Jamie Foxx chats with USA TODAY’s Brian Truitt about the new Disney+/Pixar film “Soul” and how producer Quincy Jones influenced his character.
There’s more to Disney+ than just the movies you loved as a kid. At least a little bit more.
While Disney+ has no shortage of classic favorites and modern blockbuster films to enjoy, its TV library is decidedly more mixed, and leans primarily on children’s content. While you’ll easily find something to distract a 6-year-old for half an hour, parents might be more likely to try Disney’s other streaming service, Hulu, for something a little more mature.
But Disney+ is slowly adding more shows for grownups, including “WandaVision,” its first new live-action Marvel series, out January 15. And even the sternest of adults might warm to revisiting some treasures from their youths, including a treasure trove of Disney Channel series from the late 1990s and early 2000s.
So from the obvious (“The Mandalorian”) to the gems you didn’t realize were streaming (“Agent Carter”), we picked the 20 best TV series available on Disney+ as of January 2021 (listed in alphabetical order). Hopefully the barrage of new shows promised this year will add to the list.
More: Disney+: How streaming service will load up on new Marvel, ‘Star Wars’ and Pixar series
Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) in a scene from the season finale on Marvel’s “Agent Carter.” (Photo: ABC)
1. “Agent Carter”
The advent of new Disney+ Marvel series marks a new chapter for the comic-book brand on TV, after a bumpy few years of experiments on ABC, Netflix, Hulu and Freeform. Among the stinkers (“Inhumans”) and also-ran superhero shows was this fantastic ABC series starring Hayley Atwell’s “Captain America” character, canceled far too soon after a mere 18 episodes. A spy series with a vintage flair, “Carter” relied on Atwell and her costars’ chemistry and charm rather than a deep knowledge of Marvel lore, to terrific success.
2. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Uneven but ultimately sweetly satisfying, ABC’s other big Marvel series had a lot of trouble figuring out its identity. But once the writers stopped promoting the latest Marvel movie at the box office and rounded out the core cast of characters, the series found its voice and developed a cult following. Its series finale elated fans in a way few long-running shows can.
3. “Boy Meets World”
Cory (Ben Savage), Topanga (Danielle Fishel), Shawn (Will Friedle) and Mr. Feeney (William Daniels) went through the ups and downs of growing up for seven seasons on ABC. One of the few series that followed its characters from childhood to college and adulthood, “Boy” packs an emotional punch.
More than its earworm of a theme song, “Doug” is a surprisingly sensitive take on a kid with fears about friends, crushes and growing up. With quirky animation, funny fantasy sequences and the best character names around (“Patti Mayonnaise” is unparalleled), it’s a treat to revisit the Nickelodeon series as an adult or watch with young kids.
5. “DuckTales” (2017)
Those without tiny people to entertain in their homes might have missed this Disney XD reboot of the classic cartoon. If so, they’ve missed out on one of the most sophisticated kids’ shows around. With a stellar voice cast, including David Tennant, Ben Schwartz, Bobby Moynihan and Danny Pudi, and jokes for kids and parents alike, it’s one of the best new children’s shows in recent years.
Kristen Bell produces and hosts this reality show about high school theater groups that reunite years later for “encore” performances of their favorite shows. A feel-good show that might make you happy cry with each episode, it’s a surprisingly deep way to see how time changes people and relationships, and how much music can unite us.
7. “Girl Meets World”
Fans of “Boy” were delighted by Disney Channel’s sequel, which follows Cory and Topanga’s daughter as she makes her own way in the world. It ran for just three seasons but had a charming young cast and updated issues for Cory and friends to deal with in the modern world.
8. “Gravity Falls”
Disney Channel’s weird, silly, absurd animated series about twins who spend the summer at a quirky tourist trap in Oregon is a kids’ show with an adult following. The series is hilarious and mature (but not too grown-up), with a voice cast that includes Jason Ritter, Linda Cardellini and Kristen Schaal.
9. “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series”
Leaning into the silliness of its concept, this mockumentary is the unsung (well, outside of its talented musical cast) hero of Disney+ originals. Funny, sweet and accurate in its representation of high school theater that Hollywood has attempted in recent years, “Musical” doesn’t feel like a soulless brand extension, but an innovative way to get good stories into existing franchises.
10. “Hostile Planet”
There are multiple National Geographic nature documentaries available on Disney+ (the venerated nature magazine and its cable network were acquired by Disney in 2019), but “Hostile Planet” stands out. As the title suggests, the documentary features animals that survive in the wild among the harshest conditions, and is not for the faint of heart (baby animals are occasionally in peril).
11. “Lizzie McGuire”
Although the millennial touchstone sitcom’s adult revival is officially dead, the comedy about a preteen girl remains one of Disney Channel’s best series. Hilary Duff stars as Lizzie, a middle-schooler yearning for popularity and a boy with great hair. The relatable storylines (shopping for your first bra, not being able to afford stylish new jeans) and Lizzie’s animated inner monologue elevates the series above its contemporaries.
12. “The Mandalorian”
More than just Baby Yoda, the “Star Wars” drama, Disney+’s most prominent original series to date, is an old Western in space clothing. Pedro Pascal stars as the always-masked title character, a bounty hunter with a strict moral code and impressive fighting skills. After a safe, quiet first season, Season 2 is more ambitious and incorporates a bigger cast that brings new life to the series (and some familiar “Star Wars” characters).
13. “Once Upon a Time”
What started as simple, what-if-fairy-tales-were-real story evolved on ABC into a promotional opportunity for Disney’s latest movies (the “Frozen” ladies eventually join) and a wildly complex genre show. The entire ride is a lot of fun, with a great, appealing cast and plenty of nostalgia.
14. “On Pointe”
This Disney+ documentary about students at the School of American Ballet will satisfy viewers who love rousing sports stories and beautiful dance practice. Quibble all you want about calling ballet a sport, but the dancers are incredibly athletic and the narrative is like all great underdog sports stories.
15. “The Right Stuff”
A Disney+ original from National Geographic, this space-race series is based on the 1983 film about the USA’s first astronauts. Over eight episodes the Mercury Seven – the lucky seven pilots who made it to NASA – cope with training, media scrutiny and their private lives. “Suits” star Patrick J. Adams is among the charming team of astronauts.
16. “The Simpsons”
At a time when the quirky citizens of Springfield feel less odd than those in real life, Fox’s (very) long-running animated comedy feels almost quaint in its rude humor and pop-culture parodies. But it’s comforting and satisfying nonetheless.
17. “So Weird”
Another Disney Channel series for the millennial crowd, this mystical series is akin to an “X-Files” for kids and has a loyal fan base despite only running for three seasons in the early 2000s. Fiona “Fi” Phillips (Cara DeLizia) travels to different towns with her musician mom (Mackenzie Phillips) and investigates supernatural phenomena. Her adventures are, in fact, so weird.
18. “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”
A superb animated series, which originally aired on Cartoon Network, is set between “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith.” George Lucas was ambitious and experimental in an animated format, and with returning characters from the prequels we love (and some, like Jar Jar, we love to hate) it’s familiar and new at the same time.
19. “Star Wars Rebels”
“Star Wars” animation is really some of the best work from Lucasfilm in recent years (and yes, that includes the new trilogy films). “Rebels” debuted on Disney XD in 2014 and takes place a few years before “A New Hope,” following the early days of the rebellion. Its young hero, Ezra, is a refreshing protagonist for the franchise.
20. “X-Men: The Animated Series”
The classic 1990s Saturday morning Fox Kids cartoon holds up remarkably well as both a children’s show and a superhero story. Long before Hugh Jackman played Wolverine, Cathal J. Dodd voiced his own iconic version, a hulking, yellow-and-blue-clad hero with white eyes. Like the comics, and later the movies, the series was never afraid to dig into deep issues and topics.
Have a different streaming service? Here are the shows worth checking out:
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