Staff Lists
From Annual Reports to the Best of the Best,
ALL EXPERTLY SELECTED BY THE COS STAFF

Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

on November 25, 2019, 12:00am
view all

Let’s consider, for a moment, Jesse Pinkman. The 2010s saw a whole new era of television ushered in, a swell in programming so immense it’s difficult to comprehend. Want to feel old? FX’s John Landgraf coined the phrase “Peak TV” in 2015, when the total number of scripted shows on television was a whopping 422. Quaint, isn’t it? Now we’re not only up by dozens and dozens of series, but multiple new networks—two new streaming services in this month alone—and there’s no end in sight. And in there was Jesse Pinkman, the “yeah, bitch” guy. A walking GIF factory.

He was always more than that, of course. As played by Aaron Paul, Jesse sums up the best of what this decade of television has to offer, a messy, contradictory human being who was “Yeah, bitch! Magnets!” one moment and a guy playing peekabo with the criminally neglected child of two meth addicts the next. He got his ending, and a bonus besides, rounding out the decade with the Breaking Bad coda El Camino, arriving not on AMC but on Netflix. A genre-, emotion-, and network-jumping force. A great character in a great series, a meme and a marvel. Not every excellent character, nor show, in the 2010s found an audience, but viewers had more terrific options than they’d ever had before, and sometimes all it took was one big moment—one “yeah bitch,” one ATM to the face—to break through.

These 100 shows did, in spite of all the noise. They are daring and familiar, polished and wild. Some began before the decade did—our rule of thumb, for the curious, was that a series had to air at least half its episodes after January 1, 2010—while others are just getting started. But all caught our attention, not just for one GIF, but for hours of challenging viewing, enjoyable escape, or both. We’ve not yet seen Peak TV’s peak, and yeah, we’re overwhelmed and exhausted—but we’re grateful for all the incredible art, all the same. Dasvidaniya, 2010s—and thanks for the memories, Jesse.

–Allison Shoemaker
Senior Writer


100. Ash Vs. Evil Dead (Starz)

 Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

Ash Vs. Evil Dead (Starz)

Even now, it’s hard to believe Ash Vs. Evil Dead actually happened. The idea of turning Sam Raimi’s splatterhouse classic into a TV series still feels like something a diehard fan would dream up on a horror message board. Yet for three seasons those same fans watched Bruce Campbell slice and dice his way through every kind of genre subversion imaginable. Not all of it worked — that third season is rocky, to say the least — but when this show grooved, it was groovier than ever. The gore was inspired, the one-liners were iconic, and the rock ‘n’ roll was always on full blast. It was a weekly midnight movie for horror hounds, and it rarely disappointed, if only because it existed. –Michael Roffman


99. The Kroll Show (Comedy Central)

Jenny Slate, Nick Kroll, Comedy Central, The Kroll Show

The Kroll Show (Comedy Central)

Manic and unpredictable, The Kroll Show was never built to last. Like a Red Bull-rattled teen, Nick Kroll’s speedy variety show could only go on so long before burning out, and the comic knew exactly when to pull the plug — at the top. For those two years, though, Kroll offered an irreverent escape, one that took itself far less seriously than his Comedy Central colleagues (see: Inside Amy Schumer and Key and Peele). While Kroll has since copped to feeling obsolescent in the shadow of those two shows, there’s a timeless currency to his brand of comedy that should endure in the years to come. After all, who could ever get tired of singing “LA Deli” or quoting “Too Much Tuna”? Impossible. –Michael Roffman


98. Dark (Netflix)

Netflix, Dark, Season Two Trailer

Dark Season Two (Netflix)

Imagine Stranger Things, but twice as German and half as cutesy, and you’ve got an inkling of Dark’s sinister, twisty appeal. Netflix’s head-scratching import starts out like a number of small-town crime dramas: a child goes missing from a sleepy German town, opening all old wounds and revealing generations-old secrets. But as Dark’s narrative expands to different time periods, and characters learn to travel through a mysterious wormhole in the caves under the local power plant, the show starts to find stranger, more intellectually meaty material for its expansive cast to explore. It’s Twin Peaks meets Quantum Leap, and it’s one of Netflix’s most under-appreciated shows. –Clint Worthington


97. This Is Us (NBC)

Mandy Moore, NBC, This Is Us,

This Is Us (NBC)

What a marvelous ride, the pilot for This Is Us. Creator Dan Fogelman lays out what seems like a handful of stories linked only by a shared birthday, but Fogelman pulls a terrific sleight-of-hand in the episode’s closing moments, revealing that the three seemingly unrelated stories are all part of the story of one family. This Is Us is still chasing that moment (the toaster? Really?), but even when the show falls short, the uniformly excellent performances remain a constant source of delight—and anything that gets Sterling K. Brown an Emmy deserves some praise. –Allison Shoemaker


96. The Great British Bake Off (BBC/PBS)

The Great British Bake Off, Cast Photo, Cakes, BBC

The Great British Bake Off (BBC:PBS)

Television has seen food porn and cooking competitions come and go, but nothing’s quite like The Great British Bake Off. Like a pristine, well laminated piece of puff pastry, the long-running series delivers layer after layer of delectable satisfaction. From the informational tidbits (build up that gluten) and quirky humor (damn you, soggy bottom) to the catchphrases (ON YOUR MARKS, GET SET, BAAAKE!) and very likable contestants and judges (miss you always, Mary Berry), GBBO can soothe even the most gutted person and harshest bout of seasonal depression — and I would know. Viewers don’t necessarily walk away knowing how to perfect Frangipane or meringue, but they sure as heck enjoyed watching Noel Fielding show off his fabulous shirts, and that’s a Starbaker win in my book. –Lake Schatz


95. Review (Comedy Central)

Review, Comedy Central, Andy Daly

Review (Comedy Central)

Andy Daly is improv’s Dave Brubeck. He made god-like talent look and sound easy. It was inevitable someone would try to lasso his uncommon talent for the small screen and Review was the best vehicle imaginable. Harnessing Daly’s everyman looks and demeanor, the show posits him as the star of a bizarre reality show where he rates every experience life has to offer, from eating pancakes to divorcing the wife he loves, all in the name of ratings. His deranged boss Grant (a splendidly sadistic James Urbaniak) is quick to remind him someone is always watching when Daly balks at further ruining his life in front of the cameras. It lasted three short seasons but the scars will last a lifetime. –Scout Tafoya


94. American Vandal (Netflix)

Netflix, American Vandal, Screen Shot

American Vandal (Netflix)

#WhoDrewtheDicks? With Making a Murderer and Serial, the true-crime genre is in something of a renaissance right now, kicking off a cultural conversation about media and voyeurism that American Vandal takes side-splitting command of. Following teenage documentarians and amateur sleuths Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam Ecklund (Griffin Gluck) as they put local school pranks under the same serious, investigative eye as Sarah Koenig. Much of its genius comes from its pitch-perfect emulation of modern true-crime tropes, but beyond that, it also snuck in some intriguing messages about the messy, isolating social dynamics of high school. Oh, and it might be one of the most tightly-calibrated mockumentaries in recent memory. –Clint Worthington


93. The Bridge (FX)

Ted Levine, Diane Kruger, The Bridge, FX, Demián Bichir

The Bridge (FX)

FX’s inspired remake of Hans Rosenfeldt’s Scandinavian-noir crime series The Bridge deserved better. Perhaps it was the timing? Two years before Denis Villeneuve delivered Sicario and three before Trump villainized Mexico for his own political advantage, Meredith Stiehm and Elwood Reid were wisely commenting on the border politics plaguing America. It should have worked. The performances were top-notch, particularly the trio of Diane Kruger, Demián Bichir, and Ted Levine. The directing was cinematic. The action both tense and unnerving. Sadly, it was canceled two seasons in, leaving viewers with an ending that’s more of a cliffhanger than an impromptu finale. Que sera sera. –Michael Roffman


92. One Day at a Time (Netflix)

one day at a time netflix season 3

One Day at a Time (Netflix)

This reupholstered Norman Lear classic quickly outstripped its namesake in terms of easy charm, modern relevance, and hankie destroying sentiment. Shot in classic three camera style in front of a studio audience, the new One Day at a Time follows a family of Cuban Americans still getting the hang of navigating their identity while trying to survive in their unforgiving Los Angeles neighborhood. Justina Machado is effortlessly charismatic as single mom Penelope, raising two kids while dealing with a barrage of loving judgment from her mother (the divine Rita Moreno). The show is honest about the conservative attitudes of the Cuban household, just as its eager to introduce its audience to 21st century mores as represented by queer daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez). You’ll laugh so much you’ll have a good excuse for when you start crying. –Scout Tafoya


91. Insecure (HBO)

insecure Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

Insecure (HBO)

Every so often in Issa Rae’s uproarious, brutally honest HBO comedy, she finds the rare moment to rap her anxieties and stressors to her reflection in the bathroom mirror — her “mirror bitch.” These moments feel revelatory, not just because it gives us a chance to see the layers behind Rae’s beautifully nuanced lead performance, but because they feel indicative of a show (and a showrunner) paradoxically comfortable in its own skin. Insecure is a show made by black women for black women, and more than capable of showing the intricacies of their lives — their friendships, their relationships, the intersection of race into their careers — in living, vibrant color. –Clint Worthington


90. GLOW (Netflix)

GLOW 301 Unit 00334R 1 Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

GLOW (Netflix)

Professional wrestling has long been a mirror for American entertainment’s best and worst impulses, triumphant physical battles of good and evil often rubbing shoulders with some of the worst stereotypes imaginable. It’s entertainment for the central nervous system, approximating our dreams and our rage and our most cathartic fantasies. For the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW) at the center of Netflix’s crowd-pleasing dramedy, it promises freedom even as it frequently attempts to shove them into the same boxes as the rest of the male-dominated world. Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch’s series may not sidestep the uglier realities of wrestling (and the entertainment industry in general), but it also believes in its capacity to really, truly mean something. All you need is the right talent behind the camera, and in front of it. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


89. The Walking Dead (AMC)

Andrew Lincoln The Walking Dead AMC

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Look, there are a lot of reasons to hate The Walking Dead. At this point, the AMC series has become a rotting corpse itself, and with a second spinoff series around the corner, the stench is only going to get worse. This we can agree on. Looking back, though, it’s hard to argue against its influence. When the series debuted in 2010, it was a seminal moment for horror, bringing the genre to the mainstream in unprecedented ways. Your parents probably watched it. Their parents probably watched it. Some loved it, some hated it, everyone knew it. That ubiquity has since buried the zombie genre, but it’s also led to a proliferation of horror across all mediums, and that’s worth celebrating. –Michael Roffman


88. Burning Love (Yahoo)

Ken Marino, June Diane Raphael, Burning Love Cast Photo, Yahoo,

Burning Love (Yahoo)

Parody doesn’t get much better than Burning Love. Created and written by Erica Oyama, the three-season run is a perfect distillation of the inanity and debauchery that keeps everyone obsessed with The Bachelor. Everything’s meticulously replicated, right down to the ludicrous B-roll, and Oyama doesn’t waste a single opportunity for a zinger. Of course, it helps that the whole thing doubles as a pseudo summer camp for comics: Ken Marino, Michael Ian Black, June Diane Raphael, Natasha Leggero, basically everyone who’s ever worked with David Wain is burnin’ down the house here. But they’re all clearly fans of the OG show, and that love speaks to their commitment to the bit. –Michael Roffman


87. The Good Fight (CBS All Access)

the good fight christine baranski cbs all access series

The Good Fight (CBS All Access)

The Robert and Michelle King war against “schmuck bait” television continued with their legally snarky, dramatically witty, and compulsively watchable The Good Fight on CBS All Access. If ever there was a case for subscribing for the CBS platformer, if just for a short period, here it is. Hot off the heels of the very huge Good Wife, Fight picked right up with Christine Baranski and found new grooves and formulas on the same turf. What could have been a staid legal drama elevated itself to a sort of comedy of manners, and dictum on living with legal bullshit in the Trump era. (If you’d like a statement on this show’s style and core values, find the Pee Tape episode.) –Blake Goble


86. Westworld (HBO)

Westworld, HBO

Westworld (HBO)

In 2016, Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan opened up the gates to the most fucked-up theme park we’ve ever been to, and man, we can’t seem to get enough. A labyrinth of oddities and revelations, Westworld defined sci-fi television (and Westerns?) in the 2010s. Rich, dark, and deep performances by Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, and more revealed the best and worst of humanity through humanoid-led debauchery. It has also proved in just two seasons that demanding plot lines still delight and enrapture audiences in the age of blissed-out blockbusters. –Irene Monokandilos


85. Narcos (Netflix)

narcos4 Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

Narcos (Netflix)

Filmed amongst the lush landscapes of the Columbian countryside, Narcos is a modern crime drama based on the spectacular rise and fall of one of history’s most powerful gangsters, as well as the vicious cartels that inhabit his world. The standout of the first two seasons is Wagner Moura’s deadly accurate portrayal of Medellín drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Moura’s quiet dignity and festering turmoil is like a rattrap ready to spring at any moment. His stoic performance stands in wonderful contrast to the humorous buddy cop pairing of Boyd Holbrook and Pedro Pascal as DEA agents hot on the trail. But it’s important to remember that the violence behind this story is very real. So real, in fact, that a location scout for the Netflix series was murdered in Mexico during preparations for Season 4. –Dan Pfleegor


84. Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (CNN)

Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown, Press Photo

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (CNN)

The extraordinary thing about “Hanoi”, arguably the greatest episode of Anthony Bourdain’s peerless Parts Unknown, is not that he’s joined by a sitting President. Well, not exclusively. Bourdain’s easy conversation with Barack Obama centers mostly on fatherhood, food, travel—just life stuff—and that all by itself is significant. But Bourdain’s deep affection for the place, and the people who live there, renders it less a an episode of a travel show than a cinematic love letter. There’s that same kind of ache you feel when you love someone, a feeling common to many of these 95 exemplary hours of TV; Bourdain shows his love through his thoughtful, sensitive approach to entering these communities, his exceptional writing (heard in narration), and the lines he draws between place and art through use of music and clever film homages. He tugs us gently (or not so gently) by the hand into the Philippines, Iran, Boston, Houston, Rome, Sichuan, Congo, Lyon, goddamn Antarctica … the list goes on. And once we’re in, he does his best to show us something true. What’s extraordinary about “Hanoi” is what’s extraordinary about the series as a whole: Its existence makes the world a better place. How many TV shows can say that? –Allison Shoemaker


83. Schitt’s Creek (Pop)

Schitt's Creek cast season 5 netflix

Schitt’s Creek (Netflix)

Schitt’s Creek belongs to a storied club: the Association for Great TV Shows with Seemingly Unfortunate Titles. (See also: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Cougar Town, Selfie, etc.) Yet the show, like the town on which it centers, wouldn’t be what it is without that name. Dan and Eugene Levy’s deeply empathetic sitcom sees the Rose family (both Levys, plus the invaluable Catherine O’Hara and Annie Murphy) seek refuge in the small town after their Kardashian-like fortune is reduced to nothing. The premise is a comedic gold mine, but Schitt’s Creek is no joke; it proves to be a refuge and a gift for the Roses, and it’s been the same for us. –Allison Shoemaker


82. Broadchurch (BBC)

Olivia Colman, David Tennant, BBC

Broadchurch (BBC)

Years after David Tennant became The Doctor, but years before Olivia Colman won an Oscar, Broadchurch was the showcase du jour for their unstoppable talents. Cribbing the familiar Twin Peaks formula of ‘dead child opens up deep wounds in a sleepy town’, showrunner Chris Chibnall crafted a crackerjack first season in which local gumshoes Hardy (an irascible Tennant) and Miller (a relatably flummoxed Colman) cracked the case, and tore open the soul of a town along the way. Season 2 was a huge step down, but Season 3 helped send the show off on a high note. And either way, the show belongs on this list for its stellar first season and its role in rekindling the ‘missing-child’ crime drama. –Clint Worthington


81. Jane the Virgin (CW)

Jane the Virgin, The CW,

Jane the Virgin (CW)

In the 2010s, the conversation surrounding romance novels and rom coms shifted from insulting to loving, thanks to a lot of women who grew up on Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers, who knew what they were talking about. Jane the Virgin is not the sole reason this conversation started, but it would be extremely rude not to credit it in some way. The title character’s love for romance novels influences the entire show, which is filled with clever satire, heartwarming romance, compelling action, and small, dramatic family moments that will make you break down into tears. And after you’re done having that good cry, you never feel manipulated. –Carrie Wittmer


80. On Cinema at the Cinema (Adult Swim)

Tim Heidecker, Gregg Turkington, On Cinema at the Cinema

On Cinema at the Cinema (Adult Swim)

While the country keeps losing their shit at Alec Baldwin’s garbage Trump impersonation on SNL, Tim Heidecker continues to nail the entire psychology of Trump’s America with On Cinema at the Cinema. What started out as a crude sendup of Siskel and Ebert at the Movies has since become a scathing indictment on conservative culture with Heidecker leading the way. Whether he’s hocking dubious corporations, getting away with mass murder, or berating his “weekly guest” Gregg Turkington, it’s always in service to that commentary. How he’s managed to keep it alive all decade is as perplexing as the inside jokes that now span multiple mediums. Total five bagger. –Michael Roffman


79. Vida (Starz)

vida starz season 2 series

Vida (Starz)

It’s hard enough to find a show made with a primarily Latinx cast and showrunner; it’s harder still to find a series so uniquely concerned with the history and changing dynamics of its community. Tonya Saracho’s Vida is precisely that, the tale of two sisters (Melissa Barrera and Mishel Prada) who move back to LA to handle their recently-deceased mother’s bar only to find her widow (Ser Anzoategui) — a woman, much to their surprise — hanging onto it. In amongst its honest depiction of LA’s Latinx neighborhoods, Vida is also one of the sexiest, queerest shows out there, pulsing with empathy and passion. –Clint Worthington


78. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS)

Samantha Bee, Florida, TBS, Full Frontal

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS)

You have give it up for Sam Bee. She makes a dent, no, a chasm, in a crowded landscape every week. In the post-Stewart, current Trump era, the amount of political rabble, or noise, is deafening. Oliver, Noah, Meyer, Maher, Colbert, Kimmel (never Fallon), have all had to dip their toes in to daily conjecture and joke-making. And it is exhausting. Conan O’Brien on his podcast copped to dread that everyone makes the same jokes about the president because he does so many dumb things. But Bee finds time to rightly rails on the Ivanks, the Stephen Millers, the Bannons, the Don Jr.’s, and the other R-idiots of the world with glee and gallows. She sheds light on everyday administrative misogyny, racism, and fear-mongering with a scream worth joining in on. –Blake Goble


77. Superstore (NBC)

Superstore Cast Photo

Superstore (NBC)

It wouldn’t have taken much for Superstore to become a very different kind of comedy series. A chronicle of day-to-day life at a Midwestern big-box store, its premise could have quickly slid into a frenzy of People of Walmart-esque condescension. But Superstore takes a benevolent approach, finding its best material in the common ground between hourly workers and the weird customers they serve. It’s subversive without making a big fuss about it, and touching while still hitting its emotional beats from unexpected angles. Superstore is the rare TV series that cares about the parts of its characters’ lives that we don’t get to see, the ones that make them who they are when the episode starts. Half-hour comedies are rarely so humane, or so well-crafted, or so out-and-out funny. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


76. Sense 8 (Netflix)

sense8 Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

Sense 8 (Netflix)

“I am not a me. I am also a we.” Sense8, the globe-trotting brainchild of the Wachowski sisters and J. Michael Stracynzski, feels like a science fiction show ahead of its time. It lived and died on the vine right at the edge of the Trump era, at a time when we need unity and empathy more than ever. But its two seasons, which chart a cluster of ‘sensates’ around the world who can share feelings, emotions, and skills no matter where they are in the world, is a brilliant balm for the divisions in which we’re currently mired. Come for the gorgeous global cinematography and psychic orgies; stay for the radical sentimentality and heartwarming queer inclusiveness, including one of the first openly trans lead characters in a science fiction series. –Clint Worthington


75. The Night Of (HBO)

the night of hbo Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

The Night Of (HBO)

HBO’s The Night Of took an overused genre — the tawdry, mundane procedural — and wrenched it into the most riveting, sobering, and unpredictable narrative of 2016. Through eight unsettling episodes, Steve Zaillian and Richard Price wire each scene with all kinds of small, juicy details that give the series an assured sense of place and purpose as it meditates on the infinite cycle of the American judicial system. That feeling extends to its sprawling cast of characters, be it those who are new to its nightmarish clutches or those who accept it with a cup of weak coffee and a crumped pack of cigarettes. Never once does Zaillain and Price offer reprieve from that reality. –Michael Roffman


74. Peaky Blinders (Netflix)

Cillian Murphy, Peaky Blinders, Netflix

Peaky Blinders (Netflix)

Scene: Post WWI Birmingham, England.
Music: Arctic Monkeys anachronistically blares.
Action: Cillian Murphy lights up another cigarette.

Peaky Blinders is partially based on the historical street gang of the same name, who emerge as a powerful criminal enterprise with legitimate ambitions under the trench veteran leadership of Tommy Shelby (Murphy). Featuring an ensemble of Irish and UK actors, the show also incorporates non-fictional characters, like Winston Churchill, Lucky Luciano, the proto-fascist Oswald Mosley, creating a distinct narrative arc each season that accompanies the Shelby family’s ascent into British Parliament. The show’s visionary, eclectic creator Steven Knight (writer of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises) shared that he wants the show to continue until the start of WWII. This means fans will get at least a dozen more episodes, plenty of contemporary rock songs, and hundreds of packs of smokes. –Dan Pfleegor


73. The Jinx (HBO)

Robert Durst, The Jinx, HBO

The Jinx (HBO)

Some documentarians are fortunate — Burp — to be in the right place — Belch — at the right time – BLURGH! What’s even luckier though is Andrew Jarecki creating a true crime series that earns its conclusive ending, especially one whose subject matter is the wealthy, demented, and perversely fascinating Robert Durst. The HBO/Blumhouse production revolves around three unsolved murders. It’s also satisfying follow up to Jarecki’s own 2010 film All Good Things, wherein Ryan Gosling used a younger Durst as inspiration. But The Jinx teaches us that fact is stranger than fiction, the truth won’t stay hidden for long, and to always treat every microphone like it’s on. –Dan Pfleegor


72. American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace (FX)

The Assassination of Gianni Versace (FX)

The Assassination of Gianni Versace (FX)

Ryan Murphy’s sophomore season of American Crime Story provided only a glimpse of Gianni Versace’s life, impact, and sudden death. Instead, it’s more of a deep examination of his killer, Andrew Cunanan, played to perfection by Darren Criss. But it’s more than that: Versace also showcases the lives of gay men in the ’90s, making that decade feel so much further away from today than it actually is as it explores the myriad socio-political hurdles. Altogether, the season proved that Murphy is at his best when he’s telling focused personal stories, especially those making grand statements about underrepresented cultures. Here’s hoping this trend continues — exclusively on Netflix — in the 2020s. –Carrie Wittmer


71. Master of None (Netflix)

master of none season 2 Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

Master of None (Netflix)

In a post-#MeToo world, it’s hard to talk about shows like Master of None, especially given the shadow of sexual harassment allegations around showrunner and star Aziz Ansari. While the acceptability of his subsequent public apologies is still up for debate, it’s important to remember how revelatory Master of None felt at the time — its nonlinear storytelling, its comparative formal daring (remember the season 2 premiere, which took on the affect of Italian neorealism?), its charming exploration of the difficulties of life as an Indian-American child of immigrants, and more. Even if you can’t get past Ansari anymore, remember that the show also served as Lena Waithe’s big breakout (and snagged her a screenwriting Emmy in the process). –Clint Worthington


70. Luther (BBC)

Idris Elba, Luther, Season 1

Luther (BBC)

Luther features some of Idris Elba’s finest work as the tenacious yet haunted Detective Chief Inspector John Luther. Born out of the mid-to-late 2000’s era when gritty reboots and dark origin stories were particularly in vogue, the series frequently takes a cat-and-mouse approach to crime fighting underpinned by Luther’s amoral compass and vitriolic love-hate relationship with Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson). Columbo for the 21st century, Luther is at its best building masterful, dizzying suspense by making London feel simultaneously like a sprawling wasteland and a claustrophobic nightmare for which John is the only antidote. –Kyle Cubr


69. Barry (HBO)

Bill Hader, Anthony Carrigan in Barry

Barry (HBO)

Nothing about Barry should work: from its wildly disparate tones, to the SNL star playing a hitman-turned-wannabe L.A. actor, to Henry Winkler’s hilarious yet poignant role as Gene Cousineau. But by some miracle — or rather Bill Hader and co-creator Alec Berg’s combined brain power — it all gels brilliantly. Over the course of two seasons, Hader has established himself as a serious talent both in front of and behind the camera, offering up zany bits of comedy amidst dark flashes of brutal violence, all with the help of an excellent supporting cast (including MVP Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank). Does Barry ultimately have a heart of darkness or a soul full of gold? No matter, it’s been a sublime journey finding out. — Emmy Potter


68. The Eric Andre Show (Adult Swim)

Eric Andre, Dog, Fire

The Eric Andre Show (Adult Swim)

Whether you appreciate The Eric Andre Show most for its over-the-top pratfalling and manic absurdism, or as a modern-day take on Laugh-In staged in the lowest circle of hell, it’s hard to deny the loud, hallucinatory appeal of Adult Swim’s wild interview show. While roping unwitting celebrities into a vortex of property destruction, invasive lines of questioning, and brilliant deadpan delivery, Andre crafted a series that’s as much a biting riff on the vapid salesmanship of so much interview-based TV as a gonzo feat of late-night comedy. Like all the best dumb comedies, it whips around to brilliance by refusing to take its foot off the gas, even when Lou Ferrigno is getting legitimately heated. It’s also, in its way, maybe the most honest celebrity talk show that’s ever aired. Why are you booing us? We’re right! –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


67. The Knick (Cinemax)

Clive Owen, The Knick, Showtime

The Knick (Showtime)

Steven Soderbergh‘s retirement from feature filmmaking turned out to be Jay-Z serious, but it did give us The Knick for which we should all be grateful. The story of a brilliant but compromised surgeon (Clive Owen) after the secrets of the mind didn’t exactly break much new ground narratively, but visually, no one has yet touched the highs to which Soderbergh brought the medium of TV. His lighting and framing improved on his filmmaking style, bringing out the canniest experimental tendencies from the already unpredictable director. His vision of New York before World War I is a place of buzzing paranoid addiction, horrible attitudes propelling magnificent discoveries, and men gleefully succumbing to their worst impulses. You could play every shot in the Whitney on repeat. –Scout Tafoya


66. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)

brooklyn nine nine season seven nbc

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC)

As currently-running Michael Schur shows go, The Good Place is more intellectually challenging, more philosophically highbrow. But Brooklyn Nine-Nine is its goofier, fun-loving cousin. There’s not a false note in the cast, from Stephanie Beatriz’s tough-as-nails bi-con Rosa Diaz, to Joe Lo Truglio’s overeager Boyle, to Sgt. Terry Crews. But above all that, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a celebration of Andre Braugher’s revelatory Captain Holt, the gayest straight man on TV (and, ironically, a character Braugher has played longer than his Homicide: Life on the Street role). Real-world cops, understandably, have had very little good press lately: they might do well to emulate the joy and camaraderie of the 99. –Clint Worthington


65. Terriers (FX)

Terriers, Donal Logue, FX

Terriers (FX)

FX’s Terriers was a series ahead of its time and its title. It’s impossible to say for certain whether or not Ted Griffin’s private-eye dramedy would have lived past its single season were it released today, but make like Hank (Donal Logue) and Britt (Michael Raymond-James) and follow the clues: uses a familiar format to tell a much more involved story; balances its tone on the head of a pin, landing at some perfect in-between place that blends comedy and charm with psychological density and grittiness; unfolds its mysteries gradually without making the whodunnit the point of the story; the list goes on. It was, and is, a gem, and if FX wanted to take advantage of the current revival craze to give us another chapter, we’d never object. –Allison Shoemaker


64. Difficult People (Hulu)

difficult people Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

Difficult People (Hulu)

Difficult People, one of the most Extremely Online shows of the 2010s, demands an above-average level of pop cultural literacy. Julie (Julie Klausner) and Billy (Billy Eichner) are the sharpest and meanest people in the room at any given time, whip-smart comedians with a near-total lack of social inhibition who compulsively escalate simple life situations to Seinfeld levels of discomfort. As such, it’s often a repository for stinging one-liners about the fakery of Internet self-promotion and the annoying behaviors of strangers, and every bit as rife with inside baseball references as all that sounds. But by the end of its three-season run, the series manages to entrench its satire in the noose-tightening anxiety of hitting your 30s and still not having yet made it. In its uneasy sense of humor and its existential dread alike, it’s entirely a show of its time. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


63. Pose (FX)

Pose (FX)

Pose (FX)

The category is … earnest, boisterous period melodrama about the ‘80s ball culture and the early days of the AIDS crisis. On these subjects and more, Ryan Murphy’s sprawling, celebratory series excels, from its majority trans and nonbinary cast (including breakouts like Indya Moore, Mj Rodriguez, and Angelica Ross) to its unflinching look at the struggles of the early days of New York’s queer subcultures. Unlike the gritty nihilism of most Peak TV, Pose refreshingly traffics in kindness, joy and celebrating your true self in opulent fashion. And how could we ever forget Billy Porter’s explosive breakout as passionate MC Pray Tell? While the show is only two seasons in, we give Pose tens across the board. –Clint Worthington


62. Killing Eve (BBC/Amazon)

Killing Eve (BBC)

Killing Eve (BBC)

Killing Eve is filled with thrilling action, clothes I would kill for, and incredible performances from Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer. It isn’t a typical spy thriller; it’s a sexy one with women! And since it’s created by Phoebe Waller Bridge, the series is funnier than it has any right to be. Although it did experience a bit of a sophomore slump in the wake of Bridge’s absence, Oh’s performance remains truly extraordinary, and proves, like she did with her work on Grey’s Anatomy, that she’s one of the best TV actors the small screen has ever seen. –Carrie Wittmer


61. American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)

American Horror Story, Asylum, Screaming

American Horror Story: Asylum (FX)

To say American Horror Story’s myriad seasons are uneven would be the understatement of the century. But in our eyes, AHS peaked early with Asylum, its second season centered around a spooky mental institution in the 1960s, and its myriad staff and occupants. While it’s got that quintessential Ryan Murphy mess, Asylum came closest to wrestling it into a focused, haunting tale of anxiety and the failure of modern American society to address our existential dread. Jessica Lange’s Sister Jude is one of her greatest roles in the Horror Story canon, and regular players Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe also turn in career-best turns. –Clint Worthington


60. Big Little Lies (HBO)

big little lies hbo series season 2

Big Little Lies (HBO)

The perfect TV cocktail of murder mystery and highbrow soap storytelling, Big Little Lies gave us some of the richest (in all senses of the word) female characters on television. Yes, the series was actually about how the lies we tell slowly eat away at us over time, but truthfully, we all loved it because it let us watch some of our greatest living actresses scream, cry, curse, drink, laugh, lie, and hatch schemes together as wealthy Bay Area moms whose lives are falling apart. These messy, gutsy women — played with virtuosic gusto by Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, and the ever meme-able Laura Dern — are what made Big Little Lies such a thrill over the course of its two remarkable seasons. Their chemistry was electric enough to warm any cold little heart. –Emmy Potter


59. Queer Eye (OWN)

queer eye netflix series jonathan van ness tan france

Queer Eye (Netflix)

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. A crack of pepper on a homemade meal shows friends that you love them. And a French tuck demonstrates that you put at least a little effort into your outfit. These tiny but necessary tips speak to the larger impact that Queer Eye and the Fab 5 have had on both their heroes and our own emotions. Ask anyone about their favorite episode and they’ll smile as the tears well up. No group in TV history has experienced such a well deserved, meteoric rise in popularity. After all, It’s not easy to reprise an existing show. But the new team has done so with style to spare. They’ve also propelled the original show’s message of tolerance with a greater strive toward acceptance. The new wardrobes and haircuts are fantastic. But at the end of the day, their most lasting impact is the reminder to love yourself. –Dan Pfleegor


58. Better Things (FX)

Pamela Adlon, Better Things, FX

Better Things (FX)

If Pamela Adlon’s only contribution to Better Things were her performance as the oft-beset Sam Fox, a mom and working actor raising three daughters on her own, she’d still have to be in any conversation of the decade’s TV standouts. But as Adlon assumed more and more creative control of her series—she directed each and every episode of the show’s excellent third season in addition to writing, producing, starring, and show-running, and yet somehow she’s still alive—it became an increasingly complex, affecting dramedy, tackling progressively thornier issues without ever straying from its compassionate center. Like a number of the decade’s best shows, it can absolutely break your heart, but it’ll make you laugh while it fractures; unlike most of those shows, it also includes Doug Jones, playing himself. What a wonder. –Allison Shoemaker


57. Happy Endings (ABC)

Elisha Cuthbert, Happy Endings, ABC, Cast Photo

Happy Endings (ABC)

Canceled by ABC after just three seasons, David Caspe’s criminally underrated single-camera comedy series about a group of six dysfunctional friends living in Chicago could have been just another bland, network attempt at a Friends-style comedy. Instead, Happy Endings leaned into its madcap energy, resulting in a perfect blend of laugh-out-loud physical comedy and razor-sharp writing. Though Happy Endings was truly an ensemble series, the biggest laughs often came courtesy of standouts Casey Wilson and Adam Pally as the perpetually single Penny and her slovenly gay BFF Max—a pair of desperate (and desperately funny) schemers if ever there was one. Like one of Penny’s relationships, Happy Endings ended far too soon (as its dedicated fans still lament all over the internet), but this ah-mah-zing comedy sure was fun while it lasted. —Emmy Potter


56. Russian Doll (Netflix)

russian doll netflix tv series natasha lyonne

Russian Doll (Netflix)

When you’re a certain kind of depressed, and you’re getting older on top of it, resetting your life gets harder each time. After all, you’re still carrying the weight of the mistakes that led you to that point, while going through the performance with fewer people and options left to see you through each time. As Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) attempts to escape a Groundhog Day loop, one forcing her to relive her disastrous birthday party ad nauseum until she dies and starts all over again, Leslye Headland and Amy Poehler and Lyonne’s Russian Doll perfectly marries its form and content. It’s a twisting double helix of a series, pushing Nadia toward connection while understanding that the absence of the same is what’s left her where she is now. But even as she comes to understand it, and tries to reclaim control over her own life, she’s nowhere close to free yet. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


55. You’re the Worst (FX)

youre the worst Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

You’re the Worst (FX)

Jimmy Shive-Overly is narcissistic, stubborn, and abrasive. Gretchen Cutler is self-destructive, emotionally stunted, and cynical. You’re the Worst is a modern look at love and happiness through the tumultuous relationship of two people who haven’t had much luck with either of those things. Jimmy and Gretchen aren’t terrible people, or at least they’re not terrible in an un-redeeming way. They’re terrible in a way that’s very real and very human and can only be reached by being vulnerable and open with someone. You’re the Worst is the pair’s story of fear, heartbreak, romance, sex, food, Los Angeles, Sunday Funday, friendship, and the fact that it really comes down to finding someone just as messed up and as awful as you are. –Samantha Lopez


54. Orange Is the New Black (Netflix)

orange 1 enl a33e54c3e2c4d11058c4ba48ed114dfb24d59e8b s40 Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

Unlike House of Cards, it’s entirely possible to talk about Orange is the New Black as one of Netflix’s first tiptoes into the world of prestige television without having to wince a little bit. Tracking the lives and concerns of the inmates of a women’s prison, Jenji Kohan’s ambitious, messy dramedy stumbled out of the gate with its focus on privileged protagonist Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling). But the show quickly opened itself up to explore its vibrant ensemble of stellar characters, from Uzo Aduba’s “Crazy Eyes” to Natasha Lyonne’s Nichols and breakout Laverne Cox’s trans inmate Sophia Burset. Telling a wide range of human stories within the confines of the criminal justice system, Orange set off a new wave of female-centric serialized storytelling, which more than makes up for its occasional narrative hiccups in its later seasons. –Clint Worthington


53. Rectify (Sundance)

rectify Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

Rectify (Sundance)

It’s hard to think of another TV show that works, and affects, quite like Rectify. The brainchild of actor-writer Ray McKinnon (Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy), Rectify explores what happens to a community when a convicted rapist and murderer is let off on a technicality and tries to slip back into something resembling his old life. Aden Young makes for a haunting, mercurial lead, his Daniel Holden suffering silently while his very presence turns his small Georgian town upside down. Rectify refused to play by the normal rules of these kinds of prestige dramas, more concerned with the emotional truths of its characters in the moment than the creaky question of “Did he do it?” And for that, it should be celebrated and appreciated. –Clint Worthington


52. Show Me a Hero (HBO)

Oscar Isaac, Show Me a Hero, HBO

Show Me a Hero (HBO)

Show Me a Hero is the historical drama done right. Based on the 1999 nonfiction book-of-the-same-name by former New York Times writer Lisa Belkin, HBO’s six-part miniseries charts the fortuitous efforts to desegregate public housing in Yonkers, New York. As the title implies, though, this is an inevitable tragedy, one that involves political figure Nick Wasicsko (Oscar Isaac), whose rise and fall as the nation’s youngest mayor is framed poetically by writers David Simon and William F. Zorzi. The two add so much depth to the drama, and Isaac runs with it, tumbling into a kind of hopelessness that still haunts this writer. If anything, it’ll get you listening to late ’80s Springsteen. Not a bad thing. –Michael Roffman


51. Jessica Jones (Netflix)

jessica jones netflix series cancelled marvel

Jessica Jones (Netflix)

While Disney has ensured that the Netflix Marvel experiment is done for good, it’s worth noting the one perfect season of television it produced: the first season of Jessica Jones. Krysten Ritter’s super-powered gumshoe was irascible, irritable, and more than a little reluctant to take on the superheroic duties expected of virtually everyone else in the Marvel Universe. But when intersecting with psychic gaslighter Kilgrave (an unstoppable David Tennant), the show really sang, opening up discussions about sexual assault and trauma that fit snugly within showrunner Melissa Rosenberg’s presentation. The two seasons that followed were no great shakes, but season 1 made a lasting pop culture impression that merits its inclusion on this list. –Clint Worthington


50. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)

Attention young sociopaths. I would like to present The S.U.N.N.Y. System. This is a foolproof method for conquering all comedy audiences. It will also ensure that your television show earns its spot as one of the funniest, crudest, and most entertaining programs to ever grace the small screen. This is The S.U.N.N.Y. System:

S – sucker people into thinking this is just Seinfeld meets South Park
U – usurp expectations
N – new type of sitcom unfolds before your audience
N – nurture dependence
Y – you continue to create lifelong fans of The Gang at Paddy’s Pub

–Dan Pfleegor


49. I Think You Should Leave (Netflix)

I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson (Netflix)

I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson (Netflix)

I Think You Should Leave hits and sticks the way all irreverent humor should. It’s relentless, it’s manic, and it’s downright clever. With only six episodes and 28 sketches to its name (so far), Tim Robinson bizarro variety show has yet to leave the public consciousness since its Spring 2019 debut — and for good reason. Memeability aside, this is penicillin for anyone reeling from the plague of constant culture, where our insistency on acceptance and gratitude blinds our abilities to actually think rationally, and it’s addicting. Whether it’s Conner O’Malley defrauding Robinson or Steven Yeun being ostracized for not wiping enough on his birthday, we laugh because it’s right in our Q-zone. –Michael Roffman


48. Last Week Tonight (HBO)

john oliver Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

Last Week Tonight (HBO)

Arguably the golden child of the post-Jon Stewart era of comedy news shows, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver has maybe cracked the secret code to keeping people engaged in a post-O.G. Daily Show landscape: be funny, but more importantly, speak truth to power. Going on six seasons now, Oliver’s done just that, the impish British shit-kicker wielding HBO’s open creative freedom and bottomless checkbook to do everything from flooding the FCC with robocalls to protest their ubiquity to telling a litigious oil tycoon to ‘eat shit’ in big-budget musical form. In such despairing times, Oliver’s patented brand of journalistic nose-thumbing feels especially cathartic. –Clint Worthington


47. Rick and Morty (Adult Swim)

Rick and Morty Season 4, "Edge of Morty" (Adult Swim)

Rick and Morty (Adult Swim)

One of television’s wildest, weirdest, and most crass shows happens to be one of its best. Contrasting bright animation to its dark portrait of nihilism, Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon have created an animated sci-fi series like no other in Rick and Morty. A treatise on world-building through time and space, the Adult Swim series strikes up the perfect balance between emotional poignancy and fart jokes. With earnest characters and meta-awareness, this series offers up a loving yet unhinged takedown of sci-fi tropes through a sharp family drama lens. Delightfully wacky and endlessly funny with its deadpan wit, gross out humor, and nerdy comedy, we’d follow Rick and Morty anywhere. –Meagan Navarro


46. Ru Paul’s Drag Race (VH1)

rupaul drag race 2017 Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1)

Beyond the backstage drama, the tongue-in-cheek challenges like fan-favorite “Snatch Game,” the lip syncing for their lives, and yaaaaas-worthy death drops, RuPaul’s Drag Race is really a weekly celebration of the ingenuity and technical artistry of drag. Whether it’s Sasha Velour’s now iconic performance with the rose petals or Violet Chachki’s insanely GIF-able “fall runway” look, these queens continually surprise, delight, and RuVeal themselves to be serious fucking artists deserving of any and every spotlight. The show’s runaway success — including multiple Emmy Award wins — is proof of drag’s sashay into the mainstream once and for all. Condragulations, queens. You’ve more than earned it. –Emmy Potter


45. Mindhunter (Netflix)

Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany investigating crime in Mindhunter

Mindhunter (Netflix)

What if Zodiac, one of the greatest films of the 21st century, were a TV show? That’s essentially the logline for Mindhunter, David Fincher’s Netflix series about the early attempts by the FBI to profile the psychology of serial killers. Steeped in Fincher’s cold, detail-oriented formal precision, Mindhunter plumbs the depths of the human psyche by putting us face-to-face with chilling depictions of real-life madmen like Ed Kemper, Wayne Williams, and Charles Manson. It’s darkly funny at times (Cameron Britton’s appearances as Kemper certainly), but no less an unsettling glimpse into the darkness that lies within men’s souls — even in the people we least expect. –Clint Worthington


44. Orphan Black (BBC)

Tatiani Maslany, Orphan Black

Orphan Black (BBC)

Oh, sestras, we miss the Clone Club. If nothing else, BBC America’s Orphan Black was perhaps the decade’s best acting showcase. Any show that includes characters like Sarah Manning, Alison Hendrix, Cosima Niehaus, Helena, and Rachel Duncan would be a wonderland for any actor; the fact that all of those characters, and a number of others, were played by the same person remains mind-boggling. Tatiana Maslany’s performances are so specific, so fully realized, that even as the plot got increasingly bonkers, Orphan Black remained a human, character-focused story. Sure, things went a little off the rails near the end there, but Maslany, the rest of the cast, and the show’s writers ensured that the madness never overwhelmed the story of community and identity at its heart. Does it belong on our list? You’re damn right. –Allison Shoemaker


43. Adventure Time (Cartoon Network)

Adventure Time New Series HBO Max Cartoon Network

Adventure Time (Cartoon Network)

Adventure Time could be anything from week-to-week: a bout of zany slapstick, a candy-coated dose of art house flair, a metaphor for adolescence, a war of the realms, a musical revue, or a simple tale of a boy and his dog. But no matter what, it would be funny, heartfelt, and endlessly creative. The limitless world of the series took Jake the Dog, Finn the Human, and dozens of allies and enemies to alternate epochs, dimensions, and planets, but also to deep thematic and personal territory, far beyond the ambit of most shows nominally aimed at kids. It’s that ambition and reach, from the fantastical to the introspective, that marked the show as something truly unique and incredible. –Andrew Bloom


42. Eastbound and Down (HBO)

Danny McBride, Eastbound and Down, Kenny Powers

Eastbound and Down (HBO)

Jody Hill has established himself in both film and television as a keen-eyed chronicler of the insufferable American male, as well as the yearning and destructive hubris usually fueling them. So far Eastbound and Down remains his most compelling take on that subject, following the screamingly funny and slyly insightful tale of one-time superstar MLB pitcher and compulsive fuck-up Kenny Powers. Danny McBride’s turn as Powers is as ferocious as any comic turn on TV this decade, turning profanity into an artistic medium even as he’s willing to expose the pathetic, flop-sweating desperation at the center of Kenny’s bluster. He’s not an especially good person, but he’s not yet beyond redemption. He’s just Kenny fucking Powers, always on the road to his inevitable comeback.. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


41. Downton Abbey (BBC/PBS)

downton abbey s6 e8 post ep 1920x1080 Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

Downton Abbey (BBC/PBS)

A scandalous love affair, betrayal and brawl down in the servants quarters, and an impeccably delivered Maggie Smith line all before tea time? That was the absolute beauty of Downton Abbey, the fanciest, most sophisticated soap opera of the decade. Sure, the historical backdrop of the British period series made for guaranteed drama and eye candy — oh, those luxurious outfits and hats — but it was the weaving plot lines and the exemplary cast that carried them out that made the show the ideal bit of escapism for us viewers. Stories like the contrasting lifestyles of the Crawleys and the help could have easily been portrayed poorly, like the usual tawdry tabloid headline, but Julian Fellowes managed to inject plenty of heart and empathy into his project — so much so that I’m still torn up about Cousin Matthew years later. –Lake Schatz


40. Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime Video)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime Video)

It’s easy to see how Amy Sherman-Palladino’s dramatic comedy series racked up an impressive number of Emmy wins. Dazzling production and costume design, music supervision, and lush art direction all culminate in an idyllic portrait of 1950s New York City. At the center of it all is Sherman-Palladino’s acerbic wit and razor-sharp dialogue, and only the effortlessly charming Rachel Brosnahan has the rapid-fire speed to deliver it. The exuberant tale of a ‘50s housewife with ambitions of becoming a stand-up comedian is relayed with as much heart as with humor, with a stellar supporting cast that more than holds their own. –Meagan Navarro


39. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

HBO, Michael Pitt, Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Boardwalk Empire wasn’t the first HBO mafia series set in New Jersey. And while most contemporary TV shows live in the shadow of The Sopranos, Boardwalk drew an even higher number of comparisons. But showrunner Terence Winter managed to elevate the Atlantic City drama to stand on its own thanks in part to stellar performances by Steve Buscemi, Michael K. Williams, and the ever-manic Michael Shannon, whose turn breaking bad from Prohibition Bureau Agent to muscle for hire was a cruel sight to behold. The unsung hero of the show though was the masked character Richard Harrow (Jack Huston), a wounded veteran whose arc allowed him to bravely reveal his scars, both the ones on his face and those in his heart. –Dan Pfleegor


38. New Girl (FOX)

Jake Johnson, Zooey Deschanel, New Girl, Fox

New Girl (FOX)

At first blush (and in its first season), New Girl seemed little more than a cloying vehicle for Manic Pixie Dream Girl Zooey Deschanel to quirk her way on to TV screens for a steady paycheck. (Early ads emphasized her ‘adorkable’ nature — gag). But Elizabeth Meriwether’s sunny, charming sitcom quickly found its mojo by folding in the supporting cast into a winning ensemble, from Jake Johnson’s slovenly Nick Miller to Max Greenfield’s fussy Schmidt to Lamorne Morris’ cat-loving Winston. From there, the show’s offbeat sensibility modulated itself into good-hearted stories about friendship and maturing and inscrutable games of True American. Between the laughs, it also captured that fuzzy uncertainty of not being where you’re supposed to be in your life in a way not a lot of other post-recession sitcoms have. –Clint Worthington


37. The Crown (BBC/Netflix)

the crown netflix season 3

The Crown (Netflix)

The Crown shouldn’t be as engrossing as it is. It’s almost too easy to look up everything that happens, and let’s be honest: the kind of people who stan hard for The Crown already know everything that’s happened to the Royal family over past few centuries. And yet, the writing from Peter Morgan, combined with the exquisite sets, costumes, and layered performances (all close enough to impressions that they’re believable but not so direct that they’re hokey) make binging the The Crown feel like diving into a Wikipedia hole until you realize it’s 3 AM … and you have to be leave for work in four hours, but you continue ’till dawn anyway. –Carrie Wittmer


36. Enlightened (HBO)

Laura Dern, Enlightened, HBO,

Enlightened (HBO)

Laura Dern has a gift for inhabiting complicated, angry women like Enlightened’s Amy Jellicoe—a woman whose rage over the unjustness of her corporate workplace always seems to sit just below the surface of her smile, manifesting itself in a kind of chipper passive-aggressiveness and unapologetic ambition. Mike White’s darkly hilarious, deeply humane portrait of an angry woman in crisis was ahead of its time and gone far too soon. Amy’s quest to be “an agent of change” feels as relevant as ever in an era where women everywhere are fed up with the status quo. Anchored by Dern’s revelatory performance, White’s beautiful writing, and a stellar supporting cast (including Luke Wilson and Diane Ladd), Enlightened makes the case for allowing yourself to breakdown so you can breakthrough to something better: hope. —Emmy Potter


35. 11.22.63 (Hulu)

11 22 63 Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

11.22.63 (Hulu)

Originally conceived to be a feature film by the late Jonathan Demme, Stephen King’s 11.22.63 eventually found a home at Hulu. At the time, most Constant Readers were elated at the move, and their notions were confirmed when the eight-episode miniseries dropped in the Winter of 2016. To everyone’s surprise, the casting was spot-on — particularly, Sarah Gadon as Sadie Dunhill — and the edits from page to screen were economical, imperative, and surprisingly rewarding. It was legitimately refreshing to see one of his books brought to the small screen with such justice, and in hindsight, it’s clear this miniseries set the bar for the King renaissance that would soon follow. –Michael Roffman


34. True Detective (HBO)

true detective Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

True Detective (HBO)

It’s unusual for a show with only one fantastic season to creep onto a best of list. But it speaks to the greatness of Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, and Michelle Monaghan’s cruel, hypnotic dance in the Court of the Yellow King. This misadventure pairs philandering Louisiana Police Detective Marty Hart (Harrelson) with the ever-quotable nihilist Rust Cohole (McConaughey) to investigate a cultish murder. It starts as a typical procedural. But the swampy nature of Carcosa, director Cary Fukunaga’s ability to blend the otherworldly, and a must-see six minute tracking shot are just a few clues that elevate the first season into a first-degree installment of the fabled McConaissance. The following two anthology series proved that when it comes to masterclass television, time is [not] a flat circle. But the comparison borders on unfair given the game changing, premiere installment of True Detective. –Dan Pfleegor


33. The Good Place (NBC)

The Good Place - Season 2

The Good Place (NBC)

At the end of its first season, The Good Place inverted everything it had established up to that point, concluding (and restarting) with an instant all-timer of a twist. It took a compelling series about heaven and hell and the quintessentially human gray areas in between to shocking places. It could’ve moved on placidly from there and still served as one of the great comedies of its age, a treatise on moral philosophy with a golden-era Simpsons ratio of perfectly delivered jokes and one of TV’s best ensembles. Instead, it kicked off the second season by flipping the tables again, and again, and kept going every week until it became clear that The Good Place is operating in a class all its own. As it approaches the end of its four-season run without ever losing its sense of who its characters are and how they’ve changed each other, we have to say that it’s all pretty forking impressive. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


32. Chernobyl (HBO)

Screen Shot 2019 06 08 at 5.13.08 PM Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

Chernobyl (HBO)

HBO’s five-episode miniseries isn’t horror, but its complex, riveting depiction of a country forever changed by the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is bone-chilling just the same. Created and written by Craig Mazin with care, Chernobyl is as much a fable about the dangers of burying hard truths as it is a harrowing disaster epic. This limited series will test your gag reflex, shred your nerves, and shatter your heart. With compelling performances by stars Jared Harris, Emily Watson, and Stellan Skarsgård, and director Johan Renck’s masterful hand at creating palpable tension and utter dread, Chernobyl is must-see TV. –Meagan Navarro


31. Documentary Now (IFC)

Documentary Now! (IFC)

Documentary Now! (IFC)

Let’s face it, it takes a specific kind of nerd to be a fan of Documentary Now!. You have to know who the Beales of Grey Gardens were, or clock the fly-on-the-wall immediacy of a D.A. Pennebaker documentary from a mile away. But Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Seth Meyer’s IFC series parodying some of the best (and most obscure) documentaries of all time is a feast of period-accurate research and ambitious conceptual jokes. Whether you’re watching a Grey Gardens parody that slowly morphs into a found-footage horror film, or a behind-the-scenes doc of a cast recording for a musical that never existed, the show’s immensely rewarding for those five people in on the joke. Lucky for us, we’re some of them.  –Clint Worthington


30. Girls (HBO)

Girls, Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Cast Photo

Girls (HBO)

Girls captured the thoughts, feelings, and anxieties of a generation that was let down by a crippling recession that would affect (and continues to affect) every aspect of their adult lives. Or, at least, it thought it captured this. In its early seasons, Girls did represent the voice of many millennials. But its legacy is that it also ignored anyone from the same generation who wasn’t a straight white woman whose parents could send them money whenever they needed it. Despite that it’s still significant: without Girls, so many stories wouldn’t have been made — or they just wouldn’t feel quite as right — from Abbi and Illana’s adventures on Broad City to Kylo Ren’s slow path to redemption in the Star Wars Skywalker saga. If it weren’t for Adam Driver, a future Oscar-winner who was the break-out star of Girls, the emo, tantrum-prone (yet gentle!) son of Han Solo and Leia Organa would not be the same. –Carrie Wittmer


29. Better Call Saul (AMC)

bcs 301 ms 1007 0384 rt e1491760682800 Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

Better Call Saul (AMC)

If there’s a story to be told, Vince Gilligan must tell it, and Saul Goodman is one of ’em. Through four seasons — with a fifth on the way this February — the veteran scribe has given us a reason to stick around New Mexico. Yes, this is another downward spiral a la Walter White, and, yes, we know where Saul ends up when all is said and done, but as they say, the journey is the reward. And with someone like Gilligan, the journey is always the reward. This is a guy who has all kinds of misadventures, schemes, or loopholes falling out of his pockets, and Better Call Saul is a testament to that truth. Gilligan has always been the one who knocks, and we’ll always be the ones to answer. –Michael Roffman


28. Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Parks and Recreation coming to Comedy Central

Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Today, Parks and Recreation feels like an impossible fairytale. Decent people coming together despite their many differences to make their community a better place, one park, festival, or fixed pothole at a time—what a ridiculous concept. Yet like the other two Michael Schur sitcoms on this list—the guy had a good decade, what can we say—Parks makes the radical argument that trying your best to leave the world a better place is an effort worth making. That’s an idea embodied in the person of Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope, the head of an all-time great comedy ensemble whose determination and joy earned the affection and loyalty of everyone in her orbit—to say nothing of those watching at home. Bye bye Lil’ Sebastian, we shall never know your like again. –Allison Shoemaker


27. American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson (FX)

oj simpson Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson (FX)

Nearly 25 years after O.J. Simpson was tried and acquitted for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman, amid an ocean of controversy and public debate, American Crime Story reappraises the murder and trial as a flashpoint for irreversible schisms in American culture and discourse. Of course, none of it happened in a vacuum; the limited series reaches back to the Rodney King beating and subsequent L.A. riots while treating the lurid tabloid frenzy around the trial as a near-apocalyptic harbinger of things to come. Featuring some of this TV decade’s best performances (Sarah Paulson, Sterling K. Brown, Courtney B. Vance), The People vs. O.J. Simpson stands as a uniquely frightening reminder of how little justice was served for those who lost the most, and why. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


26. Bojack Horseman (Netflix)

Bojack Horseman Todd Aaron Paul Netflix Canceled

Bojack Horseman (Netflix)

What started as another sophomoric, funny animal cartoon with a showbiz-spoofing twist soon became one of television’s funniest and most formally inventive series. Even more surprisingly, the “sad horse show” also offered searing interrogations of depression, destruction, and recovery. BoJack Horseman could craft a brilliant episode from a listicle, a hallucinatory jag, an underwater silent film adventure, or just a guy standing in front of a podium for 20 minutes. But it could also grapple with the #MeToo movement, process the fissures and pressures on relationships, colleagues, and friends, and deal with the rigors of self-loathing, intermittent healing, and their attendant harms. The wrapper may be equine, but six seasons have proved BoJack to be one of the most achingly human shows on television. –Andrew Bloom


25. Black Mirror (BBC/Netflix)

san junipero Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

Black Mirror (Netflix)

As if we needed another reason to fear the modern world, anthology series Black Mirror explores technology-based paranoia for five seasons and running. Stories about death, identity, moral dilemma, faith, and fidelity intertwined with our ever-increasing reliance on technology, series creator Charlie Brooker presents a thought-provoking series that often leans heavily toward the bleak. As its title suggests, Black Mirror is a self-reflection of modern society, and it’s nearly always a disturbing visage. An audacious satire of our media-obsessed digital age, this series is compelling, well-written, and almost always shocking. Think a warped, more mature The Twilight Zone. –Meagan Navarro


24. Broad City (Comedy Central)

Broad City (Comedy Central)

Broad City (Comedy Central)

New York City is home to a lot of great shows. However, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, who turned their web series into a TV show, took NYC and made it home for an entirely new generation. At the beginning, the series was an offbeat approach to the “mid-twentysomething trying to figure it out” trope, but at its roots, Broad City is an exploration in friendship. It chronicles the value of having that person who stands by you, supports you, encourages you, believes in you (Yasss Queen!!) — especially when you don’t believe in yourself — and, in its later years, even delves into the restrictions of how that support can turn into dependency or enablement. However, everything Abbi and Ilana do for each other, they do out of love. The show became a safe space during the Trump Era and provided us with a bunch of inspirational mantras of self-love, kindness, and hope. Broad City covered a lot of ground in only five seasons, and many of us are better people and friends because of it. –Samantha Lopez


23. Game of Thrones (HBO)

Game of Thrones, Bran Stark, HBO

Game of Thrones (HBO)

Do you judge a TV show by the race it ran or by how it finished? Game of Thrones waded into its fair share of controversies and served up an ending that no more than 12 people enjoyed. But it also offered eight seasons of big-budget fantasy, twisty political drama, and incredible actors tossing bon mots at one another in nebulously period-appropriate clothing and locales. From grand set pieces to stirring personal moments to water cooler worthy-reveals, the show commanded so much of our cultural consciousness in the past decade, earning legions of fans and detractors in equal measure. In its final frame, the series may have fallen short of greatness, but at its peak, it was still one of television’s biggest, buzziest, and best. –Andrew Bloom


22. Community (NBC)

community1 Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

Community (NBC)

Community mastered the pitch-perfect pastiche, effortlessly spun out hilarious meta-comic dialogue, and boasted one of television’s best ensembles, one that could do or be anything from week-to-week. But the show didn’t just wring the laughs from rampant self-reference or remind us of our favorite bits of pop culture ephemera. It used its humor and homages to drill down into its characters, to tell stories about maturation and growth and bonding, and the darker underbelly of each. Whether it was slinging paintballs or shifting to claymation or self-consciously “doin’ a bottle episode,” Community never forgot to draw back to something real in all of its outsized Greendale craziness. –Andrew Bloom


21. Fargo (FX)

fargo season 2 Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

Fargo (FX)

Rarely, if ever, does revisiting IP work as well as it has for FX’s Fargo. When it was first announced that the Coen brothers’ Oscar hit would be turned into an anthology series, it read a little desperate. What the hell do we need that for? And yet, Noah Hawley found something there. For three seasons — and soon to be a fourth — he’s cleverly mined stories within stories, offering punchy parables that are as merciless as they are hilarious. What’s more, each season has given something back to pop culture, be it introducing us to Allison Tolman, bringing out the best in Kirsten Dunst, or providing a double dose of Ewan McGregor. Series is a smooth smoothie. Yah, it’s a good one. –Michael Roffman


20. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (CW)

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The CW

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW)

In the first five minutes of its pilot, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend lets you know that it’s a subversion of its unfortunate title, which stopped people (including me) from watching it at first. The comedy-musical made musical theater die-hards feel seen, and it simultaneously redefined the way mental health is depicted on television by being the first to approach it in such a deeply personal, vulnerable way, while allowing room for gross-out humor in between. And let’s not forget about all of those songs… –Carrie Wittmer


19. Making a Murderer (Netflix)

Making a Murderer Season Photo

Making a Murderer (Netflix)

Making a Murderer landed like a thunderclap on the pop culture landscape when it premiered on Netflix in 2016. An exhaustive 10-hour look at the case of Steven Avery, who still protests his innocence in the murder of a young woman 18 years after going to prison for it, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos’ series raised as many questions about Avery’s possible innocence as it has about the subjectivity of documentary narratives. A binge-worthy true-crime series at a time when binge-watching and true crime had never been hotter, Making a Murderer commanded the national conversation in a way few other series have. And even as a lackluster Season 2 was marred by its focus on its own popularity, the show’s initial impact on our popular consciousness can’t be ignored. –Clint Worthington


18. Bob’s Burgers (FOX)

Bob's Burgers, FOX

Bob’s Burgers (FOX)

In simplest terms, Bob’s Burgers is about Bob Belcher, who runs the titular burger shack with his loving wife and their three children. And when the show first premiered in 2011, everyone sat back and wondered where this off-beat, weird cartoon was going to go. Nearly a decade later, creator Loren Bouchard has taken us on misadventures both affecting and strange, but it always goes back to those characters. The long-suffering restaurateur who adores his family, his devoted wife insisting upon his wildest fry-cook dreams, and their glorious children who just might be the most honest portrayals of humanity ever to be inked for network TV. All of their humor, heart, and affection is why we keep coming back for seconds. –Samantha Lopez


17. When They See Us (Netflix)

when they see us ava duvernay netflix series

When They See Us (Netflix)

Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana Jr., and Korey Wise should never have been imprisoned. When They See Us knows this, and establishes this fact in its first ominous scenes of five young boys going out on an April night in 1989 to meet girls and play around in Central Park. Ava DuVernay’s unforgettable limited series, exploring their wrongful incarcerations and the years of aftermath that followed, is not interested in debating this point, or allowing for any sort of both-sides handwringing on the topic. It’s a shattering account of what the now-dubbed Exonerated Five were forced to endure, and a rebuke of the sociopolitical forces that imprisoned them for the benefit of hungry prosecutors and a ravenous 24-hour news cycle. It may be set 30 years ago, but the events of When They See Us could just as easily take place today. Somewhere in America, they likely are. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


16. Succession (HBO)

Succession (HBO)

Succession (HBO)

On the rare occaision that I’m tasked with writing about Succession, I get so nervous to the point of extreme nausea, including gagging. It’s the same feeling you’d get in middle school when you were about to send your crush a message on AIM. I just don’t want to embarrass myself by saying something … embarrassing. Okay, here we go: Succession is the most confident show ever made, but it’s not egotistical. The writers allow the characters to be themselves, instead of hesitating to ask stupid questions like, “Is it too much for Roman to jerk off in the bathroom while Gerri tells him he is a bad boy?,” or “Is Shiv wearing too many turtlenecks?” This, along with allowing Kendall Roy to be the most feeling white man ever written (or acted by the inventor of acting Jeremy Strong), makes it one of the most significant shows of the decade, only two seasons into its run. –Carrie Wittmer


15. Hannibal (NBC)

Mads Mikkelsen, Hannibal, NBC

Hannibal (NBC)

Looking back, it’s a wonder that NBC signed off on something as grotesque, weird, and conceptually beautiful as Hannibal. Bryan Fuller’s twisted, baroque take on the infamous Thomas Harris character was a quantum leap forward for network procedural storytelling, emphasizing heady meditations on the aesthetics of death over approachable TV-friendly rhythms. And the central, subtextually queer dynamic between Mads Mikkelsen’s bespoke cannibal and Hugh Dancy’s twitchy consultant Will Graham was a central component of the show’s off-kilter appeal. At three seasons, it was gone too soon, but as Hannibal would probably say, a thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts. –Clint Worthington


14. Key and Peele (Comedy Central)

Jordan Peele, Keegan Michael-Key, Gremlins 2, Comedy Central

Key and Peele (Comedy Central)

Take it from a guy named Bah-lah-kay. Key and Peele made a god damn dent. Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s raucous sketch show gratified audiences looking for both catchphrase comedy and yuks with a little something to say. From perverse, to bizarre, to slap-happy, to surreal, Key and Peele mastered the art of taking a nugget of a joke idea and pushing it as far as one humanly can. The aforementioned public school teacher mangling names was litany of silly sounds and words, and a thesis on problems with education and racial identity politics. The duo nervously calling their spouses ‘bitch’ while pushing the boundaries of safety and fragile masculinity to outer space was inspired, insightful delirium. And the Obama rage translator, a performance art piece de resistance on what we say versus what we mean. –Blake Goble


13. Justified (FX)

Justified, Timothy Olymphant, FX

Justified (FX)

Justified was a rare show that successfully combined and alternated between a procedural and a serialized story. The early 2010s were all about breaking the mold of the procedural, and diving into character driven “prestige tv.” For that reason, Justified sadly never got the attention it so deserved. The show, set in Harlan County, Kentucky, wouldn’t have worked so well tonally without the performances and chemistry of its two leads: American treasures Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins, who may be a god. –Carrie Wittmer


12. Steven Universe (Cartoon Network)

Steven-Universe

Steven Universe (Cartoon Network)

We’ve had lots of great sci-fi and fantasy stories this decade, more queer stories than ever before, a few great musicals, some excellent animated series, and a bunch of wonderful shows about families, chosen and otherwise. Steven Universe is among the best in all those categories. Rebecca Sugar’s epic wove its mythology gently and teased its themes out over time, peeling back layer after glittering layer to reveal a world as involved and a story as nuanced as anything else out there. All of those things are worth celebrating, but Steven Universe is also a joyful, silly, ridiculous kids show; Sugar’s ability to balance those seemingly opposed elements is unmatched. And no joke, “Stronger Than You” slaps. –Allison Shoemaker


11. The Leftovers (HBO)

the leftovers 7 e1492180509731 Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

The Leftovers (HB0)

Like The Good Place, Twin Peaks: The Return, Halt and Catch Fire, Steven Universe, BoJack Horseman, and quite a few of the decade’s best series, The Leftovers concerned itself with the relatively lightweight, fluffy subjects of meaning, mortality, and existence. It began as an adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s novel of the same name, the story of what happens to those left behind after a small percentage of the world’s population was seemingly Raptured, but it Damon Lindelof’s masterpiece evolved into something strange and marvelous in its second and third seasons, leading to breathtaking final chapter that grows increasingly more resonant and moving with each rewatch. –Allison Shoemaker


10. Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)

Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis, Lee Pace, Halt and Catch Fire, AMC

Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)

Halt and Catch Fire was built to be a hit. Following the award-winning run of both Mad Men and Breaking BadChristopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers’ ’80s tech-y drama was primed to usher in another era of critically-acclaimed programming for AMC. Yet, like so much of the show’s nostalgic narrative, that was an alternative history that never came to fruition. Instead, the series became an underdog, one that howled for its existence off screen as much as its own characters did on screen, and that actually wound up aiding its run. Because really, Halt is about The Struggle; it’s a never-ending tug-of-war between zeroes and villains perpetually up against ungodly odds. As they endured, so did the show, and that bizarre negotiation of fiction and reality certainly elevated our feelings towards the characters and the series. In a meta way, it’s as if their own aspirations were intrinsically tied to ours, and seeing them prevail was not only elating, but curiously palpable. It felt good to see David win in a world run by too many Goliaths. –Michael Roffman


09. Atlanta (FX)

Atlanta, photo by Guy D'Alema/FX

Atlanta (FX)

Atlanta will stand as a touchstone of the television medium in the years to come, and it’s not often one can say that with total confidence after only two seasons. Yet the ongoing trials of Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) and his cousin Earn (Donald Glover) and their friend Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) and Earn’s on-off partner Van (Zazie Beetz) have already cemented their place in the canon by destabilizing expectations to the point of incomparability. It’s a rapper’s come-up story filtered through Lynchian surrealism, an exploration of modern isolation dabbling in the surreal and grotesque and nightmarish. Sometimes it’s about a night in one of Drake’s houses, sometimes it’s about the terror of losing the shitty job that separates you from life being a lot harder. Sometimes it’s a screwball comedy about an elusive barber, and usually it’s about how the grass never looks greener on any side. You’re just getting by, or you’re not getting by at all. There’s never been anything quite like Atlanta, and though it’s undoubtedly bound to be nicked in the years to come, it’ll always have been there first. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


08. Veep (HBO)

Veep (HBO)

Veep (HBO)

Veep started out as a funhouse mirror of American politics, stretching and exaggerating the mendacity, cravenness, and ineptitude of those in and around Capitol Hill for the sheer comedy and absurdity of it. Then reality caught up. At some point in its seven-season run, Armando Iannucci’s insult-laden ode to Washington D.C. dysfunction stopped being a satire and just became ahead of the curve. Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ awards-amassing performance as V.P. Selina Meyer held this whirling dervish of profanity and insanity together, the eye of Veep’s uproarious storm of shameless climbers and deluded lackeys. But with her as its anchor, the series also proved ready to weather the real world’s political sea-change, pivoting to show what Selina had to give up in her Ahab-esque quest for the Oval Office, how low she would go in pursuit of it, and how empty it ultimately left her. The series was always a knives out, no-punches-pulled parody of all things presidential and preposterous, but slowly revealed itself as the best preparation for the current political moment, and the best commentary on it too. –Andrew Bloom


07. Twin Peaks (Showtime)

rr 05587 r Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

Twin Peaks (Showtime)

Twin Peaks: The Return offered an escape in 2017 — and boy golly, did we need it. Everyone went into David Lynch and Mark Frost’s epic 18-part series completely blind and everyone came out shaking their head, having experienced something both wonderful and strange. For many, Dale Cooper’s inter-dimensional journey felt personal, as if they were reconnecting with a feeling that had long been missing. Like a whisper of a whisper of a dream. The world is a dark place, after all, and by the turn of the decade, it had turned as black as midnight on a moonless night. Many of us felt like we were sinking, burning, or falling, and we still do all these years later. So, seeing our hero — a beacon of virtue in every sense of the word — slowly seep back into a world that had similarly become as evil as our own quickly turned existential. Like Cooper, we’re standing under that statue in Las Vegas, trying to reconcile these feelings, yearning to get through, and hoping to wake up. Unfortunately for us, we’ve yet to hear Laura scream. –Michael Roffman


06. Fleabag (BBC/Amazon)

Fleabag stage show heading to theaters

Fleabag (Amazon Prime)

Forget about the Hot Priest. Okay, maybe don’t forget about him—Andrew Scott’s performance is one of many facets of the masterpiece that is Fleabag’s second season, after all—but please look beyond the outsized Twitter reactions to the hotness to dig into the nuanced, fragile, wondrous thing beneath. “This is a love story,” Phoebe Waller-Bridge says at the beginning of the second season, and it is, the whole way through. It’s the story of how a broken, grieving woman manages to stop hating herself, how she comes to understand the depth of her bond with her sister, and how important it is to find people who see us, and love us, as we are. It is also one of the funniest, filthiest shows of the century, for reasons that go well beyond that “kneel.” So yes, there’s a Hot Priest, but the real draw of Fleabag is Fleabag herself, a complicated, contradictory, flawed, marvelously alive woman who makes us her confidante, then outgrows us—great for her, and for that perfect finale, but bad for a world more than ready for a season three. –Allison Shoemaker


05. Stranger Things (Netflix)

Stranger Things, Netflix

Stranger Things (Netflix)

By now, Stranger Things is a worldwide phenomenon. It’s the ’80s summer blockbuster the show has been striving to be since “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers”. There’s action, there’s horror, there’s adventure, there’s drama, it’s all in there. With each new chapter, the Duffer brothers keep piling on more and more, but they never lose sight of character and story. There’s a musicality to their work that speaks to the re-watchable magic of our worn-out VHS tapes in the sense that you feel part of a genuine world. Past characters evolve, new characters earn their keep, the aesthetics never let up, and yet the story feels self-contained. How the Duffers maintain and escalate this ebb and flow is a credit to their vision, but they always warrant the space. Much of it has to do with their relationship to nostalgia, and how they never let it consume them. It’s fuel for creativity and the Duffers keep managing to stay at the head of their campaign, which is why we’re always curious to see what they’ll roll next. –Michael Roffman


04. Nathan For You (Comedy Central)

Nathan For You Nathan Fielder Blue Suit

Nathan Fielder (Comedy Central)

There are levels to Nathan Fielder. Behind his polite, flat Canadian demeanor lies a sly manipulator who pokes and prods everyone unfortunate enough to come into his orbit, and many do within his docu-reality comedy series, Nathan For You. Like Sacha Baron Cohen or Howard Stern before him, Fielder possess an innate ability to target and exploit lovely weirdos. Whether he’s setting up his shy assistant Salomon for sponsored blind dates, clearing out ghosts with loquacious psychic Ron Bard, or searching for the lost love of professional Bill Gates impersonator William Heath, Fielder’s eye for comedic diamonds in the rough is uncanny. He’s also fearless. Fielder is not afraid to be sued by major corporations, be it Best Buy, Starbucks, or Enron, and employs liberal use of parody law to point out the mindless flaws of late-stage capitalism. At its core, though, Nathan For You is a meta-modern narrative about a middle-aged man just trying to make a genuine human connection — and he just might have. The world may never know. And that’s the way Nathan likes it. —Dan Pfleegor


03. Mad Men (AMC)

mad men cast Top 100 TV Shows of the 2010s

Mad Men (AMC)

In a time when television gave us much to gawk at, Mad Men ditched the cops, the drug lords, and the mafiosos, lit up a Lucky Strike, ordered an Old Fashioned, and requested that we — wait for it — think. Mad Men was an impeccably designed period drama about ad men, sure, but moreso Matthew Wiener’s series existed as the golden chisel used to mine the shrouded caverns of identity, growth, success and society for us all. “Advertising is based on one thing – happiness.” It was the pilot pitch heard around the world, as much applicable cigarette advertising as it still is to television, film, and hell, everyday life in any American age to come. All Dick Whitman ever aspired to was happiness, but, in a sick, twisted, and especially American way, Don Draper could only succeed in mock-ups and pristine knockoffs of the joy he sought so desperately (here’s looking at you, Coca Cola) for himself. Of course, if you think Mad Men’s defining sentiment belongs only in the ‘60s (and later ‘70s), this writer recommends you pour yourself an Old Fashioned before posting your next Instagram pic. –Irene Monokandilos


02. Breaking Bad (AMC)

Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad (AMC)

The history of television can be divided into two eras: TV before Breaking Bad, and TV after Breaking Bad. More than a decade later, Walter White’s shadow still looms large over the ever-expanding reach of prestige television. Vince Gilligan’s tale of “a man who transforms himself from Mr. Chips into Scarface” ripples through the rhythms of most modern TV, from its elevation of the cinematic standards of TV storytelling to its pitch-perfect cast and tightly-wound serialization. The greatest trick Breaking Bad ever pulled was masking a twisted, complicated tale of the cancer at the heart of American exceptionalism inside one of the best pitch-black comedies in television history. It’s easy to view the exploits of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman through the lens of slapstick comedy — a buffoonish boomer stumbling into the hard-knock life of the drug trade with the help of his hapless burnout student. But take a closer look, and these characters revealed their darker sides: greed, capriciousness, rage. It’s a tonal tightrope few shows have successfully emulated. It’s a series about the subjectivity of morality, and the willingness of difficult men to justify evil for the sake of their own fragile egos. Breaking Bad happily swam in its own complicated waters, and navigated addicted audiences through it with some of the most innovative TV filmmaking this side of the Rio Grande. –Clint Worthington


01. The Americans (FX)

The Americans (FX)

The Americans (FX)

Breaking Bad and Mad Men are both masterpieces, there’s no doubt about it. But our show of the decade lived not in the deserts outside Albuquerque nor the glistening skyscrapers of Manhattan but in the kitchen of an average American family who are, simultaneously, neither average nor American after all. Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg’s The Americans was equal parts savvy spy drama and quiet meditation on relationships and intimacy, an exploration of our history and our present, a story that asks what it means to be married, or happy, or lonely, or American.

At a time when subtlety and nuance have become less and less commonplace and valued, The Americans asked if and when it was possible to be two contradictory things at once: a spy and a friend, a husband and a coworker, a daughter and an operative, an FBI agent and a neighbor, a Russian and an American, free and trapped, triumphant but broken.

This story was never going to have a happy ending, but it gave us something even more improbable: a perfect finale, heartbreaking and hopeful, featuring series-best performances from each and every member of the regular cast, particularly Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. It ended as it began: Thrilling and brilliant, packed with perfect musical choices and unforgettable moments—but above all else, it gave us scene after scene in which two contradictory things are both true, a testament to the complexity of politics, parenting, and life itself.

All that, and one last Mail Robot came, too. –Allison Shoemaker

view all
13 comments