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Your "Top 20" Favourite Television Shows of the Last 10 years (2010–2019)

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Josh Dial, Dec 28, 2019.

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  1. Josh Dial

    Josh Dial Producer

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    I figured it would be interesting to list and discuss our 20 favourite shows of the last 10 years. I’ve read (and listened to podcast episodes) on this topic over the last few weeks, but frankly I care less about what random people think and more about what you fine forum members think.

    Perhaps some parameters for our lists (or not—I’m not your boss! Do what you like!):

    1) The shows must have debuted on or after January 1, 2010. So no Community or Mad Men or Breaking Bad, for example. The exception is Twin Peaks as it was marketed mostly as “Twin Peaks: The Return” and “Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series”. This isn’t a thread to discuss when a decade starts and ends (because it’s expressly not asking for your favourite shows of the last “decade”—whatever that means).

    2) The shows can be on broadcast TV or a streaming service, and on any release schedule (all-at-once “bingeable” mode, once-per-week, or a hybrid).

    3) Scripted TV only—so no reality shows like The Voice, The Masked Singer, talk shows, comedy specials, or documentary series (except Documentary Now!).

    4) The shows much have more than one episode to qualify as a series. So, no sneaking in The Irishman or Roma. Bandersnatch is fair game, though, since it’s part of Black Mirror.

    5) For anthology shows like American Horror Story and True Detective, maybe treat each season as its own separate show? Or not!

    6) Try to keep your list to 20. Or not. Again, I’m not your boss! I’m doing 20, though. There has been a lot of quality television in the last 10 years (the last 20, really), so doing a classic “top 10” seemed liked a disservice.

    7) The list is your personal favourites. Use whatever metrics you want. No need to needlessly qualify all your statements as being “your opinion.” If you write that something was “the best” we all assume you aren’t saying it was objectively the best and that anyone who disagrees is wrong.

    One more thing I would invite you all to consider is recency bias. While there were shows debuting in 2019 that were undoubtedly amazing, I personally am viewing them all a particularly critical eye. Watchmen, for example, was absolutely fantastic. Is it the best of the last 10 years? Maybe.

    Lastly, I think it’s fair that as a hard rule, we all agree to a no spoilers whatsoever policy. If you want to discuss any plot elements at all (and please do!), then kindly use the spoiler tag. That noted, I think it’s equally fair to say this thread is reader beware. If you click a spoiler tag for a given show, be prepared for absolutely anything to be spoiled about that show.

    I’m really looking forward to reading your lists!

    Here are my selections. Damn was this hard. My list starts with my most favourite show. I’ve written a brief commentary on my top 10, which I arbitrarily chose stopping point purely out of self-interest because I’m interesting in reading all your posts before I go on.

    1. Twin Peaks: The Return

    Not much can be written about Twin Peaks that hasn’t already been written. At turns funny, thought-provoking, and haunting, The Return did the seemingly impossible: wrap up the Twin Peaks story yet…not? The show broke almost every rule. From ending almost every episode with an extended musical performance to an episode eight that can only be described as unfettered art (and perhaps the most interesting episode of television ever).

    I still think about the final scene.

    2. The Leftovers

    If it wasn’t for Twin Peaks, The Leftovers would be number one on my list. Perhaps the only “perfect” show on my list (including Twin Peaks), there was not a single dud in the 28 episodes. Damon Lindelof and his team managed to craft the saddest show about loss and what it means to be human. It was all wrapped in a “mystery box” type show Lindelof, Carleton Cuse, and JJ Abrams are famous for—but one that never really wanted to be answered. Justin Theroux and Carrie Coon delivery performances of their careers.

    The spiritual two-parter of “International Assassin” and “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)” nearly rival Twin Peaks’ episode 8.

    3. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

    Without a doubt the funniest show on my list. If The Leftovers is a perfect show, Mrs. Maisel is probably the most polished (maybe tied with The Crown in this regard). Every piece of costume, dialogue, movement—everything—is meticulously chosen and expertly delivered. Nothing (not a single extra) is out of place. All of the actors are making choices. Nothing is phoned in.

    The dialogue sizzles and the show just shines.

    4. Mr. Robot

    With Mr. Robot, Sam Esmail demonstrates his absolute mastery of the camera. His angles and framing are able to generate unease and tension like almost nobody else. Almost every episode is a visual essay on how to make the perfect shot.

    Like most shows on my list, the cast is phenomenal from top to bottom. Rami Malek of course does the heavy lifting, but Mr. Robot is probably the best thing Christian Slater has ever done. BD Wong steals almost every scene he’s in.

    Noah Hawley, Damon Lindelof, and Sam Esmail are the modern day successors to David Lynch.

    5. Legion

    Noah Hawley proved that comic book shows can be stylish, entertaining, and challenging all at the same time. He also proved that he didn’t need the “MCU connection” but could make a show that could stand on its own.

    Each episode was a visual treat—moreso than even Twin Peaks or Mr. Robot. Legion is what happens when a creative team at the top of their game is allowed to do whatever they want with a small corner of one of the most lucrative pieces of IP (Marvel comics). It’s not an overstatement to say that Legion probably paved the way for visually astonishing things to come in Marvel and Star Wars.

    6. Dark

    All but overlooked by North American audiences (and indeed this forum and most critical review sites), Dark is a German-language mind-bending time travel show about family, the nature of good and evil, and point of view.

    Seemingly every aspect of the show is a clue to unravel the greater mystery. But Dark isn’t like LOST (though it sort of is…) or The Leftovers, because it’s abundantly clear that the show is driving toward an ending (three seasons are planned) and with each episode you can almost hear the pieces slide into place.

    The final season isn’t out yet and so I can’t say that Dark “sticks the landing.” So far, however, it doesn’t jerk the viewer around.

    7. The Crown

    Like Mrs. Maisel, The Crown is meticulously crafted and dialogue-driven. It’s also utterly gorgeous to look at. By loosely adapting actual people and history events the show is arguably working against a harder-than-usual degree of difficulty. Add to this an almost complete cast change every two seasons. Yet The Crown continues to deliver on every level episode after episode.

    The writing is as actor’s dream: almost every scene is a monologue or audition-worthy piece.

    8. Halt and Catch Fire

    Another critically acclaimed show that never seemed to reach any sort of mass appeal, Halt and Catch Fire paired the evolution of friendship, business partnership, and family, with the evolution of computers and the internet. This was a scrappy little show that saw standout performances from Lee Pace and Scoot McNairy, but especially from Kerry Bishe and Mackenzie Davis.

    There’s a scene in the final season—the “Phoenix scene”—that I would count amongst the most beautiful and heartfelt two minutes in any episode of any show on my list.

    9. Daredevil

    Daredevil is the rare combination of phenomenal camera work, stunt work, and choreography all wrapped up in a comic book plot that largely makes sense and characters making believable choices.

    Out of all the “bingeable” shows on my list, no show made me want to watch the next episode like Daredevil did. It’s not the most challenging or inventive show on my list, but it’s incredibly entertaining and one of my favourites.

    10. The Americans

    The Americans is perhaps the slowest of slow burns on my list. Like The Leftovers, The Americans examines family. The entire main cast (okay, maybe not Henry…) gets multiple opportunities to shine across the four seasons.

    The American’s has some of the tensest moments in recent television. At times it’s the pinnacle of taught thriller.

    11. Barry

    12. Black Mirror

    13. Black Sails

    14. Rick and Morty

    15. True Detective

    16. Watchmen

    17. Mindhunter

    18. Stranger Things

    19. Westworld

    20. Sherlock

    Honourable Mentions (no particular order, and I’ve noted why they were each excluded):

    a) The Mandalorian

    Excluded for recency bias. That noted, The Mandalorian is probably amongst the finest Star Wars content there is.

    b) Russian Doll

    Also excluded for recency bias.

    c) Maniac

    Another show excluded for recency bias and for thematic/stylistic overlap with Twin Peaks, Mr. Robot, Legion, Russian Doll, and Watchmen. Even I can have too much weird!

    d) Homecoming

    Excluded to avoid too much Sam Esmail (although I broke that rule with Lindelof’s The Leftovers and Watchmen…).

    e) Chernobyl

    I think the decision to use British actors doing Russian accents (instead of subtitling Russian dialogue) kept this fantastic mini-series from being truly excellent.

    f) Rectify

    Excluded because while excellent from technical and performance standpoints, the subject matter is so disturbing and viscerally explored that I never want to watch it again. Second only to The Leftovers for the saddest show on my list.

    g) Fargo

    Excluded to avoid too much Noah Hawley.
     
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  2. Tommy R

    Tommy R Screenwriter

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    Better Call Saul
    The Mandalorian
    The Terror (season one, I liked season two but will just include season one on my best list)
    Fargo
    Wentworth
    Stranger Things
    Peaky Blinders
    Game of Thrones
    Santa Clarita Diet
    Young Sheldon
    The Goldbergs
    New Girl
    People of Earth
    Angie Tribeca

    Hard to think of more at the moment off the top of my head. I’ve watched a HUGE amount of tv over the last 6 or 7 years, including a lot of older shows like Sopranos and The Wire, so it’s hard to differentiate between this decade and the last. But I’m pretty content with this list for now, but I’m sure I’m forgetting some. Not to mention shows I’ve still not seen.
     
  3. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Lead Actor

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    There is a lot of great television of the past decade that I haven't seen for a variety of reasons, so my list is going to be a bit more genre-heavy and some of these shows will represent partial viewings (either they are still active or for one reason or another I decided to stop viewing them - but enjoyed some seasons enough to list them in this post)...

    This is really going to be tough to list in order, but I'll give it a try...

    1. Person of Interest

    The show started as a formulaic 'case of the week' procedural and morphed into something entirely different. Not close to being the most 'perfect' show in my list, but the story arc episodes of the latter seasons were incredibly riveting and I loved the cast. Difficult for me to put anything above this on the basis of enjoyment. Adam Lenhardt used the phrase 'heightened reality' to describe the events of this series, IIRC, and I mention it because that is an apt description. Many of the episodes featured events that you felt 'could' happen in the background of government and society if one exercised a modicum of 'suspension of disbelief'. Great series that I hated to see end.

    2. Game of Thrones

    Well, it has to go somewhere on the list so why not here? Countless words have been written about his epic series on the internet and even here at the HTF. I was hooked on the first episode. The series did have a few weaker seasons, but the production design, and the epic scope of the series all made it event television.

    3. True Detective (Season One)

    The partnership of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, Rust's philosophical observations, the Southern Gothic aspects of the series were all factors in making this a perfect procedural for one season.

    4. Legion

    Strictly from a visual standpoint, I can't think of any other series of recent vintage that begins to approach the creativeness and inventiveness of this series. Truly a remarkable series that was pretty close to perfect.

    5. The Americans

    I'm always a fan of 'time capsule' television and film and this series did a wonderful job of delivering the '80s on a weekly basis. I mean where else are you going to hear Roller by the group April Wine? (a late 70s song). A great series that offered up some of the tensest moments of television in the past decade. The constant tension of family and professional responsibilities that the Jennings experienced, the stress between Phillip and Elizabeth over methods and motivations. Just terrific.

    6. Better Call Saul

    This should probably go higher on my list as I can't think of any series that is as close to 'perfect' as this one. Even if Breaking Bad never existed, this would be an incredible series just in terms of execution; scripts, acting, music, cinematography, etc. Just flawless. A perfect gem of a series.

    7. Fargo

    One of the things I love about this series is how it has 'reinvented' itself through each season. I've loved all of the seasons, but I think the second year might be my favorite. The odd couple of Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons and the entire Gerhardt crime family. The sequence set to Jethro Tull's Locomotive Breath might be the best thing about season two.

    8. Patriot

    An Amazon series that ran for two seasons (and sadly was not renewed). Incredibly creative series that details the lengths a CIA agent will go to in order to accomplish his mission. Funny, melancholic, droll, sarcastic, quirky are all sensibilities that one can use at times to describe this wonderful series. I'm having a difficult time thinking of any other series that felt quite like this one (although its placement alongside Better Call Saul and Fargo in my list is somewhat appropriate.)

    9. The Expanse

    For my money, the best SF series currently in production. Started on SYFY and picked up by Jeff Bezos for Amazon. Based on a series of novels by James S. A. Corey, the Expanse deals with humanity's colonization of the solar system with Earth, Mars, and 'The Belt' being the three hubs of power, and influence. The Belt faction is an amalgamation of groups within the asteroid belt and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn that are aligned in their opposition to the other power centers in the solar system - Earth and Mars.
    The series is a multi-threaded one that starts as tension between the factions is rising and something from beyond our solar system threatens humanity. Great, great SF series. Highly recommended for fans of Hard SF.

    10. The Man in the High Castle

    The Amazon series uses Phillip K. Dick's great alternate history novel as its starting point and explores the ramifications of a world in which the Axis powers are victorious and rule over a divided American territory. The series is a nice 'what if' exploration of history with some metaphysical overtones. It features a solid cast of characters and holds up remarkably well over four seasons.


    (Okay, I'm tired after typing all this. I'll be back for more later with some mentions of some other shows I enjoyed this last decade.)

    - Walter.
     
  4. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Just a list, no explanations:

    1. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
    2. The Good Fight
    3. Elementary
    4. Fosse/Verdon
    5. Downton Abbey
    6. Sherlock
    7. Schitt's Creek
    8. American Horror Story
    9. This Is Us
    10. Mindhunter
     
  5. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    I don't watch nearly as many TV shows as the rest of you, so I can't possibly come up with a 20 best for the last 10 years, but here's a list off the top of my head, in no particular order.

    Blue Bloods: A well done show that addresses the current division in our society in a productive and meaningful way. Showing there are much better solutions to how we treat and perceive each other. We could use a couple Frank Reagans in the real world.

    Downton Abbey: A nicely written and acted show about changing times and the end of centuries old traditions. Worth the time just for the word play, especially between Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton.

    Game of Thrones: I'm not sure it's as good as it gets credit for, but it sure deserves kudos for its epic vision.

    Jessica Jones: I've only seen the first season, but in a lot of ways it's one of the single best seasons of television I've ever watched. Its dark look into emotional abuse and the power of gaslighting resonates with me, just a little too much for comfort.

    The Handmaid's Tale: I was familiar with the story, since I'd seen the somewhat mediocre movie at least 15 years ago and read the novel 10 years ago. The first season, which is essentially the novel, was excellent, and the second season was ruthlessly, crushingly outstanding. The third season meandered too much.

    American Gods: I have almost no idea what's going on, but I keep coming back.

    Westworld: I've only seen the first season, but the concept of technology getting so advanced it becomes a moral dilemma is fascinating, and one we will eventually have to face in the real world.

    This Is Us: Can be uneven at times, but the end result is consistently moving. Plus, Mandy...
     
  6. Keith Cobby

    Keith Cobby Cinematographer

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    Outlander
    Blacklist
    Westworld
     
  7. Message #7 of 22 Dec 29, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2019
    Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Lead Actor

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    Continuing on with my list (after a break)...

    11. Westworld (Season 1)

    I listed Person of Interest in my prior post and this series was also conceived by Jonathan Nolan. Both series deal with the potential risks of technology run amuck, its potential impacts upon our lives and the overall directions in which civilization develops. The risks are more overt in this show, due to lesser budgetary constraints and the scope of the show. The contrast between the 'Western' settings and the underlying infrastructure is one of the more interesting aspects of the series. Lots of storytelling devices to unravel in this series.

    One other thing it (PoI) shares with this series is composer Ramin Djawadi. One of the best composers working right now. I really enjoy the musics selections for this series and the arrangements that take existing materials and rework them.

    12. Watchmen

    Another nearly 'perfect' series for me. While it only ran 9 episodes, it did a splendid job of maintaining consistent quality throughout its limited run. I admired the world building aspects of this series and the attention to detail that was maintained throughout the series.

    13. Boardwalk Empire

    One more HBO show. A bit up and down over its run; but very enjoyable throughout. Excellent casting and strong production design. Worth watching just to see Bobby Cannavale throughout season three.

    14. Homeland (Seasons 1 and 2)

    Lost interest in this series after some changes, but the first season was exceptional. The levels of tension and suspense the show generated during that first season were something to see. Would've been ranked higher on the list if it had been able to maintain the levels set during the first two seasons.

    15. Snowfall

    I had mentioned The Americans and its 'time capsule' appeal. This stylishly mounted series on FX offers up another glimpse of the same time period covering the rise of crack / cocaine in Los Angeles. Drug and crime stories always have a certain inherent drama due to the situations that are explored, and this series doe a fine job of exploiting that characteristic in an entertaining fashion. Features an excellent cast of characters and strong, charismatic lead (Damson Idris).

    16. Boss

    This ran two seasons and offers up a portrait of a corrupt Chicago mayor played by Kelsey Grammer. Complicating his situation is a medical diagnosis of dementia. Works really well as both a strong political drama and a character study. Grammer is excellent in this role, which acts an actor's showcase due to the plot elements at work in the series. A scene where he explodes in anger about a pothole still sticks in my mind. :) Should've run longer.

    17. The Walking Dead (Seasons One and Two)

    Really loved this series when it started. I always enjoyed the situational ethics of the series and confronting the question of how I would respond given the situations that were presented. For me, the series started a slow decline after season two and while I stuck around for a number of seasons after the first two, I eventually moved on.

    The following are all kind of guilty pleasures that I'll mention...

    Into the Badlands - Visually gorgeous, but the acting and scripts did not live up the visual aesthetic of the series. (Some of the actors were quite good such as Marton Csokas and Orla Brady but the overall quality for the series was mixed.)

    Killjoys - British SF series that was very silly at times, but was also fun and oh yeah... Hannah John-Kamen.

    Dark Matter - Another SYFY channel SF show that was enjoyable for what it was. Good cast chemistry made this watchable.

    The Finder - A very quirky procedural (of sorts) from the producer of Bones. Sadly, Michael Clarke Duncan passed away after co-starring in this series.

    Limitless - CBS procedural based on the film of the same name. Only ran one season but I enjoyed the series loose nature and always enjoyed the way the show visualized the lead's enhanced cognitive abilities. Another series that I thought should have run longer.

    Happy Endings - ABC comedy that was incredibly fun and completely silly in terms of its humor. Never a bad episode. Endlessly amusing.

    Strike Back - Sort of like watching a series based on 80's action movies. Dealt with an elite group of British soldiers (Section 20) engaged in covert missions in the field. Season 2 was sort of like a ten episode version of Die Hard in a hotel where terrorists had seized hostages in a Mumbai hotel. Up and down, and absurdly over the top at times, but always enjoyable. Strong cast chemistry, particularly between the two co-stars made this easy to watch. Always featured attractive female guest stars. Good times.

    I think that'll do.

    - Walter.
     
  8. Message #8 of 22 Jan 2, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2020
    Ken H

    Ken H Second Unit

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    What, no 'The Pacific'?

    And rules be damned, for one reason or another, The Jinx (pseudo documentary), Curb Your Enthusiasm & Mad Men (earlier debuts than 2010).
     
  9. Josh Dial

    Josh Dial Producer

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    I considered The Pacific. I thought it was a great series that was unfairly compared to its Band of Brothers predecessor. Personally my interests just skewed slightly more toward the fantastical and experimental: Twin Peaks, Legion, Mr. Robot, The Leftovers, Westworld, Dark, Russian Doll, Maniac, Homecoming, and Stranger Things...Okay, damn, maybe more than slightly!

    What are your other choices, Ken?

    Also, calling @joshEH @Josh Steinberg (Josh Forces unite!) @Adam Lenhardt
     
  10. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Director

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    Here are my selections:
    1. Twin Peaks: The Return (2017)

      I've never seen anything like it, nor do I expect to again. It premiered on my birthday, and for the next fourteen Sunday evenings I sat back and allowed myself to be hypnotized. It took my to another place, but also another state of mind. A unique cinematic achievement. David Lynch's masterpiece.

    2. Justified (2010-2015)

      Right up there with Out of Sight for the best Elmore Leonard adaptation of all time. With five excellent seasons and one perfectly adequate one, this was a show that rewarded the investment of my time over and over again. The writing is superb, the acting often top notch. Over the course of the series, characters change and relationships deepen. And for my money, still the most satisfying series finale of all time.

    3. Stranger Things (2016-Present)

      Probably Netflix's most well-known original series, and rightfully so. The horror elements are effective and often genuinely scary, but the show's main draw in the characters and the relationships between them. Much like the Harry Potter series, each season jumps forward a year and we get to watch our young protagonists grow up in real time. All of the characters, kids and adults, are so well cast. And the show perfectly captures the feeling of the Amblin family movies that I loved in the eighties. Each new season has delighted me and left me wanting more.

    4. The Magicians (2015-Present)

      My all time favorite fantasy series. I adore this show so much that I've watched it from the beginning three times now. It beautifully grapples with mental illness and the disillusionment of adulthood. There is plenty of magic, but it all has consequences. None of the characters' victories come easily, and their setbacks are often devastating. Despite that, the show is frequently hilarious. I love the characters, I love the storytelling, and I love the cinematography. When a new season is airing, it's the show I look forward to the most.

    5. The Leftovers (2014-2017)

      The first season, until the finale, is probably the bleakest season of television I've ever watched. It filmed in the lower Hudson Valley starting in January 2014, one of the most brutally cold winters upstate New York has seen in my lifetime. The frigid misery of that winter permeates that run of episodes. Most shows that bleak I would have dropped after an episode or two. But the combination of being a summer release, with very little else on, and the intriguing way it was written, shot, and edited kept me on the hook the whole way through. And then the first season finale was superb, a release of the tension that had been building all season.

      The second season is one of the most consistently great seasons of television ever made. The movie from upstate New York to Texas gave the show an entirely different energy, and the dive into the the facets of that universe that can't be explained was riveting. Mimi Leder took over from Peter Berg as the producing director, and the level of craft is just unmatched. The returning actors are all great. The new additions are all great. The journey from the season premiere to the season finale tells a complete emotional arc despite answering very few of our questions.

      The third season was a bit of a step down for me, but I was still in awe of the show's audacity and inventiveness week after week. And to this day, I still find myself pondering from time to time the series finale and its meaning.

    6. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017-Present)

      I include this with the caveat that I haven't yet had a chance to watch the recently released third season. But based on the first two seasons, this series is just such a delight. A wonderful cast from top to bottom, who know how to deliver the rapidfire dialog from Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband. The technical accomplishments are also top-notch: the production design to recreate period New York City, the Catskills, and Paris is incredible, and the lighting and camera work are on par with a feature film. There is a rhythm and choreography to ASP's shows, and never has she had the resources to execute it like she does here.

    7. Watchmen (2019)

      Just a perfect self-contained season of television, using Alan Moore's fictional alternate history to speak to issues of race and colonialism and intergenerational trauma.

    8. Cloak & Dagger (2018-2019)

      My very favorite of the shows produced by the rather short-lived Marvel Television. It didn't have the budget of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." or the Netflix shows, but every cent it did have was on the screen. The New Orleans setting was an interesting new corner of (what was then assumed to be) the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the murky intersection of the science fiction related to Roxxon's experiments in the Gulf of Mexico and the fantasy of the city's supernatural heritage and traditions fascinated me. Both of the leads are well cast, and the supporting cast also frequently gets the chance to shine. It took on real world issues -- drug addiction, corporate malfeasance, racism, police corruption, human trafficking, death of family members -- in ways that felt organic to the story rather than preachy. And the show was great at blurring the lines between the literal and metaphorical in ways that were both artistically daring and emotionally engaging.

    9. The 100 (2014-Present)

      The CW's most ambitious series. On a minuscule budget, under the restrictions of a broadcast network, it has told a dystopian saga that constantly places its protagonists in moral dilemmas and then explores the choices they make and how those choices affect them. It is unsentimental about killing off characters, and the world(s) it portrays are brutal. And yet, it's not a show that ever feels gratuitous. From where it started, with a fairly standard issue CW pilot, to where it is now is a remarkable journey. I look forward to the final season sometime this year.

    10. Lost in Space (2018-Present)

      This isn't a show that breaks any new ground. The visual effects are top notch, but the storytelling is very old school. It's a show the entire family can watch, which is increasingly rare. But the Robinson family is so well cast, and the relationships between each of them are so well-rendered. I'm deeply invested in these characters. The show also honors the franchise's Swiss Family Robinson roots with lots of man-versus-environment plots that rely on real world science rather than futuristic technobabble. My only complaint with the first two seasons is that Dr. Smith is flagrantly evil that it beggars belief that she didn't get flushed out of an airlock.

    11. The Good Place (2017-Present)

      The sitcom that deconstructs what it is to be a sitcom, while grappling with the great philosophical questions. The characters are hilarious, but also demonstrate real growth from season to season. The show's ability to reinvent itself constantly is impressive. Kristen Bell and Ted Danson are doing the best work of their respective careers.

    12. This Is Us (2016-Present)

      One of my all-time favorite "tear jerker" shows. Despite some storytelling stumbles in the second season, the show's hit-to-miss ratio is extremely high. One of the best cast shows on television, and one of the best shows at juggling a massive ensemble. The use of nonlinear storytelling is ambitious but also really emotionally impactful. This is a story spanning decades, and the way our pasts shape our futures. There are no villains here, just imperfect people trying to do their best.

    13. The Finder (2012)

      One of the early cancellations that I mourned the most. This quirky procedural was a spinoff of FOX's long-running "Bones", and lasted only one season. The chemistry between the four leads was like lightning in a bottle. It dealt with some dark themes in a very bright, energetic way.

    14. Sharp Objects (2018)

      This limited series adaptation of Gillian Flynn's novel is one of the things I remember most about Summer 2018. Of all the shows on my list, this one was right up there with the "Twin Peaks" revival at immersing the audience its world. The town of Wind Gap, Missouri feels hot, sticky, and oppressive. Jean-Marc Vallée's direction does something that novels excel at but film and television tend to stuggle with: putting you inside the protagonist's head. These eight episodes are like diving into a nightmare, and the ending is an absolute doozy.

    15. Orphan Black (2013-2017)

      The show that put Tatiana Maslany on the map, playing several of the main characters. Lots of weird science, lots of buried history, lots of familial complications, lots of experimentation with tone. Sarah Manning's journey from reckless irresponsibility to sacrifice and stability was a powerful thing to watch.

    16. Rick and Morty (2013-Present)

      As an adult, I've never really gotten into animated shows. This one is the exception. If you take Back to the Future and "Doctor Who" and put them into a blender with copious amounts of psychedelics, you'll have an idea of what you're in for with this show. Bitingly cynical and relentlessly inventive, this show packs more into a twenty-minute episode that many shows do in an entire season. And the animation is stunning: the framing, the vibrant use of color, and the detail packed into each frame.

    17. Legion (2017-2019)

      The most avant-garde superhero TV series ever made. Centered around a mentally ill young man who might also just be the most powerful man alive, this show is a feast for the eyes and the ears. Lots of quirky character actors in the supporting cast that elevate every scene they're in. No real sense of objective reality, but lots of unconventional choices behind the camera. Great use of music, too. This would have placed higher if the second season hadn't spent so much time spinning its wheels.

    18. Game of Thrones (2011-2019)

      Yes, the final couple seasons after the show moved past the books were disappointing. Yes, the events of the final couple episodes weren't entirely satisfying. But it remains the greatest, most epic technical accomplishment in television history. We haven't seen a show on this scale before, and we're unlikely to again anytime soon.

    19. Selfie (2014)

      Another cancellation after one season that I really mourned. This contemporary retelling of Pygmalion follows Eliza Dooley, a social media-obsessed pharmaceutical sales representative who awakens to the shallow nature of her existence after a humiliating incident on a plane goes viral. She recruits Henry Higgs, the rigid and traditional head of marketing at her company, to teach her how to live in the real world. The show was ahead of the curve at recognizing the perils of social media. The satire was absolutely biting, but as the season went on the characters were allowed to develop dimensionality and generate real pathos. Karen Gillan and John Cho had tremendous chemistry as the leads.

    20. Switched at Birth (2011-2017)

      This would be higher if the last few seasons hadn't devolved into heightened melodrama. But the first few seasons took a sensationalized, Lifetime-esque premise -- two teenage girls discover that they were switched at birth -- and played it out with commendable restraint and remarkable emotional honesty. The premise allowed for fascinating explorations of class, race, community, disability, and family dynamics. The major presence of Deaf characters played by Deaf and hard of hearing actors was unprecedented, as was the extensive use of subtitled American Sign Language. Seeing these two very different families become entangled with each other, and grow and learn from each other, was a very worthwhile journey to take.
    Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):
    • Better Things (2016-Present)

      This semi-autobiographical series from Pamela Adlon has very little in the way of plot, but an abundance of character and mood.

    • Carnival Row (2019-Present)

      This steam-punk faerie series used fantasy tropes and mythological creatures to tell a captivating story about refugees and identity. I was entranced from beginning to end. The behind the scenes turmoil has me a bit concerned about future seasons, however.

    • Daredevil (2015-2018)

      The first of the five Marvel Television/Netflix series shot and set in New York City. Not as ambitious nor as daring as "Jessica Jones" or "Luke Cage", but more consistent. Vincent D'Onofrio is to Kingpin what Christopher Reeve was to Superman.

    • Euphoria (2019-Present)

      An unsparing look at a group of teenagers in high school in 2019, told with empathy and emotional honesty. Zendaya is phenomenal as the Rue, the show's narrator and main protagonist. Newcomer Hunter Schafer is also terrific as Rue's best friend Jules. The visual style of the show achieves a captivating magical realism that both supports and runs counter to the stark subject matter.

    • Legends of Tomorrow (2016-Present)

      This one probably would have cracked my Top Twenty if the first season hadn't been so lackluster and the back half of the most recent season hadn't gotten so bogged down in relationship drama. But at its best, "Legends of Tomorrow" is the zaniest, wackiest, most go for broke series on television. Week in and week out, I'm surprised and delighted.

    • Jessica Jones (2015-2019)

      At its best, "Jessica Jones" was the best of the Marvel Television series. The title character was a deeply flawed yet deeply sympathetic protagonist, and the show took seriously the fallout from trauma and abuse. The reason it didn't make my Top Twenty is because none of the seasons had enough story to justify 13 episodes. And to pad out the narrative, the writers would just pile on extraneous misery to delay the final confrontation with the season's big bad. With eight or nine episode seasons, this show would have been phenomenal.

    • The Mandalorian (2019-Present)

      Proof positive that a weekly live action TV series set in the Star Wars universe can work. It took me a bit to warm up to it, but it definitely finished strong.

    • The Man in the High Castle (2015-2019)

      This Philip K. Dick adaptation was a triumph of world building, a period piece set in 1962 in an alternate timeline where the Axis powers won World War II and split up the United States between the Japanese Pacific States along the West Coast and the Greater Nazi Reich East of the Rockies. John Smith, as played by Rufus Sewell, is one of the best and most three-dimensional villains I've yet encountered.

    • The Originals (2013-2018)

      This more adult spinoff of "The Vampire Diaries" had a shaky first season but became a terrific gothic soap opera, telling the story of the infamous Mikaelson family from the 10th Century through the 21st Century.

    • Outlander (2014-Present)

      This sprawling, epic adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's best-selling novels benefits from its deliberate pacing and attention to period details. The last couple seasons haven't been as good as the first couple, but the show still manages to whisk me away to another time and place.

    • Person of Interest (2011-2016)

      From acclaimed screenwriter Jonathan Nolan, this series was at once both a very straightforward CBS procedural and a fascinating exploration of the survelliance state, the perils posed by technology, determinism versus free will, the impact of trauma, the morality of vigilantism, and the nature of sentience. The mythology was complex but interesting and consistent. The show was limited by the demands of cranking out 22-23 episodes a year for its first four seasons. Quite a few of the filler episodes didn't live up to the standard set by the rest of the series.

    • The Punisher (2017-2019)

      A spinoff of "Daredevil", this series used Frank Castle to explore PTSD, the War on Terror, government excesses, and the toll violence takes on one's soul. Jon Bernthal was on point in the tltle role, and both seasons gave him worthwhile supporting characters to interact with. As with "Jessica Jones", both seasons had too many episodes. As a result, characters had to act stupidly in order to avoid finding things out until later in the season. That got old.

    • Russian Doll (2019-Present)
      A puzzle box that had interesting things to say about quantum physics and being human. The season finale was so perfect that I wish they'd leave it as a one-and-done.
     
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  11. Message #11 of 22 Jan 4, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2020
    Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    I honestly don’t think I watched enough new TV in this decade to be able to weigh in on the best 20 things that have been made - I’m struggling to remember if I’ve even watched 20 new shows in the decade.

    What I’ll remember most are two things: the first is Twin Peaks. An absolute masterpiece from start to finish that stands as the greatest work of art made in my lifetime. Though many saw the ending as a cliffhanger just begging for a new season pickup, I genuinely don’t think its creators envisioned it as such.

    The second thing I’ll remember about the decade isn’t so much about any show in particular, but more, this is the period when all TV turned into HBO, but only worse, as both premium cable and streaming took on some of the worst attributes of the HBO delivery system and then added their own. For years, HBO had straddled the line between producing fewer episodes at a higher quality than broadcast, with ever growing gaps between seasons. But while this was once an HBO quirk, it’s infected the entire industry.

    And to be clear, it’s not that I don’t think there isn’t a place for shorter form programs. It’s not that there isn’t a place for hour long shows that follow something other than a traditional four act structure. But something seems to have flipped where that’s not the default, and it’s taken away some of what I enjoyed television for in the first place.

    For me, the great advantage of television over film is the ability to spend time with characters you like again and again, for more of the year than not. Ever since I was a kid, TV helped pass the time and brighten the way in a fashion that movies couldn’t. Don’t wanna go to work on Monday? At least there’s a new “24” on when I get home. How is it still only Thursday? No problem, “Fringe” is on tonight. Made it to Friday? Here’s a new “Clone Wars” as a reward. Dreading the end of the weekend? Etc, etc, etc.

    All of that’s to say, trying to find a TV show to watch these days feels a bit like I’m Charlie Brown with Lucy and the football.

    I am very sorry, other me! I know it’s not a great answer, but I’ve really been in a rut trying to figure out where TV shows fit into my life given that what’s being made and released is so far removed from what brought me to the table in the first place.
     
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  12. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    @Josh Dial - since you ranked The Leftovers so high, I have a question I’d like to ask in as spoiler free a fashion as possible. My wife thinks I’d hate that show but won’t elaborate on why. I’ve liked pretty much all the stuff Lindelof has done from Lost onwards, so I think there’s a pretty good shot that I could enjoy this based on his involvement.

    My question is this: the premise of The Leftovers could be interpreted as being sci-fi or supernatural, that a large portion of the population disappears overnight. My question is, does the show maintain a sci-fi or supernatural tone throughout, or does it merely use sci-fi as a starting point, never to return to it?

    One of the reasons I enjoyed Lost so much is because it did incorporate sci-fi into its storytelling, while keeping the focus mostly on the character journeys.

    One of the reasons I didn’t enjoy The Walking Dead is because it took a sci-fi premise (that something happened to turn people into zombies) and then never addressed it beyond the first season, focusing on character journeys while completely losing interest in the mechanics of how such a thing could even happen.

    If The Leftovers does supernatural for its first five minutes and then never again, it’s probably not for me. If there’s a supernatural element that’s more background than foreground but remains part of the storytelling and world building (which is what I’d expect from Lindelof), then it might be something for me.
     
  13. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Director

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    I'm not Josh, but I'll take a crack at this. The rapture of roughly two percent of the world's population that is the premise of the show is the only explicitly supernatural thing in the first season, though there are a number of other occurrences that are pretty hard to explain if the supernatural is not involved.

    The second and third seasons have other explicitly supernatural elements in them.
     
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  14. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    Gracias!

    We are all Josh.

    :D
     
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  15. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    I think I may like and try The Leftovers in that case.

    I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I found the first season of Lost to be the weakest because it was clear to me that it was a sci-fi show, and yet it seemed that they were doing everything they could to put off embracing that. I had no interest in that show if it was solely about castaways trying to survive a 100% realistic stranding scenario. I did have a ton of interest if there was going to be more to the story, and I’m glad there was.
     
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  16. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    If it wasn't for Twin Peaks, I'd say that The Leftovers was the best show of the decade too. I've seen it popping up on critics' best-of-the-decade lists so I hope that helps get some more eyes on it. Everyone is fantastic in the show but Justin Theroux and especially Carrie Coon are on another level.

    To a lesser degree, I think The Leftovers does the same thing. I will say that it is a much more bleak show than Lost ever was but the low lows make the wins for the characters that much more enjoyable. After seeing the show, you'll never think of Slayer or Simon And Garfunkel in the same way again.
     
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  17. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    Garfunkel’s 2003 arrest did that for me. It wasn’t the marijuana charge; it was that he pulled the “but officer, don’t you know I’m a celebrity?” card and the officer in fact did not know he was. Major cool points forever lost.
     
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  18. Kevin Hewell

    Kevin Hewell Cinematographer

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    In no particular order:'

    Stranger Things
    Game of Thrones
    Downton Abbey
    American Horror Story
    Riverdale
    Supergirl
     
  19. Message #19 of 22 Jan 5, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2020
    John Lee_275604

    John Lee_275604 Stunt Coordinator

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    If I HAD TO encapsulate the core of The Leftovers in a sentence, without spoiling anything, it would be 'what would The Rapture look like if it STILL didn't explain anything?'

    A Rapture-like event happens, then the show is about the lives of people making sense of what happened to those left behind. Not huge fireworks. Not epic battles of good versus evil. Just broken and mourning people trying to make sense of millions of people gone from their lives. Some look to religion. Some look to the supernatural. Some go nihilistic. But it's all 'grounded' in reality, given the parameters.

    But while the 'sci-fi' of a Rapture isn't the center of the narrative, it isn't just an excuse to tell the same old relationship stories either like TWD. The center of the narrative is, . . OK we kind of have a handle on how we address faith and doubt in the current world, but how do we address faith and doubt when the signs become even more overt and unavoidable, yet still remain ambiguous or incomplete.
     
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  20. tempest21

    tempest21 Stunt Coordinator

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    My top shows since 2010? Just a few I can name right now.

    1. Killjoys
    2. The Mandalorian
    3. Person of Interest
    4. Blue Bloods
    5. Chicago P.D.
    6. Chicago Fire
    7. House
    8. Dark Matter
    9. Star Wars Rebels
    10. Jack Ryan
    11. Lost in Space
    12. Condor
    13. The Expanse
     

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