Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Broad City (Photo: Comedy Central), Bob’s Burgers (Image: Fox), Breaking Bad (Photo: AMC), RuPaul’s Drag Race (Photo: VH1), Mad Men (Screenshot), The Americans (Photo: FX), Atlanta (Photo: Guy D’Alema/FX) Parks And Recreation (Photo: NBC)

Graphic: Rebecca Fassola

Trying to define television in the 2010s has proven just as great a task as keeping up with the surge in series, which crested in 2018 with 495 scripted shows. The plethora of options—not just in series, but platforms, including upstarts turned streaming elders Netflix and Hulu—makes it nearly impossible to neatly summarize the mood or even mode of this era of TV. Was it just a continuation of “The Golden Age of TV” from the previous decade, or was the epoch of beyond-abundant programming rightly summarized by the moniker “Peak TV” (a term has already been amended by its creator)?

Along with “Peak TV,” phrases like “Netflix original” and “cord-cutting” and “second screen” entered common usage, further demonstrating just how much the landscape (and lexicon) had changed. But as the rise in reboots showed, what was old became new again: The anthology series, that old standby, got a facelift from the creator of Nip/Tuck, while the half-hour series, once the domain of the comedy, grew headier and more inventive. Animated sitcoms became critical darlings again, and acclaimed dark comedies found new life on cable. What constituted a TV show was debated, and the line between television and film blurred, as more A-list talent than ever flocked to the small screen, runtimes ran feature length, and series creators insisted on describing their serialized storytelling as very long movies. But even though we struggled to reconcile these new terms, formats, and platforms, our desire to hotly contest what was good and bad remained firmly in place. We continued to make regular attempts to reflect the best of it all, efforts that culminated in the very list you’re reading. And after surveying the efforts of broadcast networks, cablers, and streamers, we can safely say that there wasn’t just a lot of TV in the last decade—there was a lot of great TV to be found in all the revived trends and new initiatives.

But first, the fine print: In order to be eligible for voting, a series had to debut or air the majority of its episodes between January 1, 2010 and October 8, 2019 (no real significance to the date, other than that was when the call for ballots went out). The voting body, which was made up of A.V. Club staffers and contributors, cast a wide net—we considered nonscripted and scripted shows, as well as TV movies and comedy specials. Anthology series were based on the merits of their complete runs (to date), while revivals and reboots like Twin Peaks: The Return and One Day At A Time were judged only on the episodes that aired this past decade. When the dust had settled, we had our list of the 100 best TV shows of the 2010s, which are posted below for the perusal of TV fans everywhere, including the second-screeners, the cord-cutters, and those increasingly rare beings, the live watchers.


100. Show Me A Hero (2015)

It’s the destiny of every David Simon show to toil in relative obscurity while on the air, only to find an audience and acclaim in the afterlife. Let’s hope that’s also the case for Show Me A Hero, which, despite being rooted in a different politician’s career, doubles as commentary on the Obama administration. The irresistible force that is a Yonkers mayor’s optimism meets with an immovable object—bureaucracy—grinding his progress to a halt in a beautifully rendered limited series marked by hope, despair, and exceptional performances across the board. [Danette Chavez]


99. Childrens Hospital (2010-2016)

An Adult Swim cartoon that just happened to be live-action, Childrens Hospital was an elaborate parody of hospital shows (and cop and lawyer shows) set in a children’s hospital in Brazil that prominently featured a clown doctor who valued “the healing power of laughter” over medicine. The satire also went so far that it occasionally became a show within a show, with the actors playing fictional actors who played the characters on Childrens Hospital. [Sam Barsanti]


98. Alias Grace (2017)

It’s the horrifyingly brutal Margaret Atwood adaptation that isn’t The Handmaid’s Tale. With a script from Sarah Polley, direction by Mary Harron, and a star turn from Sarah Gadon, this true-life period piece excels on all fronts, following a young 1840s woman who immigrates to Canada for work and ends up convicted of murdering her employer and his housekeeper. It’s only six episodes, but its impact lingers on well past the haunting final minutes. [Alex McLevy]


97. This Is Us (2016-present)

In a decade dominated by the rise of cable and streaming platforms, NBC’s This Is Us proved it’s still possible for a network TV show to capture the cultural conversation, too. Though the time-hopping, multigenerational story of the Pearson family is famous for its big twists and tearjerking moments, the show’s secret strength is its ability to capture the small, lived-in details of family life in any era. [Caroline Siede]


96. Doctor Who (2005-present)

Under the eye of a new showrunner (series veteran Steven Moffat), Doctor Who in the 2010s abandoned much of the focus on character and interpersonal relationships that defined it during the Russell T. Davies era. Instead, the sci-fi series directed its attention toward expanding the Who universe with new baddies, increasingly labyrinthine plots, and season-long mysteries. The change largely worked in Who’s favor—the 2010s are littered with some of the best standalone episodes in the show’s history. [Baraka Kaseko]


95. Over The Garden Wall (2013-2014)

This charming animated series delivered a perfect autumnal fairy tale awash in warm, harvest tones and an impressive gallery of voice actors, from John Cleese to Tim Curry to Elijah Wood. Over The Garden Wall explores the mysteries of mortality in the most heartwarming way imaginable, as brothers Wirt (Wood) and Greg (Collin Dean) encounter a series of peculiar woodland creatures who help them discover when it’s time to let go of this mortal coil—and when it’s time to hang on. [Gwen Ihnat]


94. The Good Fight (2017-present)

Though at times a tonal mess (especially in season three), The Good Fight continues to brim with passion, intelligence, and most importantly, humor. Legal dramas have rarely had it so good, either in their casting—Christine Baranski plays Diane Lockhart with such brio and savviness—or in their showrunners. Michelle and Robert King have made The Good Fight an exciting and necessary sequel, with as many topical storylines as narrative gambles. Here’s to another bout. [Danette Chavez]


93. Banshee (2013-2016)

Cinemax’s Banshee is genre television at its best. The pulpy, violent, erotic story of a paroled convict posing as a Sheriff in a small town was all the setup Banshee needed to deliver propulsive, heart-pounding episodes that twisted into all sorts of strange, brutal places. From an episode-long fight scene in the first season, to truly emotional, heartbreaking character deaths and reckonings, Banshee found the heart and fun at the center of genre storytelling. [Kyle Fowle]


92. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (2014-present)

Going from The Daily Show to his own satirical fake news showcase has allowed surgically cheeky British ex-pat John Oliver the opportunity to expand and refine the standard satirical late-night format. Pulling from his long history in podcasting, his TDS tenure, and the Letterman-Conan tradition of spending network cash on illuminatingly goofy stunts (hello, Mr. Nutterbutter), Oliver invariably turns, say, a 20-minute dive into robocalls into something necessary, hilarious, and improbably corrective. [Dennis Perkins]


91. Broadchurch (2013-2017)

A heartbreaking murder made all the more tragic because the killer was a member of a close-knit, idyllic seaside community. What made Broadchurch so inherently watchable was its odd-couple detectives: David Tennant’s Hardy was as bitter and cantankerous as Olivia Colman’s Miller was open and warm. The whodunit unfurled episode by episode, crossing off suspects who doubled as relatives and friends. Broadchurch showed us that evil can come from the most surprising places, but so can true friendship, as its leads eventually discover. [Gwen Ihnat]


90. Vida (2018-present)

Smart, sexy, and succinct, Tanya Saracho’s Vida presents several binaries—two cultures, two sisters, two communities (the gentrifiers and the displaced)—while breaking free of others. In doing so, it offers some of the most incisive storytelling told in half-hour increments this side of Fleabag. Vida’s exploration of grief and unresolved feelings recalls Six Feet Under, but with its women-led writers’ room and refreshing, female gaze-driven sex scenes, the show is very much paving its own way. [Danette Chavez]


89. O.J.: Made In America (2016)

The recipient of both an Oscar and an Emmy, O.J.: Made In America exemplifies the blurring of the once-rigid lines between film and TV. Produced by the same people behind ESPN’s excellent 30 For 30 series, this sprawling five-part documentary pulls together threads from sports, politics, biography, and true crime to form a portrait of a man, a city, and a justice system all smashing against the rocks of history. [Katie Rife]


88. Undone (2019-present)

Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Kate Purdy have done it again: namely, given viewers another poignant, wildly imaginative series about identity, mental illness, and relationships. Undone’s visuals—a combination of oil painting, 2D animation, and rotoscoping—are gorgeous and remarkable, but they’re never a substitute for substance. Rosa Salazar gives an Emmy-worthy performance, and unlike so many shows that paint Latinx people with a wide brush, Undone crafts a wonderfully specific story about a multicultural family. [Danette Chavez]


87. Master Of None (2015-2017)

Master Of None brought an elevated level of craft to sitcom storytelling in the 2010s with its refined visual language, which referenced everything from French New Wave to The Graduate, and its pointed, often hilarious commentary on dating, religion, and representation. The dramedy helped solidify Netflix’s place as a heavyweight in the original content fight. [Baraka Kaseko]


86. The Crown (2016-present)

The Crown pulled back a heavy and ornate curtain to create a period drama out of one of the most private families in history: the Windsors of Buckingham Palace. Claire Foy and Matt Smith excelled as besotted lovers Elizabeth and Philip, trying desperately to build an affectionate family within the harsh constraints of the palace. Somehow their strong bond gets them through everything from explosive international incidents to a potentially crown-toppling scandal, with even more dangerous headlines yet to come. [Gwen Ihnat]


85. Grey’s Anatomy (2005-present)

Shonda Rhimes’ soapy hospital drama is now in its 16th season, placing it in the all-time top-10 longest-running scripted primetime U.S. TV series, along with Gunsmoke and Lassie. At this point, Grey’s Anatomy’s longevity is its not-so-secret weapon; it has perfected its formula of medical problems as metaphors for relationship ones (original series title: Complications), aided by a now-familiar-as-distant relatives cast of really, really good-looking doctors. And it’s already renewed for season 17. [Gwen Ihnat]


84. Sense8 (2015-2018)

Passionate, exuberant, and joyous, Sense8 is an utterly unique series. A celebration of connection and empathy, the show took viewers on a whirlwind, worldwide adventure, complete with strong performances, creative twists, and the kind of spectacle rarely seen outside the MCU. Whether on a secluded rooftop in South Korea or among the crush of the São Paulo Pride Parade, Sense8 argues that no one’s ever truly alone, if they open themselves to acceptance and love. [Kate Kulzick]


83. Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (2013-2018)

Anthony Bourdain’s death left a spicy food-loving, beer-swilling crater at the center of travel TV programming that may never be filled. Many have tried to imitate the format of his most celebrated series, multiple Emmy winner Parts Unknown, but no one has yet been able to duplicate the combination of endless curiosity, profound empathy, and blistering sarcasm that made Bourdain’s show essential viewing for those who like to consider themselves travelers, not tourists. [Katie Rife]


82. Tuca & Bertie (2018)

Tuca & Bertie’s flight may have been short, but wow, did these birdy best friends soar with a season of some of the funniest, most earnest storytelling Netflix had to offer. Ali Wong and Tiffany Haddish, who voiced the eponymous duo, delivered an unexpected delight of an animated series, one that tackled trauma, relationships, and shitty jobs in between charmingly absurd shots of anthropomorphic pot-smoking plants and puppets. It had so much more to give, but what it did gift us was something exceedingly unique. [Shannon Miller]


81. Looking (2014-2016)

Looking used its central character, Patrick, an uptight, often unlikeable WASP played by Jonathan Groff, to explore a larger community of gay men in a rapidly gentrifying San Francisco. The series’ characters navigated the consequences of their youthful indiscretions, struggled to maintain their relationships, and dealt with a world that had suddenly decided they should be like everyone else. Throw in Andrew Haigh’s visual influence and some stellar performances, and you have a show best described as “tender.” [Eric Thurm]


80. Fringe (2008-2013)

Originally hyped as the possible successor to the zeitgeist-capturing science-fiction adventure Lost, Fringe instead ended its run in 2013 as an under-watched cult favorite, with its own, more esoteric take on the “mad scientist” genre. With its mind-bending, heartbreaking, dimension-hopping storylines—and with its colorful, multilayered performances by John Noble, Anna Torv, and Joshua Jackson—Fringe today remains a rare gem, still waiting to be unearthed by millions of potential viewers. [Noel Murray]

Big Little Lies
Photo: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle

79. Drunk History (2013-present)

Derek Waters handed a fifth of whiskey to some of the sharpest minds in comedy and turned them into worldly historians. The Drunk History formula, in all its simplicity, has resulted in some of the biggest laugh-out-loud moments in television and despite an endless reel of incredibly synced celebrity reenactments, it made the storytellers the stars. “Harriet Tubman is coming with her army full of bad bitches” should be printed in textbooks across the nation. [Shannon Miller]


78. Catastrophe (2015-2019)

This was a decade filled with “anti-rom-coms”—darkly shaded dramedies that have honestly and often hilariously depicted the exhausting grind of couplehood. In Catastrophe, Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney play strangers who become life partners, after one night of passion makes them accidental parents. As these two deeply broken people adjust to each other’s flaws, Horgan and Delaney express something profound about how life is often just a series of mistakes: sometimes devastating, sometimes fortuitous. [Noel Murray]


77. Chernobyl (2019)

Chernobyl tells its story directly. Showing the disaster’s grisly effects on people’s bodies—the suppurating wounds and bloody coughs—underscores how it is the weakest who most suffer from the powerful’s wrongdoing. When you’re not the terrified worker who’ll be sent into an obliterated reactor core because of a rushed test gone wrong, it’s easier to ignore the truth. “What is the cost of lies?” Jared Harris’ despairing physicist utters in the series’ first moments. The following six hours give one devastating answer. [Laura Adamczyk]


76. Penny Dreadful (2014-2016)

Perhaps Universal’s Dark Universe plans failed because we’ve already got an excellent dark universe right here. In Penny Dreadful, writer-creator John Logan works vampires, werewolves, witches, and more—complete with Frankenstein and his monster, of course—into a riotously entertaining horror-laced vision of turn-of-the-century London. But one aspect of this fine series towers above the rest; so once more, let’s applaud the show that may as well be named Eva Green Presents Eva Green And Friends Starring Eva Green. [Alex McLevy]


75. Silicon Valley (2014-present)

An unassuming app developer with a game-changing algorithm, Thomas Middleditch’s Richard Hendricks served as an ideal vessel for the profane, tech-centric satire of HBO’s Silicon Valley. What Mike Judge’s series lacked in surprise—each season more or less played out the same—it made up for in the timeliness of its humor, which targeted everything from VR, AI, and MMORPGs to cryptocurrency, venture capital, and overconfident bros adept at little more than failing upwards. [Randall Colburn]


74. Mindhunter (2017-present)

In a decade that saw some of the world’s most celebrated auteurs moving to television, David Fincher still has to be one of the biggest fish ever caught in the streaming net. His Netflix series, Mindhunter, draws out Fincher’s famously chilly aesthetics for a different type of crime series, one that relishes real-life detail and rejects neat case-of-the-week conclusions. Pairing Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany for one of TV’s most endearing odd couples was just a bonus. [Katie Rife]


73. Person Of Interest (2011-2016)

A CBS procedural that resolutely refused to stick to procedure, Person Of Interest combined digital-age paranoia with top-notch lead performances, all in service of a sci-fi story far more ambitious than its initial “wounded men help people” premise might lead viewers to believe. The Machine may not have been able to see its own truncated final season coming, but it still served up some fantastic hours of high-concept action TV. [William Hughes]


72. Lady Dynamite (2016-2017)

Many comedians have attempted the autobiographical sitcom, but with Lady Dynamite, Maria Bamford rewired the form to fit her own life and mind: The delirious, hyper-meta series both reflects and recounts her experience with bipolar disorder and severe anxiety, juggling three timelines, talking pugs, and a continuous stream of hilarious, smart surprises. It’s a lot to take in, but then, so is the BAMF’s comedic versatility, which was on full display for two brief, explosive seasons. [Kelsey J. Waite]


71. Big Little Lies (2017; 2019)

The first seven episodes of Big Little Lies were as much an exercise in harnessing star power as they were a look at what lies beneath the Williams-Sonoma catalog cover that is the lives of rich Monterrey women. The David E. Kelley series, a mostly faithful adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s novel, was also intended to be a limited one, but who could resist the opportunity to see the Monterrey Five again? Few did, though season two was ultimately less focused and rewarding than the first outing. [Danette Chavez]


70. Orphan Black (2013-2017)

Orphan Black’s legacy will almost certainly be Tatiana Maslany’s incomparable versatility; the series lead played five main characters, and managed to make each role feel lived-in. Bolstered by that stunning performance, Orphan Black told an increasingly intricate story about sisterhood, identity, and finding moments of genuine connection in a dystopian world (that of the Neolution, not ours; but check back with us in a few years). Long live the Clone Club. [Danette Chavez]


69. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017-present)

Premiering in 2017 on Amazon Prime, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel mixes fantastical ideas and historical accuracy in its portrayal of New York City in the late ’50s. Rachel Brosnahan nails it as Midge Maisel, a self-possessed Jewish-American woman entering the male-dominated world of comedy with raunchy humor and astute self-jabs. The quick-witted, big-hearted show was the first streaming series to win Outstanding Comedy at the Emmys, proving it couldn’t have been written by anyone but Amy Sherman-Palladino. [Angelica Cataldo]


68. Treme (2010-2013)

David Simon’s searing, empathetic look at New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina often bit off more than it could chew, but it remains a gorgeous testament to how the rebuilding of a city doubles as a rebuilding of its culture. An aesthetic pleasure more than a narrative one, the show remains singular in how it luxuriated in the city’s musical, culinary, and artistic traditions as it also dissected the sacrifices of committing wholly to them. [Randall Colburn]


67. Big Mouth (2017-present)

Big Mouth’s legendary filthiness and frankness about changing bodies (boobs! body hair! absence of body hair! MONS PUSH!) is matched by its overflowing sex positivity and its emotional openness. A stable of stars (MVP Maya Rudolph, John Mulaney, Jessi Klein, Jason Mantzoukas, Jenny Slate, and Jordan Peele, just for starters) brings to life the pubescent characters from creators Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Jennifer Flackett, and Mark Levin, embodying them in a heady, horny, hilariously honest funk. [Emily L. Stephens]


66. When They See Us (2019)

When They See Us is one of the most harrowing and compelling viewing experiences of the last decade—an important chapter of history that is nonetheless nearly impossible to watch. The Exonerated Five, referred to in the ’80s as the Central Park Five by the media and a criminal justice system that was all too anxious to railroad them, finally have their say in this exceptionally moving and grounded limited series that earned Jharrel Jerome the first of what’s sure to be many acting awards. [Danette Chavez]


65. DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow (2016-present)

Other shows stop may stop and ask, “Why?” Legends Of Tomorrow, though, asks the far more potent, “Why the fuck not?” The decade’s best superhero show consistently dazzled us with a narrative approach best described as “bonkers,” but its greatest trick was doing so without abandoning emotional heft. Sure, the Legends fused into a giant blue fuzzy god to defeat a demon. The real accomplishment was managing to fill our hearts simultaneously. What a gem. [Allison Shoemaker]


64. RuPaul’s Drag Race (2009-present)

RuPaul’s Drag Race, once a shoestring production on Logo, sashayed into the zeitgeist over the decade, its glammed-up alums having gone on to star in Oscar-winning films, release hit albums, and get mistaken for Taylor Swift by John Travolta. Its competitive spirit might feel familiar, but Drag Race offers so much more: couture, empathy, shade, and challenges wholly unique to the culture of its contestants. Lip-syncing has never looked so impressive. [Randall Colburn]


63. High Maintenance (2012-present)

Beyond a bump in production value, Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld’s webseries hasn’t fundamentally changed since HBO picked it up in 2016. And that’s because High Maintenance was, from the beginning, delivering compassionate, must-watch experiments in storytelling. The sense of connection the show builds in glimpsing so many different New Yorkers’ lives, all threaded together by their cannabis dealer, The Guy (Sinclair), is a humanizing, mind-expanding experience we hope to sustain well into the 2020s. [Kelsey J. Waite]


62. Better Things (2016-present)

The rise of both the female-led TV comedy and the half-hour series converged in Better Things, Pamela Adlon’s slightly surreal, thoroughly engrossing look at family, the filming industry, and everything in between. This FX dramedy has improved by the year, as Adlon has grown more comfortable in the role of director and writer (along with series lead and co-creator). Though her character remains beleaguered, Adlon is anything but, guiding the series through off-screen turmoil and helping to make it one of the most incisive and empathetic comedies of the decade. [Danette Chavez]


61. Girls (2012-2017)

A cringe-comedy character study too often mistaken for a treatise on the entirety of millennial culture, Lena Dunham’s HBO series presented an unglamorous flip side to the Sex And The City fantasy. In both its strengths and its weaknesses, Girls became a lightning rod for contemporary feminist discourse. Yet from its realistically awkward portrayals of sex to its willingness to unapologetically revel in the worst impulses of its leads, the influence of Girls lives on in just about every dramedy that’s followed. [Caroline Siede]


60. Orange Is The New Black (2013-2019)

Netflix’s highest-rated original series (if the numbers we’re not allowed to see can be believed) found a microcosm for almost all of modern American life in one woman’s memoir about her time behind bars. However far the show strayed into melodrama and hot-button topicality, the focus remained on the sprawling cast of inmates—one of TV’s most diverse and multidimensional ensembles, made up of characters singular in their flaws and virtues and histories, in defiance of the system that would prefer to see them as numbers on a chart and color-coded uniforms on a line. [A.A. Dowd]



Mr. Robot
Photo: Elizabeth Fisher (USA Network)

59. Killing Eve (2018-present)

Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge created this brutal cat-and mouse series, in which brilliant detective Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) tracks devious mercenary killer Villanelle (Jodie Comer) as she dons myriad personas across multiple countries. Even though they’re on opposite ends of the law, the two women understand each other in a way no one else ever could. Are they in love or will they kill each other—are they each other’s redemption or demise? Probably all of the above, but we’ll never stop watching until the chase has ended. [Gwen Ihnat]


58. American Vandal (2017-2018)

The decade’s most accurate mockumentary, reflecting—amid lewd graffiti and public-health-hazard splatter—how everyone became their own documentarian in the 2010s. In the genuinely compelling mysteries of “Who drew the dicks?” and “Who is the Turd Burglar?,” intelligence and tastelessness are not mutually exclusive; nor are penetrating insight and 3D renderings of (fabricated) teenaged hanky-panky. The true-crime parody only lasted two seasons on Netflix—but we’ll always have Nana’s party. [Erik Adams]


57. Black Mirror (2011-present)

A show so striking it became a meme, Black Mirror’s reflections on how technology and human desires interact have fallen out of favor of late. But while series creator Charlie Booker’s imagination has its limits, Mirror’s weaker episodes don’t detract from its best. At its heart, the ongoing anthology is less a condemnation than a confession: No matter how sophisticated our computers get, people are just people, and nothing will save us from ourselves. [Zack Handlen]


56. Lodge 49 (2018-2019)

Lodge 49 exists in a class of its own, and not just because it’s difficult to describe. Jim Gavin crafted an eminently specific, deeply personal vision about the feeling of living through this surreal age. It’s remarkable he also found a way to infuse it with a type of optimism that’s neither saccharine nor naïve. It’s important for disparate people to gather in a safe space, share a drink, and try to mend their broken souls together. [Vikram Murthi]


55. Mr. Robot (2015-present)

Sam Esmail’s knotty curlicue of a hacker drama has never quite shaken its first-season reputation as The Show With One Big Twist. It’s too bad—those who stuck with it found a series that cracked the code for using exhilarating heists, conspiracy-laced mysteries, and timely mythology to tell an all-too-human story about loneliness and the need for connection. It’s a plain enough message, but let’s be honest: Robot’s signature off-center direction and Kubrickian framing make it look awfully cool. [Alex McLevy]


54. Terriers (2010)

A brilliant mashup between crime drama and chill hangout comedy, FX’s Terriers starred Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James as an ex-cop and reformed criminal who find themselves stumbling into a massive conspiracy as part of their private investigation business—none of which was conveyed in its infamously generic title. A show ahead of its time, Terriers did season-long mysteries and tortured-yet-charming protagonists before they were cool. [Sam Barsanti]


53. The Good Wife (2009-2016)

If The Good Wife instilled one truth in viewers, it’s the value of a world-class casting department. If another, it’s that the road to justice is pockmarked with the foibles, insecurities, passions, petty jealousies, and whims of those in the tollbooths. The procedural elements of Michelle and Robert King’s titan of network drama kept the engines running, but it was the struggles of the characters—funny, sexy, contradictory, and exquisitely flawed—that made the ride worthwhile. [Allison Shoemaker]


52. Insecure (2016-present)

Issa Rae’s confident, creative series follows leads Issa and Molly as they navigate late-twentysomething life in Los Angeles. Issa’s electric, straight-to-camera raps may be the show’s trademark, but its considered look at Black female friendship is what sets Insecure apart. Whether exploring Issa’s search for self-expression, Molly’s relationship struggles, or the micro-aggressions both face in their workplaces, Rae and her team bring honesty and humor to an experience all too often overlooked on American TV. [Kate Kulzick]


51. Sharp Objects (2018)

Sharp Objects sets its tone as a nightmarish Southern gothic in its first few minutes, spiraling down into a visceral story about gender, violence, control, abuse, and addiction. It’s one of the most striking depictions of self-harm in TV history, and Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson give performances that sink in one’s skin. Family drama and murder mystery collide spectacularly in this incisively written, beautifully shot knockout. [Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya]


50. Adventure Time (2010-2018)

The past decade has been a golden age for children’s animated television, and Adventure Time led the charge. Starting life as a cute but seemingly inessential fantasy about a candy kingdom, a bubblegum princess, a boy named Finn and his malleable talking-dog best friend, Jake, the series quickly expanded its scope without ever losing its sense of wonder and playfulness. Exploring the pains of adolescence, building a mythology without ever seeming to strain for it, experimenting with different formats, finding depth and tragedy in a villain as goofy as the Ice King—nothing was out of bounds. At once complex and instantly accessible, Adventure Time remains a high-water mark for storytelling ambition. [Zack Handlen]


49. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015-2019)

Those mourning the loss of 30 Rock would quickly be cheered by Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s absurdist tale of an Indiana woman (Ellie Kemper) released after spending her formative years in captivity, ready to reinvent herself in New York City. Kimmy’s indefatigable optimism helped defeat the crap hand she was dealt in life, aided by theatrical roommate Titus (Tituss Burgess), advantageous socialite Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski), and street-savvy landlord Lillian (Carol Kane). You had to watch episodes multiples times to catch all of the fast-and-furious in-jokes, and some, like Titus going “Lemonading,” were straight-up unparalleled. The series even wrapped up beautifully, with our heroine figuring out how to use her own trauma to help other people with theirs, in the most Kimmy way imaginable. [Gwen Ihnat]


48. Gravity Falls (2012-2016)

From its inception, Alex Hirsch’s Gravity Falls was built to expand beyond its Disney Channel target demos. With a complex mythology and a deep lexicon of cultural references, there’s sophistication to the show’s epic storytelling that immediately drew the attention of a wider (read: older) audience. But what made its two seasons so special was how the show never abandoned its silliness or its earnest messages about growing up as it explored the very real stakes of its ongoing narrative. This delicate balance ensured the story of Dipper and Mabel’s momentous summer with their Grunkle Stan would not only entertain a generation raised on the show’s cultural influences, but also create a new generation of culturally-savvy viewers with a love for the weird and the witty. [Myles McNutt]


47. Archer (2009-present)

The series that launched a thousand “Phrasing!” jokes has also proven to be one of television’s most persistent survivors, with not even a three-year-long coma capable of keeping Sterling Archer and his various Oedipal and emotional issues down. But regardless of whatever zone of danger its titular hero finds himself in, Archer has firmly established itself as one of TV’s most consistent sources of smartass, zippy dialogue, with one of the best voice casts ever assembled making regular meals out of Adam Reed’s fast-paced quips. Few comedies would dare demand their viewers bring an appreciation for both fart jokes and Bartleby The Scrivener gags to the table; even fewer could make the combination feel so effortless. [William Hughes]


46. Happy Endings (2011-2013)

Many hangout sitcoms have tried to replicate Friends’ cast chemistry and, let’s face it, ratings success. Happy Endings certainly never achieved said ratings success, but the chemistry between its cast remains one-of-a-kind to this day. Unlike Friends, the series openly acknowledged how its characters were terrible people, all in the name of “pile-ons.” Beginning with the rather generic premise of what happens in a friend group when two of your friends have a massive breakup, Happy Endings was quick to reveal its rapid, obscure-pop-culture-reference-heavy style of comedy, whether you watched it in order or not (thanks, ABC). As far as the ratio of jokes per minute, no sitcom has been able to touch Happy Endings since it went off the air. [LaToya Ferguson]


45. GLOW (2017-present)

Created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, with producer Jenji Kohan, GLOW came out strutting, Alison Brie and Marc Maron attached. But GLOW gets power from a deep bench, and the alliances out of ring are as important as the action inside. If sometimes that ring gets a little overstuffed, we can still appreciate the dramatic realism of sheer repetition. GLOW is a grubby period piece, a time-capsule comedy of mismatched leotards and outrageous eye shadow, but it’s also a stage where a soap-opera starlet learns to wrestle—yes, “with her life,” but also wrestle, with wrestlers, and with all the sweat and strain and bruising that suggests. It’s breathless and rough, it’s sweaty and transcendent. It glows. [Emily L. Stephens]


44. Fargo (2014-present)

Noah Hawley took the Coen Brothers’ Fargo film and used the general atmosphere to create something that felt unique: an anthology series set in a weird, wonderful world of colorful characters and unexplained events. The show is packed with stellar performances from the likes of Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Allison Tolman, Ted Danson, and so many others—shout-out to Dunst’s series-best line reading, “It’s just a flying saucer, Ed, we gotta go!”—and part of the show’s appeal is in watching these actors play with the dialogue and the tone. More than anything though, Fargo crafted three seasons of great storytelling bolstered by complex character motivations and more than a few memorable set pieces. [Kyle Fowle]


43. Schitt’s Creek (2015-present)

Eugene and Dan Levy’s fish-out-of-water sitcom deserves mention among the decade’s defining programs if only for where, when, why, and how it found an audience. A decorated hit in its native Canada, Schitt’s Creek was an object of cultish devotion in the States—until it hit Netflix, at which point anyone with an internet connection was saying, “Ew, David!” But it’s also in this conversation because it’s aged like a fine “Herb Erflinger” (Burt Herngeif? Irv Herb-blinger?) fruit wine, as the story of a wealthy family who lost everything (and the one town that had no choice but to keep them all together) expanded to encompass ever more idiosyncratic Catherine O’Hara enunciations, uproariously circular Rose family arguments, and more heart than any show with this title ought to have. [Erik Adams]


42. Stranger Things (2016-present)

This family-friendly ode to the ’80s is actually a supernatural thriller wrapped in nostalgia, a format that lends itself nicely to the ensemble cast and to Matt Ross Duffer’s alternate universes, which are promptly turned upside-down. Stranger Things combines all the retro alien-thriller could-have-beens and neatly draws them out into eight-episode seasons. In addition to being spine-tinglingly well-paced, the Netflix sci-fi drama boasts several great performances, including Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers, a seemingly anxious mother who frantically searches for her son as she learns just how twisted Hawkins, Indiana is. It’s also the rare show whose historical accuracy is one of its most attractive features. [Angelica Cataldo]


41. Pose (2018-present)

In this age of Too Much Television, moments that manage to rise above the fray and settle firmly into our collective psyche have become rare and, therefore, truly special. Pose gave viewers that moment right at the top of the series when the House Of Abundance deftly floated from a museum heist to the ballroom runway, followed by the most glamorous arrest the world has ever seen. It was a bar-setting eight minutes, and the historic queer-led drama has cleared that bar expertly (and emotionally) for two seasons. The series, from Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Steven Canals, is an indelible, educational gift that centers on the healing powers of found family and presents the ballroom scene with the culture-defining respect it has always deserved. [Shannon Miller]


40. Steven Universe (2013-present)

Steven Universe was many things at once: a coming-of-age story for its titular protagonist, a science-fiction epic about a race of would-be conquering alien Gems, an allegory about gender identity, and a successful TV musical. The series broke ground for the representation of queerness on children’s TV, and tackled issues ranging from non-nuclear families to abusive relationships. Amidst the conversation about the capital-M Meaning of Steven Universe, however, it’s important to remember that more than anything, the show was warm, lovely, and fun. Steven Universe rarely, if ever, sacrificed its sense of humor, or its compelling action sequences, or its grasp on its characters, in the service of making a point. And really, that’s all we could have asked for from this wonderful kids’ show. [Eric Thurm]

Halt And Catch Fire
Photo: Tina Rowden (AMC)

39. Jane The Virgin (2014-2019)

As romantic comedies struggled to find their place on the big screen this decade, some of the best ones emerged on the small screen instead. One of the crown jewels in the TV rom-com canon is Jane The Virgin, Jennie Snyder Urman’s effervescent update of a Venezuelan telenovela. Hilarious, heartfelt, and impeccably narrated, Jane The Virgin used the story of a 23-year-old virgin who’s accidentally artificially inseminated as a jumping-off point to tell humanistic stories about family, faith, love, and the immigrant experience. In a decade full of gritty, hypermasculine dramas, Jane The Virgin carved out a space for bright, colorful, funny, women-centric TV comedies that rejected the label “guilty pleasure” and instead proudly owned their place among some of the best TV out there. [Caroline Siede]


38. One Day At A Time (2017-present)

People love to complain about “too many remakes,” but One Day At A Time makes a strong case for reinventing existing stories, taking all of the themes and humor of the original Norman Lear sitcom, and applying them to a less white, not-so-straight world. Gloria Calderón Kellett and Mike Royce’s Netflix series is poignant and timely, folding racial, queer, and mental-health themes into its sitcom setups about a Cuban American family. Isabella Gomez’s Elena is a breakthrough for young lesbian representation, and Justina Machado is the powerhouse that fuels the show’s light family comedy as well as its dark family drama. And the show proves it’s possible to take risks even within the seemingly restrictive formula of a multi-cam. [Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya]


37. Documentary Now! (2015-present)

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Documentary Now! might be the best tribute to nonfiction filmmaking ever conceived. A band of Saturday Night Live veterans—Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen, John Mulaney, Rhys Thomas, Alex Buono—somehow convinced a TV network to let them write and perform half-hour homages to documentaries. It’s fun just to watch recreations of films like Grey Gardens, Jiro Dreams Of Sushi, and Swimming To Cambodia, but the best episodes of Documentary Now! inject an offbeat personal touch that expands and rewrites the original source material. It’s touching to witness the amount of passion and work put into such a niche project. Who creates a Sondheim musical parody if not for the sheer love of the game? [Vikram Murthi]


36. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (2005-present)

Still wreaking hilarious destruction in its 14th season, Rob McElhenney’s poisoned love letter to his hometown has mirrored the cockroach-like tenacity of its eclectically awful antiheroes, right into the TV record books. Every week the codependent five-headed monster that is Charlie (Charlie Day), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Deandra (Kaitlin Olson), Frank (Danny DeVito), and McElhenney’s Mac scurry out of their rathole bar HQ to seek whatever satisfactions their collective id requires, and every week Sunny maintains its high-wire juggling act of huge, scabrous yuks, satirical button-pushing, and stubbornly unsentimental character comedy. It’s done it for so long, and so consistently, that this dark-comedy pioneer is easy to take for granted. But do so at your peril, as episodes like last season’s stunningly well-realized finale show how transcendent comedy springs from the foulest trash. [Dennis Perkins]


35. You’re The Worst (2014-2019)

Though its theme song seemed to tease an inevitable breakup, You’re The Worst never truly hinged on whether Jimmy Shive-Overly and Gretchen Cutler—stars of their own self-destructive Los Angeles love story—would stay together. By the end, it was clear that the real question looming over Stephen Falk’s savagely funny FX comedy was and always had been: Should they? For five lacerating seasons, the show kept viewers guessing at an answer; along the way, it toed other lines (emphasis on the toe, for Jimmy’s prurient sake), drifting into drama, sensitively handling the topics of clinical depression and PTSD, and getting conceptually adventurous from episode to episode. The show’s real feat, though, was its sustained tightrope act of empathy: how it kept us wishing the best for characters that remained, as advertised, kind of the worst. [A.A. Dowd]


34. Broad City (2014-2019)

Right as television viewers were clamoring for greater visibility of female friendships, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson came bearing best-friend tales of destination weddings, FOMO, pegging, and, at one hilarious point, Blake Griffin. The five-season riot showed friendship at its most intimate, when two women love each other unabashedly enough to walk briskly into some of the wildest shenanigans, arms linked. But what made Broad City truly resonant was how it always kept Abbi and Ilana’s loyalty to one another at its center. The hijinks—as funny as they were—were never a crutch. They were tools that emphasized just how much this friendship could survive. [Shannon Miller]


33. Succession (2018-present)

It’s not a particularly original or subtle story Succession is telling—one of the Lear-like Roy siblings might as well have been named “Regan.” Rather, it’s in the execution of tyrant Logan’s children jockeying for control of his kingdom that makes Succession’s tragi-comedy so captivating. There’s Jeremy Strong’s dead-eyed dialogue delivery, Sarah Snook’s perfectly calibrated Lean In feminism and impossibly silky blouses, and Kieran Culkin’s turn as a slimy, horned-up “disruptor” with a heart of gold—plus the tinkling piano score that pours a high gloss on all their bad behavior. Succession doesn’t just get the details right; mirroring the capricious world of media and its greedy overlords, it also makes sweeping plot turns that build to climaxes as bloody as Macbeth. Second best to eating the rich is watching them eat each other. [Laura Adamczyk]


32. New Girl (2011-2018)

Though Zooey Deschanel’s “adorkable” Jessica Day was the ostensible star of New Girl—she was the “new girl”—the secret to what made it great was Jess’ three (sometimes four) lovably wacky male roommates: Depressive sad-sack/aspiring novelist Nick (Jake Johnson), directionless former basketball player/cat owner player Winston (Lamorne Morris), and Schmidt (Max Greenfield), whose self-involvement masks deep insecurities and sympathies. It took some time for the show to find where each of them fit in the dynamic, but once it did New Girl became a brilliant ensemble piece. Over seven seasons, the characters bonded, planned some classic mess-arounds, suffered the indignity of receiving too many wedding invites, and played countless rounds of an impenetrably complex drinking game called True American. [Sam Barsanti]


31. Key & Peele (2012-2015)

From its opening sketch exploring performative Blackness and masculinity to its devastating final sketch, a musical trip to “Negrotown,” Key & Peele uses every tool in the comedy toolbox to explore and comment on American culture. Pointed political satire, detailed character work, pop culture homage, broad physical comedy, unabashed silliness, and strange flights of comedic fancy, this series has it all. Yes, it’s ridiculously funny, with an incredible hit-to-miss ratio. Yes, it features strong performances from Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele and impeccable direction from Peter Atencio, not to mention the best hair and makeup in sketch TV. What’s most impressive, though, is the versatility and depth of its writing, giving audiences some of the decade’s most indelible comedic characters. It’s most definitely our shit. [Kate Kulzick]


30. Game Of Thrones (2011-2019)

Game Of Thrones defined the last decade of television, for better or worse. HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic A Song Of Ice And Fire blew open television production values and turned once-niche books into the most Emmy-awarded series of all time and the decade’s true “smash hit.” But while the show’s most iconic scenes and memorable characters will forever remain in the cultural zeitgeist, its final seasons struggled to resolve Martin’s unfinished story cleanly, held accountable by the same social media conversation that had built the show into a phenomenon. At its fiery peaks, few shows in the decade burned brighter, but the icy reception to its finale reflects its struggles to measure up in a decade with so many of TV history’s finest endings. [Myles McNutt]


29. Halt And Catch Fire (2014-2017)

In the pantheon of great but underseen series that’ll hopefully find greater appreciation years after the fact, Halt And Catch Fire’s right there at the top of the list. What first seemed like AMC’s attempt at making “Mad Men… but in the ’80s” ended up being one of the most staggering stories about collaboration and creativity of the past decade, while set in another decade entirely and focusing on the otherwise emotionless world of technology. With an unbeatable cast in Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis, Kerry Bishé, and Toby Huss, Halt And Catch Fire may have been little-seen and critically ignored (in terms of awards recognition)—but to everyone who paid attention, it was a special show about people who simply wanted to create something special. [LaToya Ferguson]


28. Russian Doll (2019-present)

Who would’ve thought the best iteration of a Groundhog Day-style conceit for a TV show would center around a drug-fueled, motormouthed New Yorker who’s more annoyed than disturbed by her repeated death? Amy Poehler, Leslye Headland, and star Natasha Lyonne take the twists and turns of the story about a woman puzzling out the mystery of reliving the same night over and over and use it as a springboard for an existential comedy, a bittersweet relationship drama, a searing tragedy, and about a half dozen other genres and styles, all anchored by Lyonne’s powerhouse performance. It’s as densely plotted as Westworld, but with a smartly self-aware protagonist hardwired to cut through bullshit. Savvily deconstructing the very structure of your TV series from within—what a concept. [Alex McLevy]


27. Nathan For You (2013-2017)

It was inevitable that someone would parody the wealth of business makeover series flooding the airwaves, but who knew that the result would be this? Across four seasons, Nathan Fielder used gags involving poo-flavored yogurt and Holocaust-denying outerwear companies to make resonant points about commercialism, virality, and the extremities of politeness. But it wasn’t the pranks themselves that made the show so much as Fielder, whose vulnerability and general air of desperation tended to either disarm his subjects or unnerve them, resulting in shocking glimpses of humanity both kind and cruel. A bow atop it all was its stunning feature-length series finale, “Finding Frances,” in which Fielder confronted the show’s blurry fourth wall during a road trip in search of a friend’s lost love. [Randall Colburn]


26. Rectify (2013-2016)

A story about a wrongfully convicted man who barely escapes death row could have been the setup for a crime thriller, but that’s not the case with Sundance’s remarkable Rectify. Instead, the show uses Daniel Holden’s (Aden Young) fresh start to question whether anyone can really get back what was lost. Rectify demonstrated tremendous patience in its storytelling, allowing small moments to linger while exploring trauma, faith, failed institutions, and the complexity of the family unit. In the end, it showed that the only way to escape isolation is to open ourselves up to the people who care about us most, and try to understand those who feel foreign to us. Rectify’s message of compassion is one of the most necessary of the decade. [Kyle Fowle]


25. The Great British Bake Off/Baking Show (2010-present)

The ultimate antidote to pounding, high-volume reality show stress, Britain’s most consistently pleasant export eschews drama, bickering, and bad guys in favor of the important things in life: gorgeous food, charming people, and an inordinate number of puns about bread. Inherently relaxing even when the heat is on, The Great British Bake Off (a.k.a The Great British Baking Show) managed to survive a transition between networks and the loss of three-fourths of its presenting and judging teams while still keeping its core value intact: the idea that so much of the melodrama built into modern reality programming is unnecessary, and that what audiences really want to watch is people being kind to each other and doing their best, even when the stakes are high. [William Hughes]


24. Enlightened (2011-2013)

There has never been a show quite like Enlightened, and there probably never will be again. Mike White and Laura Dern’s two-season cringe drama asks a unique question: What if it were possible to take television’s beloved antihero format and, instead of exploring the consequences of selfishness and violence, use it to investigate what happens when a broken person tries to make good? The result, anchored by Dern’s career-high performance as Amy Jellicoe, is awkward, funny, and often astonishingly moving, a compassionate and merciless examination of how difficult it is to do the right thing; how every choice, however well-intentioned, has a cost; and how those costs can still be worth paying. [Zack Handlen]


23. Barry (2018-present)

The funniest show about an assassin having a crisis of conscience—or maybe the most heartbreaking show about an aspiring actor—HBO’s Barry is a masterclass in character work, which makes sense, since it’s about a guy (Bill Hader, the eponymous Barry) literally taking acting classes. Barry himself is great, and Hader does a good job generating sympathy for a guy who is a professional murderer, but the other characters he meets are just as interesting: Sarah Goldberg’s Sally Reed, another aspiring actor, struggles with exploiting and dramatizing her own personal experiences to help her career, and Anthony Carrigan brings surprising amounts of humanity to a semi-hapless Chechen gangster named NoHo Hank who idolizes Barry (for his murdering skills). [Sam Barsanti]


22. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013-present)

One of the 2010s’ funniest sitcoms is also one of its simplest: a throwback workplace comedy, set at New York police station populated by a lovable cast of eccentric cops. Brooklyn Nine-Nine quietly exemplifies the way diverse casting can produce better television, with characters whose eclectic backgrounds generate fresh comedic ideas—and thereby deepen the audience’s affection. Brooklyn Nine-Nine crams in more visual gags and one-liners into a single episode than some series scatter across an entire season. It’s also surprisingly plotty, with crime stories that function as legitimately gripping mysteries. As consistently excellent as it is unpretentious, this show is one of the era’s purest pleasures. [Noel Murray]


21. Justified (2010-2015)

While Quentin Tarantino is certainly responsible for the best film adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel, Justified stands as the greatest evocation of the Leonard spirit, from the roll-off-the-tongue dialogue to the indelible characters that feel lived-in the moment they’re introduced. The pulp storylines involving the various criminal factions in Harlan, Kentucky compelled on their own merits, and yet the interpersonal relationships were what elevated Justified to the heights of greatness. Timothy Olyphant’s turn as the tempestuous Raylan Givens is one for the books, but his character isn’t whole without his archrival, Boyd Crowder, played by Walton Goggins. After all, “We dug coal together” might be the quintessential expression of the thin line between cop and crook this decade has produced. [Vikram Murthi]


20. Veep (2012-2019)

“‘Restore faith in democracy’? I mean, we couldn’t do that even if we wanted to.” You’d be hard-pressed to find a line of dialogue that better encapsulates any series, let alone one as jam-packed as Veep is with its endless digs, off-color insults, and terribly depressing jokes about our intractable government and the self-serving politicians who run it. Even on the rare occasion when the intentions of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Vice President Selina Meyer were good, her hopes for clean jobs or a free Tibet were inevitably sabotaged by her single-minded desire to occupy the highest office in the land. It’s not a rosy view, but as absurd as it sometimes became, Veep’s satire only ever reinforced an irrevocable truth: Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts hilariously. [Laura Adamczyk]

The Good Place
Photo: Colleen Hayes (NBC)

19. Review (2014-2017)

If Review were only a cautionary tale about the whims of viral stardom, it would remain an impressive testament to the destructive power of fleeting fame. Co-creators Charlie Siskel, Jeffrey Blitz (director of all 22 episodes), and Andy Daly (irreplaceable as professional life critic Forrest MacNeil), make it more, much more. An adaption of Australian series Review With Myles Barlow, Forrest’s show-within-a-show asks “Life: It’s literally all we have. But is it any good?” Not in Forrest’s hands. Daly will make you believe in a man who can make eating an ice cream cone a potentially life-ruining errand, as Review leaps gleefully, sickeningly, across the chasm from comedy to tragedy, scene to scene, second to second. [Emily L. Stephens]


18. American Crime Story (2016-present)

Television has no shortage of “ripped from the headlines” programming, and it’s unclear if anyone was asking for Ryan Murphy’s take on O.J. Simpson. But American Crime Story season one found new perspectives on a case we thought we understood while retaining its soapy appeals, threading the true-crime needle to critical acclaim and sweeping the Emmys. And while it saw lower ratings, the second season about the assassination of Gianni Versace is perhaps more remarkable, using the “celebrities” involved as a Trojan horse to a strikingly queer and unflinching investigation of Andrew Cunanan and his less-famous victims. While the anthology series may be about the past, it felt deeply relevant to the 2010s, anchored by some of the decade’s very best performances from Sarah Paulson and Darren Criss. [Myles McNutt]


17. Rick And Morty (2013-present)

Springboarding from a deliberately lowbrow comic concept (what if Back To The Future, but gross and mean), Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon’s animated universe quickly expanded to encompass the deepest reaches of scatological hilarity, existential dread, and Grant Morrison-worthy sci-fi weirdness. Roiland voices both Rick Sanchez (the universes smartest—and thus most contemptuous—mad scientist), and Morty (Rick’s painfully ordinary 14-year-old grandson/sidekick), while Community creator Harmon’s infamously Rick-like genius helps cantankerously steer the duo’s cosmic adventures in mind-bending rings around both sitcom convention and sci-fi cliché. Roping his extended family into schemes involving multiple realities, multiple Ricks, and yawning, nihilistic despair, Rick is both Roiland and Harmon’s celebration and deconstruction of the loneliness of ultimate genius, while still finding room for the occasional genocidal musical fart. [Dennis Perkins]


16. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015-2019)

It’s incredible that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend exists at all. Yet there it sits, exactly as Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna intended: the four-season journey of Rebecca Bunch, who begins the show belting out self-deception and ends it singing a song she wrote. It’s a collection of glorious improbabilities: a feminist social-satirical musical mental-health dramedy that makes time for a Cats parody about yeast infections, and that somehow, as Netflix and HBO littered the decade with breasts, penises, and the word “fuck,” achieved breathtaking profanity on The CW. It’s also a staggering technical accomplishment, including over 100 original songs. But at its core, it’s so simple: Rebecca, who once defined herself by who she’s supposed to be, finds her way to just being who she is. [Allison Shoemaker]


15. Better Call Saul (2015-present)

Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s prequel series successfully steps out of Breaking Bad’s shadow without stripping itself of that superlative drama’s dark, looming undertones. Set six years before Saul Goodman begins representing Walter White, Better Call Saul follows Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), a small-time attorney known for fighting for the underdogs and criminals. What sets this spin-off apart from others is how Odenkirk carries the show while navigating such a complex character. Every storyline bounces between tension-filled scenes and visual gags. Though he’s not the attorney we all know and love just yet, Jimmy finds himself in sticky legal situations that keep you on edge, waiting for his next move on a predetermined path to Saul-vation. [Angelica Cataldo]


14. Twin Peaks: The Return (2017)

Despite pretentious attempts to reclassify it as a 18-hour film, Twin Peaks: The Return is definitely a TV show. If this past decade has taught us anything about pop culture, it’s that airing on television doesn’t preclude visionary art, and David Lynch pushed the format irreversibly forward with the long-awaited third season to his combination high school murder mystery/exercise in occult metaphysics. Nothing like the radical artistic statement that is “Part Eight” had ever aired on TV before, and nothing like it ever will again—unless Lynch agrees to a fourth season. So while some were disappointed that The Return was heavy on experimental filmmaking techniques and light on quips about pie, the glorious upside is we now live in a TV world with enough real estate for both. [Katie Rife]


13. Community (2009-2015)

It can be easy to forget how great Community was. The off-screen accounts that plagued the show during its run—threats of cancellations due to underwhelming ratings, ousted and re-hired showrunners, unruly/exiting stars, dysfunctional writers’ rooms, Yahoo! Screen—often overshadowed its on-screen greatness, shifting the narrative surrounding the show from one about its genre-jumping, cultishly adored “anything goes” attitude toward ensemble comedy to one about beating the odds and constantly fighting for survival (Dan Harmon and his team of writers, ever the fans of meta-commentary, undoubtedly leaned into that narrative). Either way, Community remains a seminal piece of television, one that embraced absurdity, parody, and drama equally and influenced the sitcom landscape of the 2010s along the way. [Baraka Kaseko]


12. Hannibal (2013-2015)

It’s rare that a TV showlet alone one airing on a broadcast networkmanages to create its own televisual language. But that’s exactly what Bryan Fuller’s lush, rich Hannibal did. The series existed in a world where everything was a metaphor, dark and surreal and visually enthralling while remaining firmly in its characters’ heads. If you were on Hannibal’s wavelength, it made perfect sense to see a person sewed into a mural or sliced into an anatomy exhibit. Grounded by its electric central performances from Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen, Hannibal made an unsettling argument: that murder was its own art form. Even now, it’s hard not to revisit the show and wonder in the best way: how did this get made? [Eric Thurm]


11. BoJack Horseman (2014-present)

Six seasons in, BoJack Horseman has long since upended expectations, turning its focus from one horseman’s failings to include a critique of the Hollywoo(d) system as a whole. The animated comedy’s increasingly somber—and unsettling—exploration of vanity, depression, celebrity culture, and yes, even sobriety is all the more insightful when juxtaposed with Lisa Hanawalt’s vibrant, gag-filled world. But BoJack hasn’t just pushed the boundaries of dialogue, bottle episodes, and nonlinear storytelling; it’s also raised the bar for satire. For Bob-Waksberg et al., it’s not enough to highlight a problem and skewer its perpetrators; this creative team also shows the consequences and maybe, down the road, solutions to them. BoJack Horseman has regularly proven just how human its anthropomorphic creations could be, but just as importantly, it’s urged them to evolve. [Danette Chavez]


10. Fleabag (2016; 2019)

We’ll be the first to admit it: We just like it when Phoebe Waller-Bridge looks at us. As Fleabag, her sly, knowing glances to the camera make you feel like you’re in on something; they’re also integral to understanding the series’ debaucherous, sardonic, and ultimately anguished title character. In the first season, Fleabag’s wry asides emphasize her loneliness and guilt—she turns to the audience because her best friend is dead. In the second, her glimpses act as release valves when Andrew Scott’s Hot Priest digs too deep into her feelings. It’s all about looking and being recognized and how it can be scarier for another person to really see you than no one at all. [Laura Adamczyk]


9. 30 Rock (2006-2013)

The further away television gets from 30 Rock’s time on the air, the more prescient the sitcom becomes—especially when it comes to all things NBC. Which is maybe the last thing anyone would’ve thought when it first premiered, compared to the series that was supposed to succeed, Aaron Sorkin’s funny-for-the-wrong-reasons Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. However, Tina Fey’s absurd and quick-witted comedy lasted for seven seasons, created a television legacy, and spawned a comedic style and sensibility that made shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and (the woefully underrated) Great News work. It also left us with the greatest life advice possible: “Never follow a hippie to a second location.” [LaToya Ferguson]


8. Bob’s Burgers (2011-present)

Though it borrowed its basic setup from its smugger, more cynical Animation Domination cousins, there’s little smugness or cynicism to be found watching Bob’s Burgers. Loren Bouchard and Jim Dauterive’s iteration of the adult animated sitcom steers away from the sarcasm and topicality that defines some of its peers by balancing surreal comedy and zany antics with levity and genuine warmth—a callback to the early days of The Simpsons and King Of The Hill. The Belchers’ intra-family dynamics, and eccentric brand of unconditional love for one another make this winning comedy worth revisiting over and over. Not to mention it has one of the weirdest, most wonderful catalogs of original music in animation to date. [Baraka Kaseko]


7. The Leftovers (2014-2017)

Never before has a searing drama about the emotional toll exacted by personal trauma on a global scale been so damn funny. Honest, idiosyncratic, and soulful, the weird and wonderful world of The Leftovers imagines the fallout from two percent of the world’s population disappearing without a trace—and the disparate ways those remaining try to make some sense of such a capricious and inexplicable universe. The first season faithfully adapted Tom Perrotta’s novel of the same name, but once it left its source material behind, the series became a marvel of erudite storytelling: As meditative and moving as a funeral, as gripping as a thriller, and funnier than most comedies. A TV series that successfully comes to grips with the divine? God, what a show. [Alex McLevy]


6. The Good Place (2016-2019)

So much television—so much art—grapples with what it means to be good, but The Good Place makes that philosophical conundrum its entire crux. Michael Schur has, yet again, created a world full of flawed yet genuinely lovable characters trying their best to help one another. The Good Place uses a high-concept premise to burrow into complex ideas about morality and humanity, and it does so while still being outrageously funny, aided of course by a stack cast of greats like Ted Danson and Kristen Bell but also formidable newcomers like D’Arcy Carden, Manny Jacinto, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, and Kirby Howell-Baptiste. Together, they’ve helped craft a TV family of weirdos worth rooting for. [Kayla Kumarı Upadhyaya]


5. The Americans (2013-2018)

To cross paths with The Americans is to learn how closely it mirrored the methods of married Soviet sleeper agents Elizabeth and Philip Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys): The Cold War thriller creeps up from behind, and before the viewer knows it, they’re stunned, captured, emotionally devastated—or a combination of all three. It was a thrilling, seductive show about how there’s nothing thrilling or seductive about spycraft, its own craft immaculately on-point: Fiery performances (Russell and Rhys got the awards attention, but don’t forget Holly Taylor, Noah Emmerich, and—poor Martha—Alison Wright), minutely observed domestic storylines, nerve-jangling missions, a world so alive and crackling it could transform an antiquated piece of technology into a vital member of the ensemble. File The Americans in a place of prominence next to all the classic recordings of internal and external conflict, suspicion, and complicated devotion that set the tone and atmosphere for its near-perfect run. [Erik Adams]


4. Parks And Recreation (2009-2015)

Parks And Recreation might share qualities with comedies further down this list, particularly the other Mike Schur creations that ground their absurd plotlines in the chemistry of a quirky but deeply relatable core ensemble. What those shows never had, however, was Leslie Knope. As Knope, Amy Poehler was the heart of this big-hearted show, rallying her motley staff (and occasionally the Pawnee community) into greater versions of themselves through sheer enthusiasm for people and the power of civic participation. Making uncynical humor look easy, the show’s writers and cast built something sweet in the city of Pawnee that, like its inspiration 870 miles away, is worth returning to repeatedly. Li’l Sebastian alone is proof: Parks And Recreation was this decade’s original good place. [Kelsey J. Waite]


3. Atlanta (2016-present)

All it took was a glowing box of J.R. Crickets’ lemon pepper wet wings to encapsulate the essence of Donald Glover’s innovative series. Atlanta captures both the inherent beauty and hard truths of the Black experience, shrouding familiar moments with occasionally surreal storytelling elements. (Why is Justin Bieber Black in the Gloververse? Because it’s hilarious.) In just two seasons Earn, Paper Boi, and Darius have poignantly delivered the hard truths that can hold us back and the persistent dreams that allow us to continue pushing forward, all while flexing their chameleon-like ability to satisfy almost any kind of narrative. Is Atlanta a dark comedy, a coming-of-age tale, an occasional horror story, or a gripping drama? The answer is yes. [Shannon Miller]


2. Mad Men (2007-2015)

Even in the “golden age” of television, Mad Men stood apart: a deftly crafted look at mid-20th-century America through the fabricated lens of advertising. As Don Draper tells a group of clients at the start of the series: “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness.” Mad Men was filled with memorable characters, but it was Jon Hamm’s duplicitous Draper who kept us fully enraptured as the series entered its still-superlative second half. The show slyly unspooled insightful revelations on big-picture concepts like identity, success, and yes, happiness. Before Mad Men, TV seemed like something to watch; with Mad Men, TV became something to think about and examine, as we all wrestle with our interior Dick Whitmans, presenting our Don Drapers to the world. [Gwen Ihnat]


1. Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

Though Vince Gilligan’s drama thrived on ambiguity—moral and otherwise—there’s no question of its greatness. Breaking Bad’s reach is long, including a stellar spin-off for one breakout character and a meditative coda for another. More than six years after it wrapped, Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) steep descent into underworld boss haunts the conversations of TV aficionados and more casual fans alike. The series drew some of the best talent on and off screen, including directors like Michelle Maclaren and Rian Johnson. But while the advent of Netflix streaming certainly helped introduce Breaking Bad to new viewers (or just allowed lapsed ones to complete their watch) long after the final strains of “Baby Blue” played, this exceptional drama held audiences in its grasp for five seasons the old-fashioned way—with riveting plots and characters, unrivaled pacing, and a deep trust in its own storytelling. [Danette Chavez]

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