Best of the Decade

Best TV of the 2010s: The Shows, Moments, and Trends That Defined the Decade

Don't miss out on any part of TV Guide's weeklong celebration of the last decade

The decade of 2010 to 2019 was a remarkable one for television, from who was making it, how we watched it, and the types of stories being told on it. Over the course of the last 10 years, Netflix changed from a DVD rental service to an industry-reshaping producer of content, HBO continued to make conversation-dominating television (including one of the biggest shows of all time), and The CW burst onto the scene with not one, but two prestige comedies, as well as an armada of superhero shows. The times, they say, are a-changing, and they will continue to change throughout the next decade, as new platforms and storytellers emerge. But as we prepare to say goodbye to the 2010s, TV Guide is looking back at the decade that was and celebrating the best it had to offer.

The 25 Best Shows of the Decade

Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell; The Americans

Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, The Americans


TV evolved more this decade than it had any time since it changed from black and white to color. From who we watched -- people from communities that had never gotten the chance to tell their stories on TV before -- to how we watched it -- on our phones via streaming platforms -- every part of the TV experience changed. There was just more TV this decade than any time before, as the most recent Golden Age of Television evolved into Peak TV, and networks and streaming services competed in a content arms race to see who could make the most good shows the fastest.

The sheer number of great shows released this decade made compiling a "best of" list nearly impossible, but every show on this list is unimpeachable, and we're proud to share it with you. It's a diverse list that hopefully touches on everything that made this decade of TV great. Keep reading about the 25 best shows of the decade...

FX and FXX Were the Decade's Best Networks

Lakeith Stanfield, Donald Glover and Brian Tyree Henry, Atlanta

Lakeith Stanfield, Donald Glover and Brian Tyree Henry, Atlanta

Guy D'Alema/FX

Over the last decade of television, Netflix went from introducing the ability to stream its overwhelming library of licensed properties to churning out more original content than anyone knows what to do with; HBO's Game of Thrones dominated pop culture discourse; and AMC's The Walking Dead became so big the franchise now requires a chief content officer. And yet, despite these momentous milestones, no networks had greater success in the 2010s than FX and its sister network FXX. They have revealed a proficiency in churning out consistently engaging programs, but their work over the last 10 years also shows how FX's priorities have been shifting over time and how those shifts have placed it at the center of TV's biggest trends. Keep reading about the success of FX and FXX...

Television in the 2010s Owed a Lot to These Late-2000s Shows

Mad Men

Mad Men

If you look at our list of the best shows of the last decade, you'll notice it includes only shows that premiered on or after January 1, 2010. So while it's jam-packed with 25 incredible programs that will be remembered for the ways in which they broke our hearts and busted our guts -- sometimes at the same time -- the list doesn't necessarily reflect the true scope of the last decade. Specifically, it leaves out series that premiered during the final years of the 2000s that carried over into the next decade, changing the landscape of television forever.

There's an argument to be had about our decision to limit our list to certain parameters -- thus excluding a high number of influential programs that aired, but didn't premiere, in the past 10 years -- but we'd be remiss not to pay tribute to these shows that made so much of what we're seeing on TV now possible. Keep reading about the great shows of the late 2000s...

Laura Dern's Tragically Short-Lived Enlightened Only Gets More Relevant With Time




"I'm just a woman who's over it" -- how much of the last year, the last two years, the last forever does that short phrase describe? It's hard not to feel entirely over a lot of things these days, given the "garbage fire" vibe of current events. And yet, if we give up -- as individuals or as a society -- what catastrophes will follow? It's that push-pull between rage and acceptance, between optimism and resignation, that animates Enlightened, which is without a doubt one of the finest programs of the past decade.

The show ran for only two seasons -- a mere 18 episodes, which weren't nearly enough. In that short span, co-creators and stars Mike White and Laura Dern and the rest of the show's exceptional cast brought to life a set of deeply specific, tragic, and hilarious characters. Foremost among them is Amy Jellicoe, the kind of polarizing role that only the great Dern could pull off. Keep reading about the relevance of Enlightened...

Penny Dreadful Was the 2010s Show Most Robbed of Recognition

​Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Penny Dreadful

Josh Hartnett, Eva Green, Penny Dreadful

Patrick Redmond, Patrick Redmond/SHOWTIME

Every week on Penny Dreadful Eva Green climbed out of the TV screen like the girl from The Ring, crawled through the broken glass on her knees, recited a Tennyson poem, burned a corset, and sat down for tea. Green's performance on the Showtime drama made the word "fearless" feel quaint. She was alternately ferocious and restrained, and she played both with unflinching intensity. Looking back, it's almost impossible to believe that she did all of this with so little recognition -- she should have slept on a bed of trophies -- but the show went mostly unnoticed by major awards and apparently by my coworkers, which cut the legs out from under my very enthusiastic campaign to rank it among the top shows of the decade. My coworkers, like the Emmys, will answer for their crimes. But even if Penny Dreadful lurked too far under the radar to make our final list, the show still left a mark, the kind that burns just under your skin when you least expect it. Keep reading about Penny Dreadful...

Justice for Banshee, the Pulpy Drama That Deserved More Love This Decade

​Antony Starr, Banshee

Antony Starr, Banshee

Gregory Shummon/Cinemax

A title can sometimes make or break a show, and in Banshee's case, I think the title -- a reference to the small Pennsylvania town where it took place and definitely not the mythical figure from Irish folklore -- was likely a barrier that prevented all but the most curious television viewers from investigating what lies within sight unseen. But like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and so many others before it, Banshee and its somewhat misleading title were revealed to be hiding a deep treasure trove.

Banshee featured instantly memorable characters and deeply emotional personal relationships, but it came to be characterized by its thrilling action sequences and exploration of complicated small-town power dynamics made all the more difficult by organized crime and corruption. It was a top-notch drama with such great narrative ambition that it pains me to know how many people have yet to witness the story of Lucas Hood (Antony Starr) -- or at least the man who took his name -- because no show has ever given me more pleasure (and then broken me more completely) than Banshee. Keep reading about Banshee...

Nathan for You's Artful Trolling Was TV's Best Stunt of the Decade

​Nathan Fielder, Nathan for You

Nathan Fielder, Nathan for You

Comedy Central

"What you're going to see tonight is 100 percent real," Nathan Fielder says, moments before he attempts to pick the lock on handcuffs to press a button that will stop a robot arm from pulling his pants down in front of an audience of children and one police officer who will charge him as a sex offender if he fails to stop the robot in time.

This is Nathan for You, and the stunt above occurs in the Season 1 episode "The Claw of Shame," the installment that catapulted Fielder's series into one of the best shows of the decade. Is the stunt real? Is it fake? For Nathan for You and Fielder, reality is like a philosopher's cat. There is no answer and there is every answer; it is real and staged at the same time. No other show in the last 10 years (and beyond) has made you doubt yourself so often, but Nathan for You transforms that energy into a strange affirmation of the human condition. Keep reading about Nathan for You...

Why We Probably Won't See Shows Like Mad Men and Breaking Bad in the Next Decade

​Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag

Steve Schofield/Amazon

In the fall of 2009, Modern Familydebuted on ABC and its acclaimed 24-episode first season would later win a Primetime Emmy Award for best comedy series. Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, meanwhile, were in the nascent stages of streaming video content directly to users. George R.R. Martin's fifth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Dance with Dragons, was two years away from being released.

Here at the beginning of the end in 2019, Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag, an Amazon Prime Video series, recently won best comedy series at the Emmys; its season was made up of only six episodes and lasted all of 151 minutes -- 31 minutes fewer than Avengers: Endgame. In the coming weeks and months, Disney, Apple, NBCUniversal, and WarnerMedia will launch streaming platforms loaded with prestige content and legacy favorites, joining Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube, Vudu and a host of other boutique services in the battle for attention and subscribers. George R.R. Martin still hasn't written a follow-up to A Dance with Dragons, but the series based on his books, Game of Thrones, became the biggest show on television and ended its successful, controversial run this past May.

Clearly, things have changed -- and if history is a guide, they'll change even more by the time the fall of 2029 arrives. But what does this mean for television? Better yet: What even is television? Keep reading about what the next 10 years of TV will look like...

The 7 Most Influential Shows of the Decade

Danai Gurira, The Walking Dead

Danai Gurira, The Walking Dead

Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

The last 10 years have been pretty weird for almost everyone, but nothing had a better decade than television. From the advent of streaming to finally competing with (and, in some cases, overtaking) the film industry, TV experienced a rate of growth and maturity usually reserved for scrawny junior high school kids over summer break. And while television undoubtedly left an impact on all of us, its greatest impact was on itself. New trends, new technologies, and new standards all made the decade starting in 2010 massive for TV, and those marks have already started shaping what and how we'll watch over the next decade. So we're taking a look at the most influential shows of the past decade that left the biggest impact in the industry. This isn't a list of the best shows of the decade; instead, you'll find the shows whose influence was felt over the last 10 years and will be felt for the next 10 years. Keep reading about the most influential shows of the decade...

Test How Well You Remember the Biggest TV Moments of the Decade

​The Vampire Diaries, Scandal, The Office

The Vampire Diaries, Scandal, The Office

Bob Mahoney/The CW, Giovanni Rufino/ABC, Justin Lubin/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

We don't know if you've heard this, but there's a lot of TV on these days -- and a lot of it is actually really good! As this decade comes to a close, TV Guide is celebrating everything that made the past 10 years of TV so memorable. But now we want to know: How much do you actually remember? Quiz your knowledge now!

Girls' Lasting Legacy Is Its Perfect Cast

Mark Schafer/HBO

Think pieces existed long before Girls premiered in the spring of 2012, but in a decade defined by critical writing online, it's easy to look back on Lena Dunham's breakout HBO comedy as an ignition point. Throughout the six seasons and 62 episodes, Dunham's often-polarizing series tackled themes of mental health, consent, race, sexism, and entitlement and -- whether it stuck the landing on those thorny topics or not -- had people engaged well beyond its objectively small linear viewing audience.

But now, two years after its series finale -- which, itself generated a good deal of controversy -- what is the legacy of Girls? We'd argue it's the cast itself, which included enough future stars to compete with Dazed and Confused on the list of projects that launched the careers of so many. Credit for this Girls roster, led by Dunham herself, goes to Jennifer Euston, the legendary casting director behind such hit series as GLOW and Orange is the New Black, for putting the group together. Keep reading about Euston and the legacy of Girls...

The Best TV Shows of the Decade Were Animated

Best Animated Shows of the Decade
Netflix; Nickelodeon; Cartoon Network; Amazon

Cartoons aren't just for kids anymore. If you've been sleeping on BoJack Horseman or Bob's Burgers or Undone because they're animated, then you've been missing out on some of the best TV shows of the decade. But don't worry -- TV Guide has got you covered with a year-by-year guide to the very best animated shows that premiered in the 2010s. Not sure where to start? We've included live-action references to help you figure out which of these stellar series will be your next favorite. Keep reading about the best animated shows of the decade...

Ghost Adventures Is the Best Paranormal Show of the Decade, and It's Just Getting Started

​Aaron Goodwin, Jay Wasley, Zak Bagans, Billy Tolley, Ghost Adventures

Aaron Goodwin, Jay Wasley, Zak Bagans, Billy Tolley, Ghost Adventures


It's a strange comfort finding solace in something that terrifies most of the world. It's an exclusive feeling, like you're part of a special club that only a select few know the password to. The paranormal is not a naturally palatable subject for many people, and yet Travel Channel's popular Ghost Adventures has taken this once-taboo genre and made it part of this decade's zeitgeist. Zak Bagans, Aaron Goodwin, Billy Tolley, and Jay Wasley are the reason that paranormal investigations are now casual dinner-table conversation, and this show is only at the beginning of its saga. Keep reading about Ghost Adventures...

The Standout TV Moments of the Decade

​Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder; Jon Hamm, Mad Men; Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation; and Justin Theroux, The Leftovers

Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder; Jon Hamm, Mad Men; Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation; and Justin Theroux, The Leftovers


We can debate all day long about when the era of Peak TV officially began, but one thing we can't argue about is the fact that we spent almost the entire decade soaking in a gobsmacking amount of good series across broadcast, cable, and streaming. From the high-brow dramas that gave us exceptional layers of character development and the comedies that made us think while we laughed out loud, to the reality clashes that left us completely stunned with the knowledge that truth really is stranger than fiction, the last decade has been filled with memorable moments. Even those shows that weren't among the best and brightest all the way through still sometimes had moments that took our breath away. So, to celebrate some of the decade's most specifically outstanding moments, we looked back at everything we saw and plucked out those TV moments that truly stood out over the last 10 years, for better and for worse, with superlative-style honors for each of them. Keep reading about the best and worst moments from the last decade...

Homicide Hunter's Lt. Joe Kenda Ended the Decade on Top

Lt. Joe Kenda, Homicide Hunter

Lt. Joe Kenda, Homicide Hunter

Kim Cook, ID

People who love true crime aren't a rare breed, but we are unsettlingly enthusiastic. And to some of us, Lt. Joe Kenda is a name that carries the same gravitas as, say, the royal family of a small country. In the true crime community, he's regarded as one of the most fascinating and truly inimitable forces of the last decade. But now Kenda, the star of Investigation Discovery's Homicide Hunter, is closing his final cases for the series. The show is going out this year after its ninth season, and while fans could do with another decade -- or two! -- Kenda has been adamant about going out on top: ending the game with the championship trophy rather than playing past his prime, if you will. And he'll leave behind quite the legacy. Keep reading about Kenda and Homicide Hunter...

16 One-Season Wonders That Deserved Better

​The Grinder, Pitch, Everything Sucks!

The Grinder, Pitch, Everything Sucks!

Fox, Netflix

In the past 10 years, we've gone from Peak TV to the beginning of the Streaming Wars, which is fancy speak for there's more television than ever before. This has mostly been a positive development, but for some truly amazing shows, it's also been a disservice, because it means they weren't given the time or attention they deserved. Over the past decade, we've lost some great shows that could have been legends, if only we had more than one season to spend with them. So pour one out and keep reading about the great shows that were cut off too soon...

(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)