Can you believe the decade is wrapping up already? It seems like only yesterday that we were watching network hits like “Seinfeld,” “Friends” and “ER” every week. But in the last 10 years, TV has come a long way, and the bar has been raised again and again. Shows like “Game of Thrones” have utterly redefined what we think of when we think of television. Some episodes of that show had bigger budgets than several movies put together. Comedies like “Broad City” have changed the way we think about sitcoms. And “Bojack Horseman” and “Rick and Morty” have taken animation in bold new directions. From the biting satire of “Veep” to the emotional rollercoaster of “Fleabag,” the past decade of television has produced some of the finest shows entertainment has ever conceived. If that doesn’t get you excited to see what the next decade in entertainment holds, then nothing will. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves!
Before the decade is gone and forgotten, let’s take a few moments to look back over the best of the best of the last 10 years. From the most engaging dramas to the funniest comedies, these are the shows we couldn’t stop watching.
25. “Better Call Saul” (2015 – present)
The “Breaking Bad” spinoff about not-so-ethical lawyer Saul Goodman is a wonderful journey through what it means to be a good person. It’s an incredible series that features quirky and thought-provoking performances. Throughout the series, as we learn how Saul got to where he was when we met him on “Breaking Bad,” we’re treated to a story we can all relate to on some level. Can good intentions overcome poor choices?
24. “Broad City” (2014 – 2019)
Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s “Broad City” was, in very simple terms, a show about friends in New York. We’ve seen that before. But what set “Broad City” apart from the pack was the hilariously stark realism of a friendship between two women at their best and their worst. No topic was taboo, no joke was shied away from. And with hilarious contributions from the likes of Hannibal Buress, Kelly Ripa, Blake Griffith and even Hillary Clinton, the show knew how to surprise its audience with cameos.
23. “Rick and Morty” (2013 – present)
Go with us on this one. One of the best shows of the last decade has been “Rick and Morty.” Yes, it can be as low brow as low brow gets and, yes, it’s 100% goofy and over the top, but the wild imagination that creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon bring to the table deserves credit. This show has taken the animation world by storm and its fans are devoted beyond belief. So powerful is the cult following of Rick and Morty that they managed to resurrect Szechuan sauce at McDonald’s. That may not win an Emmy Award, but it’s certainly an accomplishment.
22. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (2013 – present)
Not many sitcoms can survive a cancellation, but “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is a beast of a different breed. Once canceled by FOX, it was picked up by NBC because the fans were so vociferous in their love of the show, it just couldn’t die. The ensemble cast features the charm of Terry Crews, the slapstick sensibilities of Andy Samberg and the somber hilarity of Andre Braugher in a perfect mix.
21. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (2017 – present)
Amazon Prime struggled a bit to find its footing at first compared to the original programming on Netflix, but when it hit its stride, it hit hard. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” gives us a fantastic yet realistic world we’ve never seen on TV before. A woman in the male-dominated world of comedy in the 1950s presents a dynamic that has a lot to say in today’s world, even if it takes place decades in the past. “Gilmore Girls” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino once again gives audiences engaging characters with quick wit.
20. “Schitt’s Creek” (2015 – present)
Not many people could have predicted a little Canadian sitcom with a foul-sounding name was going to be such a moving and hilarious journey, but here we are with “Schitt’s Creek.” Eugene Levy shows off why he has been a staple north of the border since the 1970s alongside longtime friend Catherine O’Hara and his real-life son, Daniel. Call it a sleeper hit if you like, once this show hit Netflix, audiences all over fell in love with a heartwarming and hilarious story about a weird and wonderful family.
19. “Stranger Things” (2016 – present)
Netflix has been a force in entertainment for some years now, but “Stranger Things” has become one of their most amazing contributions to the original programming landscape. A retro love-letter to the ’80s, a family adventure tale, a disturbing sci-fi horror and at times a light-hearted romantic comedy, “Stranger Things” has proven that a show half helmed by child actors can be just as engrossing as any drama made strictly for adults. It also proves that the spirit of ’80s fun found in “The Goonies” never dies.
18. “Black Mirror” (2011 – present)
While not every story has been a home run on “Black Mirror,” the show as a whole deserves a place in sci-fi history as something unforgettable. The way “Black Mirror” casts a reflection on humanity and technology in all of their horror and wonder can be a harrowing journey. Episodes like “San Junipero” have risen to incredible heights of storytelling and emotion. At its best, science fiction shows us what it means to be human and “Black Mirror” does that so well.
17. “Big Little Lies” (2017, 2019)
You know you’re onto something when a miniseries is so popular they have to find a way to bring it back again. “Big Little Lies” was supposed to end after its initial seven-episode run, but you can’t keep a great show down. While the resurrection didn’t hit the heights of the original season, it was still an undeniably strong season of television with a cast that puts Hollywood blockbusters to shame. Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz and Meryl Streep were just some of the amazing cast members in the second season.
16. “Barry” (2018 – present)
One of Bil Hader’s most memorable roles ever was as “Weekend Update” club promoter Stefan on “Saturday Night Live.” Contrast that role with his hitman/aspiring actor on the show “Barry,” and you’ll be in awe of Hader’s ability to become someone else entirely. No one expected this kind of performance from the comedian before “Barry,” but he has managed to create a character who is so sympathetic one moment and so hateable the next, that just watching it runs you through the wringer.
15. “Bojack Horseman” (2014 – present)
How can a show about a cartoon horseman be as good as “Bojack Horseman”? And how can it be so human? While it has all the trappings of a silly animated show, like colorful characters and funny jokes, there is a deeper layer to “Bojack Horseman” that takes you to places so many shows try and fail to reach. The way the show deals with things like depression, substance abuse, and even celebrity culture is inspiring and thought-provoking.
14. “The Crown” (2016 – present)
Welcome to Buckingham Palace. “The Crown” digs into a world that fascinates so many, yet is so distant from the average viewer. The world of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip is not a royal fairy tale of old. It’s captivating and enthralling, and the fact that it’s rooted in a reality where we get to see things from their side, adds a layer so many other shows could only hope to achieve. Performances from Claire Foy and Olivia Colman are what sell the drama and make you believe.
13. “Bob’s Burgers” (2011 – present)
Can you believe “Bob’s Burgers” was initially conceived as a show about cannibals? Thankfully, the producers went in a different direction, and the show has grown to become one of the most profoundly relatable sitcoms in history. The fact that it’s animated and nearly every episode contains a musical number is just icing on the cake. The Belchers are a loving family with the most delightful quirks, and unlike the Simpsons or the Griffins, these five people have a curiously realistic quality to them that makes the show a standout amongst the animated fare of the last 30 years.
12.”Parks and Recreation” (2009 – 2015)
A low-key political comedy in the sense that the fate of the world was never on the line, some of the decade’s best comedians made their mark in this show — Amy Poehler, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Nick Offerman, the list keeps on going. The show had laughs from low-brow to high, and it also had enormous heart. Few comedies can mix those elements so well.
11. “The Good Place” (2016 – present)
“The Good Place” is a show that straddles the line between quirky comedy and a serious and in-depth look into what it means to be good and do good. As an added bonus, there’s another level of entertainment that can be enjoyed just from the visuals of this show — the color schemes, the signage in the background that is bursting with blink-and-you’ll-miss-them jokes. The sets themselves are as engrossing as the plot. Plus, the performances from Kirstin Bell and Ted Danson are top-notch.
10. “Justified” (2010 – 2015)
Few people could write a story like Elmore Leonard, and his short story “Fire in the Hole” gave rise to a show that lived up to the source material. “Justified” brought some lawless, Wild West charm to a modern crime drama complete with the incredible Leonard dialogue that made his voice truly unique. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins were the heart and soul of the show, but the cast of supporting characters rounded it out beautifully.
9. “Twin Peaks: The Return” (2017)
When David Lynch gave us “Twin Peaks,” it was destined to be on the list of the decade’s best shows. “The Return” took us beyond the incredible set-up introduced in the original ’90s series and its prequel, “Fire Walk With Me,” to a place that made television history. Part 8 was TV like nothing audiences had ever seen before, a surreal trip to a land of stark imagery and profound storytelling that rivals anything in Lynch’s celebrated career. It’s what true art on TV looks like.
8. “Veep” (2012 – 2019)
Few shows can manage what HBO’s “Veep” pulled off, especially in the modern political climate. The sharpness of the writing, the quickness of the delivery, and the occasionally acidic-beyond-belief insults made “Veep” a sitcom unlike any other. As the real world and the parody world moved along together, it fell into a sweet spot of poignancy and relevance that may never be possible again.
7. “The Leftovers” (2014 – 2017)
Apocalyptic scenarios don’t lend themselves easily to mirth and merriment, but that’s part of the charm of “The Leftovers.” The show deals with serious issues of loss, confusion and grief but still manages to make you laugh in the face of millions of people being wiped off the face of the Earth. You can’t say that of just any show. On top of that, it had some wonderful performances from the likes of Carrie Coon and Justin Theroux. One of the greatest strengths of “The Leftovers” was also in its utter disregard for answers because sometimes life just doesn’t explain itself, but you still need to live it.
6. “Fleabag” (2016, 2019)
How can a show that’s only 12 episodes long hope to be considered one of the best of an entire decade? It’s not that hard when the show is “Fleabag.” Sometimes the best stories are ones that end when they need to, and that’s what “Fleabag” did. Darkly funny and intensely emotional, the reason “Fleabag” deserves all the critical praise that has been heaped upon it is because creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge made a show that is so starkly open and real. It is at once hilarious and gut-wrenching, and honest and fascinating.
5. “Atlanta” (2016 – present)
Donald Glover’s “Atlanta” is such a creative and wonderful show that it really needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. Sometimes an honest look into the experiences of being black in America and sometimes a show that decides to make Justin Bieber a black man just because, it has twists in narrative that are surprising and delightful. There’s a reason Donald Glover exploded as he did over this last decade; his brilliance is wide-reaching and entertaining while also being profound and insightful. All of that is encapsulated in “Atlanta.”
4. “The Americans” (2013 – 2018)
Everyone loves a good spy thriller. Just ask James Bond. But “The Americans” gave us something we hadn’t experienced before. Spies as actual people. Yes, there were double agents and some political statements about the nature of capitalism versus communism, but there was also a real human dynamic to the show. After all, the main characters were a married couple. If paying taxes and having friends over for drinks can stress a normal couple, imagine what being spies can do. Or don’t imagine, and just watch “The Americans.”
3. “Mad Men” (2007 – 2015)
Who could have ever guessed that a show about an ad agency in the 1960s would resonate so deeply with modern audiences? Jon Hamm brings Don Draper to life in sleazy technicolor as the show asks you as a viewer to not just step into his world but to also think about what it all means. Advertising is constructing happiness from nothing, and the show delves deeply into how consumerism has structured society. Plus, it was just good drama with great characters and acting.
2. “Breaking Bad” (2008 – 2013)
“Breaking Bad” is one of the greatest shows of all time, not just of the past 10 years. The show was loaded with moments that had audiences on the edge of their seats, and the performance from Bryan Cranston was like a roller coaster ride we couldn’t get off. At times a sympathetic protagonist and at other times an utterly contemptible monster, it’s amazing to contrast Cranston’s performance here with his goofball dad character from “Malcolm in the Middle.”
1. “Game of Thrones” (2011 – 2019)
If you had a TV or the internet in the last decade, then you know “Game of Thrones.” More than a show, it was a cultural phenomenon. Filmed in exotic and gorgeous locations around the world, featuring a cast of remarkable actors, and based on one of the most sweeping and epic book series of all time, every week was like watching an intense, moving and sometimes gut-wrenching fantasy drama. The final season has been much maligned for being hasty and unsatisfying, but does that undo the previous years of unforgettable storytelling? It doesn’t. “Game of Thrones” ran from 2011 to 2019 and defines the entire decade on television.