The Best TV Shows & Mini-Series' Of The Decade [2010s] - Page 6 of 7

10. “30 Rock” (2006—2013, NBC)
To think that its biggest competition in Season 1 was “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” As one of the most re-watchable and quotable TV shows of all time, “30 Rock” may be the biggest no-brainer on this list. It would be unthinkable to exclude the show that gave us The Rural Juror, Seinfeld Vision, MILF Island, the “how do you do fellow kids” meme, and so, so much more. A show known for its laugh-a-minute comedic structure, “30 Rock” featured several of the greatest performances, comedic or otherwise, ever put to the small screen. While people tend to think of Tina Fey as primarily the show’s writer-creator, her central performance as Liz Lemon is just as vital to the show’s lasting success and post-cancellation longevity. Fey regularly anchored the show in some level of humanity, making the chaos that surrounded her on an episode-to-episode basis feel all the more deranged and hilarious. (Lemon was also, quietly, the funniest character on the show). Then there were the showier performances, the Tracy Morgans and the Jack Donaghys and the Kenneth Parcells and the Jenna Maroneys, iconic characters, any one of which alone would make “30 Rock” worthy of inclusion on lists like these. No subsequent series has quite managed to recapture the magic of “30 Rock,” including Fey’s same-y follow-up show, “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” There was something almost supernatural about a particular group of writers and actors, in a particular moment in time, that gave us the brilliance that is “30 Rock.” In conclusion, here is one of the best jokes of all time, a joke that has been all-but forgotten because it is on a show so dense with all-timers that it hardly seemed noteworthy at the time. – Eli Fine

9.Fleabag” (2016—2019, Amazon Studios)
If “Fleabag” happened to be about a dude who fucked and fumbled his way through the greater London metropolitan area, many critics may rightfully have dismissed it as retrograde. But it’s about a woman, and thus rising star Phoebe Waller-Bridge and regular series director Harry Bradbeer were offered a more liberated platform to tell their story. The first season of “Fleabag” is filthy, flinty, and utterly unshackled from the tiresome constraints of women having to play nice or apologize for their screw-ups. The second season, somehow, was even better, an exploration of heartache and loss bolstered by what is perhaps the best performance given by a devastatingly handsome priest in the history of television. “Fleabag” is a great show about how hard it can be to love yourself, and how lack of self-love often translates to an inability to love or appreciate other people or things in your life. Waller-Bridge is an utterly fearless performer, but we can’t not mention her tremendous supporting players, including Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”) with a passive-aggressive comic performance for the ages as Fleabag’s gloriously insincere mom, and Brett Gelman, as Fleabag’s venomous brother-in-law, continuing to prove that there are few who can play odious, conceited douchebags like he can. But this is still Waller-Bridge’s show (it did, after all, quite literally start as a one-woman show), and she owns every moment of its twelve episodes. – NL

8, “The Knick” (2014—2015, Cinemax)
Who else but Steven Soderbergh – modern cinema’s most restless experimentalist – could take the exoskeleton of a story about the advent of the modern hospital in early 1900s New York City and come up with something like a science-fiction procedural? While “The Knick” – the director’s brilliant dissection of healing techniques, self-medication, and the byzantine layers of American bureaucratic infrastructure – has all the trappings of a musty period piece on its gorgeously lacquered surface, absolutely nothing about the show is traditional, from Soderbergh’s bizarre camerawork to Cliff Martinez’s earworm-laden score to the scripts’ daring juxtapositions of antiquated social mores with blistering contemporary attitudes. Simply put, “The Knick” is among Soderbergh’s finest work. Clive Owen gave one of the best performances of his career as Dr. John Thackery, the brilliant, incorrigible and drug-abusing chief surgeon at New York’s Knickerbocker hospital, with stellar supporting work by Eve Hewson as Nurse Lucy Elkins and Andre Holland (who would reunite with Soderbergh for the terrific Netflix drama “High-Flying Bird”) as the hospital’s only Black physician. “The Knick” is nothing less than a complete, from-the-feet-up revision of the prototypical American medical drama, and one of the most stylistically daunting shows of all time.- NL

7.Mad Men” (2007—2015, AMC)
Matthew Weiner’s seminal AMC series about an advertising agency battling the turning tides of the 1960s is like a classic American novel by Sherwood Anderson adapted by the lovechild of Douglas Sirk and Federico Fellini. One of the crown jewels of the Peak TV era, it put AMC on the map (“Breaking Bad,” “Rubicon,” and “The Walking Dead” wouldn’t exist without it) and introduced the world to the incomparable acting talents of Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, John Slattery and more. Weiner masterfully constructed the series as a time machine of coded subtext – just like the Carousel, the family photo projector Don Draper presents to Kodak in the first season’s finale. “Mad Men” was hailed as a modern classic almost the instant it aired, though its praise was never hyperbolic; its unrivaled storytelling quality earned AMC great acclaim, a seat at the Peak TV table, and a mountain of Emmy awards. – AB

6. “Louie” (2010—2017, FX)
Few comedians had as big of an impact on the comedy and television world as Louis C.K. in the 2010s, reshaping the modern sitcom with his FX series “Louie,” and paving the way for countless other comedic voices this decade. He’s also an admitted sexual predator. Re-evaluating C.K.’s work in light of his grotesque, exploitative behavior is difficult, but it would feel disingenuous to ignore the impact of his series this decade. For better or worse, C.K. created a platform where shows like “Master of None,”“Crashing,” and frequent collaborator Pamela Adlon’s “Better Things”could thrive. In spite of his transgressions, “Louie” itself was a profoundly funny, often visionary series, in which this self-loathing, divorced, extremely horny, middle-aged dude took universal feelings of everyday disappointment, and filtered them through a dryly funny, often captivatingly surreal worldview. What’s most disappointing is that if C.K. were the deeply flawed but fundamentally introspective man he presented as throughout his career, he might have been able to reckon with his behavior in an honest way. But when he returned to comedy last year with a stand-up routine akin to a Breitbart article, C.K. sadly came out looking like the worst parts of the narcissistic persona he sold us. — MR

5. Breaking Bad” (2008—2013, AMC)
Can anyone else no longer see a car wash without thinking: money laundering for a meth empire? It almost feels like it’s been more than a decade since audiences were first introduced to high school chemistry Walter White (Bryan Cranston) – wearing his best tighty-whities, a gas mask, and nothing else – frantically flooring it through the deserts of New Mexico in a shot-up RV. Vince Gilligan’s neo-western crime series remains one of the most influential shows released during the rise of Netflix (fans already having been treated to an epilogue film, and the spin-off series, “Better Call Saul”). When we look back on the time before the streaming wars brought the known industry crumbling down, shows like “Breaking Bad” – voice and vision forward, feeling like nothing else on the air – will stand immortal. White’s “I am the danger,” line perfectly personifies what made the series so iconic: “Breaking Bad” took bold, unexpected risks that you just can’t grow in a TV formula lab. – AB

4.The Leftovers” (2014—2017, HBO)
What would happen to the world if the rapture really occurred? Following a global event known as the “Sudden Departure,” in which 2% of the world’s population (roughly 150 million people) suddenly vanish into thin air, leaving their world and their loved ones behind, “The Leftovers” started as a somewhat faithful adaptation to Tom Perrota’s acclaimed novel of the same name. But when Damon Lindelof got involved, an already brilliant premise repeatedly reinvented itself into one of the most emotionally resonant and structurally unique shows ever produced. The first season has some detractors but is still well worth watching (if nothing else, as a fascinating book to screen translation and for the fantastic Carrie Coon episode that feels like a ‘Sopranos’ fever dream), though Lindelof’s grand vision didn’t fully take shape until Season 2, when the series transformed from a show about a white family’s existential grief to a reflection on black empowerment, domestic unity, and having faith in the people you love. And it plays now as a perfect precursor to Lindelof’s “Watchmen,” both as a Regina King vehicle (post-Season 1, that is) and an exercise in compressed episodic storytelling. – AB

3. “The Americans” (2013—2018, FX)
Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg’s Reagan-era Soviet spy drama “The Americans” took its time finding itself. Not that the series ever lacked an identity; from the beginning, it was impossible not to be hooked by the show’s central premise (a pair of Soviet spies living in America under the guise of a typical, happy American family). But the show’s ultimate power came in the way Fields and Weisberg continuously subverted our expectations of what a spy drama could be. Far more interested in the moral and political complexities of one of the most tumultuous and fascinating periods in modern history than the usual sexy spy theatrics associated with the genre, the series was able to humanize a side that we were long taught was the enemy. It didn’t hurt to have one of the finest, yet most underappreciated ensembles on television. While leads Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys eventually saw overdue admiration for their layered, consistently brilliant work, the supporting work of Noah Emmerich, Costa Ronin, Alison Wright, and Holly Taylor (in the best use of a child actor’s growth since Kiernan Shipka on “Mad Men”) was just as brilliant and essential to the series’ success. A densely written, suspenseful exploration of political and familial loyalties, seen from a historically dehumanized perspective, “The Americans” was not only one of the best of the decade, but one of the best we’ve ever had. — MR

2. “Atlanta” (2015—Current, FX)
When “Louie” altered the blueprint for how a 30-minute comedy was supposed to function, a slew of imitators inevitably followed suit. But if “Louie” was the last big paradigm shift for small-screen comedy, then “Atlanta” is the second coming. Donald Glover’s show jettisons CK’s morose navel-gazing and polarizing perversity in favor of hangdog melancholy and languid arthouse-movie beauty. Its total achievements are immeasurable, but mention must be made of “Teddy Perkins,” in which Glover himself dons whiteface to play a Michael Jackson-esque eccentric recluse, and “Go For Broke,” in which the Migos are re-envisioned as forest-dwelling, borderline-mythological trap stars. Glover is phenomenal, but special mention must be made of Brian Tyree Henry, who brings palpable sorrow to the part of Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles, and the great Lakeith Stanfield, excellent as introverted, insightful oddball Darius Epps. Little is known about the upcoming third season (aside from the fact that Glover cryptically compared it to Kanye West’s “Graduation,” and that it’s apparently shooting back-to-back with Season 4), but we can’t wait to see how this show’s creators re-write the rules of the 30-minute comedy yet again. – NL

1. “Twin Peaks: The Return” (2017, Showtime)
In the summer of 2017, David Lynch and Mark Frost returned to the world of “Twin Peaks” recaptured the zeitgeist and reinvigorated the modern network series as we know it. With auteurs like Tarantino and Scorsese reflecting on their legacies, “Twin Peaks: The Return” often felt like Lynch’s reckoning with his own past. Lynch has always drawn inspiration from the seedy underbelly of small-time Americana, but watching the legendary director wrestle with mortality and mythology over the course of this sublime, terrifying eighteen-episode run amounted to a kind of miracle. Completely eschewing any semblance of fan service, “Twin Peaks:The Return” brazenly subverted the expectations of viewers expecting “Twin Peaks: The Reunion.” The show returned to familiar faces in familiar places, as if time had been standing still for all of them. The characters of “The Return” work in the same greasy-spoon diners and dull police stations, but all proved incapable of outrunning the shared trauma of their pasts. Bearing witness to this majestically unwound vision was like being welcomed back into a world we missed and yearned for, only to have the walls slowly, inexorably close in on us. After Kyle McLachlan’s unflappable FBI agent Dale Cooper finally awakens and attempts to right the injustices from 25 years prior, we are left with one final, chilling warning about the perils of reliving the past. “Twin Peaks: The Return” was the most awe-inspiring and haunting series of the 2010s: a towering achievement that will go down in the annals of television history. — MR

Honorable Mentions on the final page.