Over the last few years, I’ve grown into quite the couch potato. I used to be about movies, and movies only, but honestly, the best TV shows can be just as intriguing as their big screen counterparts. In fact, the following shows are far more gripping, suspenseful, and/or downright funnier than many films I’ve seen. With that said, here's my list of the 10 best TV shows of the last decade!
Honorable Mention: My Name Is Earl (2005-2009)
I hate to say it, but I arrived late in the game with this show. It was recommended to me on Netflix because of my recent viewings of shows like Scrubs and Arrested Development. The fact of the matter is that My Name is Earl is one of the funniest shows of all time. It’s a damn shame it was cancelled after just four seasons.
In the series, Earl (Jason Lee) has been an awful human being nearly his entire life. Believing that bad karma is the reason for his constant downfalls, he decides to use his recent lottery winnings of $100,000 to right all the wrongs from his past.
Like many shows before it, My Name is Earl was far ahead of its time. Without a laugh track, viewers actually had to seek out the humor for themselves, and this series definitely had an unusual sense of humor that clearly enough viewers didn’t pick up on. It’s a damn shame. However, we were fortunate to get four seasons out of the series before the network pulled it. Some shows aren’t so lucky.
10. Veronica Mars (2004-2007)
I still believe to this day that Veronica Mars would have fared much better on a different network. The CW (formerly The WB) just didn’t promote the show for what it was. Instead, they tried to tap into the same audience that were fans of such teen soaps like One Tree Hill and Gilmore Girls. There was an enormous fan base out there just waiting to discover the show, but unfortunately, they never got the chance since Veronica Mars was given the axe after just three seasons. Thankfully, the loyal fans that the show did captivate managed to muster up enough money for creator Rob Thomas and his team to develop a motion picture based on the series, and from the looks of things, we may even see a sequel somewhere down the road.
In the series, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) dedicates her life to cracking the toughest mysteries in the affluent town of Neptune after her best friend is murdered and her father is removed as county sheriff. There’s thrills, chills, and non-stop laughs that make this show appealing to fans of all genres. And lets not forget about the seemingly countless twists and turns that you’ll rarely see coming. Veronica Mars is a must-see!
9. Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)
I can’t for the life of me figure out why Friday Night Lights wasn’t more popular than it was. It premiered on October 3rd, 2006 to immediate critical success. Still, even with all the praise the series received from critics and fans alike, the show suffered from low ratings and was in danger of cancellation. In an attempt to save the series, NBC struck a deal with DirecTV to co-produce three more seasons. Had it not been for this deal, Friday Night Lights wouldn’t have lasted more than two seasons.
In the small town of Dillon, Texas, one night matters: Friday Night. Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) has recently been hired as the head football coach for the Dillon High School Panthers, the town’s pride and joy. Friday Night Lights displays the stress that the town gives the high school players to win, and the hope that the team gives to a small town, and how a team has its low points, its high points, and how they come together as a team on their way to victory.
Friday Night Lights‘ incredibly realistic portrayal of small town life is actually quite eerie. Having grown up in a town very similar to Dillon, it was easy for me to connect with the characters on the show almost on a personal level. And just like in the show, football is practically a religion in many small towns. Watching this series was like reliving my childhood.
8. Southland (2009-2013)
Southland takes a raw look at Los Angeles as well as the lives of the officers of the Los Angeles Police Department who are trying to contain it.
Southland originally aired on NBC and was an immediate critical success. The network renewed the series for a second season, but cancelled the show before it returned, deeming it to dark for its time slot. TNT immediately picked it up and carried the series for four seasons before axing it due to poor viewership. What a shame as this is undoubtedly one of the best TV shows of all time. Gritty, riveting, and tremendously acted, this is one series that will definitely be missed.
7. The Wire (2002-2008)
This particular series was actually recommended to me by a friend following the series finale of Breaking Bad. I was in a sheer state of depression and desperate to find something to fill the void. Low and behold, The Wire did just that. This gripping drama is frighteningly realistic with some remarkable performances from nearly every actor on the roster.
Nominated for 2 Primetime Emmys, The Wire gives viewers an up-close look at the Baltimore drug scene through the eyes of drug dealers and law enforcement.
The Wire is not only one of the best cops shows I’ve ever seen, but it’s one of the best TV shows of all time.
6. The Shield (2002-2008)
I had a terrible time deciding which show to place before the other, The Shield or The Wire. Obviously, I finally came to a decision, even if it isn’t quite set in stone (meaning don’t be surprised if the two shows magically switch places the next time you check out this list).
The Shield and The Wire both came out in 2002 and they both ended in 2008. While subjectively similar, they’re two completely different shows.
The Shield revolves around an inner-city Los Angeles police precinct where some of the cops aren’t above breaking the rules or working against their associates to both keep the streets safe and their self-interests intact.
This is the first series where I can remember the main character being an anti-hero. I’m in no way saying The Shield was the first show to use this approach. It’s just the first series I saw where this approach was utilized. You’ve heard of those characters who people love to hate? Well in this show, Vic Mackey (brilliantly portrayed by Michael Chiklis) is a guy we hate to love. While he constantly abuses his power by framing co-workers, beating suspects senseless, and even committing murder, we’re suckered into believing his reasons are justified.
5. Arrested Development (2003-2006/2013)
I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t a fan of Arrested Development when it originally aired back in 2003. I was still in high school and simply didn’t understand the humor. Later on, however, my dad convinced me to give the show a second chance when we were in a dry spell for good television, and I immediately fell in love.
In Arrested Development, level-headed son Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) takes over family affairs after his father is imprisoned. But the rest of his spoiled, dysfunctional family are making his job unbearable.
Like every show on my list, Arrested Development was well-received by critics. Again, this is a series that was way before its time. From the unusual style of filming to the odd storylines, a lot of viewers, like myself, just couldn’t climb aboard a comedy that actually forced them to think. It’s for this reason that the series was cancelled after just three seasons.
In 2013, Netflix resurrected Arrested Development for a fourth and final season merely to pave the way for a big screen adaptation of the series. While it wasn’t near as engaging as the previous seasons, it was still enough to remind me why it's one of the best TV shows of the last decade.
4. Marvel's Daredevil (2015-Present)
Gritty, emotional and downright captivating, Daredevil had me hooked instantly. Although I didn't initially agree with the casting of Charlie Cox as the title character, it didn't take the actor long to win me over. Now, I can't imagine any other actor in the role.
Daredevil follows a blind lawyer who uses his other superhumanly enhanced senses to fight crime as a costumed superhero.
This show is damn near perfect. In fact, my only complaint is that it's a Netflix original series, which means we only get 13 episodes at a time. Although the wait for Season 2 seems endless, there's no doubt in my mind that it will be totally worth it.
3. Bates Motel (2013-Present)
Initially, I had my doubts about Bates Motel. Psycho is one of my favorite films of all time, and I didn't really see how a TV series based on Alfred Hitchcock's classic horror flick could work. After the first episode, however, I was hooked.
Bates Motel is actually a modern prequel to Psycho, which centers on a young Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore), as he gradually changes from an awkward, yet likeable high school student to a full-blown psychopath.
I don't know who's creepier: Norman's mother (portrayed perfectly by Vera Farmiga) or Norman Bates himself. It's definitely a toss-up.
2. Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
With a 9.5 rating on IMDB, I think it’s safe to assume that Breaking Bad isn’t just on my list of the best TV shows of all time. While most shows get consistently worse every season, this is one of the few series that actually gets better.
Breaking Bad follows a chemistry teacher, Walter White (Bryan Cranston), who after being diagnosed with lung cancer, devises a way to ensure his family is taken care of financially in case his illness turns fatal. He teams up with a former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), to cook and sell the world’s purest crystal meth.
Breaking Bad plays out like a never-ending movie. It consists of some of the most irresistible characters, nail-biting suspense, and downright heart-breaking moments you’ll find in any television series. As sad as it was to see the show go, Vince Gilligan, AMC, and the rest of the cast and crew ended the series on the highest note possible.
1. Scrubs (2001-2010)
And the title for best TV show of all time goes to…DRUM ROLL PLEASE…
I can’t tell you just how many carbs I’ve burned watching this series from creator Bill Lawrence. With nine seasons, this cleverly crafted comedy was a huge hit for NBC. Unfortunately, Scrubs started to lose its brilliance when the writers’ strike hit somewhere around the show’s seventh season. Several of the episodes were aired out of order, in addition to NBC constantly shifting the series between various time slots. In danger of being cancelled, ABC bought the rights for Scrubs and gave the show two additional seasons. Sadly, neither fared well with fans, and after a short ninth season, the show was canned.
Here’s a plot crunch for the series starring Zach Braff, John C. McGinley, Sarah Chalke, Neil Flynn and Donald Faison:
Check into the surreal world of Sacred Heart Hospital, where the staff is bizarre and the laughter is contagious. Fresh-faced J.D. (Zach Braff) and his fellow new medical residents weave their way through each unpredictable day with hilarious results.
Scrubs consists of some of the most diverse, likeable, and downright hysterical characters in the history of television. Between J.D., Dr. Cox (John C. Mcginley), Elliott (Sarah Chalke), Turk (Donald Faison), and the Janitor (Neil Flynn), it’s merely impossible to choose a favorite.
The dialogue is absolutely genius, with top-notch one-liners that will keep you rolling even after multiple viewings. And in my case, there have been multiple viewings. There have been dozens of viewings. Hell, there have been hundreds of viewings! Okay, maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but it’s certainly a possibility at this rate. I absolutely love this show.
There you have it. The 10 best TV shows of the last decade. Some of you will agree with a few of the choices on my list, and some of you are bound to despise the entire list. If that’s the case, which shows do you think should have made this list? Sound off in the comments!