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The Best TV Shows of the Decade, Ranked

From “Breaking Bad” and “Atlanta” to “Fleabag” and “BoJack,” these are the best scripted TV shows from 2010 to 2019.

Best-TV-Shows-of-the-Decade-1

“Fleabag,” “The Leftovers,” “Atlanta”

Amazon, HBO, FX

24. “Barry” (HBO, 2018 – present)

Barry Season 2 Bill Hader Episode 1

Bill Hader in “Barry”

Isabella Vosmikova/HBO

Recency bias or no, it would be difficult to make a list of the top 50 shows of the decade without including Bill Hader and Alec Berg’s brilliant HBO comedy “Barry.” In its second season, the series, starring Hader as a hitman-turned-actor, valiantly trying – and failing – to leave a life of crime behind him, got darker, not as a transparent move to raise the stakes, but as an incisive way to deepen the tragedy. It’s not a huge jump to read “Barry” as an allegory for the United States failed military policies, with the titular character a PTSD-stricken vet trying to do something positive with his life, only to be repeatedly drawn into situations that lead to more death and destruction. It’s dark, not for entertainment purposes, but because the world is dark. Luckily for us, it’s also funny and real and not to be missed.—LH

23. “American Crime Story” (FX, 2016 – present)

The People v. O.J. Simpson

A spin-off of the horror anthology series, “American Horror Story,” also from executive producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, each season is presented as a self-contained miniseries, following separate unrelated true events. The first season, “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” fictionalized the murder trial of O.J. Simpson; the second season, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” explored the murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace by killer Andrew Cunanan. Both are multiple Emmy-winning seasons, and each is produced with the highest quality writing, directing, and acting, illuminating details of each case that may have been previously overlooked or just not made public. It’s intentionally provocative, addicting drama that unfolds deliberately, revealing far more complex murder mysteries than previously perceived, and anchored by career-defining performances in lead roles, notably in the cases of Sterling K. Brown and Darren Criss in seasons 1 and 2 respectively.—TO

22. “Review” (Comedy Central, 2014-2017)

Review Series Finale

“Review”

Comedy Central

Few comedies of the past 10 years are as ruthlessly efficient as this underappreciated gem of a show. With a pilot that sends its main character on a bender mere minutes into its runtime and a third episode that has changed diners forever, “Review” managed to capitalize on every new scenario within its three seasons. In some ways, this Andy Daly-led series is a razor-sharp satire of overambitious TV creators. But watching Forrest MacNeil’s fatal commitment to a self-appointed task becomes an ongoing tug-of-war between sanity and rationality (that also happened to be the funniest thing on TV). After going into space, unwittingly establishing a death cult, and torching everything he held dear, there was always still room for surprises in the world of “Review.” The final one was ending the story when everyone least expected it: a perfectly executed sendoff for a flawless piece of 21st century storytelling.—SG

21. “The Crown” (Netflix, 2016 – current)

The Crown - Elizabeth, Nkrumah - Queen Elizabeth II and Nkrumah at a ball

“The Crown”

Alex Bailey / Netflix

It’s a simple enough premise, one that’s been the basis of countless stories: “The Crown” is the story of one woman’s life. That this one woman, however, is Queen Elizabeth – who has been at the intersection of global societal upheaval for more than 90 years – raises the stakes just a bit. Much like the British Royal Family itself, “The Crown” is the ideal combination of historical costume drama and bonkers reality show, and is almost interactive in its ability to send viewers down the Google rabbit hole of “Prince Philip infidelity”, “Cousin David Nazi”, “killer London fog”, “Winston Churchill arson” and “Princess Margaret total babe.” Tawdry historical gossip is classed up immeasurably by a perfect performance by Claire Foy and exquisite production design, creating an exhilarating look at the elevation of a young woman into a modern-day goddess: head of state, head of church, international icon and, most problematically, head of her family. -AD

20. “Tuca & Bertie” (Netflix, 2019 – present)

Tuca and Bertie Season 1 Netflix

“Tuca & Bertie”

Netflix

Are you a Tuca or a Bertie? Chances are, you see a little of yourself in both. In the funky and charming series, Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong lend their voices to their aerodynamic alter egos Tuca and Bertie, respectively, two 30-something bird women who are BFFs living in the same apartment complex. This series is so effortlessly and carefully realized that the viewer finds oneself relating to these characters despite their feathered facade. It’s a reminder that long before creator Lisa Hanawalt became the production designer for “BoJack Horseman,” she’d been envisioning a rich, absurdist world full of vivid anthropomorphic critters for years. That experience translates to a facility with animation, which she wields with narrative glee, adding visual excitement and humor to a stealthy slow-burning story. “Tuna & Bertie” tackles real and occasionally difficult subject matter with deftness and compassion, which — added to the genuinely funny and joyful moments — results in a beautiful and enthralling experience for all.—HN

19. “Broad City” (Comedy Central, 2014 – 2019)

Broad City Season 5 Ilana Glazer Abbi Jacobson

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson in “Broad City”

Comedy Central

So, so, so many shows identify with New York City — great shows, good shows, and everything in between — and yet Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s web-turned-TV series defined the city for a whole new generation. That alone is a testament to its honesty and authenticity, but the merits of “Broad City” travel far beyond its setting. Abbi and Ilana’s friendship was examined from every angle, thoroughly chronicling the value of having someone who gets you, stands by you, and supports you, before digging into the restrictions that can come with dependency in the final season. But every aspect of their relationship came from a place of love, just as every excursion through the city was meant to broaden perspectives. The later years served as a rallying cry and reinforced safe space during the Trump era, while the bright colors, expert editing, and inventive direction helped each episode burst from the screen. “Broad City” covered a lot of ground in five seasons, while rarely venturing outside the five boroughs.—BT

18. “Russian Doll” (Netflix, 2019-present)

Russian Doll Season 1 Natasha Lyonne Netflix

Natasha Lyonne in “Russian Doll”

Netflix

It’s not easy to invent a genre – but Natasha Lyonne, Leslye Headland and Amy Poehler have done exactly that with “Russian Doll,” the only show out there that can honestly be described as sci-fi self-improvement slapstick. Caught in a time loop where she repeatedly returns to her 36th birthday party after dying in the most New York ways possible – stairwell, air shaft, elevator – Nadia is on a mission to stop the cycle. Thanks to Lyonne’s performance that’s both vulnerable and gloriously physical, you will laugh every single time Nadia dies, and also feel increasing suspenseful gnawing worry about if she will crack the code before those around her reach their own expiration dates. It’s an intricate tale that is airtight, a production without any loose ends or outstanding questions, and the moral is perfect for our haywire times: Sometimes you have to figure your own shit out before you take on the world. -AD

17. “Key & Peele” (Comedy Central, 2012-2015)

Key & Peele Season 5 Keegan-Michael Key Jordan Peele

As the television show that taught the world the power of what it means to go viral on the Internet, “Key & Peele” is notable just as much for its one billion – yes, billion with a B – lifetime sketch views on YouTube as much as its outright hilarity and sharp, incisive send-ups. Both their quick-hit bullshitty jokes and pointed social commentary still resonate: Take “Dubstep,” a trippy piece of absurdity that takes on an, in retrospect, incredibly annoying music style, garnered almost 19 million views, or the edgy “Dangerous Minds” role-reversal “Substitute Teacher,” with 167 million views, that was eventually optioned for a feature film at Paramount Pictures. (And this doesn’t even count those of us who can’t, to this day, watch Barack Obama without envisioning an Anger Translator behind him.) All credit is due to Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key for having their fingers on the creative and distribution pulse of the digital age very early on. -AD

16. “The Good Place” (NBC, 2016-present)

THE GOOD PLACE -- "Don't Let the Good Life Pass You By" Episode 309 -- Pictured: (l-r) Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop, William Jackson Harper as Chidi -- (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

Kristen Bell and William Jackson Harper in “The Good Place”

Colleen Hayes/NBC

One of the true joys of watching TV in the past few years has been discovering what incredible amount of detail is going to go into the next episode of “The Good Place.” Whether it’s the wordplay-riddled storefront names, the pared-down philosophy lectures, or the rainbow of color bursting from every corner of the show’s celestial neighborhood, there’s always been a strong sense of discovery on this show. It’s all delivered via cast of characters that are instantly recognizable, yet not just oversimplified avatars or a collection of character quirks. After one particular character has followed the loop from hero to villain and back again, “The Good Place” works best as a comedy because it recognizes that everyone falls somewhere in the middle on that spectrum. We’re all just trying our best.—SG

15. “You’re the Worst” (FX/FXX, 2014-2019)

YOU'RE THE WORST -- "Bachelor/Bacheloret te Party Sunday Funday" - Season 5, Episode 9 (Airs March 6, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured (l-r): Kether Donohue as Lindsay, Aya Cash as Gretchen, Desmin Borges as Edgar, Chris Geere as Jimmy. CR: Byron Cohen/FXX

“You’re the Worst”

Byron Cohen/FXX

So many shows from this current TV era are concerned with ruminating on whether you can be a good person and still do bad things. Rather than parse out that question with a gritty, angry, violent antihero, “You’re the Worst” did its best to answer it through the eyes of a handful of people trying to keep their crumbling lives together amidst the daily absurdities of L.A. Along the way, they spawned a rhyming weekend tradition, an expensive satirical Hollywood subculture that included multiple people playing themselves, and some genuine human surprises along the way. Jimmy, Gretchen, Lindsay, and Edgar were a quartet unlike any other on TV, but they still grew out of all the complicated ways we can love, hate, and occasionally sleep with each other.—SG

14. “Halt and Catch Fire” (AMC, 2014-2018)

Mackenzie Davis, "Halt and Catch Fire"

Mackenzie Davis, “Halt and Catch Fire”

Tina Rowden/AMC

A shaky first season can be a death knell for drama series, particularly those with promise. People who tested AMC’s “Halt and Catch Fire” were looking for a replacement “Mad Men” and were left unmoved by what they found. It wasn’t until late in Season 1 that “Halt” began to find its footing and blossom into one of the finest shows of the decade. Following four friends and collaborators during the early days of personal commuting and into the dawn of the World Wide Web, the series quickly pivots away from its Don Draper-esque central character played by Lee Pace and embraces its destiny as an ensemble series, buoyed by turns from Scoot McNairy, and in particular, Kerry Bishé and Mackenzie Davis. Its focus on technology we’ve since abandoned for more modern ways to connect and disconnect, “Halt” found a way to dissect the ways that friends, lovers, and partners find ways to build things and, too often, tear them apart.—LH

13. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (FX / FXX, 2005 – 2019)

IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA -- "The Gang Turns Black" – Season 12, Episode 1 (Airs January 4, 10:00 pm e/p) Pictured: (l-r) Rob McElhenney as Mac, Danny DeVito as Frank, Kaitlin Olson as Dee, Glenn Howerton as Dennis. CR: Patrick McElhenney/FXX

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”

Patrick McElhenney/FXX

The gang is not good, but they are great. Like “Seinfeld’s” sinister cousins, Charlie (Charlie Day), Mac (Rob McElhenney), Dee (Kaitlin Olson), Frank (Danny DeVito), and especially Dennis (Glenn Howerton) go through the most commonplace events of day-to-day life with a dangerous glint in their eyes that verges on menace. They are, all of them and unequivocally, bad people. But what the cast and creators put them through serves such a high satiric purpose, it’s impossible not to appreciate their endeavors even as you despise them for doing… everything they do. Supporting underage drinking? They’re, somehow, scaring kids onto the straight-and-narrow. Trying to steal welfare and unemployment checks? They’re showing exactly why people need that kind of assistance by embodying those who screw up the well-intentioned program for everyone. Turning Paddy’s Pub into a lawless den of depravity? They’re proving why a functioning society needs laws: to protect the innocent from people like Frank. Much of what’s done on “It’s Always Sunny” takes Americans to task, and as that cause has only proven more vital in recent years, the gang has stepped up their game to serve up some grade-A satire. They are not good people, but neither are the many of the descendants sprawling from Philadelphia. That’s what makes the show so great.—BT

12. “Bob’s Burgers” (Fox, 2011-present)

BOB'S BURGERS: Louise and Gene convince their parents to fund a stop-motion movie in the ÒAquaticism/Ain't Miss Debating'" one-hour episode of BOBÕS BURGERS airing Sunday, Mar. 26 (7:30-8:30PM ET/PT) on FOX. BOB'S BURGERS ª and © 2017 TCFFC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. CR: FOX

“Bob’s Burgers”

Fox

This long-running Fox animated mainstay is a lot like its theme song: an oddball comfort that keeps a steady beat while following wherever its melody leads. The ongoing Belcher antics come hand-in-hand with some of the best pure joke-writing anywhere on TV. Switching up between the sheer lunacy of Louise’s various schemes, the aching nature of Tina’s hopeless crushes, the childlike wonder in Gene’s creative pursuits, and the enduring sincerity of America’s animated parents, Bob and Linda, this is a family worth following. “Bob’s Burgers” always makes it a delight to do just that. —SG

11. “Better Things” (FX, 2016 – present)

Better Things Season 2 Pamela Adlon, Olivia Edward, Hannah Alligood, Mikey Madison

“Better Things”

Pamela Littky/FX

To know creator and star Pamela Adlon is to love her, and by extension love her semi-autobiographical “Better Things” character Sam Fox, an actress and single mother raising three children. Co-created by Louis C.K., the series may have faltered following his ignominious departure, but what it proved in Seasons 2 and 3 is that the show has always been and continues to be a true representation of Adlon’s voice. Searingly insightful and bitingly funny, the FX comedy has the ability to celebrate the beauty, ridiculousness, and heartache in everyday moments. What’s remarkable is that the show isn’t limited to Sam’s point of view but explores what it’s like to a be a woman at all stages of life, including the points of view from each of the daughters — Duke (Olivia Edwards), Frankie (Hannah Alligood), and Max (Mikey Madison) — and even mom Phyllis (Celia Imrie). It’s a narrative marvel that feels meandering and dreamy, and yet always hits the mark — whether it’s the funny bone, heart, or tear ducts. The show isn’t just a spotlight or commentary, but carries out its aim to bring “Better Things” to the world.—HN

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