The 2010s were phenomenal, giving us comedies and dramas that were groundbreaking and often immediate favorites. And with the rise of streaming services and smaller cable networks, TV shows also had more of a chance than ever before. Here are 11 top shows of the decade. Also, did your favorite make it up to the list?
Table of Contents
The Walking Dead
“The Walking Dead” just can’t die — and that’s a good thing. With a decade of airtime behind it now, it’s still pressing relentlessly forward, depriving us of the chance to make jokes about it being a shambling shadow of its former self. It’s outlived the height of the zombie fad, and it’s kept viewers hooked.
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” a sitcom that makes the police procedural over into a classic workplace comedy.
Tonally, the series also offers a lot of optimistic escapism. It presents a best-case scenario, combining real social awareness with a thoroughly upbeat take in a way that many viewers clearly find refreshing. The show has also garnered considerable praise for its portrayal of significant gay and bisexual characters.
Better Call Saul
Spinoff “Better Call Saul” may delve into the backstory of “Breaking Bad” — in addition to more Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), you also get more of Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), more Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), and more of the whole Salamanca crime family — but it also has a winning story that’s all its own.
It can be as funny as a comedy, but like its predecessor, it’s a tragedy at its core. This is the story of the rise and fall of Jimmy McGill, the man who will become Saul Goodman, who will end up washed-up, living under a false name, and managing a Cinnabon.
Intense, moody, and full of some of the most sumptuous banquets you’ll ever want to stay far away from, NBC’s “Hannibal” is a dark delight that tied for 11th place on Metacritic. Its lush, baroque sets and striking costume make every frame look like a museum-ready oil painting.
Even the gore looks gorgeous. Sure, you might not want to see a dead body impaled on antlers, but if you have to see it, you want it to look like this.
Haunting, chilling, and utterly riveting, “Hannibal” is a treat. If you’re craving something different, sit down to dinner with Dr. Lecter.
The Good Place
The show started out as a smart, cheeky, unusually thoughtful sitcom about “dirtbag” Eleanor (Kristen Bell) navigating a “Good Place” afterlife that she knows she’s not supposed to be in. And then it turned out to be not only enjoyable but also a twisty, incredibly inventive comedy with huge surprises and even bigger stakes.
This is ’80s nostalgia done right. A glorious hodgepodge of Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, and Cold War paranoia, “Stranger Things” makes the small town of Hawkins a creepy, adventurous delight.
From an evil government agency experimenting with psychic powers to a Soviet operation in the mall to hideous monsters from another dimension, the show loves its classic horror and science fiction tropes. And it does them right.
We wish we could’ve been a fly on the wall when Raphael Bob-Waksberg pitched “BoJack Horseman” to Netflix.
“See, it’s an animated show where people exist alongside anthropomorphic animals, and it’s a celebrity satire that’s also an unflinching examination of depression, addiction, and trauma that will rip audiences apart emotionally. But don’t worry, it’s funny and full of sight gags! And did I mention the star is a horse who’s a washed-up sitcom actor?”
“Breaking Bad” is about as good as TV gets. And it has one of the all-time great premises: Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher with lots of bottled-up frustration, finds out he has cancer. He wants to leave his family some money, but any treatment is likely to bankrupt them.
And besides, there’s nothing much to leave. With the help of a former student, Jesse (Aaron Paul), he starts cooking meth. And he’s very, very good at it.
Directly or indirectly, “Breaking Bad” may be the single most influential TV series of the last 10 years.
Game of Thrones
HBO didn’t do high fantasy. Then “Game of Thrones” came along.
The epic series of dragons, White Walkers, and the war for the Iron Throne of Westeros shattered expectations of what prestige TV could look like, and everyone got hooked. As counterintuitive as it might seem at first, the show was a perfect fit for HBO.
After all, despite its fantasy trappings, it still had plenty of the political gamesmanship, violence, and darkness that the network does so well. And HBO poured in plenty of money to make sure that the key battles and effects were utterly convincing.
While the controversial series finale slightly tarnished the series’ reputation, the show as a whole remains as game-changing and remarkable as ever.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s smart, witty, and sometimes emotionally devastating comedy deserves acclaim. With its lengthy list of awards and accolades, it’s no surprise that so many critics singled it out as a favorite.
The show is as heart-wrenching as it is funny. As Variety’s Maureen Ryan puts it, the show hooks you with “economical storytelling, savage honesty, and tender wit.” Soon, you can’t imagine not tuning in, even though it’s leaving you emotionally raw.
Sublime and surreal, “The Leftovers” has the kind of high-concept pitch we can’t resist. It takes place after 2% of the world’s population has suddenly disappeared, and everyone else is struggling to move forward through their pain and uncertainty.
Some, like Nora Durst (Carrie Coon), who lost her husband and children, start off drowning in grief. Some take refuge in cults that seem to offer a kind of answer. Others, like lead Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), just try to hold onto the family they have left.
We have no intention of arguing with this No. 1 pick. “The Leftovers” dazzles us.