TV has changed a lot over the last decade as streaming services have taken over and content has become such high-level art that top-notch film directors are signing on for their own TV series faster than you can say Martin Scorsese. There’s been an explosion of amazing TV lately, so much so that it’s almost impossible to keep up — unless you have 10 hours a day to watch the tube. Luckily for you, we’ve rounded up the top 20 shows of the last decade so you don’t have to sort through all the offerings in order to find the hidden gems.
Cover Photo: HBO Entertainment
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top 20 TV shows of decade
Aside from its enormously confusing plotlines,
The Leftovers still manages to be brilliant and enticing, as is to be expected from Lost creator, Damon Lindelof.
This show fits into no box and no rules of any other show on TV. It operates under its own parameters of humor, drama, and realism disguised as confusion (at times). Donald Glover struck gold with this one. If you haven't given
Atlanta a chance yet, get on it right away.
Mirroring the confusing plotline characteristics of
The Leftovers, HBO's Westworld is only slightly less difficult to explain, but has a clearer initial setup of the world you're entering. Westworld is exactly what worries us as a society: sexy robots deciding to murder us all and take over the world.
When you think about
Fargo, the first scene that comes to mind for most is the wood chipper scene in the Coen Brothers' award-winning film. The visual of airborne blood puddles cascade across the frozen tundra of a lake in Minnesota while a shifty-looking fella shoves body parts into the other end of the machine. It's just about the most artistically disgusting moment in film history. That beautiful sentiment and imagery is mimicked incredibly well in the TV version on FX, developed by Noah Hawley ( The Unusuals, My Generation, Legion).
This is probably the best show on TV that you haven't watched yet. It's hilarious. Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara are brilliantly weird and funny as the formerly mega-rich couple who are thrown into poverty after being defrauded by a business manager. Their family is forced to live in a small town that Levy's character purchased as a joke years earlier. The comically spoiled children are forced to adjust to small-town life, something none of them are ready for.
'Better Call Saul'
The spin-off of
Breaking Bad picked up exactly where we lost Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. Bob Odenkirk should be a household name; he's sleazily funny and ambulance-chasingly motivated to entertain the audience as well as his character's clients.
Netflix absolutely crushed this series, bringing to life one of the most dangerous drug lords of all time, Pablo Escobar. As long as you don't mind reading subtitles quite often, you'll absolutely love every second of this bloodbath of drugs, sex and money.
This animated raunchy comedy is about a formerly successful, heartthrob actor who's on the downslope of a slowed career, consumed with his own narcissism turned alcoholism. It's an incredible idea for a character-forward story. Add in the fact that he's a talking horse and somehow lives in a world of animals acting as people...but also there are real people, too? Sometimes art imitates real life, but doesn't need reality to do so.
BoJack Horseman is a perfect blend of silly, dumb, smart and disgusting.
Every single episode of
Silicon Valley should come with an explanation of software coding language, but then again if we knew everything these characters were referring to, it'd be less effective. Silicon Valley somehow hits the comedy sweet spot between obvious jokes, physical comedy, and inside jokes, performed to absolute perfection.
'When They See Us'
The story of the Central Park Five is a gut-punch of substantial proportions, and Netflix managed to successfully portray how these maddening, racially motivated true events unraveled and ruined so many lives in the process. Even if you think you know the story,
When They See Us will shine light on the disgusting cracks of humanity that really took place and astound you in every way possible.
'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel'
Loosely based on Joan Rivers, the main character, Midge, will win you over quicker than you can say, “Bald men can be attractive–with the right hat." You'll love, hate, and love every character in this show, over and over again.
'It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia'
Mac, Charlie, Dennis, Frank, and Dee are staples of the TV comedy world. They've been in our lives for almost 15 years and know exactly how to make us laugh, mostly by getting drunk and doing horrible things to each other. It's a recipe for hilarious.
The classic '80s teen horror movie genre is a never-ending stream of entertainment possibilities, and
Stranger Things is raising the bar with every episode. There's just something about kids running away from scary things that takes us all back to our own childhood, when we ran away from our parents and mean siblings.
Don't let the misleading title of the show fool you -- they're Russian. And this is set in pre-Putin-Russia. However you hack it, this show redefines espionage and the governments that secretly run our government behind closed doors.
'Sons of Anarchy'
Would you consider a motorcycle gang full of antiheroes and criminals who run drugs, guns, and prostitution rings across California a family-oriented show? Well, ultimately that's exactly what
SoA is, in its own Shakespearean way, all the way down to a mother whose tumultuous relationship with her beloved son leads to her own murder! If you ever wanted a Hell's Angels version of The Sopranos, then here you go.
'Parks & Rec'
There's a constant argument back and forth about which series is better:
The Office or Parks & Rec? Here's the true answer: Parks & Rec. There, we've finally settled it. Now we can move on and enjoy both shows.
'Game of Thrones'
What can we say that hasn't already been written about
? There were a few seasons that were sub-par, but we were all so invested that it didn't matter. We had GoT GoT blinders on.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is one of the funniest comedians of all time. She's gifted us two of the greatest TV comedies in history to prove it:
and Seinfeld . The latter show is a political satire and yet somehow completely believable. It's exactly what we needed, especially over the course of the last four years. The cast was impeccable from beginning to end, introducing us to several new comedic stars along the way: Timothy Simons (Jonah Ryan), Reid Scott (Dan Egan), and Sam Richardson (Richard Fleck) to name a few. Veep Veep was the type of show you wished would never end, with a constant flow of cringe-worthy material cropping up on a daily basis from our current administration. Veep will be missed dearly.
The best way to explain
Mad Men is to simply say that it changed pop culture forever by putting us in a charmingly narcissistic, male-dominated time machine back to a time when men smoked cigarettes every second of every day, drank whiskey at noon, treated secretaries like indentured servants, and answered to no one. If you were a white, successful man in the '50s, chances are that you were doing pretty damn well in the world of Mad Men. Beyond that simplification of a description, the show was brilliant from top to bottom. It looked amazing, the acting was tremendous, the directing was film-level award-winning kind of art, and the storylines expanded beyond anyone's wildest imaginations. Jon Hamm is a golden god thanks to this show and will forever be Don Draper.
Breaking Bad is completely original in every aspect of the show: a teacher who deals meth to pay for cancer treatments, set in New Mexico, actually filmed in New Mexico, and the protagonist is also 100 percent the worst human being on the show. Sure, Walter White starts off lovable and relatively normal, but he becomes a megalomaniac monster drug lord the likes of which TV has never seen. There's not a second of this show that isn't thought out in detail from start to finish, whether it is the story, the characters, the directing or the locations. Breaking Bad put New Mexico on the map.