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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.


“Fleabag,” “The Leftovers,” “Atlanta”

Amazon, HBO, FX

10. “Atlanta” (FX, 2016 – present)

Brian Tyree Henry, Keith Stanfield and Donald Glover on "Atlanta"

Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield and Donald Glover, “Atlanta”

Matthias Clamer/FX

“Atlanta” provides a distinct starring vehicle for the talents of multi-hyphenate Donald Glover, who also created the series. Refreshingly profound, Glover uses his peculiar brand of humor to make topical, incisive statements while undermining assumptions, especially in its even more eccentric second season, “Atlanta: Robbin’ Season.” It’s an essential portrait of African-American life full of well-drawn characters – played by Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Lee Stanfield and Zazie Beetz – offering the kinds of ruminations that could only come with allowances for rich interior lives. A love letter to the title city, it’s also a dynamic chronicling of its underground hip-hop scene. Glover called the series “‘Twin Peaks’ with rappers.” And like that David Lynch critically-acclaimed curio, “Atlanta” has developed a cult following of its own. The series has won two Golden Globes, as well as two Emmys. Glover’s Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series was the first ever awarded to an African-American.—TO

9. “Parks and Recreation” (NBC, 2009-2015)

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by NBC-TV/REX/Shutterstock (5881897e)Rob Lowe, Amy PoehlerParks and Recreation - 2008-2013NBC-TVUSATelevision

“Parks and Recreation”


Get this: there was a time when the antics of a politician brought genuine, non-ironic, non-cringe-inducing, nausea-generating laughter. After a wobbly first season, “Parks and Recreation” evolved into one of the kindest, big-hearted, hilarious shows on TV, one that proved that sharp writing doesn’t need to rely on internecine warfare among its characters. Amy Poehler as Pawnee’s relentlessly well-intentioned Leslie Knope leads a stellar supporting cast on the cusp of being very, very famous: Chris Pratt, Rashida Jones, Nick Offerman, Retta, Aziz Ansari, Aubrey Plaza and Adam Scott. (What’s-his-face Rob Lowe was already pooping in the stratosphere, of course.) In an era when the dark underbelly of politics infests every second of our waking hours, “Parks and Rec” is a reminder that the soft, furry underbelly of Li’l Sebastian is always out there, somewhere, waiting to give comfort. Not only does the show hold up, it’s a show to hold on to – now more than ever. -AD

8. “The Americans” (FX, 2013-2018)

THE AMERICANS -- "The Midges" -- Season 5, Episode 3 (Airs Tuesday, March 21, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: (l-r) Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings, Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings. CR: Patrick Harbron/FX

“The Americans”


It may shock some to hear this but even more than it was about the Cold War or capitalism or the failures of communism (and democracy) FX’s “The Americans” was about marriage. Specifically, the marriage of Russian spies Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, depicted with fiery intensity by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell. Even though it was spycraft that forced them together and spycraft that nearly, repeatedly, tears them apart, the Jennings are forever bound together and not just by their sham travel agency or their two children. It’s not even fear of discovery by their FBI agent neighbor Stan. No, what keeps Philip and Elizabeth together is the realization that at the very least, no matter how difficult the day or how oppressive the orders from Mother Russia, that they are known to each other. Being seen by someone else, particularly in a situation that no one else could ever hope to understand, is more valuable than anything. Even nuclear secrets. All married people (and spies) know that. It’s a love story like you’ve never seen before, scarred and mangled by a history of systemic abuse and institutional failure, as people are used like pawns in a chess game between global superpowers. You know how the Cold War ends. But do you know what it takes to survive it?—LH

7. “30 Rock” (NBC, 2006-2013)


"30 Rock"

“30 Rock”


“It’s after 6. What am I, a farmer?” “I drank all the throwing wine.” “It’s an old Parcell family recipe, but I like to replace the Union soldier meat with boiled potatoes.” “Why are my arms so weak? It’s like I did that pushup last year for nothing!” “Working on my night cheese.” “First of all, the reason why I have some English inflection in my speech is because I lost my virginity to the ‘My Fair Lady’ soundtrack.” “Stop eating people’s old french fries, pigeon. Have some self-respect. Don’t you know you can fly?” “I want to go to there.” “Never go with a hippie to a second location.” “Hey, nerds! Who’s got two thumbs, speaks limited French, and hasn’t cried once today? This moi.” “Rich 50 is middle-class 38.” (And yes, these are recited off the top of my head.) All hail Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s “30 Rock,” with its unceasing joke-a-minute banter that may never be surpassed. -AD

6. “Veep” (HBO, 2012 – 2019)

Veep Season 7 Tony Hale Julia Louis-Drefyus

Tony Hale and Julia Louis-Drefyus in “Veep”

Colleen Hayes/HBO

Leave it to Julia Louis-Dreyfus to make two of television’s best series in three decades of work. Escaping the so-called “Seinfeld” curse with gusto, the former hard-shoving, big-headed, dancing fool transformed into a politico with lethal precision. Selina Meyer could eviscerate anyone who met her eye-line, and she’d often extend her powers to those who didn’t even know they were being demolished. Armando Iannucci wisely surrounded the frustrated and furious Vice President with a team of inept operatives who would only infuriate her more. The cast quickly gelled, bouncing off one another with such stunning speed they had viewers hitting rewind as often as they hit the floor laughing. As the series creator departed David Mandel stepped in and added a personal touch to Selina’s tragic trajectory, culminating with a final season that managed to outdo the viciousness already seen in D.C. with a last stand of epic proportions. Reigning throughout was Louis-Dreyfus, dragging Selina kicking and screaming through her quest for power with such gleeful gusto, it’s no wonder audiences fell in love with her all over again. “Veep” is a biting-to-the-bone satire, and Louis-Dreyfus understood just where to gnash.—BT

5. “Hannibal” (NBC, 2013 – 2015)

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Dino De Laurentiis Company/REX/Shutterstock (5881767c)Hugh Dancy, Caroline Dhavernas, Laurence Fishburne, Aaron Abrams, Lara Jean Chorostecki, Hettienne Park, Scott Thompson, Mads MikkelsenHannibal - 2013Dino De Laurentiis Company/Doheny Productions/Gaumont International TVUSATV PortraitTv Classics

As with Bryan Fuller’s forensic fairy tale “Pushing Daisies,” his adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novels for the small screen puts his unique flair for macabre romance on full, flamboyant display. On paper, the show really shouldn’t have worked, especially on a broadcast network. Yet week-to-week, “Hannibal” became a showcase for grisly yet gorgeous spectacles that would be at home in any art installation and mouthwatering meals clearly designed by a Michelin-star-rated chef. The main ingredient or medium of choice for such artistry? Human body parts. In the series, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) — an FBI special investigator who can intuit the “design” of a serial killer’s crime — is witness to such murderous displays, and yet his empathy brings him under the influence of the stylish and pun-loving killer himself, Hannibal Lecter (played with dry wit yet undeniable charisma by Mads Mikkelsen). Watching NBC’s psychological drama is to have horror and revulsion war with admiration and delight, for logic to lose to emotion, to give into transgressive seduction. Although the life of “Hannibal” was cut short after only three seasons, its visceral vision and deep insight into the darkness of human nature has made an indelible mark on the TV landscape. This is Fuller’s design.—HN

4. “BoJack Horseman” (Netflix, 2014 – 2019)

Princess Carolyn and Bojack in "Bojack Horseman"

Princess Carolyn and BoJack in “Bojack Horseman”


Where to begin with one of the best animated series ever made? Well, I guess you can start with longevity proving persistence. Creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg just keeps pushing the envelope each and every season. When you think the Netflix comedy has done it all, be it relatively small like pushing perceptions of a character actress or pretty big, like developing an entire underwater world for one silent episode, “BoJack” doesn’t let its audience get bored or backtrack. It’s all forward momentum. Going along with not getting bored, the visual style, jokes, and direction remain an underheralded attribute, as the frames are jam-packed with context, humor, and character development. Lisa Hanawalt’s clever and eye-catching contributions are innumerable, while the team of artists continues to advance “BoJack’s” onscreen language. Really, there’s too much to wrap up in a blurb — we haven’t even delved into the voice performers — so just know for all the attention “BoJack” gets for advancing animation’s dramatic potential, it’s built on a lot of love. And that comes through, too.—BT

3. “Breaking Bad” (AMC, 2008-2013)

Breaking Bad

“Breaking Bad”


Remember that mental breakdown in the crawl space?! Or the train heist?! The pink teddy bear?! I’m aware that there are at least a half dozen similarly unforgettable “Breaking Bad” moments I’m omitting. It’s tempting to frame this entire summary as an effusive recap of the series’ most explosive scenes, but I’d still end up going well over my word limit. “Breaking Bad,” which chronicles unassuming chemistry teacher Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) transformation into a ruthless meth kingpin, is undeniably a slow burn: The show never shies away from spending multiple episodes building up to any those aforementioned high points. But that’s not much of an issue when scenes are shot this well and accompanied by such tense and frequently heart-wrenching dialogue. You know this and I know this. It’s why “Breaking Bad” was at the forefront of pop-culture consciousness throughout the entirety of its five-season run, and it’s why we’ll still be talking about the show for years to come. —TH

2. “Fleabag” (BBC/Amazon, 2016-2019)

"Fleabag" Season 2, Episode 1 Phoebe Waller-Bridge



Yes, a show fixated on a Hot Priest has inspired a near-religious fervor among many – including the Television Academy, apparently – with a substantial evangelical community going up to anyone with an Internet connection and querying in a half-desperate, half-ecstatic undertone: “HAVE YOU SEEN IT? IT IS PERFECT. YOU HAVE TO SEE IT.” This, in part, may be because we’re basically in the End Times, and we all need the rollicking laughs “Fleabag” provides. Another reason, if I may shove my religious tract on this subject in your mailbox: In the course of 12 episodes creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge has done something revelatory: she’s presented a human woman accurately. This is a world where the Bechdel test wouldn’t need to exist. Fleabag is funny; she’s fucked up; she’s her own perpetual motion machine experiencing simultaneous best and worst case scenarios as she navigates life. It’s all of us, except in a better jumpsuit and wearing a dupe of MAC’s Dare You lipstick. To paraphrase IndieWire’s TV Awards Editor Libby Hill: Why hasn’t there been a Phoebe Waller-Bridge saint candle made yet? Get on it, Etsy. —AD

1. “The Leftovers” (HBO, 2014-2017)

The Leftovers Season 3

Some shows play it safe and some shows swing for the fences. And then there’s HBO’s “The Leftovers,” which takes the ball, loads it into a contraption hellbent on launching it into another dimension, and then does just that. On a lot of levels, the series defies definition, while also being exactly what you’d expect. The series begins with a global event causing the disappearance of 2 percent of the world’s population and forcing the other 98 percent to figure out how to keep living. Do you have questions? So does the series. So many questions. And unlike co-creator Damon Lindelof’s previous series “Lost,” “The Leftovers” has a lack of answers built into its very DNA. Who are we? Where do we go when we die? Where did people go when they disappeared? Am I a good person? Are you? Does it matter? Life has no answers to those questions and neither does “The Leftovers.” And by abandoning that fruitless search for answers, the series gives itself over to the exploration of the questions and the people asking them. With too many unimpeachable performances to count, including Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon, Christopher Eccleston, and Ann Dowd, the show throws itself whole-heartedly into every exploration, whether that’s a doomsday cult or an orgy cruise revolving around an old lion or an exodus from the land of the undead or an arc dedicated to “Perfect Strangers” star Mark Linn-Baker. Everything is fair game. Everything is beautiful. “The Leftovers” knows that the miracle of life is that it could crush us at any moment. And yet we live on.—LH

Honorable Mentions:

The shows below didn’t make the list for one reason or another, but IndieWire’s TV staff each made one last personal pick to spotlight:

“American Vandal” (Netflix, 2017-2018)

In hindsight, it shouldn’t have been so surprising that a show as committed to the details of documentary storytelling could have pulled off one of the most ambitious season-long jokes in modern TV history. What elevated “Who drew the dicks?” from a gimmicky tagline to a genuinely compelling mystery dovetails with the attention to story and craft that makes the most thoughtful true crime stories worth remembering. While the show’s second season couldn’t benefit from the same out-of-nowhere lightning bolt energy that powered the response to the initial Dylan storyline, the infamous Turd Burglar saga still found just as many insightful pathways into the pressures of high school life. “American Vandal” was outrageous and sympathetic in equal measure, an impossible balancing act that made for two miracle seasons that were somehow even more than their incredibly calibrated component parts. —SG

“Casual” (Hulu, 2015 – 2018)

Zander Lehmann made a brilliant, forward-thinking comedy the old-fashioned way: It just kept getting better. As more and more TV is produced, more and more viewers expect a series to be its full self from the get go, but Lehmann deepened his characters and found his tonal sweet spot over the course of the first season, and then knocked you out with the following three. Thanks in no small part to the insightful, nuanced performances from leads Tommy Dewey, Michaela Watkins, and Tara Lynne Barr, “Casual” proved to be adventurous, imaginative, and so very moving — here’s hoping audiences keep discovering Hulu’s first half-hour gem throughout the future. —BT

“Chewing Gum” (Netflix/Channel 4, 2015 – 2017)

Nothing is taboo in “Chewing Gum,” the hysterical British television sitcom created by and starring Michaela Coel as 20-something-year-old motormouth Tracey Gordon. A virgin restricted by religion – owed to being raised by a hellfire-and-damnation mother – Tracey is desperate to have sex and also learn more about the world around her; the typical millennial experience, surely. Innocent and clumsy, while explicitly funny, she is not so much a hyperbolic version of her creator, Coel, as she is maybe more of a sanitized version of her. (It’s a fact that followers of Coel’s social media accounts could probably attest to.) Tackling a cross-section of the most seemingly volatile albeit rather prosaic of issues, the show, which started as a one-woman play, won the BAFTA for Best Female Performance in a Comedy Program and Breakthrough Talent for Coel. Too bad it only ran for two seasons.—TO

“Enlightened” (HBO, 2011-2013)

I am bereft that my colleagues who so rightly worship at the altar of “Fleabag” didn’t have any love in their hearts for the show’s spiritual forerunner “Enlightened.” Created by Mike White and star Laura Dern, the HBO series was another two season miracle baby that focused on a woman’s painstaking, mascara-running journey of self-improvement. Like Fleabag, Amy Jellicoe must battle her inner demons and find a way to love herself, despite her flaws. Sure, there’s no sexy priest, but it does have prime Luke Wilson action. —LH

“The Legend of Korra” (Nickelodeon, 2012 – 2014)

“The Legend of Korra” isn’t the most consistent show — that second season where the bad man wants to use the evil spirit to cover the world in darkness or whatever is not exactly inspiring — but it’s a minor issue, given everything the series does right. While the series made headlines for its unprecedented LGTBQ representation in a youth-oriented show, “The Legend of Korra” also fearlessly addresses other heavy social issues such as classism and death. Those topics are handled with poise and grace, but beyond that, “The Legend of Korra” is full of entertaining characters, interesting plot threads and humor that challenge the typical notions of what young adult television can offer. —TH

“Mad Men” (AMC, 2007-2015)

Thanks to, frankly, a drop off in quality for the final three seasons, “Mad Men” didn’t make the list. However, like Don Draper, I believe rules are made to be broken even before I’ve been emboldened by a three martini lunch, and so I’m claiming it for my Honorable Mention. The narrative shadow of 2007-2010 “Mad Men” hangs over almost everything else put out this decade: it’s now normal to have a cast of characters that are unrepentant; it’s now normal to have a happy ending defined by something as simple as the resolve to have another cigarette; it’s now normal to have someone lose a foot to a lawnmower. That an audience embraced this off-kilter tone continues to inspire television’s more daring creative choices. Think about it: this was show where a majority of the audience presumed that a major character was added in the back half of the series with the sole intent of being killed off by Charles Manson. Sorry Megan, like “Mad Men” taught us, empathy is for the weak. -AD

“Penny Dreadful” (Showtime, 2014 – 2016)

In this gruesome series that populates Victorian London with gothic characters — such as Victor Frankenstein, Henry Jekyll, Dorian Gray, and Van Helsing — creator John Logan stays true to the “penny dreadful” namesake, bringing lurid and sensationalized stories to life. This is a big, bloody show that revels in pulling back the veil of polite society to reveal the dangerous and spiritual demimonde, the realm where anything can and does happen. And while cast members ranging from Timothy Dalton and Danny Sapiani to Billie Piper and Josh Hartnett deserve praise for embodying such specific characters, “Penny Dreadful” should always be recognized for making Eva Green’s most remarkable and revelatory television role possible. Playing the powerful medium Vanessa Ives, Green doesn’t just act; she undergoes literal and figurative possession to create a character who is both intimidating and mesmerizing. Underlying the murder and mayhem, the spiritual possessions, and fantastical resurrections, is the story of people fighting back against the odds, against evil, against mortality. Although it only ran for three seasons, that “Penny Dreadful” already has a spinoff in the works as a testament to the strength of Logan’s horrific yet hopeful vision.—HN

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