The television landscape has changed a lot since 2010. The early part of the decade saw the end of Gossip Girl, xoxo, and the start of HBO’s Game of Thrones, which may have been the last major series finale of the decade to have been watched live by millions of audiences. Back then, Netflix was only a library for media and didn’t have any original programming until 2013.
My, how the times have changed. Since then, the streaming service industry has exploded, with Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon’s Prime Video at the forefront; the upcoming Disney+ and Apple TV+ are also primed with their own original programming. Over on cable, TV shows are doing just fine, though live viewership continues on a steady decline as audiences find new ways to watch the TV shows they love. Still, there’s really never been a better time to be alive as a TV lover. With over 400 scripted series, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone. After all, they don’t call it the Peak TV era for nothing.
Having watched so much television over the last ten years, we here at The Young Folks have put together the best of the decade, ranking the top 50 TV shows of the 2010s. Check out our complete list and be sure to let us know which TV shows made your top 50!
When you mix a private school, teens with disposable money and power, and soapy secrets they’d do anything to keep quiet, you end up with teen drama perfection. Netflix’s Elite is the epitome of thrilling drama that will hook you in. Set in the backdrop of the exclusive Las Encinas private school, Elite follows a group of students (and their families) as they deal with romance, betrayal, drugs, and of course, murder. The main mystery focused on the murder of the resident wild child, Marina. Further plots and seasons developed into the ripple effect of the crime.
Teen dramas can sometimes feel the same, but Elite is so much more than its predecessors. In addition to plots about outfits and classroom crushes, there are more serious topics discussed, like the sharp divide between the wealthy students and the scholarship kids, religion, sexuality, drug use, and mental health. You feel the stakes of attending Las Encinas; while bad stuff might be happening in their lives or at school, they’ll do anything to ensure graduating and getting a leg-up in life. Elite loves reinforcing the cost of being “in.” Plus, we can’t forget the mystery element. Elite structures their episodes and characters like they all have something to hide. (Let’s be real, they all do.) The mysteries are well-written and captivating, luring you into wanting to find out what happens next. —Justin Carreiro
49. Downton Abbey
Class, elegance, and a flair for opulence. Of course, we’re talking about Downton Abbey – the pinnacle of refinement and drama for period pieces during the 2010s. Downton Abbey is a British historical period drama that focused on the lives of the wealthy Crawley family and their staff during the 1910s/1920s. During its run, Downton Abbey was recognized for many awards, like the Emmys, Golden Globes, and BAFTAs to name a few. Downton Abbey was a big deal that left behind an iconic legacy!
The set design and costuming is what catches the eye from the onset. Downton Abbey spent time and effort to master every little detail to match the time period. And by focusing on the aristocratic lifestyle of the Crawleys, the TV series was dripping with elegant gowns, sophisticated tuxedos, and lavish jewelry/props. You were able to daydream away as if you were one of the rich and noble. But, Downton Abbey’s writing and presentation of the sharp divide between the economic classes were what had the meat of the series. At times, Downton Abbey felt like two different worlds in one show: the privileged and stiff lives of the rich and the servitude and disadvantages of the staff below the main floor. Downton Abbey never shied away from how both sides suffered under the weight of their class. Plus, mixed in with a great cast, the TV series was a must-watch! —Justin Carreiro
48. The Flash
In the era of comic book adaptations on the big and small screen, there’s plenty to choose from, but The Flash remains the number one superhero show in the world for a reason. For the most part, the show has kept to its combination of heart, humor, and heroics. However, it’s perhaps Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen, who subverts the expectation of superheroes as being hyper-masculine, that makes this show a standout. He’s resilient in the wake of tragedy and he’s relatively in touch with his feelings, often letting them be his guide (even when that’s not always the best choice).
The Flash also benefits from making Barry’s relationship with Candice Patton’s Iris West-Allen the heart of the show. As a bonus, their relationship is often the driving force behind Barry gaining or discovering new powers and saving the day and the series has thankfully managed to not weigh them down with too much unnecessary drama. Even when the series trips up, there’s still a sense of joy. Whether it’s the campy villains, the action, the heartwarming one-on-ones, or the romance, The Flash has something for everyone. —Mae Abdulbaki
47. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agents of S.H.I.EL.D. is brilliant because it capitalizes on the Marvel Cinematic Universe but also creates something wholly unique. Throughout its six seasons, the show has been an action movie, spy drama, fun romp rolled into one. What started merely as a spin-off following the Marvel franchise and comics, the show features tremendous acting by Ming-Na Wen, Clark Gregg and Chloe Bennett. I love that we were treated to a more fully realized Phil Coulson than we got in Avengers and am grateful for characters like May, FitzSimmons and Skye, who have grown to be just as important to me in the MCU as Tony Stark or Natasha Romanov.
The slice of life moments that the show gives us, as we often see the agents dealing with the fallout of events that took place in the MCU, are fascinating. And despite the show following the continuity of the MCU, the writers manage a few twists and turns (including the big one in season one that I’m still not over) that have made me never fully sure of what was happening. The tone of the show, which never fails to be as fun and entertaining as its movie counterparts, can amp up the drama when necessary. I’ll be sad to see it end in season seven but cannot wait for the wild ride that I know the writers and actors are capable of. —Brianna Robinson
At a time when billionaires and unbeatable media conglomerates are growing ever powerful, why is it that a show about those terrible people is so entertaining? Despite what a scene or two may trick you into believing, the Roys are Not Good People. The good thing is: Succession knows this and revels in it. The creator of Succession, Jesse Armstrong, has spent a career satirizing everything from everyday human interactions to the desperately grasping power plays of politicians. It all comes together in HBO’s first great new drama in a long while. Or is it a comedy?
One of the best aspects of Succession is how you can be laughing at Cousin Greg vomiting out of a mascot’s face-hole, only to feel sick yourself thirty minutes later with how repellent Roman Roy is for taunting a poor child and his family with a million dollars. The genius of Succession is how these patently despicable people are humanized by fantastic writing and performances, while simultaneously never let off the hook for anything they do. It’s all a bit like Dallas for 2019, with power plays and conversation-starting haircuts and major patriarch issues. The show has only just ended its second season, but it’s hitting all the right marks for a great series run. —Beth Winchester
45. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Anything Amy Sherman-Palladino touches is amazing and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is no exception. The show is refreshing and I will forever be annoyed at myself for not watching and devouring it sooner. It took me until the incredible Rachel Brosnahan won an Emmy in 2018 to catch on and I am so glad I did. Set in the ’50s, the show follows charming, powerhouse Midge Maisel and her start in stand-up comedy after her husband leaves her. It is funny, sweet, and emotional. I was absolutely charmed from the moment I met Midge and have remained charmed since.
Every character in addition has also been brilliantly written and fleshed out— to the point that I even feel relatively sympathetic toward Joel, a character I swore to dislike within the pilot. I also love the family relationships and how they’re portrayed. Every character is far from perfect and yet you can’t help but love them anyway. Watch for the belly laughs, the way your heart swells for the characters and how inspired you are at the end of every episode. Each episode is a delight as it showcases fabulous costume design and atmospheric music. It’s quite easy to binge and get lost in Mrs. Maisel’s world. —Brianna Robinson
44. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
When it was announced that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was being developed by Riverdale’s creator, I worried that all the issues that plagued the CW teen drama would find their way to Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Thankfully, I was wrong. The series, which is based on the comic book, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, takes on a life of its own. The choice to lean into the series’ darker elements — of witches who openly worship Satan at the Church of Night and uphold ancient festivities and pagan rituals — was a wise one.
The show is stylish, spooky, and borrows elements from a variety of religions, which work to inform and develop the show’s multifaceted world. Kiernan Shipka’s Sabrina stands at the crossroads of her dual identity of half-witch and half-mortal. However, the series allows for the titular heroine to fully embrace her powers as a witch, which further lends itself to the exploration of the coven and the dark forces bubbling beneath the surface and behind the history of Greendale. —Mae Abdulbaki
43. Santa Clarita Diet
Santa Clarita Diet only got three seasons, but those three seasons were full of charm, hilarity, Nathan Fillion’s head, and a bunch of dead Nazis. Of course, we would love to have more time in the zombie-infested Santa Clarita, California, where Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant’s Shelia and Joel made both a great realtor and real-a-tor team, even after they started killing bad people so Shelia could eat them. At times, Santa Clarita Diet reached heights of insanity and perfect comedic timing (I will never get over Shelia and Joel trying to hide from a security camera in season two), but the show leveled off in times of levity as well.
Despite the hyper-reality the show existed in, the relationships were always at the forefront of the show, and are what ultimately made it so much fun to watch. There’s a touching family drama nestled in here, such as Abby steadily getting closer with her parents, even in the midst of typical teenage drama like first crushes. But Shelia and Joel’s commitment to each other after Shelia’s death and subsequent undead-ness brings a whole new meaning to “’till death do us part,” and the show was all the better for it. —Katey Stoetzel
I’m a sucker for a show with a good family dynamic and Shameless provides one of the best family dynamics on TV. The way that the Gallagher family depend on each other and support each other is fascinating to watch season to season, even as things get from bad to worse. Plus, I will forever love a show that gives us characters as dynamic as Mickey Milkovich (maybe one of my favorite characters on TV, period). Emmy Rossum is amazing as Fiona Gallagher and deserves all the awards for her performance. William H. Macy’s fantastic portrayal of the despicable (and sometimes hilarious) Gallagher Patriarch is also worth watching for.
Every actor and actress on the show, including some of the recurring or guest characters, has made this vibrant, ridiculous show even better. The Gallaghers are characters that you love to worry about and even as they devolve, as they make horrible choices that affect everyone around them, you still care. The show is a train wreck that you can’t help but keep watching because you hope that everything will turn out okay in the end. And I have to hand it to the show’s writers because they never glorify poverty or substance abuse. Bleak, heartbreaking, but also endearing, the show is a wild ride that definitely deserves to be on the list of best TV of the decade. —Brianna Robinson
Inspired by the Coen Brothers’ film of the same title, the FX black-comedy series, Fargo, is one of the best anthology series of the decade. Three seasons with three different and eccentrically wild stories, showrunner Noah Hawley stretches what “a true story” is by making TV that is so beyond what audiences expect in terms of comedy. It’s quick, dry wit, along with excellent performances that earned several Emmy nominations and wins for Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Ewan McGregor, among others. —Gabrielle Bondi
40. On My Block
Netflix has so many original shows now that it’s easy for so many to get lost in the crowd. On My Block is another overlooked gem that follows a group of teens living in the rarely explored neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles. The characters, predominantly Latinx and African American, struggle with the pressures of being teenagers and family life, while making the valiant attempt to save one of their own from gang life. The show was discovered primarily through word of mouth and it had plenty to offer in terms of humor, multilayered friendships, and the growing pains of being a teenager. Although it deals with plenty of dramatic situations, the series never makes caricatures or stereotypes of its characters, balancing its comedy with a hefty dose of heart and zany antics. In season two, the series dealt with grief, trauma, and survivor’s guilt with sensitivity and tact, turning it into a must-watch show. —Mae Abdulbaki
39. When They See Us
When They See Us demands so much from its audience emotionally, and that itself makes it a triumph among TV this decade. Ava DuVernay’s miniseries follows the story of the five young men who were wrongfully accused and convicted of raping and assaulting a jogger in New York City’s Central Park. The series covers the case from the perspectives of the young men, eliciting our anger when we see how they were interrogated relentlessly into false confessions, and earning our empathy when we see them interact with their families.
By doing this, DuVernay turns them into individuals. They aren’t the Central Park Five; they are Kevin, Antron, Yusef, Korey, and Raymond. We understand them through a lens that also cares about showing what it’s like to grow up Black, and the injustices that people of color are vulnerable to in society then and now. DuVernay is tough on the people and system which caused these injustices; she doesn’t back down for a second. It makes for exhilarating and heartbreaking television, moving the audience to open their eyes and see this world we are living in clearly. —Gabrielle Bondi
38. The Haunting of Hill House
Whenever I tell anyone to watch The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix, I assure them that it’s not that scary. I mean, sure, I wouldn’t watch it before bed and I probably wouldn’t watch it in the dark but the show is more deliciously eerie and atmospheric than gratuitously terrifying. The terror of the show is so creatively, and cleverly, done, that it’s after you read a recap or truly think about the episode that you get creeped out. When I first heard about the show, I was drawn into the family dynamics and the idea that the show takes place over two timelines.
I love flashbacks and callbacks and movies/shows where characters must face consequences and the implications of their past. It lends to twists and foreshadowing that, when done well, are truly remarkable to watch. The Haunting of Hill House did just that—an example being the bent-neck lady, a twist that still sends shivers down my spine. The acting on display in this show (especially from newcomer Victoria Pedretti and every child actor who played the young Crain children) was stunning. I was left breathless after every episode, and not always because of fear, but because of how good it was. I cannot wait until season two and know that this show will continue to produce some of the best television simply because of how powerful the first season was. —Brianna Robinson
Watching Ramy was akin to watching pieces of my own family onscreen. The series is superb because it explores the dichotomy that exists simply by having a bicultural identity. The show, created by comedian Ramy Youssef, follows an Egyptian-American on his journey to self-discovery. Ramy tackles everything from dating as Muslim man to the moral dilemma of practicing Islam, but wanting to have premarital sex and party, as well as the double standards women face, especially as it relates to Arab culture and community.
The film toes the line between serialized dramedy and anthology as it explores not only Ramy, but the lives of his mother and sister in separate, standalone episodes. As one of the first American shows to center and portray Middle Eastern people as regular people rather than terrorists, Ramy had a lot of pressure to deliver, and it did. However, what makes the show stand out the most is its singular focus on Ramy’s experiences as an Egyptian-American. The series is authentic without needing to be everything to everyone and it’ll hopefully open the door for more explorations of Arab-American experiences on TV. —Mae Abdulbaki
36. Please Like Me
Real-life exploits between friends can sometimes be the most interesting plots of all. And in Josh’s case on Please Like Me, it’s the genuine quality from his friend group that connects to the heart. Please Like Me is an Australian TV series created, written, and starred in by comedian Josh Thomas. The series focuses on Josh coming out as gay, him adjusting to the new dating scene, and the daily lives of his closest friends and family.
Please Like Me can easily be summed up as “endearing” and “awkward.” There’s a sweet charm about Josh’s new adventures in dating that comes across as relatable for anyone feeling out of place in the dating world. Even though Josh had dated before, he continually doesn’t know what to do/say, and in some cases, he makes self-destructive decisions that ruins things. (Like I said, Please Like Me feels relatable.) Josh is a fun-loving character and you root for him to succeed, even when he makes mistakes. The same can be said about his friends and family; each has the same quirky and off-beat vibe like Josh. Please Like Me pulls you in because of its relatable quality that feels so human. Plus, it has great dialogue, character nuances, and witty jokes. —Justin Carreiro
35. Big Little Lies
Based on Liane Moriarty’s 2014 of the same name, Big Little Lies follows the lives of five women in Monterey, California as drama unfolds around a mysterious death. Led by Reese Witherspoon (Madeline Mackenzie), Nicole Kidman (Celeste Wright), Shailene Woodley (Jane Chapman), Zoë Kravitz (Bonnie Carlson), and Laura Dern (Renata Klein), the show manages to captivate and have viewers on the edge of their seats during each episode. Known in the show as the Monterey Five, each of these incredibly talented performers give their characters depth and emotion that make them all highlights of the show. Their performances are what take the show to the next level and makes it spectacular. Many actresses could take on these roles and do them successfully, but the chemistry between these five is undeniably palpable and iconic.
While there is no sequel to the book, and the first season wrapped up with a poignant finale, the response from both fans and critics alike led to a second season, answering some big “what happens next?” questions left open at the end of season one. While it’s hard to imagine how the cast of the show could get any better, it did with the addition of three-time Academy Award winner Meryl Streep. While Streep’s character Mary Louise Wright is fully entangled with major spoilers from season one, her addition in season two is the perfect antithesis to the Monterey Five. —Brian Acunis
Ever wondered what goes on in the mind of a serial killer? Mindhunter on Netflix explores the origins of the criminal psychology started at the FBI that helped to assess and identify these crimes. Starring Jonathan Groff as FBI Agent Holden Ford, Holt McCallany as Agent Bill Tench, and Anna Torv as psychologist Wendy Carr, Mindhunter takes place during the ’70s and ’80s as the trio interview serial killers and use their newly acquired knowledge to solve crimes.
Mindhunter is gritty, dark, and raw. Nothing is sugar-coated as the series explores the past and what the killers had to say about their terrible acts. Each killer interviewed covers real-life crimes that happened and some that were assessed for the training. With each retelling or new criminal case the group experiences, you’re meant to feel the dark side of crime, whether the trio is successful in catching their criminals or not. And based on Mindhunter, there are a lot of highs and lows during their investigations. But, what makes Mindhunter so amazing is that it feels real. There’s nothing stylistic to glamorize the events of the past; the group encountered challenges, misfires, and the things of our nightmares. Paired with a great cast, Mindhunter is crime drama that sets itself a part from the rest. —Justin Carreiro
33. Dear White People
If you’re looking for a TV series that discusses social commentary with humor and a real view of the world (and so much more!), Dear White People has it all. Adapted from the 2014 film by Justin Simien, Dear White People focuses on a group of Black students at the Ivy League institution, Winchester University. Much of the series centers on the friends discussing and experiencing social issues during their daily lives on campus, like race, sexuality, gender, and wealth to name a few. What makes Dear White People an absolutely incredible TV series is its perfect mix of well-written dialogue with the stellar acting talent of its cast!
Seriously, this cast is amazing! Logan Browning, Marque Richardson, Antoinette Robertson and more (from serious regular to recurring) shines in their roles by bringing life and energy to the characters. With each episode focusing on a different person, you get a deeper look into how the character develops within the season’s story. And with the style of the episode being tailored to the POV of that main character, you experience how they view the world, their classmates, and the events around them. In addition to the cast and writing, Dear White People is shot and edited so beautifully! Each episode intro is presented with a new artistic touch. Plus, the camera angles, music, and edits make each chapter feel like a mini-movie that’s part of a grander story. —Justin Carreiro
32. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
When the premise of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was revealed prior to its premiere, folks were nervous. So, a young girl is abducted, spends 15 years in a bunker with a crazy man, gets released and that’s a sitcom? It was a little worrisome, but knowing creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, the 30 Rock Dream Team, were behind it left little doubt that this show could find the funny. Fey and Carlock are willing to joke about anything—and often did on this series, despite many fans saying “huh, maybe don’t joke about this”—but surprisingly, the central trauma of Kimmy Schmidt (the perfect Ellie Kemper) is never really forgotten.
Laughter has always been a tool for healing and the ludicrous hilarity of Kimmy Schmidt’s world made the show’s central theme of reckoning with your past stealthily effective. That hilarity is heavily supported by a key supporting cast, including the breakout screen performance of Tituss Burgess as Titus Andromedon, Jane Krakowski as Jacqueline, the gold-digger with a heart, and Carol Kane as Lillian Kaushtupper, a true-blue New Yorker and Kimmy’s landlord. These hapless characters tried, failed, and tried again to get over their personal obstacles through four seasons and we loved watching them do it because it made it look a little easier for us. —Beth Winchester
Forever and always the fact that Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal managed to slip by and air three seasons on network television will be a hilarious one. With some of the more grizzly images on TV, done so with an artistic finesse that didn’t rely solely on shock value, Hannibal is an exercise in how to marry the macabre with the beautiful. The fact that they made it entertaining only makes it more of an achievement. The story, infused with a not-so-hidden love story subtext, is more about the two men at the center than the horrors either one of them commits. The show is interested in mind games, psychological deterioration, and toxic dynamics as a way to demonstrate the real horrors of the world. —Allyson Johnson
Of all of the shows on this list, Pose is one of the few that definitively broke ground on TV. The show premiered just last year in 2018 under the auspicious banner of Ryan Murphy. But, while Murphy has lent his considerable clout and directing ability to the series, Pose is largely crafted by possibly the most diverse crew and cast on TV, with LGBTQ people of color filling the vast amount of seats at this table. Steven Canals and Janet Mock, in particular, are steering this fantastic, large ship with deftness and compassion that overflows from the screen. The story, inspired by the context of Jennie Livingston’s documentary Paris Is Burning, is set in the late 1980s of New York City. We follow a young gay man, Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain), as he’s kicked out of his home in Pennsylvania and finds a new one with the House of Evangelista in the New York ball scene.
Because trans actors don’t often get cast in lead roles, most of the actors that shine here are “newbies,” but you can’t tell. Mj Rodriguez as Blanca is the picture of motherhood, Indya Moore as Angel is a naturalistic heartbreaker, and Dominique Jackson as the regal Elektra is an absolute riotous hurricane of personality. Of course, they’re all shepherded by the veteran performer Billy Porter in his first lead screen role that he seems precisely molded for. Besides the progress made in casting and production, the series is remarkable for allowing the stories of LGBTQ community members to not revolve around tragedy and loss. Those elements are certainly present in the series, but so is every other human experience under the sun. —Beth Winchester
29. New Girl
When New Girl first began it looked like it might fall too in line with series of its ilk like Friends and How I Met Your Mother. Instead, halfway through the first season, it takes a creative swerve by taking all the previous “straight man” characters to Zooey Deschanel’s wacky, Lucille Ball emulating Jess, and making them weird. Sure, on the outset New Girl is just another show about attractive late 20s/early 30 somethings trying to find love and other shenanigans, but what immediately sets it apart is just how strange they all are. The codependency they all have on one another makes it all more potently funny – particularly anything to do with Nick (Jake Johsnon) and Schmidt (Max Greenfield). The tone only becomes more established as the years go on, though season two will always be the creative high point for the series, with some of the funniest episodes and, possibly, the most memorable moment of the show when Jess and Nick first kiss. —Allyson Johnson
28. Mr. Robot
Mr. Robot arrived at just the right time, and seemingly out of nowhere. Creator Sam Esmail debuted his dark, brooding drama in 2015 on the… USA Network? The first season of this tech-centric psychological thriller-mystery was a smash for the network previously associated with absurdly beautiful people living lavish lifestyles on beaches somewhere. By contrast, Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek, a “that guy” for years before landing this breakout role) lives in a black hoodie in a gray New York City and self-medicates his host of psychological issues while hacking into the digital lives of everyone he knows.
As the story unfolds, we see Esmail’s cinematic references clearly while simultaneously seeing them applied in fresh, meaningful ways. The plot grows thornier and thornier, as this mysterious Mr. Robot (Christian Slater, back again) pulls Elliot into a conspiracy to erase world debt. As the series progresses, the world gets murkier and murkier as supporting cast members Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday, Martin Wallström and BD Wong are given more to do and more opportunities to convince us that we won’t get a happy ending. Is this a story about the relentless, Sisyphean struggle that is trying to abolish the evils of entrenched capitalism? Maybe. One thing Mr. Robot is for sure is an example of a new kind of filmmaking and political storytelling that emerged during this past decade of great TV. —Beth Winchester
The Devil isn’t a new character to television and honestly, at first, I wasn’t very interested in watching another. The idea of a hedonistic Lucifer who solves crimes in Los Angeles was original, but I wasn’t sold. However, all I really needed to do was watch the majorly talented Tom Ellis for a few minutes and take in the easy chemistry he has with the brilliant Lauren German and I was hooked. The show is so fun. Every episode is a mashup of hilarity, charm and thrill. The characters are just as charming as the Devil himself.
I can write a whole blurb about why Maze, played brilliantly by Lesley-Ann Brandt, Lucifer’s right-hand demon, is the reason why the show is the best of the decade. But any show that inspires fans to campaign for a show so passionately after it’s cancelled clearly deserves praise. After a surprising cancellation, Netflix revived the fan favorite. They saw the brilliance in the writing and acting, characteristics that have strengthened this show into its fifth season. If you haven’t binged it yet, you have to. Just be prepared to do nothing else until you’re done and get the ear worms that make up the soundtrack to get stuck in your head. —Brianna Robinson
26. One Day at a Time
One Day at a Time is one of the greatest family sitcoms of the decade, which made the fan reaction to the initial news that it had been cancelled by Netflix all the more impassioned as they implored the streaming service, then any other networks that would hear them, to save the show. It was eventually picked up by Pop TV, but the road to that celebratory moment was a fraught one.
Following three generations of a Cuban-American family living in the same house, the Alvarez family learn how to grow together following their mother’s divorce. The challenges they face, along with the standout performances from Justina Machado and icon Rita Moreno, make it a must watch, and they tackle heavier subjects than the light and airy direction might suggest. The duality is key, never settling on a frivolous tone and instead approaching serious subjects with an abundance of humor and warmth, inviting viewers in for the half hour segments to momentarily join this family. —Allyson Johnson
Witty, hilarious, and unabashedly foul-mouthed, Veep is the political satire that delivered one heavy-hitting punch after another. For seven seasons on HBO, Veep focused on the political career of Selina Meyer (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) as she and her team ran the Vice President’s office. Political maneuvers, campaigning, and her gradual rise from VP to the President of the United States to citizen were just some of the plots that showcased her political career. Plus, her personal life always got added into the mix, too.
Veep stands out for its jokes and humor. You will laugh a lot! The characters are self-deprecating, raw, and in some cases, terrible people. The amount of jokes and insults they throw at each other could fill an entire season. They will do whatever it takes to get political power, and while being under the lens of satire, everything is pushed to the extreme. Which captures the essence of Veep. This isn’t like watching House of Cards; you’re going to find politics funny. Veep is also iconic for the great talent of its cast, like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, and more. Veep earned many awards and nominations during its run, with Lous-Dreyfus snagging six Emmys for Best Comedy Series Actress in a row. She killed it in this role! Selina Meyer is an iconic character that will be remembered and GIF-ed forever. —Justin Carreiro
24. Orphan Black
The unmatched talent of Tatiana Maslany shined in the sci-fi thriller, Orphan Black. The series is focused on the story of rebellious punk rocker Sarah Manning and her family/friends. After she witnesses the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like her, Orphan Black delves into the international conspiracy of cloning and the organization who wishes to control the clones. Tatiana Maslany played each clone with such unique flair, personality, and strength that she earned her long overdue Primetime Emmy Award for Best Drama Actress in 2016. Orphan Black had a strong mix of thrilling plots and well-written dialogue. The series kept viewers on their toes each week wondering what the shady organization Neolution had planned next for the clones. But, at the heart of all the mystery, were the characters themselves.
Orphan Black emphasized the importance of family and the bond between these clones – they became “Sestras” and would protect each other through thick and thin. The series thrived with an amazing cast of characters and talent. The great writing made each clone feel unique and developed; sometimes forgetting the fact that Maslany played each role. In addition to Maslany, the roles of her allies and enemies shined with plenty of heart and conviction. Including the talents of Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jordan Gavaris, and Évelyne Brochu to name a few, Orphan Black became an iconic cult hit that you need to watch right now. —Justin Carreiro
23. The Americans
The Americans spent far too long of its run under most TV watchers’ radar. The FX drama chronicled the daily lives of two undercover KGB agents living in suburban America with a FBI agent as one of the neighbors and good friends. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are excellent as the KGB couple who spend their days as normal American parents and nights undercover, capturing and interrogating people in order to gather information for the Soviet Union. The tension between the two lives these characters live remains taut throughout the series with multiple close-calls and difficult situations that endanger not just their lives, but the lives of their American children. As their situations become harder and harder to control, Russell and Rhys’ characters start to shed their exteriors, question their purpose, and make mistakes, leading to such vulnerable and emotion performances that resonate with viewers well past its perfect and devastating finale. —Gabrielle Bondi
22. The Leftovers
The Leftovers is sublime television, the type that expertly blends emotional intelligence and complex characterizations with big ideas that are so specific, but still universal. The Leftovers may not be for everyone. Its subject matter weighs heavy on the soul as it depicts a world post-reckoning, where people disappeared one day without cause. Justin Theroux leads the series as a small-town sheriff, Kevin, who has visions and is dealing with how that fateful day has upended his own life. Carrie Coon also stars as Nora, a woman who lost her entire family, and later in the series Regina King and Christopher Eccleston join in on the mayhem of this suffering world.
It sounds all miserable when described in this way, but as cliché as this may sound, it’s all executed so beautifully. It constantly challenges the characters, and the audience by default, on the bonds we form with religion, society, and each other. It does this through real moments like Nora’s journey into understanding what happened to her lost family or existential—sometimes fantastical—moments, like Kevin’s battle within himself, as he tries to uncover a truth that has always evaded him. The Leftovers weaves all of this together to create not just one of the best shows of the decade, but one of the best in the history of television. —Gabrielle Bondi
21. Queer Eye
There are countless makeover, self-help, cooking, fashion, and design shows, but Queer Eye sets itself apart from the pack by being exactly what its tagline says: it’s more than a makeover. Each episode finds the “Fab Five” — Jonathan Van Ness (grooming expert), Karamo Brown (culture and lifestyle expert), Tan France (fashion expert), Bobby Berk (design expert), and Antoni Porowski (food and wine expert) — entering the lives of the episode’s “hero” and imparting them with knowledge and tools on how to be their best selves. While other shows tend to make a spectacle of the participant and frame their differences and struggles as oddities and entertainment, Queer Eye embraces everyone and celebrates what makes them unique.
Unlike the show’s previous incarnation, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Queer Eye features heroes of all genders, sexualities, races, ethnicities, and abilities. The show also makes a point to make sure the knowledge and tools the Fab Five demonstrate are accessible for the hero they are working with. In season one, episode five (Camp Rules), Tan France takes the episode’s hero, Bobby, a father of six on a budget, to buy new clothes at Target. Tan shows him how to be fashionable with what he can afford and manage. Every episode keeps the heroes lives in mind, which makes the show genuine, heartwarming, and uplifting. —Brian Acunis
GLOW redefined how we think about heroes and villains by setting up their story as one exactly about heroes and villains – at least when it came to the wrestling ring. For a show about female friendship, GLOW begins at the end of one. Betrayal and jealously exists at the heart of the riff between Ruth (Alison Brie) and Debbie (Betty Gilpin), setting up their roles as the hero and the villain in the ring perfectly. By clearly defining their roles as Liberty Bell and Zoya, the show is able to work within those tropes to strip down to the real complicated human emotions that exist in any relationship.
Beyond the first season, the show continues even further in breaking down those lines between friend, foe, and frenemy, and expands to a show that incorporates a lot of different female friendships and relationships. GLOW also doesn’t shy away from the unfortunate stereotypes that occur in wrestling, from Tamme’s Welfare Queen persona to Arthie’s Beirut the Mad Bomber. Those stereotypes start to break away in seasons two and three as the women continuously take even more control over the stories they tell in the ring. As the show ends with its fourth season next year, its consistency and focus on the breakdown and reconciliation between friends is where GLOW truly shines. —Katey Stoetzel
19. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
You could go on and on about how much ground Crazy Ex-Girlfriend broke, or just how many societal norms it challenged on a weekly basis. Series co-creator Rachel Bloom played anti-heroine Rebecca Bunch, a seemingly successful lawyer living in New York who decided to completely abandon her life and career and move to West Covina, California (only two hours from the beach!) in an effort to win back Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), the high school boyfriend she dated for two months. Really.
Bloom shares far more than initials with the woman she plays, with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend addressing mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. Oh, it also had a tendency to casually and sensitively mention privilege, race, and frankly portray female sexuality, often during the show’s numerous, often deceptively cheerful musical numbers. Even if you could never get behind most – or really any – of Rebecca’s decisions much of the time, you couldn’t help rooting for her, even when she was at her lowest, not to mention the many times she pulled herself up in an effort to overcome what was always her most formidable obstacle: herself. —Andrea Thompson
18. The Crown
Compelling and gorgeously told, with fantastic performances by Claire Foy, Vanessa Kirby and Matt Smith, The Crown delights viewers by being both intimate and telling, allowing for what seems like a never before seen look into the lives of the royals. The Crown is dramatic and glorious, keeping viewers entranced throughout its runs, even though we know how it all turns out. Even though it’s only on its second season, with a third season premiering in November, it’s safe to say that the show is one of the best out there. It is so easy to get lost in the costumes and set pieces and as you binge the show as one must, real life and the present fall away. The show definitely deserves the high praise it has earned, including the awards and accolades. —Brianna Robinson
17. Killing Eve
When I first began watching Killing Eve, I didn’t expect to be so captivated by the alluring nature of Eve (Sandra Oh) and Villanelle’s (Jodie Comer) relationship. This tale of obsession is intoxicating, but incredibly complex. The first season included twists and turns and mystery, but it always maintained its sense of intimacy. Even while hundreds of miles apart, the draw between Eve and Villanelle is incredibly strong. What makes it even better is the fact that they’re both on opposing sides of the law, though they enter into morally questionable areas quite often.
Somehow, the series manages to make them both worthy of sympathy, while working through their flaws and it’s compelling and thrilling to watch. But, there are secrets and lies at work that catapult them both into a second season brimming with even more mystery and tension. Eve and Villanelle are nemeses bound to each other by infatuation, control, and a strange sense of respect. Killing Eve’s second season must contend with Eve’s changing relationship with her husband, but the series continues to explore the nature of Eve and Villanelle’s complicated relationship with nuance. —Mae Abdulbaki
At the beginning of Barry’s second season, Barry (Bill Hader) steps out of the darkness of backstage and into the (slightly dim) lights of center stage during his acting class, with a new lightness to his step after officially calling it quits as a hitman. Of course, that decision came right after killing Detective Janice Moss (Paula Newsome). Despite being a comedy, Barry was always dark, especially since its main character is a hitman in the middle of an existential crisis. The show’s second season dialed it up a notch, though, using the stage and acting even more effectively as a metaphor to Barry and Sally’s (Sarah Goldberg) respective attempts to better their lives.
In one of the show’s more iconic moments, the second season ends with Sally at the top of her game as the audience surrounds her with praise, while Barry steps back into the darkness as the lights of the building he just infiltrated flicker and die. It’s a powerful end to an even more powerful season that saw the show dip its toes into some magical realism with the episode “ronny/lily” and Barry’s relationships with Sally, Fuchs, and Cousineau grow even stronger before they completely fall apart. Barry might only be a couple seasons young, but it’s two seasons build on each other in a way that still balances the moral gray areas of its main character, despite what he’s done. —Katey Stoetzel
15. Broad City
Only having ended this past year, Broad City may be the ultimate love letter to millennial culture and, specifically, millennial friendships. With Ilana (Ilana Glazer) and Abbi (Abbi Jacobsen), the lines between platonic and something more blind, reliant on one another for anything and everything. Be it wacky hijinks that leave them stranded or attached to the back of a dump truck, or emotional support after a tough breakup or big move. Throughout every season, Broad City never lost its electrifying humor, portraying NYC with a lived in realism of someone who’d grown up there. However, where the show soared, especially in its last season, was with emotional honesty, especially the heartfelt, soul aching connection women develop with one another. The ending comfortingly suggests the world is full of friendships like the one at the heart of this story, but what remains clear is that there’s only one Abbi and Ilana. —Allyson Johnson
14. BoJack Horseman
BoJack Horseman is one of the finest character studies ever created. Will Arnett and Amy Sedaris deliver career best work in this pitch black comedy which, over time, has gone from being yet another show about a man suffering from arrested development who’s questionable actions are shrugged off to one that specifically addresses that behavior, scrutinizes and deconstructs it before rebuilding the character into someone virtually the same, but spiritually new. BoJack is an asshole and an alcoholic who was borne from neglect, who has been cruel, manipulative and acted as a particularly tragic enabler.
Regardless, in the final season, he tries to commit himself to a life of sobriety and then, maybe, self-improvement, we hope for him that he can accomplish this latest goal. We’re able to do so because the series is unflinchingly empathetic for its damaged characters without ever excusing their more insidious actions. Above all of this it’s one of the funniest shows airing with a vibrant, kinetic animation style that marks it as one of the best of its medium, even if at the start the lines felt crude. It’s a defining series of the 2010s for its constant ruminations on the ability to change, the question of how many chances someone should get to do so if they’re their own worst enemies and the long lasting reach of trauma through generational divides. It’s heavy stuff, but it will make you laugh through the tears. —Allyson Johnson
At its heart, Catastrophe is a very simple show. Two 40-somethings meet, have sex, get pregnant, get married, and try to adjust to this swift life change. What makes Catastrophe so special is the combination of Sharon Horgan as “Sharon” and Rob Delaney as “Rob.” Also the creators and writers of the series, the saltiness of Horgan’s Irish wit and Delaney’s affable American energy and willingness to talk about every gross detail of life combine to create a hilarious, grounded, sometimes wrenching depiction of what it can actually be like to be in love, to start a family, to support that family, and to grow old among many other things.
The series deals with all the nastiness of child-rearing along with the aging up of your own parents, and factors like addiction and infidelity that can break a marriage if the partners aren’t careful. Catastrophe is simply brilliant and a shining example of so many things TV shows often fail at. How can a show get conflict from a “happily married couple?” Who wants to watch middle-aged people? How can a show be a romance if we never hear the characters say, “I love you”? Catastrophe is a perfect antidote to so many years of false and romanticized love stories. This is it, babe. —Beth Winchester
12. Russian Doll
Women’s cynicism isn’t usually met with compassion and empathy the way it is in Russian Doll, but that’s perhaps what makes it a rarity in television. Yes, the Netflix series only has one season under its belt, but it managed to make such an impression that to not have it on this list would’ve been a shame. Russian Doll employs a time-loop for Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) to deal with the traumas of her past, her isolation, and the reasons behind why she keeps so many people at arm’s length despite having friends.
She’s often not a good person, she’s selfish, and makes terrible decisions, but the series superbly handles all of Nadia’s issues without taking away any of her flaws. When the show starts to become a bit repetitive, Alan (Charlie Barnett), the anxious, obsessive compulsive man working through a recent break-up with his girlfriend, enters the picture. Nadia and Alan, who both died on the same night, quickly realize there’s something very wrong and work to help each other out of the time loop and perhaps make each other better people. The show is laced with dark comedy, an ample amount of satire, and brilliantly ties together both storylines for a twisted ending that leaves you on the edge of your seat. —Mae Abdulbaki
11. Black Mirror
People need to stop trying to re-make The Twilight Zone, because you know what? Everything you want from a modern Twilight Zone, Black Mirror is already giving you. While Rod Serling’s 1960s creation took the potent sense of Cold War paranoia and societal tensions of that time and turned it into haunting and creepy allegories, Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror is taking the central development of our age—the all-consuming presence of technology—and mining the darkness and possibility within it. The power of this series comes from the questions it forces us to answer and the rabbit holes of technology it sends us down. If you could replay memories exactly, would that be useful, or would it consume you?
If society runs on how “liked” someone is on an app, would anyone ever be genuine again? If you can upload your consciousness, is that version of you also alive? There are pretty much no happy answers to these questions, yet we can’t look away from Brooker’s anthology series. Perhaps because these stories aren’t all didactic warnings: they contain crooked, dark British humor and some tour-de-force performances by the likes of Bryce Dallas Howard, Hayley Atwell, and Daniel Kaluuya. While Black Mirror is indeed one of the best and most definitive series of the 2010s, let’s hope that the next decade doesn’t see any of these stories stepping into reality. —Beth Winchester
10. Parks and Recreation
It’s rare that a show about a branch of government gets the comedy treatment, but Parks and Recreation made it work. Perhaps the best part is that the NBC series offered commentary about the general workplace environment and about the ins and outs of local government, educating its audience all in one go. For Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope, nothing was ever too big to handle, even when it was. Her passion for government and doing right by the people brought with it a sense of hope and perseverance in the face of struggle, sexism, and all the red tape Leslie and co. had to push through to change even the smallest thing.
The show is a fitting example of our government, especially given that Leslie and best friend Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) promised the community they would build a park where an abandoned construction site used to be in the very first episode, but it took them seasons before it actually went through. The series combine genuine comedy, heart, and the idea that you shouldn’t give up when trying to change things for the better, even if it’s slow-going. —Mae Abdulbaki
Superstore is that undervalued and overlooked gem of a comedy that quickly captures your heart and simultaneously makes you laugh out loud and wipe the tears from your eyes. When I say it’s been overlooked, I’m not even kidding because most people didn’t even know this show existed until they escalated Mateo’s immigration storyline at the end of season four. As a workplace comedy, Superstore gets away with telling an amalgamation of stories that center the employees of Cloud 9, a retail corporation a la Wal-Mart.
Whether it’s the employees arguing over which Halloween costumes are considered cultural appropriation to working in a long-running storyline about undocumented workers, the difficulties of unionizing in the workplace or the post-stress trauma of living through a tornado, Superstore deftly handles a variety of topics, sitting perfectly at the crossroads of tackling important workplace issues and delivering the laughs. —Mae Abdulbaki
The best thing about Atlanta is when I think it has already surprised me, it returns the next week with something like “B.A.N.,” a purely satirical episode of a fake talk show called Montague, or “Teddy Perkins,” a wild and self-contained episode that relishes in psychological horror. Normally with shows that have a lot to say, the messaging can become convoluted and the commentary might not be concise or biting enough to really make an impact on the audience. Atlanta does not have that problem… at all.
Along with its natural performances, Donald Glover creates a series that captures all the nuances of the Black millennial experience, from trying to find a steady job to support his girlfriend and daughter to navigating between social and racial lines to attain some success. While it comments on conventions and societal expectations, it also constantly subverts them, making Atlanta an example of some of the best TV writing of the decade. No other show is like it because no other show has been able to navigate a myriad of social issues as well and as concisely as Atlanta. —Gabrielle Bondi
7. Jane the Virgin
When I first saw the promos for Jane the Virgin, it was easy to dismiss it as another clichéd drama that just propelled more stereotypes of Latinx. I was so surprised to find out this show actually does the opposite; it subverts those very stereotypes. Jane the Virgin is one of the few English-language shows to chronicle the lives of a Latinx family with humor, empathy and respect. Even when the show dives a little more deeply into its soap-opera tendencies, it always remains grounded thanks to Gina Rodriguez’s earnest performance as Jane, as well as Ivonne Coll and Andrea Navedo, as Jane’s grandmother and mother respectively. This trio of women are the heart of the show, and while the (many) romances are fun and beautiful to watch, what makes Jane stand out as one of the best shows of the decade are its women. —Gabrielle Bondi
Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) may be brash, stand-offish, and slightly deranged, but she always felt like a friend. Her reactions, glances, and winks to the camera made the audience an accomplice in whatever shenanigans Fleabag found herself in in any given episode. In the first season, it was part of the fun. Despite the horrifying and tragic revelations season one brought us about Fleabag herself, we could sympathize and forgive her because she let us in on the joke of it all.
But in season two, as Fleabag grew closer to Andrew Scott’s Hot Priest, it no longer mattered what we thought about her, but how she was able to forgive herself. As the season progressed, her glances and winks to camera lessened, especially as The Priest started to recognize the moments she would pull away from her life when she was paying attention to us. For us, it was tragic, but it allowed Fleabag’s relationships with her sister Claire (Sian Clifford) and her father (Bill Paterson) to reach more healthy grounds. As Fleabag walked away from a relationship with The Priest, she also walked away from us, but the end of a friendship has never felt so good. —Katey Stoetzel
5. Stranger Things
Netflix’s Stranger Things is an indefectible combination of captivating stories, stellar performances, and nostalgia for childhood. Created by brothers Matt and Ross Duffer (the Duffer Brothers), Stranger Things follows a group of kids in a small, 1980s Midwest town as one of their friends disappears and a multitude of strange things begin to occur. While some shows use nostalgia as a crutch, Stanger Things excels from masterfully decorating each episode with artifacts and moments that make any viewer sentimental for their childhood and years gone by. From The Neverending Story to New Coke, these bits of nostalgia from the 1980s in Stranger Things are fun to catch but never pull viewers out of the moment nor obscure the show.
Spearheaded by Winona Rider (Joyce Byers), the cast also features a number of incredible young performers; Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin Henderson), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair), Noah Schnapp (Will Byers), and Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven) create a ragtag group of friends. Younger viewers connect to these characters as they’re going through similar stages in life, while older viewers are reminded of how they’ve grown since their youth. —Brian Acunis
4. Game of Thrones
Whether or not you were a fan of the final season, it does not completely take away from Game of Thrones as a series. Game of Thrones was not always consistent, but when it was good, it was really good—so much so that after some time after that bad final season, it still hasn’t lost its rank in TV and pop culture history. Game of Thrones slowly grew into its phenomenon status with viewership growing each season until it turned into the juggernaut it is now known for.
We all theorized and speculated what awaited next in the series because the show did an excellent job at developing its characters, taking us on a journey with them, and ultimately making us feel way too invested in their lives. Therefore, the second episode of the final season is a favorite among fans, when the series presses pause and gives us such wonderful character moments and interactions that paid off on the decade-long journey we spent with them. —Gabrielle Bondi
3. Schitt’s Creek
Created by father-son duo Eugene and Dan Levy, Schitt’s Creek follows the Rose family John (Eugene), Moira (Catherine O’Hara), David (Dan), and Alexis (Annie Murphy) after they suddenly lose their enormous fortune and have nowhere else to live except for the town of Schitt’s Creek, which Johnny and Moira had purchased as a joke for David’s birthday years prior. As time progresses, the community slowly breaks down the emotional and societal walls the Rose family had placed around themselves, opening them to their new way of life and shifting their worldviews.
The show is wittily obnoxious. While the Rose family acts at first like fish out of water with their absurdities and eccentricities left over from their extravagant and opulent lifestyle, their characters grow and learn, with later seasons causing viewers to cry tears of laughter immediately followed by tears of emotion. While each of the four leads shine and create the perfect comedic familial quartet, Catherine O’Hara’s character Moira Rose is the crown jewel of the sitcom. Her comedic timing and ability to make any line of dialogue hilarious are unsurpassed. From her pronunciation of the word “baby” to her absurd wig collection, Moira is one of the best comedic characters on television since Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia on The Golden Girls. —Brian Acunis
2. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Despite a few bumps in the beginning, Brooklyn Nine-Nine quickly found its footing as one of the more wholesome shows on television this past decade. The antics of the 99th precinct, with Andy Samburg’s Jake Peralta leading the pack, certainly make for some quick laughs and clever one-liners. But it’s in the show’s willingness to tackle the hard truths and serious topics that set it apart from any other comedy.
Episodes like Rosa’s coming out story, done so matter-of-factly that it gets the point across, but is still able to deliver moving lines of dialogue, like Captain Holt’s line to Rosa in the episode’s closing moments: “Every time someone steps up and says who they are, the world becomes a better, more interesting place.” The show’s also tackled racial profiling and sexual assault, but they’ve never felt like PSAs or after-school specials. It’s the nonchalance with which they do it that makes Brooklyn Nine-Nine feel like a show that simultaneously is a reflection of reality and an example of how the future could be if we all just let each other live their lives. Throw in some Backstreet Boys sing-a-longs and you’ve got a recipe for success. —Katey Stoetzel
1. The Good Place
In the era of Peak TV, it’s become all the rage for shows to ask some big questions. But The Good Place does something truly bold in that it also tries to answer them. Just what does it mean to be a good person? And if someone clearly isn’t, can they become one? Is redemption possible? If so, where would they even start? The Good Place makes a damn good case for its own answers while delving into various philosophical discussions and quoting thinkers like Kant, Aristotle, and Kierkegaard, all without being any less entertaining. Or funny, since The Good Place also manages to consistently bring the laughs even when the fate of humanity itself hangs in the balance.
The series has also just as consistently built a reputation for destroying the premise it painstakingly builds each season while staying true to its remarkably diverse cast and maintaining its optimistic outlook on life and humanity. It’s difficult to have, let alone sustain, such an attitude in the age of Trump, but The Good Place manages to remain true to its humanistic ideals by acknowledging the worst of what we’re capable of as it gives us very flawed, but essentially well-meaning, decent leads (including one reformed demon!) who help each other change for the better and commit to spreading kindness. —Andrea Thompson