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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Morris

Top 50 Television Shows of the Decade (2010-2019) - Part 1

It's that time again, dear friends. As the decade comes to a close anybody who spends their time writing about pop-culture is required by law to make a list detailing their favourites, otherwise they'll be fired (out of a cannon into the sun). With that in mind throughout December I'll be sharing my favourite film and TV shows of the decade as a retrospective month so I can keep up with posts as well as start branching out in my writing next year. So without further ado here are my favourite shows from the past decade, including some that bled into this decade and others that were blissfully short and sweet. Please notice the use of the word 'favourite' and not 'best'...and there will be no Game of Thrones because I haven't seen it.


50) I THINK YOU SHOULD LEAVE with Tim Robinson

"You shouldn't have had such a sloppy mudpie!"

It's hard for sketch shows to survive nowadays. With the ease of Youtube, audiences can now view sketches and skits individually, prompting very few networks to commission full series'. It's a shame too. Many of my favourite shows growing up were sketch shows, and it always feels like something special when you stumble upon one that you love - and SNL comedian Tim Robinson's Netflix series manages to hit the nail on the head for me. It's definitely not for everyone though. It's the kind of weird, off-kilter humour that sometimes doesn't work during the viewings, but you'll then remind yourself of the situation and/or lines later on and find yourself giggling with glee at the irreverence of it all. If future seasons can keep the idea quality up, it could end up being a goldmine for alternative comedy.

49) The Shivering Truth

"Police rounded up every pervert in the area, torturing them for information, which, naturally, the perverts loved"

Adult Swim's stop-motion surrealist anthology series could easily be looked at as a pastiche of The Twilight Zone, but in actuality it outgrows those comparisons immediately by unleashing pure nightmarish imagery and the darkest of dark wit. Throughout each installment the viewer is guided along a tenuous journey that encompasses haunting concepts and sketch comedy, interwoven inside the mind of a Lynchian puppeteer. It's not cute. It's not friendly, and it actively tries to steal your soul several times. My first time watching this my friends all sat in silence and wrote it off, whilst I ran home and devoured the rest of the series to appease my sinister cravings.

48) Ash vs. Evil Dead

"Brand spanking new hand! Or, brand new spanking hand?"

Bringing back The Evil Dead's Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) was always going to be a win in my books. And whilst the series steered away from the horror roots of the franchise, it was clearly intended to be a continuation of the Army of Darkness-level of fun - and that's exactly what it managed to pull off. By pulling no punches in bringing Raimi back to helm the pilot, Ash vs. Evil Dead got off to a gory and practical-effects-fuelled start. Combine that with quick-witted writing and strong performances all-round, and the show itself carved out a nice nische as one of the breeziest horror comedy shows ever made. It may be gone too soon, but I'm still grateful we got three extra years with Ash.

47) Episodes

"Obviously you can't put a price on your children's happiness. But it turns out you can, they showed me a spreadsheet"

After a rocky start David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik's subversive and British-fuelled satire of Hollywood cemented itself as a surprisingly smart and consistent show that's often undermined by its premise. Two critically-acclaimed wed screenwriters (Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig) move to Los Angeles with the promise of stardom from an American remake of the show that made them household names in the UK. However, when the network decides to cast Matt LeBlanc as the lead, not only does his influence damage the show but his actions also interfere with their lives as they accept him work to accepting him as a friend. It's a surprisingly endearing turn from LeBlanc, chewing scenery as a 'fictionalised' version of himself that provides the backbone for much of the show. Whilst none of its ideas or comments are revelatory, it's the sense of fun it has with these elements that allows to show to stand apart from others of its ilk.

46) Toast of London

"Look I'm going to need some direction. Which bee am I supposed to be?"

Never has a character fused so perfectly with Matt Berry's velvety larynx as Steven Toast. Whilst sitcoms mainstays The IT Crowd and Peep Show continued through the noughties but left their best moments in the previous decade, Toast of London came along like a sharp, fresh intake of sultry air. The delightfully weird world of unpopular actor and master narrator Steven Toast is filled to the brim with memorable characters from Ray Bloody Purchase to Clem Fandango, and applies just the right amount of surreal comedy to proceedings alongside a dose of musical comedy and secksual intrigue.

45) Archer

"If I stop drinking all at once I'm afraid the cumulative hangover would kill me"

Ignoring the forays into different genres and tired repetitious 'asshole character' cliches of the last few seasons, Archer represented a bold and new dysfunctional workplace animated comedy that was spearheaded by quip-fuelled dialogue you could only dream of. Season two's elongated cancer storyline too, remains a high point for the show, alongside various running gags and mannerisms that have slowly crept their way into my zeitgeist for the inevitable future. Kenny Loggins is never an approachable topic anymore, and that's gonna be extra challenging when Top Gun: Maverick comes out next year...

44) When They See Us

"If they don't wanna hear my truth, I don't wanna waste my energy"

Ava DuVernay's powerful miniseries retelling of the infamous 1989 Central Park 5 case is blisteringly brilliant television. With its timely and enraging subject matter only bolstered by the central performances, When They See Us isn't an easy watch, but every moment is important. Whilst the teens have spoiled audiences with true crime dramas, many of which do their best to highlight the entertainment factor, the ones that have made the biggest impact have pulled no punches. A scathing drama from start to finish by a director at the top of their game.

43) American Horror Story

"The world is a filthy place. It's a filthy goddamn horror show"

Another show I've dropped out of the past few years, American Horror Story's first few seasons arrived at a very important time for me. Ryan Murphy's stylish and broadly-stroked genre anthology lit up my interest in the horror influences of the direction and art style, whilst its zany thrills kept me entertained by a solid cast of fluent character actors - Evan Peters and Jessica Lange specifically. Whilst Murder House remains my favourite, each year up to Hotel offered up a complete waxwork of heavily-influenced horror iconography that was rare to find on television at the start of the decade - yet look at us now. It deserves praise for letting networks know we wanted more horror on our screens.

42) The End of the F***ing World

"You can't just *make* people and then abandon them!"

I told myself I wasn't going to give season two a chance. And we are. Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden's James and Alyssa are steadily embedded into my heart now, with all their faults and intrusive thoughts and selfish actions. The two-season run initially started unlike anything I had seen before, with plain, matter-of-fact writing that sped straight into action and cared not for the deliberations of other shows. It's this sense of urgency and simultaneous character introspection (helped majorly by the primary performances) that explores deeper, darkly-rooted flaws in their humanity that appeals to me now, especially with the hindsight of season two in mind. Here's hoping James and Alyssa are left alone from here on out...

41) Years & Years

"Beware those men. The jokers and the tricksters and the clowns..."

Leave it to Russell T. Davies to combine the pessimistic technologically-enhanced future of Black Mirror with his typical flare for raw emotional drama. Years & Years is simultaneously heartwarming and bone-chilling, following the lives of the Lyons family fifteen years into an uncertain future where the threats of modern society are all-too-real compared to their factual counterparts. I love the show so much I've also written about it here and here too.

40) Utopia

"We'll make a great team, you and me. I can do stuff and you can keep an eye out"

Remember this Channel 4 oddity? Destined to cult status after two blisteringly original and beautiful seasons, Utopia often felt too individual for this world. With a global-scale yet UK-wide conspiracy plot that developed the fears of a world on the brink of madness, Dennis Kelly's weird and wonderful series unfortunately made a name for itself as the 'weird drama with heightened violence' which was most-likely punished for some similarities to real-life tragedies at the time of airing. An American remake is currently in production, but I doubt it'll manage to retain the same sense of identity. Or have a soundtrack as good.

39) The Fades

"You're one of the those honourable modern"

Another show I've written about before and another cancelled before its time. Jack Thorne's original supernatural BBC Three drama was the perfect mixture of teenage angst and end-of-the-world drama with a cast that now would be considered an ensemble of the country's best talent. With only six episodes to its name though and a cliffhanger that will now never be resolved it's difficult to recommend, even for those looking for a show destined to put an outside in the spotlight.

38) The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

"You have heart. I'll take that, too"

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance not only builds upon Jim Henson's world of Thra but manages to make it feel timeless and complete, with a story that captivates and builds on the sheer wealth of imagination on display and makes the best argument for the return of old-fashioned puppetry. Whilst the voice talent on display is amazing too, it's the production design that shines. Thra itself is a living, breathing world filled to the brim with thousands of hours of work and it's all on display to see throughout the series. There hasn't been a fantasy epic this strong since Peter Jackson's foray into Middle-Earth. And I do not say that lightly.

37) South Park

"Don't you know the first law of physics? Anything that's fun costs at least eight dollars"

It's amazing that Matt Stone and Trey Parker have made South Park work for as long as it has. The series adapted well to the noughties too, starting the decade with arguably the show's biggest controversy over it's two-part '200' episode spectacular, before going into a more serialised format whilst still incorporating pop-culture references and comments on modern society. It's been another 100 solid episodes for a show that continues to delight and offer at-times scathing satire and strange inside jokes that take on new meanings. We'll never look at Lorde the same way again. Yah yah yah.

36) Kidding

"People see a trusted brand. No one sees a man"

Re-teaming Jim Carrey with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry in Dave Holstein's Kidding is a stroke of genius. By building off the momentum of Carrey's tumultuous personal life, his turn as children's TV presenter Jeff Pickles is equal-parts heartwarming and heartbreaking. Whilst it takes a little while for its first season to nail the difficult mixture of black comedy and tragedy as Jeff comes to terms with the darker side of human emotion, it lays the groundwork for a future that could see the show become one of the most devastating pieces of television I've seen in years.

35) Watchmen

"Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock"

The first season of Damon Lindelof's continuation of Alan Moore's Watchmen hasn't even finished yet and already it's here - that's how good it is. Wisely choosing to bypass the original source material and use it to tell a new story, Watchmen takes difficult subject matters such as white supremacy and fandom culture to new heights with new and interesting ideas that separate the show from just about anything currently on television. Of course you have to deal with Lindelof's typical fascination with questions, but it's a small price to pay when the show is this good.

34) Mad Men

"When I'm standing in front of you I bring out something terrible"

Whilst it premiered in the decade prior there was still more than enough of Mad Men's final five years to make it stand out amongst the crowd. Jon Hamm's Don had become a Tony Soprano-esque martyr in his own story, and the goings on of the well-dressed and well-served was filled with as much drama as there was cigarette smoke. It also doesn't hurt that the show's finale proved to be one of the most satisfying in recent memory too.

33) Atlanta

"Poor people don't have time for investments because they spend all their time trying not to be poor"

Atlanta started out confident and grew from there into a weird hybrid of whatever the hell you wanted to get out of it. Donald Glover's comedy/drama/occasionally satirical horror has crafted a world and tone so vivid and lucid that it exists alongside nothing else. What other show could risk having a character like Teddy Perkins show up with no previous history or follow up to his murderous actions? You may ask yourself 'wasn't this show about a rapper?' Some might say yes. Some no. But both are right. and it has to be seen to be believed.

32) 30 Rock

"Thank you America, that's our show. Not a lot of people watched it but the joke's on you, because we got paid anyway"

The world was too good for Tina Fey's quick-witted and devilishly smart subversive take on the backdrop of SNL. Sure, it won the initial fight against Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, but it never achieved the success it always seemed destined for. The last three years continued the nonstop irreverence of Tracy Jordan's antics, Jenna's overwhelming selfishness, Jack's tumultuous work/play balance and Liz's secretive desire to have a family to a great extent. The joke/minute ratio was always off the charts and the final episode is one that'll surely go down in the hall of all-time greats. That, and it finally explained what the hell was going on with Kenneth...

31) Gravity Falls

"When there's no cops around, anything's legal"

Like the twisted, backwoods brother of your favourite cartoons growing up, Gravity Falls exists with a penchant for weirdness. Using an old-fashioned adventure-style to mask grownup themes with zany monsters and characters is destined to be a recipe for success, but it's hardly ever this good. Not only did it provide me with the warmth and heart I expected from a Disney-backed show, but it managed to prove that they had the potential to offer up something different too. More of this please.

30) Nathan For You

"It's surprising to me that I've never seen a realtor who can guarantee that all the homes they sell are ghost free"

I was hesitant with Nathan For You first. A friend showed me a few episodes and I wasn't quite sure I 'got' it. But obviously I was an idiot. Because curiosity kicked in again and I found myself devouring the series and hanging on every moment of Nathan Fielder's dry-as-sand delivery. There's a deceitful simplicity to everything about the show that completely bypasses everything so many comedy shows (or reality shows) get bogged down in, and allows it to just exist to make you laugh or smile. Whether he's going the extra mile for a client (he always does) or trying to avoid disappointment, the show's always a winning experiment.

29) The Terror

"Nature does not give a damn about our plans"

Another horror anthology series - so of course the quality is always going to depend on the season. It just so happens however that both seasons so far have been some of the best horror ever put to the small screen. Whilst I'm still working my way through season two, I'm confident in the team that made the forbidden quest of Sir Jon Franklin's foray into the Antarctic such a palpable endeavor. Blisteringly dramatic and with some of the best horror iconography of recent memory, definitely graduate to this style of storytelling if you find yourself growing weary of American Horror Story.

28) Channel Zero

"If you got something every time, it would be called shopping"

And another one! Take the meticulous plotting of The Terror and bring the pacing up a little bit, with a focus on scaremongering and creatures that go bump in the night - that's Channel Zero. There's a reason well-written creepypastas are some of the scariest things ever put to paper, and this show perfectly channels that under-your-skin feeling as it adapts various stories that have made the rounds online. If there were any justice in the world, a streaming service such as Shudder would bring this show back from extinction as soon as possible.

27) Over the Garden Wall

"It's a ROCK-FACT!"

I remember Over the Garden Wall's release vividly. Cartoon Network's first miniseries had cooked up a storm in the States and promptly set Twitter on fire. In my intrigue I ended up checking out what all the fuss was about, and two hours later I sat in silence from the rollercoaster I had been taken on. A horror-tinged, autumnal folk fairytale with catchy music, great characters and gorgeous animation, how could I ot fall in love with it? I've yet to see Infinity Train, but if it lives up to the initial short film and is anything like this then I think Cartoon Network may have a knack for this miniseries thing.

26) Steven Universe

"I asked her about her hair, and then she asked how I coloured mine"

Another show I was incredibly late to. Steven Universe shines as brightly as it looks. A heartwarming (and occasionally soul-wrenching) look at relationships and what it takes to be human and a good friend, and how to look after those around you. It blossoms from a neat little show centered on goofball Steven's antics with his super-powered friends to a depth that very few animated shows can achieve, and it's been embraced by audiences for all the right reasons.

25) Brooklyn Nine-Nine

"If I die, turn my tweets into a book"

I feel like I'm cheating by putting this on the list. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is one of the most watchable shows ever made, thanks to tight scripting and accessible characters played by a talented ensemble cast. It's one of few shows that's risen out of the 'sitcom' label and has actually been able to exist in its own bubble. This was also the last show I thought of, simply because my brain just went 'well...everybody likes it. Don't they?'. PLUS it's one of the shows on this list that's survived cancellation. That's an exclusive list.

AND THAT'S IT for Part 1. Come back next week for numbers 24-1, and if you're disappointed in any of my choices I have to wonder why you're actually judging someone's TV show opinions on the internet. What's wrong with you? Go outside. Go. Now. I dare you.

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