What the Variety Staff Is Thankful for in Entertainment in 2021

Yoshiko Yap

Movie theaters reopened, “Succession” Season 3 is finally here and some of the biggest artists are hitting the road once again to go back on tour. As the entertainment industry mounts a measured comeback amid the global pandemic, here are the films, series and artists that the writers, editors and reporters at Variety are thankful for this Thanksgiving.

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Macall B. Polay/HBO

I’m thankful for “Succession” Season 3! — Claudia Eller, editor-in-chief

Thankful that finally a woman of color has won an Oscar for best director! Thank you for providing exceptional representation, Chloé Zhao. — Tiana DeNicola, production supervisor

I’m thankful for the “Wonder Years” reboot. It’s wonderful! Makes me laugh out loud. Many scenes (my family, friends) I lived. Pure joy! — Sheila Dixon Howard, editorial coordinator

I’m thankful for “Ted Lasso” and “Dopesick” — two shows that moved me deeply this year. — Cynthia Littleton, co-editor-in-chief

I am grateful for the return of live music and Willie Nelson being back on tour. Also, Stella McCartney’s latest Beatles-inspired capsule collection. — Lesley McKenzie, managing editor

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Christopher Polk

Father, Son and House of Gratitude. I am grateful that red carpets are back, especially with an awards season that includes Lady Gaga in the race. — Marc Malkin, senior culture & events editor

I’m thankful for in-person events and getting to see my peers and colleagues. I’m grateful for good telly: “Mare of Easttown,” “Wandavision,” “The Undoing,” that “Pose” finale and as always for all things “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” And the return of “Succession.” Who thought I would miss Logan Roy cursing? I’m grateful for new music from Adele and for all the things Lady Gaga gifted us. Perhaps the greatest joy though is the gift of colleagues. Though apart, the team really got through another year of this together. — Jazz Tangcay, senior artisans editor

I am grateful for a lot of things, but one of the biggest is the “Great British Baking Show.” This season has been fascinating. I’ve learned a lot of things including words like “faff,” which I am now sprinkling in my vocabulary even if I am not baking anything new. The other thing is a bumper crop of varied and fun films this awards season including “House of Gucci,” “King Richard” and “Parallel Mothers.” Finally Britney is free. I’ve never been so interested in her life as this year and I’m glad this pop star is free to live her life as she chooses. — Shalini Dore, features news editor

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Macall Polay/Netflix

I’m thankful for Julie Larson. There’s a lot of (rightful) awards talk around Lin-Manuel Miranda and Andrew Garfield for their film adaptation of “Tick, Tick … Boom!,” but someone who needs to be noticed is Jonathan Larson’s sister. I’m sure she had a very busy life of her own before he so suddenly passed away in 1996, but since then she has given so much of herself to keeping his legacy alive — even more so since losing their parents. In between her regular producing gigs, she executive produced “Rent Live” a few years back, as well as this film (also appearing in it, both in archival footage and in the audience in the final number, “Louder Than Words”), not simply ensuring his stories continue on, but, more importantly, that they are put in the hands of people who really get his message.

I’m also thankful for Tracey Wigfield’s new version of “Saved by the Bell.” It knows its roots and is respectful of them, but it doesn’t shy away from poking fun at or updating classic moments as needed. The second season’s fake flashbacks to Zack losing the Spirit Competition are a great example on their own. It’s peppered full of jokes, pop culture references and Easter eggs, while also having something to say about more serious socioeconomic issues facing teenagers today. It’s just such a warm hug of a show that puts a grin on my face from the minute an episode starts all the way through to the end, which is increasingly rare these days. — Danielle Turchiano, senior features editor, TV

After the catastrophe of “Cats” (a film I could talk about every day for the rest of time), I’m thankful for a year of great movie musicals with “In the Heights” and “Tick Tick… Boom!” I feel like I need to apologize to my neighbors for how often I have been blasting those soundtracks on loop. Here’s hoping “Wicked” continues the trend! — Rebecca Rubin, film & media reporter

I am grateful for Roman and Gerri, the only saving grace of 2021. — Anna Tingley, e-commerce writer

In my time away from college this fall, I’ve been thankful for my recent discovery of the joys of taking myself out to movie theaters. Watching “Belfast” in theaters was particularly sweet and special. — Katie Song, editorial intern

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Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu

Let’s face it, friends, we’re still in dark times. So what I’m thankful for this year is the television that’s entertained me in 2021. And yes, many of those shows have taken my mind off the state of the world, but that’s not to say that a lot of them haven’t also made me think. This list could be even longer, but thank you to “The White Lotus,” “Only Murders in the Building,” “Succession,” “The Other Two,” “You,” “Search Party,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” “Evil,” “WandaVision,” “The Mysterious Benedict Society,” “Hacks,” “Call My Agent!” (I watched it this year, yes, it counts!) and my beloved, batshit “The Morning Show.” I will be especially thankful, mind you, when “The Morning Show” is renewed. What’s taking so long? — Kate Aurthur, editor-at-large

I’m a simple girl: I see Martin Short and Steve Martin attached to a project, and you bet your bottom dollar I’ll be watching. In bringing together old-school comedy legends with millennial icon Selena Gomez (who proved she can hold her own alongside the greats), Hulu bridged the generation gap with “Only Murders in the Building,” giving me the best gift: finally finding a show I could enjoy with my parents. Mix in a gripping mystery, guest stars like Nathan Lane and an enviable wardrobe from costume designer Dana Covarrubias, and this show is one for the books. Seriously, Dana, if you’re reading this, please teach me how to dress myself. — Katcy Stephan, social media editor

This year, I’m thankful for the unexpected joy that is “Selena + Chef.” Selena Gomez’s blank-slate, super-beginner approach to cooking has made me want to actually go into the kitchen and cook more than any other food-related show this year. What’s more, I’ve actually learned a lot from the show, whether it’s from the various chefs going over knife skills or from Selena attempting to crush garlic with a mason jar, only to end up with glass everywhere. The show’s fun relatability and short format has certainly kept me coming back for more, and never feels too repetitive despite its basic structure. Keep the seasons coming! — Ellise Shafer, online news editor

I’m thankful that this year we got to rediscover terrific, hilarious, mature treasures like Jean Smart and Jennifer Coolidge. I’m thankful we all finally came to our senses and realized “The Morning Show” is wonderful fun with lots of capital-A acting. I’m thankful for British crime shows, from “Unforgotten” to “C.B. Strike.” And I’m thankful Todd Haynes finally told the story of “The Velvet Underground” in the cacophonous style in which it was meant to be told. — Pat Saperstein, deputy editor

Let’s start with Mitski because she really pulled up at the end of 2021 with two sad girl anthems and tour dates. “Laurel Hell” is going to become my entire personality in 2022, apologies in advance. I’m also thankful for Sora in Smash, if only for the Twitter resurgence of the most unhinged moments in “Kingdom Hearts.” Other items of note: the “Mob Psycho” Season 3 announcement! Paul Thomas Anderson’s beloved “Venom 2”! Watching “Pride & Prejudice” after “Succession” to remind myself of Matthew Macfadyen’s range! — Alyssa Mora, junior content specialist

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Catherine Nguyen/HGTV/Scripps/courtesy Everett Collection

I’d like to look all erudite and say that I’m thankful for Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film or the new Paul Thomas Anderson movie or the Criterion Channel. And don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for all those things. They’re wonderful. But honestly, I’m most thankful for “Love It or List It,” a show with an incredibly simple premise that somehow consumes hours of my nights and weekends. I will never stop being engrossed by Hilary Farr’s attempts to get people to fall back in love with their faded homes by renovating them on a budget or David Visentin’s efforts to get them to ditch their former digs for the property of their dreams. It’s the stuff of high drama, so take your judgment and… well, you know. — Brent Lang, executive editor, film & media, New York bureau chief

I’m thankful for everyone who worked together and thought about others in helping to stop this pandemic. Because of people getting vaccinated and tested for screenings and events, we’ve been able to cautiously return to movie theaters and share that communal experience we love so much. I have seen most people cooperating without complaint, keeping their masks on and following the rules – which means we can all enjoy the movies together. — Jenelle Riley, deputy awards and features editor

I’m thankful for movie theaters and in-person experiences with partners and colleagues within our beautiful industry. I’m appreciative for the first full awards season in Los Angeles, alongside a healthy family, which wasn’t necessarily a given over the past two years. But most of all, I’m grateful for cooler weather so a chubby guy can adapt to west coast life, Malibu Bay Breezes at tastemaker events because I’m secure enough to order one despite the disappointment by many of my colleagues, and open parking spaces wherever possible. — Clayton Davis, film awards editor

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Courtesy of Netflix

This year, I’ve been thankful for pop-culture that’s about how and why we connect with each other, like Season 3 of Netflix’s “Sex Education,” a miracle of a TV show filled with characters I just adore. (Ncuti Gatwa should be on everyone’s Emmys shortlists.) “Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself” (on Hulu) and Bo Burnham’s “Inside” (on Netflix) both hit me sideways with profound — and profoundly inventive — portraits of 21st century loneliness. “We’re Here” is my favorite new weekend cry, wrapped in a bedazzled ode to the power of drag to connect those who’ve been abandoned by their given families. And Season 2 of “Ted Lasso” was a gem that let itself get a little scuffed up so it could better explore just how hard, and rewarding, it is to be good humans. — Adam B. Vary, senior entertainment writer

I’m thankful for all the below-the-line crew who have kept our favorite shows and movies coming in the most challenging circumstances over the last 18 months. They rarely get their share of the spotlight but without the make-up artists, costume designers, gaffers, grips and everyone else on set our screens would be pretty empty. — K.J. Yossman, international correspondent

I am thankful that I was able to move from L.A. to New York with the woman I love while still doing a job that keeps me interested and engaged every single day. I am thankful that, thanks to the COVID vaccine, I was able to spend time with family and friends that I was not able to see last year. But perhaps most importantly, I am thankful that Chigs made it to the finals of ‘GBBS’ even though he has only been baking for a year. — Joe Otterson, senior TV writer

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The entertainment business has been a cornucopia of quality — and sheer entertainment (“Selling Sunset” and everything on Discovery Plus, I am here for you) — but the emergence of underrepresented voices who have something to say is gaining ground, like HBO’s “We’re Here,” which always brings me to happy tears and spotlights the hope of people who face prejudice daily but persevere. And the queens are fabulous. Unscripted TV shows that spotlight skills like “Blown Away” and “All That Glitters” also give below the radar artists a big stage. — Carole Horst, managing editor, features

I’m thankful for MUSIC!!! For Mick and Keith on the road, for 60 years of Charlie on drums (RIP), for Ronnie (though I am still working out whether or not he should be on bass) and for Bill (who absolutely should be on bass) and Mick Taylor, who remains their best lead guitarist, and for what Brian (RIP) created when he started the Rolling Stones and for Andrew Loog Oldham who drove them to fame’s door and got “Satisfaction” for me and the world.

I’m thankful for Bob Dylan for making sure all the Americans since 1962 have had a living Walt Whitman on guitar and keyboards. I’m thankful for Otis Williams for making sure we still have a Temptation in our lives and to Stevie, Smokey, Berry, Diana and Motown to remind us of what American music can and should be. I’m thankful for Marianne Faithfull for making sure we have a pistol in the suitcase and our eyes on the TV. I’m thankful for Kinky Friedman for reminding us that even Jesus hates a loser. I’m thankful for the beacon of light called “Dolly,” for Kris Kristofferson for guiding me to Mom’s Boarding House in Nashville all those decades ago and to Willie Nelson for guiding me to Americana in Austin this year.

And for MOVIES! I’m thankful to Pedro Almodóvar for being the greatest auteur in the world and growing as an artist every year to demonstrate over and over that cinema will always be more than what Barry Diller so trenchantly observed was in danger of becoming “100 minutes of something designed by an algorithm.” Not on Pedro’s watch!!!!! Thankfully!!!! — Steven Gaydos, executive vice president, global content

I’m thankful for Season 2 of “The Other Two.” For Brooke’s (Heléne Yorke) special way of arguing that being a feminist doesn’t mean you support every woman: the liberating rally cry that “Women can suck! Women can suck!” For Cary’s (Drew Tarver) highs and lows in the world of online dating, including a nude photo leak that prompts Busy Philipps to tweet the words, “I stand with you and your hole. I’m thankful for Molly Shannon, point blank period. And I can’t forget how much I grinned at Episode 6, which is all about Brooke being honored at a fictitious Variety event. We see you! — Selome Hailu, editorial intern

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Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

This year, I’m thankful for on-screen representations of family. Specifically, I’m thankful for lamb baby Ada and her parents in “Lamb,” Dom Toretto and his gravity-defying “Fast Family” in “F9: The Fast Saga” and, of course, the Roys of “Succession.” — David Viramontes, social media coordinator

I’m thankful to be able to observe Funnyvember with my friends and family. Happy Funnyvember to all who celebrate! — J. Kim Murphy, associate news editor

I’m thankful that Marvel and DC have both embraced the multiverse, giving us hope for a Howard the Duck and Bat-Mite crossover in the distant future. Also, I’m thankful that movie theaters reopened this year to give us big-screen, cinematic masterpieces like “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” “PAW Patrol: The Movie” and, of course, “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which is already a best picture contender in my book. — Jordan Moreau, online news editor

This year I’m thankful for my movie children, Lamb Baby and Gabriel. — Meredith Woerner, deputy editor, Variety.com

I am thankful for HBO for delivering my two favorite shows, “Insecure” and “Succession.” — Jennifer Yuma, editorial intern

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Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2021

’Tis the season for soul-baring. So I’m thankful for singer-songwriters who lay it all out on the line and really put their lives into their songs. It’s an especially good time to be thankful for that, as just in the last two or three weeks we’ve had superior examples of confessional songwriting at the very highest superstar level, with phenomenally good albums by Adele and Taylor Swift breaking through the noise to command the attention of, well, just about everyone sentient. But, of course, we also know that every week artists of lesser renown are making great, self-revealing records whose boldness doesn’t make headlines or even gather enough of a critical consensus to merit a Metacritic score. To reveal yourself in this way, at the megastar or folk-club level, is always to invite charges of solipsism… as if there was ever very much classic pop music made that didn’t involve some level of navel-gazing-turned-profound. No matter how many millions of sales or streams you’ve accumulated, there’s always risk involved in putting one’s hurt out into the world and hoping people identify and even cry along instead of snicker. So here’s to that fearlessness, whether it’s from an Adele or Swift retracing their steps to the moments where love went wrong, or a lesser-known luminary like Allison Russell, who released a brilliant record about overcoming an abusive upbringing and just got three Grammy nominations for it. Great musicians reopening their wounds in song, ancient or fresh, helps us close our own. — Chris Willman, editor, features

I am thankful for: the wonder of flipping around Pluto TV’s bizarre channels, jumping from “American Gladiators” to cult films to “Dr. Phil”; “With Gourley and Rust,” the only podcast brave enough to have a cozy 4-hour discussion about 1983’s “Sleepaway Camp”; “Sidetalk,” an Instagram series that has gifted me so many catchphrases and only-in-New York characters; and the TikToks of El Estepario Siberiano, whose lightning-fast drum fills consistently blow my mind. — William Earl, editor of Variety.com

I am thankful for another sublime Nicole Kidman performance (“Being the Ricardos”), the 2021 Goop Holiday Gift Guide and my boyfriend’s dog Chester. — Matt Donnelly, senior entertainment & media writer

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Mario Perez / © ABC / courtesy everett collection

When the COVID-19 pandemic led to the lockdowns last year, we got creative in our house to keep spirits up and start some new traditions, including a family movie night. But eventually I also introduced my teenage son to “Lost.” It’s a show that meant so much to me that when the BBC’s Culture team asked me to rank my favorite TV series of the 21st century so far, I put it at No. 1. After showing him the two-hour pilot, he was hooked. Soon we were binging episode after episode on a weekly basis. I relished discussing plot points with him and hearing his own theories on what was happening. What was in the hatch? Who were the others? “Not Penny’s Boat.” “We have to go back!”

And then we got to “The Constant” episode from Season 4. I had forgotten that Desmond and Penny connect on the evening of Christmas Eve, 2004. My son was born — you guessed it, on the evening of Dec. 24, 2004. It was a very “Lost”-style mind blowing moment. And it made the show even more special for him. No haters here. If anything, watching “Lost” the second time around, over the course of months instead of years, put the show’s themes into even clearer focus. And hell, we even enjoyed the very controversial Nikki and Paulo episode.

One of the perks of these jobs is you get to meet and cover the creative people behind some of your favorite shows, and that was the case with “Lost” executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. So I let them know when my son and I were about to watch the “Lost” finale (while feasting on Hawaiian BBQ takeout, of course). “Watching the ‘Lost’ finale with one’s dad is probably exactly what it was designed for,” Damon wrote back, and he was absolutely right. Of all the pop culture experiences I’ve had over the years, nothing has ever been more satisfying than sharing “Lost” with my son as we made our way through these turbulent two years. For that, I am most thankful. — Michael Schneider, deputy TV editor

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