on the flip side, the other girl, Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia), is not. 

Kate mysteriously disappears and Jeanette takes her place—and her boyfriend—seemingly overnight. When Kate is found alive a year later, she accuses Jeanette of witnessing her abduction at the hands of their high school vice principal Martin Harris (Blake Lee) but not reporting it to the authorities. Whether Kate, Jeanette, or someone else is not telling the truth remains unclear until the final moments of the season. With each episode, the mystery deepens, and each of the ten episodes contains developments more shocking and unexpected than the last.

Another show with many twists and turns is Marvel Studios’ Loki, which began streaming on Disney+ in July. The six-episode saga follows the titular God of Mischief (Tom Hiddleston). Although a fan-favorite character from the moment of his introduction in the first Thor film, Loki’s total screen time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe prior to the series only amounted to a couple of hours. 

Fans will remember that the trickster seemingly died for good at the hands of Thanos in the opening minutes of Avengers: Infinity War. However, in Avengers: Endgame, a time-travel mishap allowed the Loki of the first Avengers film to evade capture.

The situation only becomes more confusing from there: the 2012 Loki is brought to a mysterious place called the Time Variance Authority, where he is accused of committing a crime against the Sacred Timeline because of the Avengers-induced change in his own timeline. While the formidable Judge Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is quick to dismiss him, the affable Agent Mobius (a hilarious and delightful Owen Wilson) insists on taking a chance on the “mischievous scamp.”

As  the  pair  begin their wild journey to apprehend another mysterious Loki “variant,” longtime fans of the character are treated to an in-depth look at Loki’s psyche—not to mention Hiddleston and Wilson’s chemistry. 

Yet another show that defined summer 2021 was Never Have I Ever. Although the Netflix series first released in 2020, its second season was just as binge-worthy as the first, if not moreso. It picks up right where the season one finale left off, with teen protagonist Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) in a love triangle with local hottie Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet) and her longtime academic rival Ben Gross (Jaren Lewison). 

While this is certainly one of the season’s main storylines, its episodes also deal with more serious themes. For instance, one character is revealed to be living with an eating disorder and another enters into—but eventually, with the help of her friends, leaves—an  abusive  relationship. Witty, fresh, and authentic, the show has fans already eagerly awaiting the release of season three.

Needless to say, the summer 2021 television season offered something for everyone. While summer 2022 may seem far away, there are sure to be intriguing and engaging programs this fall, winter, and spring that pique viewers’ interest in the meantime.