Jan 27, 2020

The Best TV Shows of the 2010s

The 2010s were an incredible decade for TV shows. Just about every possible genre saw a hit TV show, from horror to the supernatural to dramas to sitcoms and comedies. And thanks to the ever-increasing popularity of streaming, it became even easier to catch popular TV shows on platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and so much more. 

But although there were many, many TV shows airing during this decade, some were far bigger standouts than others. Certain shows became central to pop culture – who can forget tuning in to HBO on Sunday nights for Game of Thrones, or gripping the edge of the couch during certain episodes of Breaking Bad? The most popular shows of the 2010s were riveting and engaging, heart-wrenching and hilarious. And though many of them ended along with the decade, you can still “tune in” online and watch every episode of the biggest hits today.

Whether you’re looking for a classic TV show to binge watch or want to catch up on the culturally relevant hits of the past decade, these are the series from the 2010s that you need to watch.

  • Aired For: 5 years, from 2008 to 2013.

    What It’s About: A high school chemistry teacher who develops cancer and embarks on an entirely new career, making and dealing his own unique brand of meth.

    If there’s a show that captivated audiences everywhere in the early part of the 2010s, there’s no other frontrunner than Breaking Bad. This AMC drama was stunning in both its visuals and its writing. Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, spiraled deep into the drug industry as he built a reputation as a ruthless meth kingpin. Along with his sidekick and close friend Jesse Pinkman (played by Aaron Paul), White found himself in scenarios that were both frightening and gut-wrenching, humorous and explosive.

    And when it aired, Breaking Bad was the TV show to watch. It was must-see TV every Sunday night, and it only got more intense and in-depth over the course of its five-season run. After watching, you’ll never forget images like the Los Pollos Hermanos logo, the pink teddy bear, and the run-down RV.

  • Aired For: 8 years, running from 2007 to 2015.

    What It’s About: The “Mad men” of New York City’s Madison Avenue, who worked in advertising and dealt with the huge cultural changes throughout the 1960s.

    The 1960s were truly a time to behold. And there’s perhaps no better representation of that time in American history than AMC’s hit series Mad Men. Centered around Don Draper, a prominent advertising executive with both a drinking problem and an adultery problem, Mad Men highlighted life during a tumultuous time. Draper and the rest of the men at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce tried to navigate their world, their clients, and both success and failure.

    But along with the social issues – and the prominent men – of the era, the series also dealt with women and their reality during the 1960s. Viewers fell in love with characters like Peggy, Betty, and Joan, each of whom faced sexism, dissatisfaction with life, and big ups and downs personally.

  • Aired For: 6 years, from 2009 to 2015.

    What It’s About: A relentless city government employee with a can-do attitude who’s determined to change the world… with a lot of funny moments along the way.

    You might not find much to laugh at when you hear that Parks and Recreation is a 30-minute comedy about politics. But this hit TV show is so much more than that. Known as Parks and Rec by its many fans, this series started out as a simple comedy and evolved into a star-filled, big-hearted, and incredibly beloved story.

    The series follows Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler, and her cast of city government coworkers. Every character on Parks and Rec offers their own unique humor, from rough and gruff Ron Swanson (played by Nick Offerman), completely clueless Andy (played by Chris Pratt), dryly funny Ben (Adam Scott), and the almost unflappable Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari). Give it a shot, and you’ll see why so many fans watch this show over and over again.

  • Aired For: 7 years, airing from 2006 to 2013.

    What It’s About: The forces behind a hit weekly comedy show – a la Saturday Night Live – and the shenanigans that happen off-camera and behind the scenes.

    If there’s one thing Tina Fey is brilliant at, it’s comedy. And in her starring role on 30 Rock as Liz Lemon, she’s truly at her best and brightest. Fey is the creator of 30 Rock, which was inspired by her time on Saturday Night Live. In fact, the series pretty much follows the same behind-the-scenes format: you see the writers’ room, rehearsals, and the work that goes into a live sketch comedy show.

    But on this hit series, you also see a lot more. Filled with hilarious one-liners like “I drank all the throwing wine” and “It’s like I did that pushup last year for nothing!”, this sitcom will have you laughing as you fall in love with characters like Liz, Tracy (played by Tracy Jordan), Jenna (played by Jane Krakowski), and Jack Donaghy (played by Alex Baldwin), all of whom are funny in different ways.

  • Aired For: 2 years – Season one premiered in 2016, and season two premiered in 2019.

    What It’s About: The comedy and drama involved in being a woman.  

    It’s easy to sum up what made Fleabag such a popular show. As Indiewire says, the series does something no other show has really managed to accomplish: “In the course of 12 episodes creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge has done something revelatory: she’s presented a human woman accurately.”

    Based on Waller-Bridge’s one-woman show from 2013, Fleabag dives into what it’s like being a young woman in London – or anywhere, really. In just two seasons, the show became a huge hit with viewers everywhere. Fleabag, the titular character, is funny, relatable, and kind of a walking disaster. But she’s always doing something, and along the way she encounters both best- and worst-case scenarios. Even better, Fleabag frequently breaks the fourth wall, giving viewers a running commentary that’s simply gold.

  • Aired For: 5 years, from 2014 to 2019.

    What It’s About: The washed-up star of a 1990s sitcom who’s trying to relaunch his career and make it big in an alternate (and animated) version of Hollywood.

    BoJack Horseman might seem like something out of a fever dream, but it’s a seriously great animated series. In fact, it’s so good that it’s considered by some to be among the best animated series ever created. Created by Raphael Bob-Waskberg and boasting voice actors like Paul F. Thompkins, Allison Brie, Amy Sedaris, and Will Arnett (the star of the series), this cartoon is anything but a simple show.

    Throughout its run, BoJack Horseman continually pushed the envelope. Episodes are unique and entirely new, like the episode that created an entire underwater world – and then was completely without dialogue or sound. Every step forward and every new episode, there’s something to marvel at, from humor to character development to clever little Easter eggs.

  • Aired For: 3 years and counting, beginning in 2016.

    What It’s About: The everyday adventures of Earn (played by Donald Glover) in Atlanta, Georgia as he tries to improve his life, become a star rapper, and better his daughter’s life. 

    Created – and written, produced, and directed – by Donald Glover, Atlanta started out as a vehicle for the world to see just how talented Glover really is. But over the course of two seasons (with a third and fourth still to come by 2021), the comedy-drama series became something much more powerful. The show brought daily life in the city of Atlanta to the forefront of audiences’ attention, illustrating what it’s really like to be African American in America today.

    What made Atlanta a hit was its cast of characters. Along with Glover’s character, Earn, the rest of the cast brought to life individuals who were well-crafted and rich in life stories. But what really helped the series catapult to cult status? The intriguing peek into Atlanta’s underground hip-hop scene.

  • Aired For: 5 years, from 2013 to 2018.

    What It’s About: A seemingly normal American family living in suburbia during the Cold War… who happen to be rooting for America’s number one enemy as skilled Russain spies. 

    Russia hasn’t been at the forefront of many Americans’ minds since the Cold War – but today, the nation is dominating the news cycle once again. Maybe that’s why the FX series The Americans was such a hit during its run in the 2010s. It posed a question that’s still valid today: could Russian spies be living among us?

    The Jennings family, which seemed like any other American family during the 1980s, was secretly a family of spies. Philip and Elizabeth (played by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) were forced together to bring down America, following orders from Mother Russia no matter how oppressive they seemed. But what really sold viewers on this dramatic – and violent, at times – series? The relationship between the Jennings. It was a unique love story, one intertwined with secrecy, scars, systemic abuse, and even a global superpower.

  • Aired For: 8 years (so far). Bob’s Burgers is still airing new episodes beyond 2019.

    What It’s About: The adventures (and misadventures) of the family behind Bob’s Burgers, a fledgling burger joint in a seaside town.

    At first glance, the animated series Bob’s Burgers doesn’t seem like anything special. It borrows from other famous animated shows like The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and even Archer (after all, Bob’s Burgers and Archer do share a voice actor). But what made this series a hit during the 2010s was its warmth, its humor, and its lightness. 

    Bob’s Burgers is a true comedic escape. The characters are well-meaning and lovable, even if they’re all a bit weird and kind of zany. The Belcher family may be eccentric, but their love for one another overrules everything else. And on top of that, the series’ episodes feature cool original music, which makes it almost irresistible.

  • Aired For: 3 years, from 2014 to 2017.

    What It’s About: Three years after the Sudden Departure, two percent of the world’s population is still missing. And the surviving humans left on Earth are still struggling to cope.

    If you loved the hit series Lost in the early 2000s, you’d also love The Leftovers. Created by Damon Lindelof – who also created Lost – and Tom Perrotta, this HBO series ran for three seasons and 28 episodes. But at the end of the series, viewers were left with even more questions than they started with.

    The Leftovers initially seemed like a straightforward series. However, it rapidly turned into a supernatural mystery, one that spanned many years, many different characters, and many different locations. Police chief Kevin Garvey (played by Justin Theroux) tried to cope with the loss of his wife, who’d joined a cult, his missing son, and a teenage daughter in the wake of the Sudden Departure. Along the way, he faced massive questions about death, good and evil, and what happens when there are zero answers for all of your questions. And it was captivating.

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