This is a simple list of my favorite shows of the 2010s decade. I’m sure I’m forgetting to include something on this list, since it’s a pretty broad net to cast. There are some conditions for inclusion on the list. First, I’m excluding non-scripted documentary kinda shows. I’m also excluding shows that returned in the decade from years before (Veronica Mars, Will & Grace, etc). And, since shows can span in and out of the decade, I tried to apply a general rule that the series had to have roughly 2/3 of its run or more in this decade. Lastly, I’m excluding shows where I haven’t seen at least 2/3 of the episodes. A couple good examples of this are Schitt’s Creek, The Americans and Silicon Valley, for which I’ve seen a moderate sampling of episodes and liked a lot, but haven’t seen enough to properly include as yet. Oh, and also, I’m making a somewhat arbitrary decision to exclude The Mandalorian, since it’s sure to fall more outside of this decade, having just started at the close of the decade.
Oh, and for whatever reason, networks tend to do terrible jobs cutting together promos and trailers for series, even in this modern decade. As such, I’ve included a various promo and whatnot for each series, but a number of them aren’t great and were best effort to find something to include. Don’t judge them based on the promo video I managed to find.
Honorable mentions go out to The Big Bang Theory, Warehouse 13, Modern Family, Mary Kills People, Raising Hope, Berlin Station, UnREAL and many others I’m sure I’m forgetting at the moment.
#1 – Community
One of the greatest series of all time. I’d describe what I like about the series, but I’ll just say it’s pretty much everything and leave it at that. I’ve done two music video edits using footage from the series’ “paintball episodes”, which can be found here and here. For some amusement, you can view this playlist I tossed together of the fun DJ Steve Porter remixes (which were used the first few years for series promotion). Oh, and I put together a super-cut edit of all the gag reels from the show (which definitely comes with a language warning). The series never had the best promos from NBC or Yahoo, so I’m going with this brief but fun one from Hulu…
Surely the most insane, ridiculous, wild, unhinged, inventive and stylistically warped series ever made. It’s bewildering that a series this fun and strange managed to get a second season, but it did. Expecting a third season was clearly more than one could have hoped for. I loved every minute of this deranged series’ two-season run.
#3 – The Good Place
As recurring guest star Marc Evan Jackson likes to describe the series, it’s the smartest dumb show on TV. The marvelous cast has a field day with their fun characters while performing some of the most silly, existential, morally-ponderous scripts TV has ever received.
#4 – The Orville
As the Star Trek franchise came back to life on TV with the awful Star Trek: Discovery, life-long Trek fan Seth MacFarlane launched a series that was not only MUCH more Star Trek than Discovery, he did it with a great sense of humor while also embracing Trek’s sci-fi and moral ambitions fully. Add in a fun cast and fantastic production and you’ve got the best Trek series to come along since DS9.
#5 – iZombie
Another Zombie show? Yeah, but this one is so much fun and has a bit of everything going for it. From the always-fantastic Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars, Party Down, Cupid) as show-runner, this unique series managed to develop a building story season-by-season that actually built to a genuine final chapter and satisfying climax. The fantastic cast and delightful writing are a definite highlight.
While the series can be a little bit frustrating with character moments from time to time, this ambitious dramedy about comedy from the always-great Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls, Bunheads, etc) is wonder at least 95% of the time. The production is a fantastic ’50s throwback, the dialog is razor sharp (no surprise from Sherman-Palladino), the cinematography (featuring lots of very long and complex single shots) is extremely impressive, and the cast is absolutely amazing. If you’re offended by language, this one isn’t for you.
#7 – The Good Guys
This was a 2010 summer series on FOX – a combination which pretty much guaranteed that it wasn’t going to survive long. Somehow, it managed to survive the initial 9-episode summer run and pick up another 11 episodes during the fall to live on just a bit longer. It’s a hilarious, fun genre send-up with a perfect cast and a comedic tone that is spot-on. It’s a shame that nobody managed to see it, other than the people I’ve gotten into it. If you’re the type that reads lists like this to find overlooked gems, this is one of those.
I’m a big WWII nerd (and a sci-fi nerd). While I’m a fan of writer Phillip K. Dick, this might be the only book of his I haven’t read at some point. I’ll get around to it some day. Anyway, the “what if?” nature of the series playing out WWII as if the Allies had lost to the Axis, with the USA split between the Germans (to the east) and the Japanese (to the west) is fascinating. It does an excellent job with its world building based around that scenario. The sci-fi aspect of the series isn’t quite as strong, but it does give it an interesting hook to hang the world building on. Add in some fantastic production and a great cast and you have a series I greatly enjoyed. Not the strongest ending, but I’m not the type to judge a series based on its ending. Oh, and the series does have the best opening title sequence of the decade.
#9 – Castle
A delightful cast centered around the always enjoyable Nathan Fillion helps make this typically-lighthearted detective drama work. Yeah, it went too far over the top from time to time, particularly in the final couple seasons, but it was always quite enjoyable and lots of fun.
#10 – Elementary
So this one is a somewhat controversial inclusion, particularly for those of you who are suddenly scrolling down this list and noticing that the BBC Sherlock series isn’t on it. Yes, it’s true, I prefer this series. I also specifically prefer Johnny Lee Miller’s recovering drug addict take on the character. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the BBC version, which I did (consider it an honorable mention for the list). There have been a number of takes on the Sherlock Holmes character over the many years. This one comes at it from a more grounded angle, transplanted to NYC with the character still English, with Miller’s version of the character struggling to remain sober and using his gifts as a way to maintain his sharpness and sobriety. Another refreshing take is that of Lucy Liu’s variation of Watson, who is initially key to Sherlock actually being able to function as his “sober companion”, but ultimately developed into a full-on, respected investigative partner. Yeah, the show pushed its credibility a bit too far from time to time (of which the BBC series is also guilty), but I really enjoyed this series. I was happy the network gave them enough lead time to end its run gracefully.
#11 – Parks And Recreation
Having re-watched much of this series recently, I have to include a warning for viewers like myself. As somebody who tried multiple times to get into The Office, I never could. On paper, everything about it seems like something I would like, but despite actual effort to like it, that never happened. I say all of that because on re-watch, I noticed that the series feels a lot like The Office when it first began during its initial, brief first season (not surprising, since it’s made by vets of The Office). It took a bit for it to find its own unique footing. The reason I probably ended up loving this series is that I didn’t start watching it until late in its second season. Between the second and third seasons, I went back to check out the episodes I had missed. So, I happened to start watching it about the time they found their footing as a show I genuinely enjoyed a lot. I have a feeling a lot of that is due to how much the cast seemed to influence not just their characters but the tone and pace of the series. Once Adam Scott and Rob Lowe had joined the show at the end of season 2, it solidified into a favorite series for me.
#12 – The Expanse
This is a dense, meandering sci-fi series that I’ll admit takes some patience and effort to properly get into. But if you can put in the bit of work to track what’s going on and spend the time to go along for the ride, it’s really a remarkably well produced and interestingly-crafted series. It’s one of those shows you’ve gotta commit to for the long haul to really properly enjoy. If that’s not your kind of thing, then this one probably isn’t for you. If you like heavily-layered storytelling with some ambitious ideas and lots of world building, then this one is for you.
#13 – Stranger Things
I probably don’t have to tell you much about this one, based on how popular it is and how much it’s crept into pop culture. I very much enjoy the nostalgic Spielbergian ’80s framework. The cast is excellent, both in terms of the core group of kids an the adult characters as well. I enjoyed the first season quite a bit. The second season wasn’t what I would call great, but was good enough. But then came the third season (which as of this writing is the most recent season), which I consider my favorite of the series so far.
#14 – Halt And Catch Fire
While Silicon Valley got most of the attention for series based around IT & tech startups, this darker and edgier piece of retro drama is remarkably well made. The cast is fantastic and the production works pretty well with fairly limited budgets and resources in portraying the early days of personal computers.
This is just one of those shows where the tone of things either works for you or it doesn’t. And so much of that centers around the fish-out-of-water (in a number of ways) role of Kimmy Schmidt as played so wonderfully by Ellie Kemper. Other cast members are also lots of fun. If you just want something bubbly, fun, goofy and funny, this is the series for you.
#16 – Homeland
This series can definitely be hit-or-miss at various points in its run, but when it is nailing it, it is NAILING it. Claire Danes goes all in on her performance, and she is supported by a number of top-notch performers. Be prepared to roll your eyes on occasion, and if you’re the type to shout at characters on screen for doing stupid things, you’ll definitely have at least a few of those moments. But there’s a heck of a lot of good stuff to enjoy along the way.
#17 – Mr. Robot
Perhaps a little bit too clever for its own good, while at the same time borrowing a little bit too much from the likes of Fight Club, this series does manage to find its own unique voice about modern society. Featuring a (magnificent) breakout performance from Rami Malek and a solid supporting cast, it’s a solid character thriller series with a devious sense of humor. I also very much enjoy the cinematography of the series, which goes out of its way to break almost every rule of composition and photography, typically tying in those choices to a character’s mental states and other tonal ideas. And hey, if you’re an anarchist, this series is for you.
#18 – Magnum PI
As a big fan of the original series, I had my doubts about a reboot. I had hopes that it would at least show respect to the original, since it was being made by the people who make the Hawaii Five-O reboot, and that series has shown a good amount of respect to the original. I was quite happy with this new Magnum series, even more so than Five-O. It keeps the core aspects of the series in tact while giving certain parts of it a new twist. It’s both a reboot of the original series while at the same time finding its own unique take on the setup.
#19 – White Collar
A fun “heist caper” series with a spectacular cast and a light, playful take on its core dramatic narrative. It’s the kind of series that Leverage wanted to be on its better episodes (I excluded that series due to it only being half into the 2010s decade).
#20 – Another Period
An extremely satircal mashup of two TV series genres I can’t stand: the likes of Downton Abbey & Keeping Up With The Kardashians. This series is wall-to-wall despicable and ridiculous with WAY over the top comedy. The cast is fantastic and the production is solid. If you are at all easily offended, or in any way offendable, this series is not for you.
#21 – Black Mirror
I wish there were more anthology series these days. While this one can be somewhat hit-or-miss, it’s top-notch when it nails it. I’m not sure how well the series will age in the decades to come, but it’s definitely one of those “defines a generation” kind of shows.
#22 – Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Co-created by Mike Schur, who is also responsible for two other series on this list (The Good Place & Parks And Recreation), this police comedy is a goofy and charming series that gives its comedically-talented cast room to shine.
#23 – Lost In Space
This is another of those reboots I was a bit hesitant about, but ultimately quite liked. I’m a big fan of the original series, as total cheese-ball as it surely is. This reboot takes a new approach to the core concept, but pays lots of respect to the original. The cast is generally solid, the highlights being Max Jenkins as Will Robinson and the wonderful Parker Posey as Dr. Smith. The biggest difference between this series and the original is that this one a has a proper budget.
#24 – The Newsroom
It’s Aaron Sorkin. Enough said.
#25 – Cougar Town
A silly and very fun comedy series that is underappreciated in a big way. Look no further than this gallery I assembled during the run of the show of all the opening credit jokes they made making fun of the lame series title.