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Every Show, Film And Album The Secret Media Team Was Obsessed With In 2021

Marco Ruiz Marco Ruiz - Staff Writer

Every Show, Film And Album The Secret Media Team Was Obsessed With In 2021

Another year, another (series of) lockdown(s). And now that we’re between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, it’s time for our annual article taking a look at what the Secret Media team was obsessed with in 2021. As usual, there are films and books and TV series from this year as well as from plenty of years past because some of us are just late to what’s good.

TV Shows

1. Deutschland 83/86/89

films tv books 2021
Photo: themoviedb.org

Recommended by: Alex Landon, Acting Executive Editor of Secret Media, UK/IE/APAC+

What they had to say 📺: I finally got round to watching Deutschland 86 & Deutschland 89 after rewatching ‘83 earlier this year, and they’re brilliant viewing for anyone who loves spies, the Cold War, or ’80s German pop. Gripping from start to finish, and don’t let the subtitles put you off.

2. The Sopranos

Photo: themoviedb.org

Recommended by: Abi Meadow, Viral Scout

What they had to say 📺: I watched the whole thing and still feel like I want to go back for more. The layers, the characters, the gabagool! *chefs kiss*. The nod to mental health was just way ahead of its time. AND The Real Housewives franchise(s)… sorry not sorry. 

3. The Bold Type

films tv books 2021
Photo: Amazon

Recommended by: Laura Rogan, Editor of Secret Manchester 

What they had to say 📺: As someone who studied fashion, getting lost in The Bold Type was like revisiting a previous lifetime. Total NYC escapism, lots of relationship drama, unfurling friendships and wonderful, wonderful fashion. The Bold Type is perfect for anyone who loved shows like Gossip Girl, Ugly Betty and Sex and the City.

4. Sweet Tooth

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Photo: Netflix

Recommended by: Kat Notman, Writer for Secret Amsterdam, Secret Kobenhavn, and Secret Stockholm

What they had to say 📺: A deer-boy finds himself alone and hunted during a pandemic until he finds a nice fella who starts looking after him, albeit reluctantly. I binge-watched the first couple of series and now there are no more episodes left to watch. I feel empty and heartbroken.

5. Sex Education Series 3

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Photo: Netflix

Recommended by: Sam Hopkins, SEO Writer 

What they had to say 📺: I think that this is just such a great/relevant series and Series 3 I think was the best yet – fight me if not!

6. Succession

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Photo: HBO

Recommended by: Jack Saddler, Writer for Secret London and Secret Dublin 

What they had to say 📺: Part of this show’s beauty is that you’ll probably find you despise every single character in it for one reason or another. Succession presents a twisted HBO comedy-drama set in a corporate hellscape (that actually may just mirror reality) and pits family members against one another in the battle to take over as CEO of media conglomerate Waystar Roy Co. Spoiler: it gets messy.

7. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

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Photo: Fox

Recommended by: Marco Ruiz, Business Content Creator 

What they had to say 📺: It’s not often that I rewatch a TV series. There’s less than a handful of shows which I would watch again and again (The Sopranos and The Wire, for example), and Brooklyn Nine-Nine found its way into that select group this year. 

8. You

films tv books 2021
Photo: Netflix

Recommended by: Tamsin Salfrais, Content Creator

What they had to say 📺: I know (nearly) everyone watched this, but I’m a sucker for a binge-able show.

9. Midnight Mass

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Photo: Netflix

Recommended by: Amanda Viller, Community Manager UK/APAC

What they had to say 📺: This series shook me to my core, though the monologues are a bit lengthy they are sooooo worth it. It’s horror at its finest, and Kate Siegel’s and Hamish Linklater’s performances are just jaw-dropping.

10. Squid Game

films tv books 2021

Recommended by: Nicole de Souza, Writer for Secret Melbourne

What they had to say 📺: Okay, so the whole world was obsessed with this TV show, and I was too. It had compelling characters, suspenseful sequences, stunning visuals and a really interesting concept. And, it was also a K-drama and I love K-dramas. So, if you liked Squid Game and you’d like to explore the genre, here are some recommendations to get you started. 

If you enjoyed the violence or the action sequences, try Kingdom, a gripping zombie TV show set in the Joseon period. If you enjoyed its critique of capitalism, try Itaewon Class, which follows an ex-convict as he seeks revenge against a wealthy company. If you’ve had enough of poor people problems and want to see rich people problems, give Sky Castle a go. This drama dives into the lives of upper-class families, and the pressure they put on their children to succeed. And, if you’ve had enough of drama and you just want some fun, try my favourite drama of the year, True Beauty. This teenage rom-com is a low-stakes, high reward show filled with love triangles, friendship and hilarity.

11. It’s A Sin

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Photo: HBO Max

Recommended by: Chloe Byrne, Content Creator

What they had to say 📺: One thing that sent me on an emotional rollercoaster in particular though was It’s A Sin. One moment I was laughing, swept up in a wave of joy and colourful revelry, the next my throat got all tight and I was unashamedly weeping my heart out. It was on my mind for months afterward. Not only did it feel as if I knew each character personally and felt torn apart at what they faced (thanks to the totally brilliant acting of stars such as Olly Alexander and Lydia West) but also I was just completely immersed in the beautiful bond and journey of the group. You will love every single heart-wrenching second of this show.

Books

1. Ohio by Stephen Markley

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Photo: Simon and Schuster

Recommended by: Alex Landon, Acting Executive Editor of Secret Media, UK/IE/APAC+

What they had to say 📚: Four lost high school graduates descend on their hometown one night, each carrying a different burden of adulthood with them. Unsurprisingly, they’re all about to collide in spectacular fashion… A book I read basically in one afternoon!

2. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins-Reid

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Photo: Penguin

Recommended by: Abi Meadow, Viral Scout

What they had to say 📚: It’s a super easy read but real escapism! It’s set in LA in the 70s and it’s about a band taking the world by storm! It’s written as if it’s an interview with all the members. 10/10 

3. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins-Reid

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Photo: Penguin

Recommended by: Laura Rogan, Editor of Secret Manchester 

What they had to say 📚: Providing an incredible escape to Malibu across two different eras, Malibu Rising follows the children of a famous rockstar in Jenkins-Reid’s fictional universe – following as they grow up with an absent father. The luxury lifestyle, the family drama, the love is purely addictive and makes for a great winter read if you’re missing the sunshine.

4. The World’s War by David Olusoga.

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Photo: Abe Books

Recommended by: Kat Notman, Writer for Secret Amsterdam, Secret Kobenhavn, and Secret Stockholm

What they had to say 📚: Historian David Olusoga thoroughly challenges Eurocentric misconceptions about WW2. I’ve read this book 3 times and I recommend it to everyone because it’s incredible.

5.  Theroux The Keyhole by Louis Theroux

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Photo: Blackwells

Recommended by: Sam Hopkins, SEO Writer 

What they had to say 📚: This was quite an entertaining read giving an insight into family life over the various different lockdowns. I love Louis Theroux anyway but it was nice to see he almost drank as much whisky/gin as I might have done during the long old lockdown at the beginning of the year. 

6. If You Were There: Missing People and the Marks They Leave Behind by Francisco Garcia

films tv books 2021
Photo: Hive

Recommended by: Jack Saddler, Writer for Secret London and Secret Dublin 

What they had to say 📚: This debut book offers a dig into the world of missing people, where you may end up with more questions than answers. Garcia’s gut-wrenching own story of his missing father provides a throughline to tell the stories of others all across the UK before a journey to his Spanish hometown on a quest for answers.

7. The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

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Photo: Readings

Recommended by: Marco Ruiz, Business Content Creator 

What they had to say 📚: I Came back to this novel by Junot Diaz this year after first reading it 10 years ago. It’s a brilliant read, again, and I found myself picking up new bits of information that I missed or had forgotten about. The narration is quality and punchy and the story, which packs in magic realism, sci-fi, and a bit of history, is all kinds of powerful considering the premise is a young overweight Dominican kid trying to find love.

8. Why I Am No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

films tv books 2021
Photo: Goodreads

Recommended by: Tamsin Salfrais, Content Creator

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What they had to say 📚: Now, I am usually a chick-lit fiction kinda gal – chick-lit thriller at a push – but I am so glad I was recommended this book. While the title may put some people off, please don’t let it; it is packed full of history I/we did not learn at school and opened my eyes to so much. It is a very important read in today’s climate.

9. La mano de Fatima by Idelfonso Falcones

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Photo: Goodreads

Recommended by: Amanda Viller, Community Manager UK/APAC

What they had to say 📚: Beautifully written, it’s a story about the lives of the Muslims who used to reign in Spain and the moment they were expelled. It’s heartbreaking but so worth the looooong-ass read.

10. The Split by Sharon Bolton

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Photo: Waterstones

Recommended by: Chloe Byrne, Content Creator

What they had to say 📚: What can I say, I’m a sucker for a twisty turny psychological thriller, plus I love that it plunges you right into the frosty wilds of the Antarctic to begin with, which become a stark comparison to future chapters set in Cambridge. It follows a glaciologist called Felicity who is running from a murky past that is uncovered over the course of the book. The multiple viewpoints also keep you guessing right until the very end.

Movies

01. Your Name

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Photo: TMDB

Recommended by: Alex Landon, Acting Executive Editor of Secret Media, UK/IE/APAC+

What they had to say 🎥: Heartfelt anime with elements of fantasy and a cracking soundtrack – it’s impossible not to be captivated.

2. Parasite

films tv books 2021
Photo: TMDB

Recommended by: Abi Meadow, Viral Scout

What they had to say 🎥: The end always leaves me with my mouth agape. No spoilers here… if you haven’t seen, ya gotta!

3. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

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Photo: Netflix

Recommended by: Laura Rogan, Editor of Secret Manchester

What they had to say 🎥: I’m a huge fan of Viola Davis, so when I heard she was filling the shoes of Ma Rainey, I was pretty excited. And as usual, she didn’t disappoint. Following Ma Rainey and her band on one particular day in the studio, with plenty of tension and drama to follow between the characters. Chadwick Boseman absolutely steals the show, and at risk of giving things away, I’ll leave this recommendation at its A-list cast.

4. Bad Trip

films tv books 2021
Photo: Netflix

Recommended by: Kat Notman, Writer for Secret Amsterdam, Secret Kobenhavn, and Secret Stockholm

What they had to say 🎥: If you don’t know who Eric Andre is then you’re not living, sorry. This is a hidden camera film in which Eric Andre and co. do what they do best – behave ridiculously and obscenely in public. I’m not a big film-watcher nowadays but I’m always up for a bit of comedy.

5. Promising Young Woman

films tv books 2021
Photo: TMDB

Recommended by: Sam Hopkins, SEO Writer 

What they had to say 🎥: I’ve been pretty disappointed with most of the films I’ve seen this year (Candyman especially – there was so much potential)! But this was pretty good. Promising Young Woman is sharp, darkly funny, and pretty damn powerful, with a career-best performance by Carey Mulligan.

6. Nomadland

films tv books 2021
Photo: Reelgood

Recommended by: Jack Saddler, Writer for Secret London and Secret Dublin 

What they had to say 🎥: Yes, winner-of-the-Oscar-for-best-picture-is-good may not be the spiciest take, but Nomadland demands your attention. Telling the fictionalised accounts of real “houseless” nomadic van-dwellers, Chloe Zhao’s beautifully-filmed look at travelers left behind in the capitalist realities of modern-day America, with a typically imperious lead performance from Frances McDormand, is a tear-jerking, essential watch.

7. Cruella

films tv books 2021
Photo: Theposterdb

Recommended by: Amanda Viller, Community Manager UK/APAC

What they had to say 🎥: Didn’t watch loads of movies this year, but this one definitely stuck with me. The fashion is on point, storyline, and characters exquisite, and ya know, who doesn’t love a good villain backstory?

8. The Lighthouse

films tv books 2021
Photo: Themoviedb

Recommended by: Nicole de Souza, Writer for Secret Melbourne

What they had to say 🎥: I watched this movie for the first time this year during Melbourne’s lockdown. And I gotta say, it really helped me feel better about the whole situation. Robert Pattinson and Will Dafoe try to maintain their sanity while working on a lighthouse, and the isolation really gets to them. This was an unsettling movie with fantastic dialogue. Seriously, look up the “haaaarrk!!” speech.

9. Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar

films tv books 2021
Photo: Movieinsider

Recommended by: Chloe Byrne, Content Creator

What they had to say 🎥: It’s obvious I was attracted to levity and light-heartedness in 2021, but who can blame me for wanting a fun escape from reality for at least an hour or two. This film may have flown under your radar (seriously adjust your radars now if that’s the case) but my love of Kristen Wiig had me looking forward to it for quite a while and the beautifully absurdist result did not disappoint. It’s hard to explain but to pique your interest: Jamie Dornan is a lovelorn goofball henchman, Kristen Wiig is both hero and villain, Andy Garcia pops up as a bizarre mystic and there is a crab voiced by an (admittedly fake) Morgan Freeman. It’s an eccentric ride but I was definitely along for it.

Music

1. Fever Dream – Of Monsters And Men

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Photo: pastemagazine

Recommended by: Alex Landon, Acting Executive Editor of Secret Media, UK/IE/APAC+

What they had to say🎵 : I hadn’t paid the band too much attention since the arrival of My Head Is An Animal years ago, but this album is top-notch – ‘Wild Roses’ and ‘Wars’ are the standouts.

2. Chemtrails over the Country Club by Lana Del Rey

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Photo: Norman Records

Recommended by: Laura Rogan, Editor of Secret Manchester 

What they had to say🎵: According to my Spotify Wrapped, it was actually the only thing I listened to this year. Must be good.

3. Blue Horse by The Be Good Tanyas

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Photo: Discogs

Recommended by: Kat Notman, Writer for Secret Amsterdam, Secret Kobenhavn, and Secret Stockholm

What they had to say🎵: A trio of talented women singing beautiful folk music with a good dose of bluegrass and country. This year I fell in love with folk and country music, from the likes of Little Feat, Hank Williams, Elizabeth Cotten, and Townes Van Zandt to more modern artists such as The Be Good Tanyas and Rhiannon Giddens, all of whom I’d recommend.

4. Isles by Bicep

films tv books 2021
Photo: Norman Records

Recommended by: Sam Hopkins, SEO Writer 

What they had to say🎵: I love Bicep anyway, but this was I think their best album yet. The sleek electrical tones and world music samples make this a good one for home listening and for the club. ‘Apricots’, ‘Lido’, and ‘Saku’ with Clara La San are all bangers.

5. Blood Moon I by Converge and Chelsea Wolfe

films tv books 2021
Photo: Hiphopba

Recommended by: Jack Saddler, Writer for Secret London and Secret Dublin 

What they had to say🎵: When these two artists collaborated in the live sphere in 2016, many knew it was going to be the start of something special. Fast forward to 2021, we finally have the album – marrying the haunting, stalking quietness of Chelsea Wolfe with a harsher attack from Converge, finished with a healthy seasoning of guitar lines and searing vocals from Cave In’s Stephen Brodsky. Now, some more live shows with these new tracks wouldn’t go amiss…

6.  Mood Valiant by Hiatus Kaiyote

films tv books 2021
Photo: Norman Records

Recommended by: Marco Ruiz, Business Content Creator 

What they had to say🎵: The anti-algorithm writer in the team so no Spotify Wrapped to tell me what I’ve been listening to. Instead, every week I listen to Lefto’s Think Outside The Kiosk Podcast, which gets played live on a Sunday evening from a park in Brussels because people are better than algorithms at selecting music. Lefto will take you on a journey through chilled out beats, jazz, hip hop, to far-reaching corners of the world, old and new music alike, as well as a heap of dance and electronic music. Play one of his latest episodes and the opening will tell you everything you need to know about the music he plays. 

Most recently, though, Theo Parrish’s latest 6-hour mix on NTS Radio has been on repeat because, again, people over algorithms, as well as sets from DJ SWISHA, AceMo, Kush Jones & MoMa Ready B2B on The Lot Radio if you want to bounce. But, if I have to choose some albums I’ve been really feeling this year, Hiatus Kaiyote’s Mood Valiant and Madlib’s Sound Ancestors

7. Mercury Act I by Imagine Dragons

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Photo: Amazon

What they had to say🎵: This was my number one artist in my Spotify wrapped and this album is, to me, such a release. It’s angry, it’s in love, it’s sad, it’s lonely, it has every possible song for every possible mood. And as a bonus, my artist discovery this year was Juanito Makandé. A Spanish artist with an amazing voice accompanied with his guitar and “palmas” it’s like taking Spain with you on your headphones.

8. Blue Weekend by Wolf Alice

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Photo: Midlands Records

Recommended by: Chloe Byrne, Content Creator

What they had to say🎵: According to my Spotify Wrapped, Wolf Alice was the star of the show this year, and if you’ve heard their new album Blue Weekend you must understand why. Lead singer Ellie Rowsell has sensationally versatile vocals that fluctuate between a grungy grit and almost ethereal higher notes, while the use of synths and guitar riffs feels almost like a throwback to the 80s. I can’t pinpoint one specific reason why I loved this album so much but it’s been on repeat all year and ‘How Can I Make It OK?’ especially spoke to me with its building tempo, crashing drums, and moving lyrics. 

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