It’s time to list my favorite TV shows from the last decade. Since they tend to last several seasons, some might have not begun during the decade but did end in the 2010’s.
10. Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones was a phenomenon like none seen before in TV, a series that proved fantasy could be taken seriously as a prestige drama AND be immensely popular. For the first five or six seasons (debatable) the writing was top-notch and it seemed it was destined to become the best show of all time. Then the last two seasons happened and it all went to hell. Though the production values were always a sight to behold, even the best cinematography, score, acting, and special effects could not save an atrocious script. I don’t ever want to watch this series again and wouldn’t even recommend it, but it was superb before it crashed and burned.
9. Parks and Recreation
On first impression Parks and Recreation would appear to be a The Office knockoff, but soon the show develops its own identity. It reminded me of early Simpsons when the humor was still grounded. The town of Pawnee is like Springfield, filled with goofy side characters. Leslie Knope is a refreshing main character, her comedy comes from being TOO positive and caring for others, which is very refreshing and makes the show very feel-good. Though it’s an episodic series, there were plot and character arcs that got resolved in the very emotional season finales. And above all, I have a massive crush on Adam Scott.
This extremely underrated Joss Whedon series barely made the list (the last episode aired in January 29, 2010). While never gaining the same cult following as Buffy or Firefly, Dollhouse was really entertaining TV. It had action, drama, sci-fi, comedy, and witty dialogue. The show also dealt with heavy existential themes and ethical dilemmas, some very similar to the ones Westworld would touch upon years later. And the plot twists were many and always very clever (except maybe one in the last few episodes).
7. Bojack Horseman
An animated comedy about an antropomorphic horse celebrity living in Hollywood shouldn’t also work as an effective drama, but it does. Visual gags and quirky characters are everywhere, but undeneath it all there is an ongoing reflection on depression and mental health. It is fun and sad and very enjoyable. It would be higher in the list if it wasn’t for Todd (which annoys me to no end).
6. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Growing up I was a huge Sailor Moon fan, so the premise of Madoka was immediately appealing to me. What would happen if a magical girl show was deconstructed in a similar vein as Evangelion and the mecha genre? Young girls in super cute outfits, an adorable mascot, magic, and battles against mosters; these elements are all there but there is also darkness, grimness and real stakes at play (girls can actually die). The artstyle is very unique too, with monsters (aka witches) being represented in bizarre or abstract artstyles. The show is only 12 episodes (and a movie) but it was enough to leave a great impact on me.
Mexican TV series don’t really have a good reputation. Even today, the mexican shows put out by Netflix or Amazon tend to be average at best. But at the beginning of the decade XY proved that quality television can be achieved in my country. The show revolves around an editorial group that runs a men’s magazine. The show is unique in that it tackles issues of masculinity (hence the title) and what it means to be a man in contemporary mexican society. The show’s social critique is so sharp and the magazine eventually touches upon themes of politics and media influence that there was a rumor going around that higher ups wanted to cancel the show to avoid controversy. It is a crime that this show isn’t easily available to watch.
4. Breaking Bad
Everyone knows Breaking Bad is one of the best shows of all time, it is common knowledge by now. Walter White’s journey from unremarkable chemistry teacher to coldhearted owner of a drug empire is done so, so well that without even noticing you end up rooting for a despicable man, because we understand his reasons. The cat and mouse game between Walter and the authorities is always suspenseful to watch and the tragedy that befalls the family and Jessee is trully heartbreaking. When Walter finally (SPOILER) dies, after all the damage he caused you’re left with tons of conflicting emotions.
3. Peep Show
This show is HILARIOUS. The series follows Mark and Jeremy, two young men (I’m tempted to say losers) living their average lives in a flat in London. Mark is an uptight office worker and Jeremy is a slacker. They’ve got a very disfunctional and codependant relationship, that is very amusing to watch unfold. The gimmick of the show is that it’s shot in first person view and we hear the protagonists’ inner monologues. The formula works so well I don’t know why it hasn’t been replicated (to my knowledge). Episodes and seasons are short, so it is a very binge-able show.
Succession is only two seasons as I’m writing this, but it has already blown me away. It shares some similarities with my number 1 pick, it’s a grounded drama elevated by its writing and acting, with some dark humor from time to time. The main characters are all interesting, (very) flawed people and watching Logan’s children struggle and fail to become the successor for a powerful media empire is a delight.
1. Mad Men
Mad Men is a show about an ad agency in 60’s New York and the people that work in it. There are no big special effects, action sequences, or crazy plot twists, just excellent writing and incredible acting. No other series has such fleshed out and flawed characters like Don, Peggy, Betty, Joan, Roger, Pete, or even Megan. They feel like real people and we care about them. Protagonist Don Draper is tragic yet compeling, a womanizing man who appears to have it all while self-destructing underneath the facade. Watching Mad Men feels like reading a novel, it’s very dense with content and themes that you could write tons of essays about it. The series is a slow burn, but so effective that Don and Peggy arguing over a commercial is a series highlight and one of my favorite scenes of all time.