The 5 Best New TV Shows Our Critic Watched in October 2021

As October nears its spooky, sugar-saturated end, one thing is clear: it hasn’t been a very good month for new TV shows. Maybe you were too busy bingeing on horror movies or wolfing down HBO’s most exciting Sunday-night lineup in years (Succession Insecure Curb Your Enthusiasm) to notice, but it’s true. Whether it’s because platforms front-loaded their fall fare in September or because they bet big on Halloween nostalgia—ChuckyIt’s possible! Day of the DeadIt’s possible! It’s time to tell me what you did last Summer!—that failed to deliver, the pickings are slim. Below, you’ll find the best of that bunch: a drama that tabulates the human cost of poverty, a romantic comedy that breaks the mold, a bake-off you’d need an engineering degree to win and more. Here are some more recommendations: These are my top picks from the last month, and first half of 2021.
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Baking Impossible(Netflix).

Baking competitions have long been Food Network’s bread and butter, but now that every streaming service in existence is putting its own spin on the recipe, it seems as if a new one pops out of the oven weekly. Except for the charming, it seems that everyone is equally delightful. Great British Baking ShowIt’s getting old. It was a pleasant surprise to find myself being sucked in. Baking ImpossibleThe combines engineers and bakers to create edible art that can double as Rube goldberg machines. It also survives car crashes, passes all sorts of stress tests, and is even certified by the National Institute for Quality Control. This is the result. bakineerIt is horrible. I picture pirates plundering bacon. But the so-called bakineers are talented, the challenges are fascinating and it’s both thrilling and heartwarming to watch formerly unacquainted duos from very different backgrounds, with very different skillsets, work collaboratively to accomplish an extremely nerdy goal.

Loving Life(HBO Max).

Itt’s an old story. You never know what your future holds. Just as you feel you have figured out where you are headed, someone comes along to push you away from the familiar, safe path and into a different one. This is the story of Smart Second Season. Loving LifeThe HBO Max series ‘Love,’ which follows the romance of each character throughout each season.

This edition’s protagonist, Marcus Watkins, a married book editor played by William Jackson Harper, meets his potential soulmate Mia Hines (Jessica Williams) at a wedding. (Season 1 viewers will recognize Anna Kendrick’s Darby as the bride.) Small talk leads to an “emotional affair” that hastens the end of Marcus’ marriage. Instead of navigating his new path with Mia, however, as he’d hoped to do, he’s left lost in the woods, not just single, but also fundamentally confused about who he is and what he wants out of life. The scenario yields a far fresher story than Kendrick’s generic single-girl-in-the-city tale. [Read the full review.]


As this poignant, layered and persuasive drama based on Stephanie Land’s best-selling memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive so vividly illustrates, having friends and family doesn’t always mean having anyone you can count on. When precarity turns into crisis, many Americans have to rely on social service. A wrenching (though not unremittingly bleak) portrait of a 25-year-old mom who’s desperate to give her daughter a more stable childhood than she had, Maid This also shows how families that society is unwilling to assist can become trapped in vicious cycles of abuse and poverty. [Read the full review.]

Next Thing You Eat (Hulu)

A new food program? Yes, it is. But it’s as different from Baking Impossible As an entry in the genre. Celebrity chef and Momofuku mogul David Chang (late of Netflix’s Ugly DeliciousMorgan Neville, a renowned documentarian was a partner in this collaboration.Won’t You Be My Neighbor?) to make this six-episode glimpse at the future of food, which is refreshingly honest about some of the industry’s stickiest problems. The sustainability dilemma surrounding popular dishes such as burgers, sushi and the labor nightmares associated with automation and delivery apps are just some of the issues. Next Thing You Eat isn’t afraid to sound the alarm. But neither does Chang scold the viewer; he’s the first to admit that, while he’s increasingly sure that vegetarianism is the correct moral choice, he has yet to develop the willpower to give up meat. Ultimately, the show isn’t a polemic so much as it’s a wake-up call, alerting us to the reality that big changes in the way we eat are afoot whether we like it or not.


In 2021, pop culture has fixated on female music icons from the turn of the millennium—and that fascination goes way beyond the emancipation of Britney. Tina Fey (executive producer) and Meredith Scardino (creator) offered their opinions on the topic this past spring. Girls5eva, a hilarious musical comedy that traced the reunion of a late-’90s one-hit-wonder girl group. Next was BET Presents: Encore, a friction-packed reality series that mixed and matched singers from R&B groups of roughly the same period, in hopes of launching a new act. We have now QueensA soapy drama about the Nasty Bitches’ four-member rap group. They attempt to heal the wounds they have caused 20 years ago and embrace the nostalgia.

The show’s greatest asset is its cast, which includes some true icons of Y2K-era pop. Brandy is Naomi, otherwise known as Xplicit Lyrics. She gives the story its emotional core. A wounded artist, Xplicitly Lyrics is about a singer-songwriter who struggles to make a name for herself and her relationships with her children. Rapper Eve plays Brianna (nom de rap: Professor Sex), now a married mother of five who’s ambivalent about stepping back into the spotlight. Naturi Naughton, whose stint in R&B trio 3LW led to the role of Lil’ Kim in Biggie Smalls biopic It is important and a main-cast slot in Starz’s Energie, is Jill Da Thrill—who traded drugs for church but now must choose between her adoring husband and the woman she secretly loves. Valeria (Nadine Vallazquez, of) completes the quartet. Major Crimes“, a Machiavellian adversary who made her famous in order to get a job on daytime TV. A veteran of ScandalZahir McGhee, the creator of this story is an expert at navigating twisty plots. He’s also clearly a fan of women in hip-hop and R&B; the fictional group feels especially believable because their backstories recall aspects of real-world counterparts from Salt-N-Pepa to TLC to Queen Latifah. Also, the music is great. If you watch one broadcast series this fall, it’s gotta be Queens


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