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The Best Television of the 2010s

We’re about a month away from the end of this fabulous decade that was 2010–2019, and after announcing the Best Films of the Decade far too early (August, in fact), it’s time to tackle the TV that moved and amused me in the decade I came of age as an adult. There’s a mix of shows here, some that have a sentimental value and some that I have embraced later in my teens and into my 20s. Read on to find out what are, officially, my favourite TV shows of the 2010s…

Damon Lindelof took a pretty okay Tom Perrotta novel and ran with its enticing premise (what if 2% of living people vanished for good) for three flawless seasons, crafting a soulful and sensory meditation on grief and hope. Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon, Christopher Eccleston and Scott Glenn lead an extraordinary ensemble.

The warmest, kindest, most exceptionally-postmodern sitcom in history, Dan Harmon’s Community deconstructed the very nature of TV comedy over 6 inconsistent but overall brilliant seasons. Community is as much as a show about the complexity of adult friendships as it is about making late starts in life, but in over 100 episodes it’s never less than an intensely charming antidepressant. Still waiting on that movie though.

Showtime gave David Lynch a lot of money, so he decided to challenge the very idea of what a TV show is. Twin Peaks: The Returns hypnotised every cinephile for 18 Sunday nights over the summer of 2017. It was a perfect gift from a master sleight of hand filmmaker: within a vaguely defined mystery narrative, Lynch incorporated levels of experimentalism and architectural playfulness rarely seen on the small screen.

Aaron Sorkin’s hyper-idealistic media dramedy has become a punching bag for it’s extremely 2012 Obama-era energy, but it’s a fabulously funny and uplifting watch to this day, and — as the first Sorkin property I watched — inspired a strong interest in journalism and politics in my 14-year old self.

Donald Glover’s reflective urban poem is as clear and vibrant a portrait of a city as we’ve seen on the small screen, incorporating elements of his upbringing, introduction to the music industry and hopes for the future of his home. The “Teddy Perkins” episode is a remarkably frightening piece of art.

Steven Zaillian’s one-season crime drama offers dual narratives of “skin problems”: a young Muslim-American man (Riz Ahmed) is accused of a murder he doesn’t remember committing and is faced with a prejudiced judicial system and complex prison experience; while his lawyer (John Turturro) tackles his eczema. It’s sharp and witty and an incredibly insightful look at the US criminal justice system.

The definition of “the feels”, Parenthood is so much more than its fairly traditional premise: it uses the music of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell to guide a series of complex arcs for its diverse central Californian family that never feel like soap opera, nor like ‘middle class problems’. An incredibly moving series about both growing up and slowing down.

Succession arrived last summer with a bang, and it’s only gotten bigger and ballsier since. Logan Roy (Brian Cox) faces the choice of handing over his media corporation to one of his scheming offspring and a stunning symphony of antics ensues. Jeremy Strong, Nicholas Braun, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin are among the younger character actors delivering big time on Jesse Armstrong’s brilliant scripts. Succession is the business.

Vatican politics is possibly the most interesting kind, and Paolo Sorrentino’s 2016 miniseries (soon to deliver a sequel called The New Pope) finds baroque mystery and madness in the story of a young American cardinal (Jude Law) anointed to the Catholic church’s top job and faced with tackling the serious 21st century concerns surrounding the institution. A superb modern approach to a classic idea.

Notably the first show on this list to have emerged from a streaming service (Netflix, widely considered the defining TV platform of this decade), Bojack Horseman launched in the guise of a cheerful animated comedy about a talking horse and briskly transformed into something dark, profound and itching with cultural disturbance. Bojack behaves abusively towards the women in his life, supporting characters face failed pregnancies and struggles with asexuality, and every now and then they throw in a War On Drugs song just to make sure you haven’t forgotten to cry.

Honourable mentions

11. Parks and Recreation

12. Fargo

13. Glee

14. Better Call Saul

15. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

16. Master of None

17. Sherlock

18. Big Mouth

19. Modern Family

20. Looking for Alaska

Agree with my choices? Let me know your favourite shows of the decade in the comments and make sure you check out more Best of the 2010s content coming soon on this very blog!



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