The 100 Best TV Shows of the 2010s

The best of the decade that was.

TV Lists Best of the Decade
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25. When They See Us

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Created by: Ava DuVernay
Stars: Asante Blackk, Caleel Harris, Ethan Herisse, Jharrel Jerome, Marquis Rodriguez, Felicity Huffman, John Leguizamo, Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga
Original Network: Netflix, 2019

You cannot look away from When They See Us or shelter yourself from the blinding truth. On April 19, 1989, 28-year-old Trisha Meli was jogging in Central Park when she was brutally raped and left for dead. In a coma for 12 days, Meli had no memory of what happened to her and was unable to identify her attacker or attackers. The series doesn’t shy away from the horrors of what happened to Meli. A successful white woman left for dead in America’s most famous public space did not sit well with New York City. Everyone—the mayor, the district attorney, the police department—wanted her attackers caught. But somewhere along the line, Manhattan District Attorney Linda Fairstein (Felicity Huffman, in her first post-scandal role) and NYPD detectives lost sight of wanting to find the actual criminal and decided to solve the crime by any means necessary. The story itself is overwhelmingly powerful.

But there are several key decisions Ava DuVernay makes that turns When They See Us into such a powerful program. One is the casting of five relatively unknown actors to play the boys. The “Central Park Five” were 14-16 years old in 1989 and Rodriguez, Herisse, Jerome, Blackk and Harris not only look young but portray the absolutely vulnerability and fear that their real-life counterparts must have felt. We also get to see their families, who fought so hard for their children. Niecy Nash as Korey’s mom Delores. John Leguizamo as Raymond’s father, who remarries while Raymond is away and struggles to balance his old family with his new one. Aunjanue Ellis as Sharon Salaam, the only parent who understood the system enough to make sure her son didn’t sign a false confession. DuVernay doesn’t make any of them saints. They all make horrible mistakes and painful decisions. But their love for their children is never in doubt. When They See Us is exceedingly difficult to watch. It cut me to my very core. When you see it, I’m sure it will do the same to you. —Amy Amatangelo

24. Catastrophe

Created by/Starring:   Rob Delaney, Sharon Horgan
Original Network: Channel 4, 2015-2019

Catastrophe is absolutely one of the decade’s best series, and its farewell means we’re losing one of the medium’s funniest comedies—one that cuts to the core of life’s daily hassles. We’re also losing the most achingly honest show about marriage, parenting and the daily slog of raising a family, particularly when your children are young.  The series greatest gift is its dark, dark humor. On TV, children are often treated as an accessory or a character trait, not as beloved tiny humans who have an enormous impact on your life. That never happened on Catastrophe. The series’ look at marriage, particularly a marriage in the thick of raising small children, was equally realistic. As it ended its four-season run, Catastrophe was as sharp, as biting, as witty as ever. Few shows have the luxury of going out on such a creative high. —Amy Amatangelo

23. Better Call Saul

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Created by:   Vince Gilligan  
Stars:   Bob Odenkirk, Michael McKean, Rhea Seehorn, and Jonathan Banks
Original Network: AMC, 2015-present

When Bob Odenkirk showed up towards the end of the second season of Breaking Bad, playing sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman, it was a small shock to the system for anyone who has long appreciated his work as a writer and a comic actor on series like SNL and Mr. Show. Little did we know that this was only the beginning of a tragic and hilarious tale that would start to take on the scope of an epic Russian novel. The four seasons of this prequel to Vince Gilligan’s meth drama has accomplished the nearly impossible, by expanding upon the source material of Breaking Bad with dynamic and sometimes heartbreaking results. And give full credit to Odenkirk (and his co-stars Michael McKean, Rhea Seehorn, and Jonathan Banks) for further bringing to life how shaky a person’s morality can be, especially when there’s great gobs of money involved. —Robert Ham

22. Chernobyl

Created by: Craig Mazin
Stars: Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, Jessie Buckley, Emily Watson
Original Network: HBO, 2019

Maybe this is a good time for a drama about Chernobyl. I mean, as it becomes increasingly tempting to give in to apocalyptic ideation, I guess it’s useful to remember that the apocalypse already happened, and not even that long ago (I was a teenager and remember it vividly), and we apparently survived it.
?In April 1986, the reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in present-day Ukraine, exploded, leaving a large number of first-responder widows and a legacy of environmental annihilation. The incident and its aftermath are the subject of a new, five-part drama on HBO. Let me start by saying people with mood disorders should weigh the pros and cons carefully before tuning in: It’s possibly the worst thing I have ever seen on TV. And I don’t mean poorly done. (It’s unfortunately brilliant). I mean Chernobyl is devastatingly realistic and really, really painful, so be prepared for graphic depictions of what it’s like to die of radiation poisoning. Or what it’s like to be recruited to the task force that has to destroy radioactive housecats, milk cows and puppies. I literally couldn’t sit through the first episode. I had to watch it 10 minutes at a time.

The outstanding cast is led by Stellan Skarsgård as Boris Scherbina, a Kremlin apparatchik, and Jared Harris as Valery Legasov, the nuclear physicist who makes the government understand they cannot lie and obfuscate their way out of a nuclear disaster. Emily Watson rounds it out as Ulana Komyuk, a Byelorussian scientist determined to find out what really happened in order to keep it from ever happening again. The production is HBO-grade excellent. The soundtrack is a testament to the terrifying sound of a chattering Geiger counter. Writer and producer Craig Mazin is relentless in his depiction of human corruption and environmental breakdown, and director Johan Renck gives Lars von Trier a run for his melancholic money. It is an anatomy of fear and incompetence and hopelessness and baseness and self-destructiveness. It is desolate and desperate and excruciating and horrible. Horrible. Horrible. And it should be. —Amy Glynn

21. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Created by: Michael Schur, Dan Goor
Stars: Andy Samberg, Melissa Fumero, Andrew Braugher, Terry Crews, Steaphanie Beatriz, Chelsea Peretti, Jo Lo Truglio
Original Network: Fox, 2013-2018; NBC 2019-present

“Consistency” might not be the most flattering virtue you can ascribe to a sitcom, but consistency is a big part of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s greatness. Week in and week out, Dan Goor and Michael Shur’s half-hour cop comedy manages to hit just the right notes without losing its groove. Some episodes hit higher notes than others, and yes, in the series’ lifespan there have in fact been a few off-key episodes intermingled with the others. But when Brooklyn Nine-Nine is good, it’s good, and it’s good with an impressive regularity. When it’s great, it’s arguably the best sitcom you’ll find on network television, thanks in part to sharp writing, but mostly to an even sharper cast. Consistency is what fuels Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s motor, but the characters are the ones steering the ship. The show is enormously diverse in terms of not only gender and ethnicity, but also in terms of comic styles: There’s career sad sack Joe Lo Truglio, the stoically hilarious Andre Braugher, king of the clowns Andy Samberg, master of badassery Stephanie Beatriz, and that only covers a little less than half the team. Since Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s debut back in 2013, each character on the show has developed and grown, and in the process we’ve come to care about all of them in equal measure. At the top of its game, Brooklyn Nine-Nine harmonizes our attachment to these people with great gags, and occasionally even sharp (if brief) action. In other words, there’s a lot the series has to offer, and that just drives home how vital its constancy really is to its success. Never underestimate well-regulated humor. Andy Crump

20. Stranger Things

Created by: The Duffer Brothers
Stars: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Noah Schnapp
Original Network: Netflix, 2016-present

Say what you will about the finer points of its storytelling, Stranger Things continues to be an unabashed celebration of the 1980s, from its own filmic references regarding style and story to a cavalcade of literal references from the era. Its plucky set of kid and teen characters battle monsters (real or within themselves) and go to the mall. It’s a nostalgic dream and a creepfest nightmare. But whether it’s set during Halloween or in the throes of a mid-80s summer, the show’s carefully crafted aesthetics always serve to augment the joyful nature of the series’ non-monster moments. And that, really, is where Stranger Things shines. The creep factor is important (and occasionally actually scary or super gory), but it acts as an almost funny juxtaposition to the otherwise happy-go-lucky look at suburban life. Mainly, though, it’s the friendships and coming-of-age stories, the relationships and family bonding, that really make Stranger Things great. For better or worse, the Netflix horror series is as tasty, messy, and fleeting as an ice cream cone on a hot summer’s day. Ahoy!—Allison Keene

19. Justified

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Created by: Graham Yost
Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts, Erica Tazel, Natalie Zea, Walton Goggins
Original Network: FX, 2010-2015

Look, we’ll keep it simple: Award-worthy guest stars (Margo Martindale, Mykelti Williamson, and Neal McDonough) were the rule not the exception on this Kentucky-based gem. Combine that with the best ensemble on television (anchored by Timothy Olyphant, Walter Goggins and Joelle Carter), firecracker writing from show-runner Graham Yost with a dependable stable of wordsmiths, and the feature-film quality direction and cinematography from Francis Kenny, Michael Dinner and others, and what do you get? An instant classic that improbably translates Elmore Leonard’s twisted humor, Western deconstruction and damaged psyches into hour-long gems episode after episode. —Jack McKinney

18. Bob’s Burgers

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Created by: Loren Bouchard
Stars: H. Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman, Larry Murphy, John Roberts, Kristen Schaal
Original Network: Fox, 2011-present

Bob’s Burgers, from creator Loren Bouchard, runs the risk of being shoehorned into the middle ground between its brethren: The Simpsons (now more American institution than mere TV program), and Family Guy (the rat-a-tat gag factory devised by Seth MacFarlane). That it nonetheless manages to carve out a distinctive identity—with the Belchers goofily surviving crisis after crisis at the titular diner through a heady brew of whip-smart puns, witty musical numbers, gross-out humor, and real, true kinship—is only surprising if you’ve never seen it. Once you have, its warm, sentimental streak, so deftly balanced with its zanier elements, is impossible to miss: As Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) says in the Season Two finale, reading a review of the titular diner, “We did did have a rather unique and strangely inspiring experience while we were there. This shabby little dive seems to hold a special spot in the dingy town’s heart. ”Matt Brennan

17. The Crown

Created by: Peter Morgan
Stars: Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, Jeremy Northam, Victoria Hamilton, Anton Lesser, Matthew Goode
Original Network: Netflix, 2016-present

In its first two seasons, creator Peter Morgan’s lavish treatment of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II hinges on Claire Foy’s utterly captivating performance as the flinty monarch; the impeccable period detail; a sense of historical scope that outstrips its forebears, Morgan’s 2006 film The Queen and 2013 play The Audience. But to call The Crown simply “lavish” seems unfair. Rather, as time marches on from the early days of Elizabeth’s reign, we move in to the Suez Crisis of in 1956, and the Profumo affair of 1963. Through the series, its elaborates, thoughtful style and episodic structure fleshes out the supporting characters, including Elizabeth’s husband, Philip (Matt Smith), and sister, Margaret (the standout Vanessa Kirby), by turning the focus away from the queen herself. It’s a surprisingly full-throated examination of Britain’s public life, and its public figures’ private ones, capped by a mesmerizing Season Two episode, “Beryl,” that suggests The Crown is still discovering the true extent of its powers. (Which will likely only increase as Olivia Colman takes the throne for Seasons Three and Four.) —Matt Brennan

16. Game of Thrones

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Created by: David Benioff, D. B. Weiss
Stars: Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Maisie Williams, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Aidan Gillen
Original Network: HBO, 2011-2019

The geopolitical drama that unfolds in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire book series is so epic in scope that it made the Lord of the Rings feel like Cliff’s Notes. Even after it’s been pared down for television, the hourlong episodes can only cover a portion of the stories from key characters. Highlighting its fantasy elements only sparingly, each of these are very human tales, as inhabitants of Westeros and Essos try to survive in a very cruel world and often, very often, fail. Heroes meet their end as often as villains; children as often as warriors. The show has garnered its fair share of criticism for its gratuitous nudity and its depiction of a couple of brutal rape scenes, but it also has featured some of the strongest female characters on TV. And it’s the characters, the quick wit of Tyrion and Varys, the master conniving of Littlefinger, the defiant spunk of Arya, the quick nobility of Jon Snow, the heartless villainy of Tywin Lannister, the complicated redemption of Jaime, that made this show an epic cultural juggernaut (even in its arguably faltering final seasons).—Josh Jackson

15. American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson

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Created by: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
Stars: Sterling K. Brown, Cuba Gooding Jr., Bruce Greenwood, Nathan Lane, Sarah Paulson, David Schwimmer, John Travolta, Courtney B. Vance
Original Network: FX, 2016

In a year defined by a certain queasy nostalgia for the 1990s, from Fuller House to the presidential election, FX’s dramatization of the decade’s signal spectacle came closest to capturing both zeitgeists at once: the one that made “the trial of the century” and the one that revived our obsession with it. Anchored by Courtney B. Vance and Sarah Paulson as Johnnie Cochran and Marcia Clark, American Crime Story transforms the salaciousness of a tabloid-ready saga into a potent, surprisingly restrained treatment of “identity politics” in action, in which the seeds of our own fault lines—of race, of gender, of class—were sown in the aftermath of Reagan, the Cold War, and the L.A. riots. Most impressive of all, perhaps, the series manages to wring suspense from a twenty-year-old case that already unfurled on live television, becoming that now-rare artifact of an earlier cultural moment: appointment viewing. —Matt Brennan

14. The Good Wife

Created by: Robert King, Michelle King
Stars: Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry, Archie Panjabi, Graham Phillips, Makenzie Vega, Josh Charles 
Original Network: CBS, 2009-2016

Are network dramas supposed to be this good? Julianna Margulies stars as the title character Alicia Florrick, who (in a storyline ripped from many, many headlines) is subjected to public humiliation when her husband, Peter (Chris Noth), the District Attorney of Chicago, is caught cheating with a prostitute. The scandal forces Alicia back into the workforce, and she takes a job with her (very sexy) old law school friend Will Gardner (Josh Charles). But Alicia is not your typical “stand by your man” woman and The Good Wife is not your typical show. The brilliance of the series is that it deftly blends multiple and equally engaging storylines that both embrace and defy genre conventions. Each episode is an exciting combination of political intrigue, inner-office jockeying, family strife, sizzling romance, and intriguing legal cases. The series features a fantastic array of guest stars, and creates a beguiling and believable world where familiar characters weave in and out of Alicia’s life just like they would in real life: You’ll be fascinated by Archie Panjabi’s mysterious Kalinda Sharma, delighted by Zach Grenier’s mischievous David Lee, marvel at Christine Baranski’s splendid Diane Lockhart. And, witness the transformative performance Alan Cummings gives as the cunning Eli Gold. But the real reason to stick with the series is to partake in the show’s game-changing fifth season. Many series start to fade as they age, but The Good Wife peaked late in its mostly glorious seven season run. —Amy Amatangelo

13. Rectify

Created by: Ray McKinnon
Stars: Aden Young, Abigail Spencer, J. Smith-Cameron, Adelaide Clemens, Clayne Crawford, Luke Kirby
Original Network: SundanceTV, 2013-2016

Rectify has a simple enough premise: A man sent to rot on Death Row is released from prison after 19 years on a DNA technicality. Sure, the big and small screens have seen their fair share of crime dramas, but Rectify’s plot isn’t what sets it apart: It’s the rest of it that really matters. Daniel Holden, presumably wrongly arrested for the rape and murder of his girlfriend, finds himself back in his small Georgia hometown and greeted by constant life-threatening hostility. The show explores the bonds between Daniel (played to perfection by Aden Young), his family, and his enemies as they struggle to deal with Daniel’s homecoming. Superbly acted (with an understanding of the south that few shows ever achieve), the program successfully manages to be at times heartbreaking and suspenseful, while also beautifully incorporating moments of effortless humor. Rectify is thought-provoking and will make you care about the future of its characters—like all the best shows do. —Rachel Haas

12. Barry

Created by:   Bill Hader, Alec Berg
Stars Bill Hader, Stephen Root, Sarah Goldberg, Anthony Carrigan, Henry Winkler
Original Network: HBO, 2018-present

One of the strangest and most fascinating comedy/drama hybrids to date, creator and star Bill Hader’s excellent series plays with questions of identity and self-expression that explore the dual lives our troubled protagonist Barry leads. Amateur dramatist by day, assassin by night, Barry works to shed his darker self and become the man he wants to be, but he can’t escape the choices that led him down that dark path to begin with. Denying that being a killer is part of who he really is only leads to a repressed rage that comes out in exceptionally tense and violent scenes, ones that Hader expertly juxtaposes with Barry’s sweet and earnest side through unexpected comedy (and occasionally, wistful daydreams). He’s a man who wants to do good, but can’t reconcile the two parts of himself, something the series also explores throughout the series. Who we are versus how we want others to see us is at the core of Barry’s character exploration, and Hader manages to somehow make the series both hilarious and deeply affecting, taking us on a rollercoaster of emotions that ends—at least with this season—in an extraordinary difficult place of truth and self-understanding.—Allison Keene

11. 30 Rock

Created by:   Tina Fey  
Stars: Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, Jack McBrayer, Scott Adsit, Judah Friedlander
Original Network: NBC, 2006-2013

The spiritual successor to Arrested Development, 30 Rock succeeded where its competition failed by largely ignoring the actual process of creating a TV show and instead focusing on the life of one individual in charge of the process, played by show creator Tina Fey. 30 Rock never loses track of its focus, and creates a surprisingly deep character for its circus to spin around. But Fey’s not the only one who makes the series so outstanding. Consistently spot-on performances by Tracy Morgan—whether frequenting strip clubs or a werewolf bar mitzvah—and Alec Baldwin’s evil plans for microwave-television programming create a perfect level of chaos for the show’s writers to unravel every week. 30 Rock doesn’t have complex themes or a deep message, but that stuff would get in the way of its goal: having one of the most consistently funny shows ever on TV. Suffice to say, it succeeded. Sean Gandert

10. The Great British Baking Show

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Created by: Love Productions
Stars:Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Mel Giedroyc, Sue Perkins, Sandi Toksvig, Noel Fielding 
Original Network: BBC, 2010-2016; Channel 4, 2017-present

Known across the pond as The Great British Bake-Off, the appeal of this wildly popular reality TV series—most seasons of which are now available on Netflix—is its refusal to go in for dramatic contrivances. Against the tropes of Fox’s Gordon Ramsay-hosted properties, Chopped, and even Top Chef—with their constant backbiting and broken dreams—the contestants on GBBS are sunny, mutually supportive amateurs (albeit extraordinarily skilled ones). Instead, in any given episode, the worst crisis is judge Paul Hollywood pressing a finger into a scone and pronouncing it “underbaked” (pronouncing it, of course, as “overwerked and oonderbaked”). Even with new hosts and new judge as the series moved to Channel 4 from the BBC, GBBS remains a wonderful, inspiring, refreshing, whimsical and altogether happy series that might even inspire you to start pre-heating your oven.—Matt Brennan and Allison Keene

9. Parks and Recreation

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Created by: Greg Daniels, Michael Schur
Stars: Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Rashida Jones
Original Network: NBC, 2009-2015

Parks and Recreation started its run as a fairly typical mirror of The Office, but in its third season, the student became the master. As it became fleshed out with oddballs and unusual city quirks, Pawnee has become the greatest television town since Springfield. Parks flourished over the years with some of the most unique and interesting characters in modern comedy. And the beloved series accomplished the near-impossible by going out on top in 2015 when it came to an end. Comedies, in particular, have a difficult time knowing when it’s time to take a bow. But Leslie Knope and her merry band of friends kept us laughing (and crying) right up until the series finale, which offered a powerfully good farewell to one of the most creative and beloved network series in history. Ross Bonaime and Amy Amatangelo

8. Atlanta

Created by:   Donald Glover  
Stars:   Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz
Original Network: FX, 2016-present

Though it had traces of an anarchic streak (most notably in the memorable departure “B.A.N.”) Atlanta’s first season read mainly as a laconic slice of life, rendering the experiences of Earn (series creator Donald Glover), Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry), Darius (Lakeith Stanfield), and Van (Zazie Beetz) in all their hilarious particulars. Its second (or robbin’) season, by contrast, comes as close to understanding the uncanny as any series on television: As directed by Glover, Amy Seimetz, and Hiro Murai, the germ of Darius’ “Florida Man” parable—an “alt-right Johnny Appleseed” forcing his chaotic, angry, even violent fantasies on an innocent populace—bears its strange fruit across 11 arresting, often unsettling episodes, woven from the same materials as fairy tales, folklore, fables, and myths. From the laughing wolf of “Helen” and the night-dark “Woods” to the terrifying title character of “Teddy Perkins” (played, in whiteface, by Glover himself), Atlanta becomes a wickedly funny, unspeakably beautiful anthology of American horror stories, one that reckons with the definition of both “blackness” and “whiteness,” and treats the latter, rightly, as a malevolent force. Ultimately, the series’ tremendous sophomore effort grabs hold of the genre’s brass ring, confronting its audience with a simple, startling, profound proposition: If Atlanta doesn’t scare the fuck out of you, you might be the monster. —Matt Brennan

7. The Good Place

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Created by: Michael Schur
Stars Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, D’Arcy Carden, Manny Jacinto, Ted Danson
Original Network: NBC, 2016-present

Michael Schur’s creation is simply incredible television, wonderfully creative from its first moments in redefining what is possible within the constraints of a network “sitcom,” while also showing the capacity to evolve in brilliantly unexpected ways at least once a season. The scope of The Good Place has expanded exponentially throughout, but always in a way that has felt carefully planned and calculated from the start, rather than improvised on the spot. Ending after a fourth season is sad, but it also feels just about right: A comforting thought that this isn’t a series that will ever outstay its welcome (a la How I Met Your Mother), diminishing itself in the process. As Janet tells Eleanor, “But since nothing seems to make sense, when you find something or someone that does, it’s euphoria.” And The Good Place is pure euphoria.—Jim Vorel and Amy Amatangelo

6. Adventure Time

Creator: Pendleton Ward
Stars: Jeremy Shada, John DiMaggio, Hynden Walch, Niki Yang, Tom Kenny
Original Network: Cartoon Network, 2010-2018

There is a world where the Adventure Time creative team is content with rehashing its brand of surreal, candy-infused tomfoolery ad nauseam. Luckily, this is not the world we live in. Indeed, Pendleton Ward and Co. have spent the latter half of this magnificent and groundbreaking series’ run not only stretching the bounds of the show’s weirdass sandbox, but actively working to push the characters forward. More than anything, Adventure Time realizes that to avoid change is to become tired and stagnant. Thus, rather than adhering to the typical “floating timeline” structure of most animated programs, the show has allowed its characters (be it a human child, a stretchy dog, a peppermint butler, or a bubblegum princess) to grow and develop, often in ways that are more heartbreaking and dramatically potent than anything a prestige cable drama could throw out. Never was this sensibility more apparent than in Stakes, the eight-part miniseries that went a long way towards exploring the backstory of vampire Marceline, one of Adventure Time’s most beloved, mysterious and tragic characters. Throughout its run, Adventure Time remains the strange, yet endlessly innovative little gem that fans know and love. —Mark Rozeman and Allison Keene

5. Fleabag

Created by: Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Stars Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Sian Clifford, Olivia Colman Andrew Scott, Brett Gelman
Original Network: Amazon Prime, 2016-2019

The perfectly crafted Fleabag, running an economical twelve episodes over two seasons, is one of television’s most stunning comedy achievements. The fourth wall-breaking U.K. series from creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge is sharp, clever, and devastatingly emotional. Every word spoken is carefully crafted and full of meaning, creating a fully immersive experience where we act as Fleabag’s curious confidants through her personal trials.

In its long awaited second (and final) season, Fleabag sees our heroine still reeling from the death of her best friend and her culpability in what happened. “I want someone to tell me how to live my life because I think I’ve been doing it wrong,” she wails in the fourth episode. But living your life is difficult when you have a sister who blames you for all her problems (“We’re not friends. We are sisters. Get your own friends,” Claire tells her) and a father who gives you a therapy session as a birthday gift (which leads to a delightful cameo from Fiona Shaw). Fleabag also cuts to the core of the female experience. Whether it’s Fleabag rightly explaining that how your hair looks can be the difference between a good day and a bad day or guest star Kristen Scott-Thomas, whose character receives a women in business award in the third episode, only to rightly decry it as the “fucking children’s tables of awards,” explaining menopause as “it’s horrendous and then it’s magnificent.”

The series succeeds because it never has distain for its characters and their tragic dysfunction. It never mocks them. It merely lays them bare for everyone to see. Martin’s stifling cruelty. Claire’s overwhelming unhappiness. Their dad’s desperation not to be lonely. The godmother’s narcissism as a cover for her acute insecurity.

When it comes to those last episodes, I don’t want to say too much about the relationship between Fleabag and a certain hot priest, because the way it unfolds is so perfect and surprising and, in the end, redeeming. But I will say that Andrew Scott, who wears a priest’s robe very well, creates a character that is fully realized: a person who swears and makes mistakes but is still devoted to his faith. Their love story is one of salvation.—Amy Amatangelo and Allison Keene

4. The Planet Earth Series (Blue Planet II, Planet Earth II)

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Created by: Vanessa Berlowitz, Mike Gunton, James Brickell, Tom Hugh-Jones
Narrator: David Attenborough
Original Network: BBC, 2016, 2017

The original Planet Earth, which debuted in 2006, is perhaps the finest introduction to nature’s innumerable variations ever recorded. Its magisterial sequel is similarly a dispatch from a disappearing world. The BBC Natural History Unit’s docuseries focuses on everything from the nuances of specific biomes to the effects of climate change, and in doing so captures mouse lemurs and blue whales, oceanic depths and mountain peaks, all through cutting-edge tech. The series has continued with the stunning, engrossing and awe-inducing “Blue Planet II” (which took four years to film), as well as “Our Planet” (from the same producers), all of which investigate animal life on land and through the oceanic depths with stunning visuals and inspiring camera work. The result is a portrait of the planet’s epic scope held in perfect balance by David Attenborough’s lively, intimate narration. If you haven’t seen it yet, turn off the lights, turn on the biggest screen you own, and prepare to be dazzled. — Matt Brennan and Allison Keene

3. The Americans

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Creator: Joseph Weisberg 
Stars: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Holly Taylor
Original Network: FX, 2013-2018

Over the course its six-season run, The Americans completed a remarkable evolution, beginning and ending as a blisteringly suspenseful spy drama. Of course, by the time Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields’ masterwork reaches its devastating conclusion, with deep-cover KGB agents Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (the magnificent Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) surveying what they’ve lost, and gained, in the process, The Americans is about so much more than safe houses and dead drops. It is at once a parable of family, faith, and nation; a pitch-dark examination of the Cold War’s moral calculus; a coming-of-age tale (twice over); a wrenching depiction of friendships formed and betrayed; and an indelible portrait of an American marriage. FX’s pet project was worth every ounce of patience it demanded: We may well remember it as the last great drama of the Golden Age of Television. —Matt Brennan

2. Mad Men

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Created by: Matthew Weiner
Stars: Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Bryan Batt, Michael Gladis, Aaron Staton, Rich Sommer, Robert Morse, John Slattery
Original Network: AMC, 2007-2015

Look, you don’t need us to tell you that Mad Men is one of the greatest TV dramas of all time; you have the entire Internet for that, and frankly, that’s time you could be spending watching more Mad Men. But with his tale of 1960s (and eventually, early ‘70s) ad men and women and the American Dream, Matthew Weiner has done something truly extraordinary: proven that there’s drama in everyday life. Unlike pretty much every other TV drama, this one doesn’t deal with cops, doctors or lawyers; there are no mafia dons or drug lords going down in a hail of bullets. It’s just a bunch of people working together in an office, trying to push forward and navigate one of the most compelling decades in American history. Sure, it’s glamorous and brilliantly written, and the fact that Elisabeth Moss never won an Emmy for it is criminal. But ultimately, it’s oddly relatable, and that’s what great TV is supposed to do—show us ourselves. —Bonnie Stiernberg

1. Breaking Bad

Created by:   Vince Gilligan  
Stars:   Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, RJ Mitte, Giancarlo Esposito
Original Network: AMC, 2008-2013

Some argue that The Wire is TV’s best drama of all time; others stand up for Mad Men or The Sopranos, the latter of which has the benefit of being so important historically that it begins many textbooks’ modern TV eras. But Breaking Bad made its bones quickly, publicly, and with plenty of pizzazz. It entered the TV landscape with just a few episodes of tonally questionable wobbling—the balance-finding of an ambitious acrobat searching for the tightrope’s center—and stuck the landing on the remaining five seasons. Who cares if the first season’s DVD case called it a dramedy? America knew what it was immediately, even if we didn’t know exactly where it was going. How has the tragic ballad of science teacher-turned-meth kingpin Walter White (Bryan Cranston) weathered its title over the years? If the current TV landscape is anything to judge by, it’s a proud grandfather, looking over its progeny with the same glee and gentle judgment of any overachieving patriarch. Breaking Bad may not have set the paradigm of unlikable anti-heroism in pop drama, but it certainly put the “pop” in the designation. —Jacob Oller

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