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‘Squid Game,’ ‘Trese,’ and other top trending TV/streaming shows we watched in 2021

By Kara Santos Published Dec 29, 2021 5:01 am

As the year draws to a close, it’s time to look back at some of the most popular shows that caught our attention in 2021. 

The second year in lockdown brought peak TV viewing, with new streaming services giving viewers even more options than ever to choose from. 

According to international streaming guide JustWatch, Netflix continued to dominate the viewership in the Philippines, with a 35 percent market share, followed by other streaming platforms like Amazon Prime Video, iFlix, HBO Go, Viu, and others.

It was a banner year for South Korean and Asian series across various streaming platforms. Squid Game on Netflix became a global phenomenon, and their biggest series to date.

K-dramas remained immensely popular with Pinoy audiences, with shows like True Beauty, Vincenzo, and Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha among the top ten most searched shows and series in 2021 in the Philippines, according to Google's annual year in search.

The Philippines’ first ever animated series, Trese, based on the Filipino comic book, which introduced foreign viewers to the world of Philippine mythology of the same name, also made a splash locally and internationally.

Let’s take a look back at some of the most popular TV/streaming shows that we collectively watched this year.

Squid Game

There’s no doubt that Squid Game was the most talked-about show in 2021. The dystopian series featured hundreds of cash-strapped contestants accepting an invitation to compete in deadly children's games for a tempting prize.

Created, written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, the series stars Lee Jung-jae and Park Hae-soo in prominent roles with Lee Byung-hun and Gong Yoo playing important guest roles.

The South Korean survival horror was Netflix’s most-watched show having streamed 1.65 billion hours in the first 28 days of its premiere on Sept. 17.

The series was such a hit, it spawned a global demand for merch and Halloween costumes and even resulted in numerous video games copying the format of the childhood Korean games featured in the show.

In November, director Hwang Dong-hyuk confirmed with Associated Press that a second season of the series is in the pipeline.

True Beauty

According to Google Philippines, True Beauty took the number two spot in most searched shows.

True Beauty is a Kdrama series starring Moon Ga-young, Cha Eun-woo, and Hwang In-youp, based on the Line Webtoon of the same name by Yaongyi. 

The series is about a high school girl who, after being bullied and discriminated against, masters the art of makeup to transform herself into a gorgeous “goddess.”

The series originally aired on tvN from Dec. 9, 2020, to Feb. 4, 2021 and streamed via Viu in the Philippines.

Vincenzo

Released months before Squid Game started streaming, Vincenzo was one of the most popular trending shows in the first half of the year.

The 2021 South Korean television series starring Song Joong-ki as the title character originally aired on tVN in February, and became popular among international viewers through Netflix, maintaining its position in the top 10 TV shows on Netflix in the world since it launched in April 26.

The series, follows a Korean-Italian mafia lawyer who gives a conglomerate a taste of its own medicine with a side of justice during a visit to his motherland. The series reportedly ranked fourth on Forbes list of most-viewed Korean series on Netflix in 2021.

Nevertheless,

Nevertheless, is a 2021 South Korean television series starring Han So-hee, Song Kang, and Chae Jong-hyeop. Based on a popular webtoon of the same name which was first published on Naver Webtoon, it tells the story of two people who are attracted to each other but are skeptical about love, owing to their past relationships.

Despite the two’s different viewpoints of love and dating, they begin a friends-with-benefits relationship that changes both their lives.

Falling into Your Smile

Falling Into Your Smile starring Xu Kai and Cheng Xiao follows the romantic journey between two professional gamers.

The Chinese drama received lots of love from fans around the world for its portrayal of romance, friendship and camaraderie, and humor.

The series, which was made available in the Philippines through video streaming site WeTV, topped all the drama series on its platform, beating out other on-air Chinese and Korean dramas when it debuted in July. The series was also the fifth most searched show this year in the Philippines according to Google Philippines.

Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha

The romantic K-drama Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha starring Kim Seon-ho and Shin Min-ah in the lead roles, was another certified hit and became one of Netflix's most-watched non-English television shows this year.

The idyllic series about a big-city dentist who opens up a practice in a close-knit seaside village and hometown of a charming jack-of-all-trades captured hearts everywhere during its entire run.

The tVN series, which was made available internationally for streaming on Netflix,  was a commercial hit and became one of the highest-rated series on cable television history. It ranked first place during its entire run for eight weeks. 

The series finale came to a successful close with 12.7 percent viewership ratings when it concluded on October 2021.

Bridgerton

Bridgerton, based on Julia Quinn’s series of novels follows eight close-knit siblings of the powerful Bridgerton family who attempt to find love during the Regency era in England. 

The period drama which debuted on Christmas Day 2020 became the most-watched original series when it premiered. According to Netflix, 82 million households watched the series in its first 28 days of its streaming. A second season will be debuting in March 25, 2022.

Notably, Bridgerton is the only western show that made it to the top ten most searched series in the Philippines according to Google's search results. 

Trese

It was a great year for the Philippine comic book scene with the debut of the Netflix animated series Trese, released in June 2021.

Based on the Filipino comic book series of the same name by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo, Trese follows the adventures of Alexandra Trese in dealing with crimes of supernatural origin. The series features the voices of Liza Soberano (Filipino version) and Shay Mitchell (English version) as Alexandra Trese. 

Trese made it to the top 10 TV shows list on Netflix in 19 countries back in June and was the highest ranked show on Netflix in the Philippines on the weekend following its premiere date.

In an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Exchange, Trese executive producer and director Jay Oliva said Netflix was considering multiple seasons depending on the reception of audiences, and we're hopeful that we'll see more of Trese in the future.

Mr. Queen

Based on the original Chinese web drama Go Princess Go, Mr. Queen is about a man from the modern age trapped in the body of a queen in the Joseon era, starring Shin Hye-sun and Kim Jung-hyun. 

The series was the seventh highest rated drama in Korean cable television history and set a record for tvN by achieving the fifth highest rating int the network’s history. The series premiered on Viu in the Philippines.

Alice in Borderland

Riding on the popularity of Squid Game, the Japanese sc-fi thriller Alice in Borderland (which originally streamed in December 2020) returned to Netflix’s top trending shows in the middle of the year.

Based on the manga of the same name by Haro Aso, starring Kento Yamazaki and Tao Tsuchiya, the plot follows obsessed gamer Arisu who suddenly finds himself in a strange, emptied-out version of Tokyo in which he and his friends must compete in dangerous games in order to survive.

Bonus: WandaVision and other MCU series

While the Disney Plus streaming service is not available in the Philippines, this didn’t stop viewers from finding other ways to watch shows from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) which debuted this year, including Wandavision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki and Hawkeye.

WandaVision was Disney Plus’ most-watched series premiere on its opening weekend, ahead of the second season of The Mandalorian. Marvel Studios was even nominated and won a trio of Primetime Emmy Awards for WandaVision earlier this year.

Blending the style of classic sitcoms with the MCU, the series features Wanda Maximoff and Vision—two super-powered beings living their ideal suburban lives—who begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems.