The Best TV Shows of the Decade, Ranked

Welcome to the era of Peak TV or the Gilded Age of television — you can thank FX chief John Landgraf for coining both of those terms — when the glut of offerings on the small screen has yielded an embarrassment of series riches. It’s not just that a crowded marketplace has pushed creators to become even more innovative and daring in their work to gain attention; the very definition of what TV is and how to watch it has allowed an unprecedented freedom in storytelling.

Do you want a revival of an avant-garde series that reveres a damn fine cup of coffee? Are you itching for a show like “The Good Wife” but even more progressive? Want to revisit the Minnesota-nice flavor of a 1990s Coen Brothers film? Are you craving ridiculous puns with your existential crisis? There’s a series for every single one of those desires.

This level of excellence on the small screen, however, hasn’t spontaneously arrived, like Athena fully grown from Zeus’ head. No, television has been on a steady climb since the Golden Age, which critics estimate started around 10 years ago. Therefore, IndieWire’s team of TV experts deemed it necessary to celebrate some of the best TV shows of the past decade.

With so many TV shows on offer, it seemed prudent to set forth strict guidelines to narrow the field. This was by no means an easy task and caused endless debates and gnashing of teeth. But in the end, the rules of engagement for the list are as follows:

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To qualify, a show must have aired the majority of its run during the 2010 – 2019 range, inclusive. The show must be scripted — whether it’s a drama, comedy, limited series, or anthology series. The totality of the series must be weighed, not just one spectacular or abysmal season. Liking a show isn’t enough; the series must also have had an impact on the culture. Even with these stringent requirements, there were a surfeit of choices to choose from, and below are the 50 best of the best (in addition to some honorable mentions).

While this is our overall list of the best shows, we’ve also broken down standout aspects of the TV of the decade by other criteria: the best overlooked performances of the past 10 years; the best music videos — complete with videos of each that you can watch; the most compelling live TV moments, from Beyonce at the Super Bowl to the confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh; the best TV pilots of the decade, ranked; and the best TV costumes from the past decade.

So, as we approach the end of the ’10s, let’s have at it. What a time for a couch potato to be alive!

50. “The Terror” (AMC, 2018 – present)

Tobias Menzies and Ciarán Hinds, “The Terror”

Aidan Monaghan/AMC

Bless AMC for seeing beyond its “Walking Dead” franchise to “The Terror,” an anthology period drama that views historical events through the lens of horror and the supernatural. In its first season, the series gives a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition to the Arctic in the 1840s in which two Royal Navy ships become icebound in the Northwest Passage and left no survivors. The beauty of the first installment is how — despite a relatively static setting and a huge cast that mainly had to be distinguished by their facial hair — the show manages to build an atmosphere of paranoia, claustrophobia, and yes, terror. Supernatural touches such as the mysterious creature known as the Tuunbaq give the series extra oomph, while the dedicated cast from Jared Harris to Tobias Menzies tether the show to reality. Such incredibly specific circumstances only help to distill the ways in which humanity reacts in times of great distress. The masterful execution of Season 1 bodes well for the second season, which puts a Japanese ghost story twist within an internment camp during World War II.—HN

49. “True Detective” (HBO, 2014 – 2019)

Matthew McConaughey, “True Detective”


Two out of three ain’t bad — especially when the two seasons are as remarkable as these. In 2014, “True Detective” started a trend that would change Hollywood for the foreseeable future. Limited series offered a compromise between audiences demanding longer stays with their movie stars and movie stars’ preference for, well, movies. While viewers hoped for more time with Matthew McConaughey than a two-hour film could offer (especially during the McConaissance), the actor didn’t have to sacrifice taking on a multitude of exceptional roles being offered to him (especially during the McConaissance) — not when he could do eight episodes of “True Detective,” a one-and-done miniseries that started a new mystery each season. Soon, other writers took to Nic Pizzolatto’s model, and the limited series revival brought us an explosion of star-studded miniseries — many of which are on this list. But where “True Detective” went is beyond industry impact. The first season is a testament to aesthetic beauty enhancing what’s put on the page, as Cary Fukunaga added a touch of humor, intensity, and texture to Pizzolatto’s labyrinthian mystery. Moreover, the writer & director worked like the partners on screen: Maybe they didn’t get along, but together they produced something they could’ve never accomplished apart. Season 3 found similar success in advancing the structure, shifting the partner dynamic (Carmen Ejogo played as much a partner as Stephen Dorff), and benefitting from a breathtaking central turn. Season 2? Let’s not go there. Two out of three ain’t bad.—BT

48. “Superstore” (NBC, 2015-present)

America Ferrera in “Superstore”

Eddy Chen/NBC

At a time where the middle class is rapidly being erased from reality, NBC’s “Superstore” offers an unapologetically hilarious look at employment in a Midwestern big box store, where employees flirt with each other – and the poverty line. But while on the surface “Superstore” may appear to be just another workplace sitcom, in reality the series walks a tightrope, engaging head-on with myriad pressing socio-cultural issues, including gun control, parental leave, sexism, labor organization, and undocumented immigration, all while remaining one of the funniest shows of the decade. Anchored by Mark McKinney, Ben Feldman, and a dynamite America Ferrera, it has all the pathos of a Michael Schur show and all the absurdity of a Greg Daniels show, mixed with a healthy dose of retail hell. This is your favorite show you’re not watching yet.—LH

47. “One Day at a Time” (Netflix, 2017-2019)

“One Day at a Time”


No other show on television looks like Netflix’s “One Day at a Time” and not because the central family is Cuban-American, or because it’s shot in the increasingly rare multi-cam sitcom format. “One Day at a Time” is unlike other series because it radiates warmth and humanity, both for the characters on screen and the audience watching at home. Crafted by Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce, with oversight by Norman Lear himself, the series showcases difficulties the family face, including racism, homophobia, and PTSD. Never one for high-mindedness, “One Day at a Time” comes at issues on their own level and without pretense. The series is a balm for the soul and a reassurance in difficult times that love and goodness were not just real, but still attainable.—LH

46. “The Good Fight” (CBS All Access, 2017 – present)

“The Good Fight”

CBS All Access

The CBS All Access series, which picks up after the events in the final episode of the CBS series “The Good Wife,” enters its third season following a thrilling Season 2, helping to make it among the best of TV in 2018. The series becomes even more political as the attorneys at top-shelf African-American-owned Chicago law firm Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad are pushed further into the madness that is the country’s current civic climate, decidedly taking on Trump. But it’s less a series that preaches to what’s perceived to be a liberal choir, and instead it shrewdly satirizes the left. In fact, one of this season’s most memorable episodes tackles more commonplace and potentially more insidious forms of racism, as opposed to the blatant, like overt white supremacists. This season sees Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) continue her furtive efforts to resist the current administration; Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo) and Liz Reddick-Lawrence (Audra McDonald) are forced to contend with a past moment of vulnerability that resurfaces; Maia Rindell finds herself in a dogfight with the devious Roland Blum (Michael Sheen); and finally Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo) tries to balance life as a single mom with rising pressures at work. Through it all, the series never strays very far away from the zeitgeist, with just enough crazy that’s in keeping with the times. —TO

45. “Justified” (FX, 2010-2015)

Timothy Olyphant, “Justified”


Rare is the show that can work as a procedural with a distinct stylistic flair, a season-by-season set of conflicts, and a series-long story about learning who your real friends are. Making that switch from an Elmore Leonard outlaw of the week show to one of FX’s most trusted, densely-filled dramas is one of the most impressive reinventions of any show on this list. And the show is truly great in both modes, which is a lot easier to do when you have a pantheon-level protagonist in Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). The people on “Justified” always speak with purpose, whether they’re bumbling petty thieves, criminal masterminds, or the law enforcement officials trying to suss out to which of those two categories their intended target belongs.—SG

44. “Big Little Lies” (HBO, 2017 – 2019)

“Big Little Lies”


Based on Liane Moriarty’s novel of the same name, the HBO series reads like a strong draft pick for a fantasy TV league, from David E. Kelley writing to Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman executive producing and starring alongside Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgård, Zoe Kravitz, and Adam Scott. But it’s not until tuning into the Jean-Marc Vallée-directed mystery that the true atmospheric genius of the story unfolds to reveal a world of privilege and appearances that are only barely held together to hide the toxicity below the surface. Visually and aurally stunning, “Big Little Lies” seduces the senses as well as the spirit as the story wends its way to its inexorable, empowering conclusion. “Big Little Lies” is more than satisfying as a limited series, but now with a second season featuring Meryl Streep, the series has cemented its place in the annals of prestige TV.—HN

43. “Homecoming” (Amazon Prime, 2018 – present)

Stephan James and Julia Roberts in “Homecoming”

Jessica Brooks / Amazon

Ahead of its premiere, “Homecoming” was notable for several reasons: First, it was a new project from “Mr. Robot” architect Sam Esmail. Second, it marked Julia Roberts’ initial foray as a leading lady in an episodic television series. And finally, it was one of the industry’s earliest significant gambles on adapting podcasts for the screen. Soaring from the start, the noir-drama proved to be a tense thriller that was a magnet for audiences; an intricate puzzle for its viewers to unpack, all the way up to its startling ending. It’s an emotionally-involved ride that bewilders with fun twists and turns, as well as a hallucinatory score. In addition to Roberts, it’s also a TV season-long appreciation for Stephan James, who is utterly convincing as Afghanistan veteran Walter Cruz. Both give measured, naturalistic performances, alongside a supporting cast that includes Bobby Cannavale as Roberts’ disreputable boss, and Shea Whigham as the unrelenting, bespectacled official investigating the truth at the center of the series. “Homecoming” is an assured, compelling and fully formed drama, whether for fans of the podcast it’s based on, or those who’ve never listened to an episode of it.—TO

42. “Archer” (FX/FXX, 2009-present)



The last thing the TV world needed was another reference-heavy animated workplace comedy with a smart-aleck title character. Yet “Archer” distanced itself from all those simple descriptors and became a lively romp through a ‘60s-looking spy world and any number of adventurous environments since the first season. Sterling Archer (voiced by the incomparable H. Jon Benjamin) has occasionally been surrounded by bumbling fools and overqualified companions, but it’s the effortless way that each member of the show’s inner circle has slid into each successive change of scenery that shows how singular and strong this show’s comedic style has always been. The encounters, entendres, and Burt Reynolds cameos are just part of the cavalcade of jokes that run behind this handful of would-be crimefighters. Some of them may require an almanac to parse, but hey, that’s just part of the fun. —SG

41. “Master of None” (Netflix, 2015 – 2017)

Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe, “Master of None”


Based on the comedic viewpoints of Aziz Ansari, the series follows the personal and professional life of Dev, a 30-year-old actor in New York who has trouble deciding on the mundanities of day-to-day existence, as well as on life’s bigger challenges.  Amusing and cinematic while exploring various everyday themes, the series is simultaneously broad in scope and intensely personal. With oodles of heart and charm, it’s a refreshingly idiosyncratic take on an otherwise familiar premise that manages to outdo itself in its second of two seasons thus far, delivering an increasingly ambitious series of episodes. Boasting a diverse cast of eclectic characters, and beautifully shot on location in New York and Italy, it’s a remarkable undertaking in storytelling and demonstrates what a modern TV series can be.—TO

40. “Fargo” (FX, 2014 – present)



Ah, jeez. Noah Hawley’s Emmy-winning anthology black comedy-crime series is a surprisingly tone-perfect extension of the universe that was created in the Coen Brothers’ 1996 film of the same name. Off-kilter and dangerous, the series creates fascinating characters who are dropped into intense circumstances, and what results is (besides a body count) a contemplation of morality touched by just enough of the absurd. It’s no wonder that A-list stars from Billy Bob Thornton and Kirsten Dunst to Ted Danson and Ewan McGregor want to sink their teeth into such colorful dialogue and characters. It’s a testament to the show’s excellence that critics still find it fruitful to debate whether the show’s first or second season is superior, with compelling arguments to support both. And while Season 3’s storytelling falters a bit, it still presents some beautifully wacky moments — most notably anything to do with Carrie Coon’s character and technology. On the whole, Hawley’s continuation of the FCU is innovation through imitation, and somehow makes the world his own, with the introduction of Allison Tolman in Season 1 alone is enough to confirm the series’ contribution to TV. —HN

39. “Killing Eve” (BBC America/AMC, 2018-current )

Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh, “Killing Eve”

BBC America

It’s not a stretch to say that psychopaths are interesting – what is a stretch is making depictions in entertainment of ye olde standard bad guy psychopaths feel new, fresh and different. “Killing Eve” does this perfectly, thanks to the cat-and, well, cat game of chase depicted between fashion-forward hall of fame gleeful assassin Villanelle (gloriously portrayed by Jodie Comer) and – spoiler! – her borderline psychopathic Javert, Eve Polastri (Sanda Oh, who winningly rolls with the punches as her character becomes more unhinged as the show goes on.) While showrunner Emerald Fennell’s second season isn’t as narratively tight as Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s first set of episodes, the psychosexual interplay between the two women remains propulsive, compulsive and groundbreaking. Emmy-winning Comer continues to find new ways to be terrifying as she turns the charm up to 10 in her encounters with the emotionally functioning world; Oh does a beautiful delicate dance between allure and revulsion during her character’s slow and steady descent into the dark side. Plus, it seems inevitable that someone is going to be turned into a gyro. -AD

38. “Sharp Objects” (HBO, 2018)

“Sharp Objects”


“Don’t tell mama.” With three little words, “Sharp Objects” set TV on fire — and that was after a full season of juicy twists, intricate character development, and ethereal tonal jolts, all of which evoked a hot, sweaty summer like few other pieces of filmed entertainment ever could. With Jean-Marc Vallée’s meticulous direction and editing, alongside savvy scripts from Gillian Flynn and Marti Noxon, this seven-part limited series redefined what a slow burn mystery was capable of. At times, the Preaker family drama skewed creepy, like a horror movie family who was about to combust. But then the next scene would shift to a compassionate flashback or tender turn from one of the nuanced performers. There are progressive perspective shifts, commentary on outdated Southern culture, and even existential questions of purpose built into a small town murder investigation, and this team brings them all together to propulsive, magnificent effect. And, it almost goes without saying, Amy Adams forges a character no viewer will soon forget, bringing pathos, ferocity, and frustration to Camille — all before her world’s turned upside down in those well-earned final moments.—BT

37. “Olive Kitteridge” (HBO, 2014)

“Olive Kitteridge”


If you’re going to adapt a Pulitzer Prize winning book, bring the big guns. For HBO in 2014, that meant Lisa Cholodenko and Frances McDormand tackling Elizabeth Strout’s novel about 25 years in the painful life of the eponymous Olive. Quickly, it becomes clear that the teacher is of the opposite temperament of her husband, Henry (Richard Jenkins): She’s a misanthrope, while Henry loves beyond reason. The clash of practical assessment and emotional delusion forges some of the four-hour series’ most dramatic moments, spanning 25 years, as the couple’s son Christopher grows up to resent and pity his parents. He’s both of them at once, and, as society teaches, he fights against his mother’s pessimism, introversion, and isolation. In the end, “Olive Kitteridge” is a powerful story of understanding, tackling what it’s like to be the odd woman out in a world built on delusion. The nuanced take hasn’t lost a touch of relevance or power, making audiences wonder when this dream team will come together again.—BT

36. “Looking” (HBO, 2014 – 2016)



Much of the past 10 years of TV stories is centered on the idea of “figuring things out.” But few shows took that foundation and built a series as graceful as “Looking,” which captured life and love in San Francisco in all its fleeting and fulfilling forms. Even in the tiniest glimpses into the lives of Patrick (Jonathan Groff), Dom (Murray Bartlett), Richie (Raul Castillo), and beyond felt like chapters in an ever-unfolding novel, encompassing both the day-to-day joys of city life and the constant fight to hold onto what each of these people need to survive. And the 2016 finale movie proved that this was a set of characters not bound by time or place, that what kept “Looking” essential was knowing there was always so much more still left to explore. —SG

35. “Rectify” (SundanceTV, 2013 – 2016)


Jackson Lee Davis/Sundance TV

Ray McKinnon’s moody Southern drama moves at its own pace, inviting the audience into the unique perspective of a man put on death row for 19 years for a crime he didn’t commit — maybe. Contemplative, raw, and affecting, SundanceTV’s pioneer original program starts on the day Daniel Holden (a revelatory Aden Young) is released from prison, thanks to a vacated judgment due to inconclusive DNA evidence. Given Daniel’s foggy memory of the night in question, not even he knows if he did what he was accused of — raping and murdering his 16-year-old girlfriend — but McKinnon’s central question soon turns to how humans treat each other on a broader scale. It’s about the fragility of life in general and how events can shape one’s perception of that life. Bouncing back and forth through time at the will of Daniel’s troubled mind, the scenes depicted are dark, yet how they’re depicted is as bright as a summer day in Georgia. Such contrast proves fitting two times over. For one, such powerful themes can shake you to your soul, yet the way the story is explored over four melodic seasons never drains your spirit. Perhaps the more decisive disparity, though, is that for a series with no easy answers, it’s about a world with none, as well.—BT

34. The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu, 2017-present)

“The Handmaid’s Tale”

George Kraychyk/Hulu

If “Game of Thrones” [not pictured] is the series that will come to define the decade in the future, then “The Handmaid’s Tale” will inevitably be seen as the show that best captured the mood of an unsettled nation. Blessed and burdened by terrible relevancy, the Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s classic dystopian novel debuted in 2017 as a force to be reckoned with, fueled by nervy performances from Elisabeth Moss and Yvonne Strahovski. Now in its third season, the series is not without its faults, struggling often with issues of representation and sometimes coming dangerously close to devolving into misery porn. Still, the show remains vital because the message underlying it matters more with each passing day. —LH

33. “Speechless” (ABC, 2016 – 2019)



Broadcast TV viewers do not deserve the beautiful gift that is “Speechless,” since low ratings ultimately tanked the comedy that has some of the sharpest writing and delightful performances on the small screen. In the series, the DiMeo family is full of oddballs who are alternately selfish and awkward, yet ultimately come together in their awfulness. While the show is notable for casting the differently abled actor Micah Fowler to play teenaged son JJ, who has cerebral palsy, the series never devolves into any sort of inspiration porn or lesson in inclusivity. Instead, it’s most effective in just delivering a bitingly funny TV show that takes each mundane moment well beyond the logical extreme to create heightened hilarity. While the cast is strong across the board, the standout is Minnie Driver, whose fierce and confident Maya makes use of the actress’ considerable comedic chops and timing. Although the show only lasted three seasons, that’s enough to establish the DiMeos as one of the best sitcom families to ever grace television.—HN

32. “Twin Peaks” (Showtime, 2017)

Laura Dern in “Twin Peaks.” Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

David Lynch and Mark Frost’s long-gestating continuation of ABC’s seminal 1990s murder-mystery series may have alienated some and confounded everyone – but what it didn’t do was disappoint. The original series changed the way television was made, but “The Return” changed how viewers consumed television. The journey of Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) back to the ill-fated town of Twin Peaks and its quirky denizens is surreal beyond viewers’ wildest expectations and throws in some hilarious sequences to balance all the murder. While this main linear storyline is full of offbeat delights, it’s the deviations that create the most excitement — because that’s exactly what TV is in the hands of Lynch.

From the writing and directing to the performances and sound design, the show is a master class in controlling every aspect of the narrative to introduce a complexity that still hasn’t been matched on television. The biggest discussions surrounding the limited series involve theories about the workings of that bizarre universe and the exquisite Episode 8, an avant-garde, black-and-white origin story of how mankind has wrought its own evil. And yet, those are only parts of the bigger whole of bending and ultimately questioning the nature of reality — whether it’s a meditation on time, our limited perceptions, or death. “Twin Peaks: The Return” is an 18-chapter dream, that for a short while, viewers are able to enter. But long after the credits roll, the last note of Angelo Badalamenti’s score is played, and Laura Palmer’s final scream is screamed, “Twin Peaks” will live on and change in our psyches.—HN

31. “Terriers” (FX, 2010)



FX’s “Terriers” is an urban legend. You can see promotional images for it online, so ridiculous-looking you’d swear it was manufactured on an underpopulated subreddit. You heard it was good. You heard it was great. You heard it had a terrible name but you’ve never actually seen it. “Terriers” did, in fact, exist. It was good. It was great. And it may be all the better because it ended after a single season. Built around two pitch-perfect performances from Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James, the series follows two best friends turned private investigators banging around the suburbs of San Diego. The problem with the series is that it defies explanations. It’s a grown-up “Veronica Mars.” It’s a Neo-noir “Big Lebowski.” It has less to do with dogs than you’d expect. But that ephemeral nature of the series is also its lifeblood. It’s your favorite dive bar, your best, old, broken-in T-shirt. It aired for three months in 2010 and yet it persists, stuck like a thorn under the skin of everyone who saw it. The show they can’t let go of. Get in now on the exquisite misery of a show gone too soon.—LH

30. “Party Down” (Starz, 2009-2010)

“Party Down”


To achieve the level of consistency that “Party Down” maintained – even as its motley catering crew traveled across the wild private event world of Southern California – will always be an impressive feat. Even though the show occasionally put some of the bunch at the forefront, this Starz gem was driven by an ensemble overflowing with riches. From the mainstays (Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Ken Marino, Martin Starr, and Ryan Hansen, all at the height of their powers) to those who dropped by for shorter stints (Jane Lynch, Megan Mullally, Kristen Bell, et al), this is a Hall of Fame-worthy cast pulling off some sublime material. Almost a decade later, it’s hard to imagine another show pulling off a trio of plots as transcendent as the funeral, Steve Guttenberg’s birthday, and community theater episodes in the same season, much less on consecutive weeks.—SG

29. “Nathan For You” (Comedy Central, 2013-2017)

“Nathan for You”

Comedy Central

There has been no shortage of thinkpieces on how “Nathan for You” is an ingenious skewering of late stage capitalism. And those writers might be onto something! Co-creator and star Nathan Fielder’s bumbling attempts to help small business owners market themselves are full of subtle riffs on superficial consumerism and always result in ludicrous scenarios that push American business norms to their logical extreme. On the other hand, this is also a show where Fielder weakly insults a public relation guy’s dick size when the latter rejects the comic’s attempts to promote a “poo” flavored ice cream. So, there’s also that. Whether “Nathan for You” is a brilliant business satire or a boneheaded comedy about a dopey marketing consultant is a moot point. More importantly, the show is a consistently hilarious spectacle. Fielder’s intentionally dry delivery and cringeworthy social awkwardness means that “Nathan for You” isn’t actually for everyone, but for those that do appreciate this kind of comedy, there’s precious few shows that have nailed this kind of eclectic humor so well in recent memory. —TH

28. “Dear White People” (Netflix, 2017 – present)

“Dear White People”

Adam Rose/Netflix

Based on Justin Simien’s critically acclaimed 2014 film “Dear White People,” the Netflix series of the same name does more than dip its toe into the complicated, brash and mandatory discussions about race in America today. Using biting humor and candor, the series follows the lives of college radio host Samantha White (Logan Browning) and her friends as they contend with microaggressions and outright racism at Winchester College, a fictional, predominantly white Ivy League school. A satire of the now mythical “post-racial” America that many had bought into after the election of Barack Obama as POTUS, the series also tells a universal story about finding one’s own identity and unique path, amid a diverse landscape of inequity, political correctness (or lack thereof) and activism in the 21st century. Holding up a mirror to society, it’s just as much of a scream as it is revealing, fearlessly going where other programs don’t dare to. And for that reason alone, it’s a must-watch for fans old and new.—TO

27. “Better Call Saul” (AMC, 2015-present)

Rhea Seehorn and Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”

Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

The story of Jimmy McGill’s (Bob Odenkirk) transformation into skeevy criminal lawyer Saul Goodman of “Breaking Bad” fame is an emotionally heavy one, but it is a tale that is elevated by impeccable pacing and superb character development. As a “Breaking Bad” prequel, we know that there aren’t particularly happy endings for many of the characters of “Better Call Saul,” which makes their struggles — and fleeting moments of happiness — all the more tragic. But crucially, this is more than just a show for “Breaking Bad” diehards. “Better Call Saul” is about deeply complex and conflicted people, and the writers have an uncanny ability to make you sympathize and even agree with two characters who may be vehemently opposed to the other in the same scene. Though Odenkirk’s character may be the show’s namesake, equal attention is given to the arcs of the similarly fantastic Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), Chuck McGill (Michael McKean), and the show’s variety of other major and minor characters. —TH

26. “Catastrophe” (Amazon, 2015-2019)

Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, “Catastrophe”

Ed Miller/Amazon

If comedy is partly rooted in failure, then “Catastrophe” offers one of the most fulfilling TV experiences of the decade by showing two people embracing that feeling of failure together. Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney devised an on-screen marriage that was sneaky in its complexity, taking a one-night stand through to an emotional conclusion that involved many lives fully lived along the way. Sharon and Rob eventually slid into a domestic life that neither were likely expecting, but their constant, vocal grappling with each surprising new turn made for a comedy that felt real, even to single folks with no way of confirming whether or not it was true. Filthy and sweet and loving in equal measure, no one else did family like “Catastrophe.” —SG

25. “Big Mouth” (Netflix, 2017 – present)

“Big Mouth”

courtesy of Netflix

Masturbation. Penis. Menstruation. Ejaculation. Orgasm. Idiosyncratic sexual fantasies. “Big Mouth” takes every taboo about puberty and sex that society has internalized to be shameful and instead let its freak flag fly. The hairy brainchild of Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett, the animated comedy examines what it means to go through the physical and emotional changes that come with burgeoning adulthood. Featuring a stellar voice cast that embodies the awkward-yet-adorable middle schoolers and their various Hormone Monsters, an ingenious creation that gives a voice to all of those thoughts and urges, the series normalizes feeling abnormal, out of control, and at the mercy of our biology. All this and some killer original songs, too. If only “Big Mouth” had existed for every adolescent, the world might be a more tolerant, unrepressed place.—HN

24. “Barry” (HBO, 2018 – present)

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 Emmy winning 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)

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)


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”

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 & Bertie”


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. Canceled too soon, “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)

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)

Natasha Lyonne in “Russian Doll”


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)

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)

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”

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”

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”

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”


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”

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

10. “Atlanta” (FX, 2016 – present)

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)

“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”


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”


“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)

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)

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”


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”


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)



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)

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