The 5 Best of 2021 TV:
Even with the pandemic shutting down the production of many current shows, 2021 still managed to pull off some darn good TV. Give it up for streaming services that totally blew cable television out of the water.
Here are 5 TV shows you NEED to add to your watchlist.
1. Hacks (HBO Max)
HBO Max’s Hacks deserved every Emmy it received and every Emmy it didn’t receive. The talented Jean Smart stars as Deborah Vance a fading comedian who teams up with canceled comedy writer Ava (Hannah Einbinder). An unlikely pairing eventually finds their connection and their way in this hilarious series.
The show manages to be everything and more even though the concept is pretty basic. So, despite what you might think from the trailer, you won’t be disappointed.
2. Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)
It’s been forever since Steve Martin and Martin Short teamed up together to bring quality entertainment. And this time they’ve teamed up with Selena Gomez on Only Murders in the Building! Truly an unusual group, but one that works surprisingly well.
In this comedic mystery, the three come together to create a podcast in which they work to solve a murder in their building. When they dig deeper, stories are unraveled, and trust wavers. Although, the one thing that stays constant is the humor and overabundance of Steve Martin’s dad jokes.
3. Mare of Easttown (HBO Max)
Kate Winslet. Need I say more?
In this murder mystery, Mare is the police officer tasked with solving a murder in her small Pennsylvanian town. The twist at the end will leave you speechless, and reeling in awe. Mare of Easttown has A+ acting and a storyline that will have you coming back for more.
4. Squid Game (Netflix)
You’ll have to put subtitles on for this one unless you speak Korean, but I promise it’s more than worth it. Squid Game received widespread recognition over Tik Tok and is now No. 1 on Netflix’s trending list and potentially its biggest show ever.
It is gory and well-produced. And you’ll want to binge it all at once! A group of people who are in debt fight to stay alive and to win the grand prize of ₩4.5 billion. Who will prevail and who will die?
5. Firefly Lane (Netflix)
This one might be an unpopular opinion since Rotten Tomatoes didn’t like it, but I did. Two best friends Kate and Tully have known each other since high school. Kate has lived in the shadow of Tully their entire friendship but is living the life Tully ultimately wants.
Drama ensues throwing a wrench into their decades-long friendship. Firefly Lane is an easy watch and verges on cheesy, yet it’s entertaining and you’ll be left wanting a season 2 to answer important questions.
The 5 Worst of 2021 TV:
And while there is good TV, there is certainly bad TV. Many of these either had unbearable plots, endings that tanked the entire show, or were downright boring.
Here’s a list of 5 shows you should avoid at all costs.
1. Nine Perfect Strangers (Hulu)
Ouch, even Nicole Kidman couldn’t save this show. Nine Perfect Strangers is based on the book of the same name, but in order to provide a fresh and new perspective, it refrains from repeating the novel’s storyline.
Each episode dragged a bit, and while the characters were interesting and given depth, the plot and resolution failed. And sorry, but Nicole Kidman’s attempt at a Russian accent made everything a bit tacky. In short, it’s about a healing retreat that strives to help a group of visitors heal from their past traumas.
2. Cruel Summer (Freeform)
Initially, this show had great potential. However, its ending completely ruined everything it was doing right. Cruel Summer is a thriller about a young girl who goes missing and the nuances within her abduction.
It plays into some obvious tropes and many of its twists are predictable. Watch at your own risk!
3. Genera(t)ion (HBO Max)
There were some good characters and decent storylines, but altogether this show just didn’t work. A majority of the characters were unlikable and it tried too hard to push the boundaries.
Genera(+)ion brings to life a group of high schoolers, some of whom are figuring out their gender and sexual identities. It attempts to dig deeper into the lives and minds of Gen Zers and how the internet affects and shapes their adolescence.
4. Gossip Girl 2021 (HBO Max)
Let’s just say the original Gossip Girl deserved to stay untouched. The Gossip Girl 2021 reboot was terrible and so obviously created by an out-of-touch group of adults that were trying to appeal to Gen Z.
The only thing I can applaud is the diversity within the casting. But other than that, the storyline about teachers creating a troll Instagram account to try and keep their students inline? Implausible and downright ridiculous.
5. Solos (Amazon Prime)
With big names like Anne Hathaway, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, and Constance Wu, you’d think this show would’ve done better. But, Solos goes to show that good actors can’t save bad writing.
Each episode of this seven-part series attempts to provide a groundbreaking meaning behind humanity. Almost like it tried to one-up Black Mirror, but got it all wrong. Since it was shot during COVID it kept every character isolated to one room, which was a cool concept in theory. However, the monologues were dry making the length of each episode excruciating to sit through.
Firefly Lane Season 2 Part 2 Biggest Moments
Firefly Lane Season 2 Part 2 dropped on April 27—moved up from its original premiere date of June 8—and hit fans in the feels with a powerful storyline about friendship, loss, and letting go.
We’re breaking down the biggest, most jaw-dropping, and heartbreaking moments from the final episodes below:
This is arguably the biggest development, though the least surprising. If you’ve read the Firefly Lane books, you know that Kate succumbs to cancer, but seeing her journey through diagnosis, recovery, and eventually, the terminal stage, is heartbreaking to see pan out on screen. Kate displays an array of emotions—from shock to anger to sadness and eventually, acceptance—which can also be said for the people who loved her. Johnny, Tully, and Marah are there for Kate every step of the way, holding her close and struggling to imagine a future without her in it. Eventually, Kate’s time comes and she dies a peaceful and serene death alone overlooking the beautiful view of her dream home.
She Gets Married to Johnny… Again
Much of the first half of Firefly Lane Season 2 focused on Johnny and Kate finding their way back to each other, and it was a little frustrating at times to see two people who loved each other so much constantly push each other away and hurt each other. However, the back half of the season finally gave us all the Kate and Johnny moments, including their second wedding. While the blissful moments were clouded by Kate’s cancer, we saw a beautiful display of love, with Johnny living up to “in sickness and in health.” It was also vital that the series showed a realistic portrayal of cancer as Kate and Johnny still made time for their sex life and having fun as a couple while also supporting each other when things got tough, all the way through Kate’s final moments.
Marah Gets Married
There was a lot of speculation about the flash-forward scene at a wedding, with many thinking that it was Johnny and Tully’s wedding. For those who have been shipping Tully and Dan, you’ll be pleased to know that she did not take Kate’s blessing to be with Johnny seriously, and the duo did not get married. When Johnny is waiting for the bride, he’s waiting for Marah to show up and marry a doctor. It’s the reason why Johnny is so nervous yet excited—his baby girl is all grown up! And Tully is there, keeping her promise to Kate, to take care of Marah as she pins the veil on her goddaughter.
Tully and Danny End Up Together
Can you say finally? Tully and Danny’s relationship was 20 years in the making. but the timing was finally right. And they were ready to make it work. Danny called off his engagement to his fianceé Celeste after she kissed Tully, while Tully stopped pushing Danny away and admitted that she loved him and wanted to be with him. We don’t see Danny in the flash forward to Marah’s wedding, but we do hear his voice calling Tully downstairs, so it’s safe to say that they’ve made it work for over a decade.
Lightning Strikes Lisa-Karen
Kate and Lisa-Karen’s friendship took a bit of a backburner once Tully came back into the picture, but after she walked in on Kate making out with Coop, the hottest guy in school, the two began chatting again with Kate even scheduling a hang-out at Lisa-Karen’s house. Unfortunately, Lisa-Karen died shortly after offering to cover Kate’s shift so that she could go on a hot date with Coop.
As things between Kate and Coop get hot and heavy with Coop, Lisa-Karen gets struck by lightning while taking out the trash. Kate blames herself for Lisa-Karen’s death, telling Tully that it should’ve been her, but the truth is that it was just a freak accident.
Hot for Teacher, Hot for Coop
Kate’s secret romance with Coop, who was too embarrassed to admit his feelings for her in front of his friends, was a huge focus of the high school timeline, as was Tully’s crush on her English teacher. Thankfully, he never reciprocated those feelings, setting boundaries instead, while Kate eventually realized Coop was not the guy she wanted to be with. When he finally owned up to his feelings and told the whole school Kate was his girlfriend, she turned him down like the boss that she is.
With her days limited, Kate decided to finish writing her book, which she later revealed was the story of her life titled Firefly Lane. She gave one version to Johnny to give to Marah when she was old enough so she could get to know her mother while the other copy was given to Tully at Kate’s funeral. Kate’s note told Tully that whenever she misses her, she can open the book and find her within the words. It was a beautiful way to pay tribute to Kate’s passion for writing and her friendship with Tully, while also honoring her life story.
Does Kate Die on ‘Firefly Lane’?
Firefly Lane Season 2 Part 1 ended on quite a devastating cliffhanger with fans clamoring for some insight into Kate Mularkey’s (Sarah Chalke) fate.
After being diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer during a doctor’s visit, Kate bolted to Tully Hart’s (Katherine Heigl) penthouse apartment to seek out comfort and make amends. The former best friends were not on speaking terms at the time, however, the soul-crushing news forced Kate to reach out to the only person she’s ever trusted. Sadly, they missed each other by mere moments—as Kate got off the elevator to visit her friend, Tully got on the elevator with her bags to hop on a plane for a months-long assignment in Antarctica.
And now that the final few episodes of Firefly Lane Season 2 Part 2 aired on April 27 on Netflix, fans now know that, as many of us feared, Kate did not survive.
The Netflix drama is based on Kristin Hannah’s novel of the same name, so if you’ve read the book, there’s a good chance you weren’t surprised by the ending.
The back half of the season details Kate’s journey with cancer and the emotional toll it takes on her and her loved ones.
After an initial round of chemo, during which Kate loses her hair and experiences bouts of nausea, she goes into remission, which is an exciting sign. But the day before her second wedding to Johnny, she gets a call from her doctor informing her that her cancer has returned. She keeps the information from everyone hoping that they can all just get a day to sit back, relax, and celebrate, but when she collapses on the bathroom floor before the ceremony, she comes clean to Johnny. Not long after, she takes a tumble on the dance floor and Tully also learns the truth before the rest of her family receives the grim prognosis.
Everyone does their best to get the necessary help, with Johnny (Ben Lawson) hiring holistic medical professionals while Tully and Dan the Sports Man attempt to get Kate into clinical trials, the latter of whom is successful. Unfortunately, Kate suffers a seizure which means that her cancer has progressed and she has mere weeks left to live.
No one wants to admit that she is dying, but Kate assures them that they have to start letting go. She eventually learns the cancer spread to her brain, which makes her disqualified from the trial.
From there, all they can do is be there for her, bask in her glory, and soak up all the moments together before they are gone forever.
Kate dies a peaceful death alone overlooking the beautiful lake view from her home. Prior to her death, she managed to fulfill a lifelong goal of writing a book—aptly titled Firefly Lane– which tells her and Tully’s story; the good the bad, and the ugly parts.
She gifts the finished novel to her BFF Tully and her daughter Marah to get to know her mother’s story when the time comes.
It’s a devastating ending but one rooted in reality—and an important lesson to seize the day because nothing is ever guaranteed.
Firefly Lane Season 2 Part 2 Review – Dancing Queens
Good storytelling can make you laugh and cry all in the same breath—and the final handful of Firefly Lane episodes did just that.
The series gave a raw and powerful look at Kate’s cancer diagnosis, digging deep to reveal how it affected everyone—from the patient to the loved ones in her orbit.
What started as a fun journey documenting the past and present experiences of two best friends became an incredible story of resilience and strength But most importantly, it was an important reminder that life is not fair and we don’t have all the time in the world.
Firefly Lane Season 2 Part 2 doubled down on the bond between Tully and Kate, now tested more than ever as they navigated a health crisis while also figuring out how to deal with the resentment they held towards each other after their explosive fight. And there was also the struggle of figuring out how they move forward without each other now that life has thrown them an unexpected curveball.
Despite everyone’s positive thinking—ours included—Kate died. We knew it was going to happen, especially if you read the book, but seeing it pan out on screen and watching this fierce and loyal woman wither away with each passing day in the most graceful manner was emotionally taxing yet somehow inspirational.
For Kate, and her family and friends, there was no happily-ever-after as you see in the movies because that’s not how things happen in the real world, no matter how many holistic practices you put your faith into and how many phone calls are to get into a clinical trial.
Kate’s cancer was too aggressive, eventually spreading to her brain and limiting her days left.
We saw her loved ones dealing with the harsh reality that they had to let her go and desperately trying to avoid any thoughts about what a future without her might look like, but we also got a poignant look into how Kate grappled with the fact that she was nearing the end—and that she wasn’t ready to die so soon. She wasn’t ready to miss out on so many big moments like Marah’s wedding, being a grandmother, and enjoying a second shot at love with Johnny.
Kate’s cancer was hard to accept for those that loved her because as Kate’s mother Margie noted, it wasn’t fair. Margie smoked all her life and didn’t have cancer. Cloud, Tully’s dysfunctional mother, took every drug on the planet and was somehow still alive. And yet Kate, who exercised and took care of her health, was the one who got sick.
Kate had so much life left to live, but cancer doesn’t care.
We all know we’re going to die, but there’s something so strikingly different about knowing you’re dying or knowing that person that you love more than life itself is slipping away
And thus, Kate lived every day like it was her last. She remarried Johnny, she danced it out at her wedding, she had as much sex with Johnny as her body would allow, she went horseback riding so she could feel free and at peace, she smoked pot with her uptight mom, Cloud, and her best friend (which. may have been my favorite scene), and she finally finished writing a book.
And it was a special one at that as it was the story of her life, aptly titled Firefly Lane—a book that would serve as a reminder to Tully about all their adventures and special moments, fights included, but also one that would help Marah remember her mother and really get to know her.
Kate’s time on Earth was stolen, but through it, she realized that all of those things we all worry about in life are so silly. All that really matters is the people you love and the ones that love you back. In that regard, she was incredibly lucky because she had a tribe of people who fought like hell for her and put everything aside to be with her in her final days. Kate won the lottery when it came to loved ones.
Kate always thought of herself in such a negative light, repeatedly saying she wasn’t anything more than a housewife and a mother, but she was a housewife and a mother; there’s nothing more important than that. She was also the glue that held Tully together—personally and professionally. She was the one who raised and accepted Marah every step of the way, and she was the one who allowed Johnny to flourish in his career.
It may have been cut short, but it was a life well lived, and we got a front seat to all of it, which is why it was so hard for us to let go as well.
Tully and Kate’s friendship was codependent, and not always healthy, but it was also so rare. A friendship that special is hard to come by, so when Tully found out that Kate was sick, she dropped everything to be by her side.
Their fight was addressed—and both of their feelings were valid. Kate’s response was to push Tully away after she risked Marah’s life by driving drunk and getting into an accident, but Tully was so hurt by the abandonment because in one fell swoop she lost her entire family. Kate and the Mularkeys were everything to her, and they all turned on her after one bad judgment call.
The series never sugarcoated anything, so those big, ugly, and emotional moments were addressed even during the inappropriate times as Kate was fighting for her life. Kate gave Tully the space to feel angry at her because she was dying, which unintentionally broke their promise of being together forever and going into a retirement home together when they were old. Their love story was cut short, and there was nothing they could do about it.
We watched Tully and Kate’s friendship change through so many phases of their lives; they were on two different paths and yet, somehow, always on the same page. It was always them against the world until it wasn’t.
Kate’s cancer took everything away from her—and it took her away from Tully. As Kate said, in a way, she got off easier because she didn’t have to face the world without her best friend.
But Tully did. And we saw that she kept the promise she made Kate to help her raise Marah all the way into the ’90s. In Kate’s absence, she was Marah’s fairy godmother, pinning her goddaughter with a veil for her wedding in the flash-forward that takes place 10 years in the future.
It was cruel of the creative forces behind the show to show Kate next to Tully, giving a bit of false hope that Kate beat the cancer and lived for much longer, only for audiences to realize that Tully was simply imagining her best friend there for her daughter’s big day.
I wish we got to see a little more from those flash-forwards to see how everyone was holding up without Kate, particularly Johnny. We know Marah got married, and we know that Tully’s romance with Dan was going strong as his voice could be heard calling her down to the ceremony, but what’s Johnny up to? Kate gave him permission to move on and be happy as she didn’t want him to be alone—even giving him and Tully her blessing to be together—but seeing how devoted he was to Kate, I don’t think he would ever choose to be with anyone else. Still, the thought of Johnny getting older on his own and missing his wife daily pains me.
Kate’s death scene was so powerful because it was the one time she got to be kind of selfish. I know that sounds weird, but she was always pleasing everyone around her and putting them first. When she went to therapy and they asked her how she was doing, she talked about everyone else’s feelings but her own. But in that moment, without anyone around, she was no longer holding on for someone else—she felt empowered to let go and be free. It would have been nice if she passed away surrounded by all of her loved ones, especially Tully considering they did everything together, but that’s why it was so necessary for her character.
The back half of the season also made it clear that life doesn’t stop for everyone just because someone is sick. Tully’s world kept spinning as her relationship with Dan the Sports Man intensified. I didn’t see the twist with Dan’s fianceé making a move on Tully coming, but it seems neither did she. Tully has always pushed people away in the name of self-preservation, so it made sense that she wanted to do that while her friend was dying, but it was also incredibly brave of her to finally take the leap and go after what she wanted. She did need a rather large push from Dan, who threatened to move to New York since she dodged his calls after saying “I love you”, but she eventually got there. It was only a relationship 20 years in the making.
Kate’s cancer storyline was so powerful and moving that it could have easily overshadowed other parts of the season, but the flashbacks to the high school years and Kate’s engagement provided an escape—it was almost like you were reminiscing on the good old days right along with them.
In high school, Kate ended up snagging the “big man on campus,” Coop, but while he knew all the right things to say to her in private, the truth is that he was a real douche who was too embarrassed to admit that he liked her in front of his “cool” friends. Eventually, Kate realized that Coop wasn’t the standup guy she thought he was, and when he mustered up the courage to announce in front of the whole school that she was his girlfriend, Kate turned him down in glorious fashion.
I wish we could have seen a brief reunion with Coop just to see what he’s up to in the present day and what kind of man he became. I know this is Kate’s story and he was just a blip in it who doesn’t deserve the time of day, but I would’ve liked to see if the experience with Kate changed Coop in any way.
Tully was in love with her teacher, who, thankfully, did not pursue her back, and the story arc was proof that Tully always just wanted to be loved and seen.
We also got more insight into Kate’s engagement with Theo, who was a good guy just not the right guy for her. Kate was in denial about her feelings for Johnny, trying to convince herself that she wanted to be with Theo, but when Johnny declared his love for her, she couldn’t fight the feelings any longer. And the rest is history… and Theo has the scars to prove it as he lost a ball after coming home and trying to surprise Kate in the shower, who actually ended up being Johnny.
Kate was such a minx!
Other Memorable Moments
- Lisa-Karen’s storyline also didn’t have a happy ending, and it’s partly why Kate felt empowered to kick Coop to the curb. Kate and Coop weren’t responsible for Lisa-Karen’s death directly, but Kate still felt guilty because LK offered to cover for her at work while Kate snuck out for a steamy date If Kate never left, maybe LK would’ve still been alive. It was a terribly sad incident and an even worse end to their tumultuous friendship.
- We finally understood where Johnny’s commitment issues stemmed from as he confronted his dad, a priest, after finding out he was going to be a father. He blamed his dad for his mom’s addiction and death, realizing at that moment that he was never going to be like him. And he did an incredible job being a loyal husband and father to Kate and Marah. They were so lucky to have him. And its why he deserved so much more credit from Kate’s parents, who never fully approved of him. Though, it was nice to see him finally get some love from Bud on his wedding day.
- Tully took Carol’s advice and decided to go back to hosting her own talk show, and it’s a bummer we never got to see it. Let’s hope Johnny served as a producer once again.
- And finally, who knew I would ball so hard watching a woman do a choreographed dance to Abba outside of a funeral? But I know Kate was there doing it with Tully in spirit.
Let this series serve as a reminder to live your life while it’s happening—make the bold choice, take the risks, love hard, and never wait till the end to say how you feel.
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