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Metacritic Says These Are The 22 Best TV Shows Of The 2010s

When it came to television, the 2010s were phenomenal, giving us comedies and dramas that were groundbreaking and often immediate favorites. And with the rise of streaming services and smaller cable networks, TV shows also had more of a chance than ever before. Quieter, stranger, and more divisive series that might not have found a mass audience could now discover the right niche where they'd really thrive.

Tallying up the best shows of the last decade is an intimidating prospect, but Metacritic hit on a solution. When critics offered their "best of" picks, Metacritic culled the results, assigning a tiered number of points based on where the shows were ranked on all their respective lists. Then, the website counted everything and came up with an excellent sampling of some of the finest entertainment the 2010s had to offer. From emotional prison dramas to high fantasy, here are the best TV shows of the 2010s according to Metacritic.


"Rectify" is haunting, beautiful, and full of nuanced performances ... but since it aired on SundanceTV, it was also easy for audiences to miss. But the viewers who caught it tend to be passionate about it, so we're not surprised it made the No. 20 spot on enough critics' "best of" lists to tie it for Metacritic's 20th spot.

The series follows Daniel Holden (Aden Young), who spent 19 years on Death Row for the murder of his high school girlfriend. Now, newly uncovered evidence has set him free, but the threat of a retrial hangs over his return to his small Southern hometown. Stoned at the time of the murder, led through a coerced confession, and dealing with years of grief and punishment, even Daniel can't be sure whether he's innocent or guilty. The show pays attention to the question of what really happened all those years ago, but it also offers a touching, in-depth exploration of Daniel's fraught reconciliation with his family and his attempt to re-enter a world that now feels fundamentally strange to him.

It's the kind of rich and thoughtful show that sucks you in. And with characters this real, it's impossible not to care.

The Good Fight

As the first original scripted series for the now-defunct streaming service CBS All Access, "The Good Fight" did indeed fight the good fight. We're glad to see it's found a new home on Paramount+ because this offbeat legal drama deserves all the viewers it can get. As a spinoff from CBS' "The Good Wife," a well-regarded drama in its own right, "The Good Fight" had a template for success at its fingertips — and instead of following it, it got weird.

The show is ostensibly an old-fashioned case-of-the-week procedural, but it's one that's not afraid to pop into alternate realities or break into song. Daring, off the wall, over the top, and openly political, "The Good Fight" is a show that pushes TV courtroom drama to its limits. 

Even if the show's intentional chaos risks exhausting viewers who can't get on its wavelength, IndieWire says, they might still decide to stick around for the "mostly bulletproof scripts and an undeniable talent for telling interesting stories by creators Robert and Michelle King, as well as strong performances from the actors at every level." It's this combination of ambition and execution that tied "The Good Fight" for 20th on Metacritic's list.

The Walking Dead

Also tied for 20th place is a post-apocalyptic zombie horror epic that broke new TV ground. "The Walking Dead" just can't die — and that's a good thing. With a decade of airtime behind it now, it's still pressing relentlessly forward, depriving us of the chance to make jokes about it being a shambling shadow of its former self. It's outlived the height of the zombie fad, and it's kept viewers hooked.

The series has always been able to do traditional drama alongside the horror, which may explain why it's always been adept at hooking wider audiences. As The Wall Street Journal said back when the show first started, "What makes 'The Walking Dead' so much more than a horror show is that it plays with theatrical grandeur, on a canvas that feels real, looks cinematic, and has an orchestral score to match."

Maybe the key to the show's success isn't the zombies but its comic book origins. "The Walking Dead" has the flexibility, breadth, and depth of a good, long-running comic, full of intriguing side plots and capable of offering some truly epic high drama. That's the kind of thing we never get tired of.


Wildly inventive, ambitious, and weird, HBO's "Watchmen" limited series — released in 2019 — engaged wholeheartedly with both its source material and all the time that's passed since Alan Moore's graphic novel changed the superhero world for good. The result is a show like nothing else on TV.

Set 34 years after the events of the original "Watchmen," this sequel show offers an intoxicating combination of homage and original material. Creator Damon Lindelof clearly thought deeply about what the world of "Watchmen" might look like a few decades on, and what he came up with — a world where it rains squid, cops don masks on the job, a manor home staffed by clones serves as an unusual prison, and Rorschach's diary is practically a sacred text for the supremacist Seventh Kavalry — is rich and exciting. The show doesn't rest on its worldbuilding laurels either. Instead, it no sooner sets up its world than it shakes it up — dramatically and violently.

Tied for 18th place on Metacritic's list, "Watchmen" blends action, intrigue, and mind-blowing sci-fi with smart commentary on racism, violence, history, and legacy. It has to be seen to be believed.


As dark as it is funny, HBO's "Succession" mixes family drama with a high-stakes struggle for corporate power. Logan Roy (Brian Cox) built Waystar, a media empire, and now either death or retirement could be right around the corner. But is Logan willing to give it up? And if so, to whom?

In a rave review, The Cleveland Plain Dealer called the show "an intoxicating mix of wicked comedy and 'Lear'-like tragedy, served up in a bubbling cauldron of dirty deals, double deals, betrayals, shifting alliances, plotting and counter-plotting." Think of it as "Arrested Development" crossed with Shakespeare. Creator Jesse Armstrong leaves no storytelling tool on the table, using comedy, drama, tragedy, and satire in equal measure to follow this tumultuous family saga.

The characterization and the performances are what really make "Succession" great. You might not like the Roys, but it's hard to stop watching them. Disgust at their behavior mingles with pity for their essential brokenness. That psychological sophistication keeps viewers coming back, and that's why it's 18th on the Metacritic ranking.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

No. 17 on Metacritic's list is "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," a sitcom that makes the police procedural over into a classic workplace comedy. With the help of a stellar cast — Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher, Stephanie Beatriz, Terry Crews, Melissa Fumero, Joe Lo Truglio, and Chelsea Peretti, among others — it presents the results with plenty of energy and screwball verve.

Tonally, the series also offers a lot of optimistic escapism. It presents a best-case scenario, combining real social awareness with a thoroughly upbeat take in a way that many viewers clearly find refreshing. The show has also garnered considerable praise for its portrayal of significant gay and bisexual characters.

And, of course, the characters feel like they were always destined to be comedic legends. From the puppyish and eager Peralta (Samberg) to the flawlessly deadpan and stoic Captain Holt (Braugher), the series knows exactly what to do to get maximum laughs.


"Justified" earns its No. 16 place on Metacritic's list via razor-sharp dialogue, tense standoffs, and colorful characters. FX turns out a lot of awesome, action-packed shows, but "Justified" is one of our favorites. The series follows Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), a U.S. marshal whose loose cannon tendencies get him exiled back to his home state of Kentucky. And given his painful, tangled history, it's the last place on earth he wants to go back to.

But we can enjoy it even if Raylan can't. The show's offbeat crime plots — as well-constructed and creative as the Elmore Leonard stories the show springs from — are a definite pleasure, and their bluegrass sense of place only makes them better. And one of the major strengths of the show is Raylan's series-long push-and-pull battle with one-time friend, outlaw Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). That's a relationship that feels like it couldn't exist anywhere else. After all, a defining factor of their history is that they — as they'll tell you — "dug coal together."

"Justified" deserves to go down in TV history, and with its masterful performances, unusual milieu, and unbeatable blend of comedy and drama, we're sure it will.

Better Call Saul

Spinoff "Better Call Saul" may delve into the backstory of "Breaking Bad" — in addition to more Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), you also get more of Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), more Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), and more of the whole Salamanca crime family — but it also has a winning story that's all its own. It can be as funny as a comedy, but like its predecessor, it's a tragedy at its core. This is the story of the rise and fall of Jimmy McGill, the man who will become Saul Goodman, who will end up washed-up, living under a false name, and managing a Cinnabon.

That knowledge only gives the show more pathos. You root for Jimmy even as you know that his schemes and hustles, as good as they are, will ultimately make his life fall apart. Plus, knowing what will happen doesn't necessarily mean knowing who's going to be part of the collateral damage.

Melancholy, perfectly characterized, thrilling, and totally involving, "Better Call Saul" helps prove how good spinoffs can be. It gets the 15th place on Metacritic's list.

Twin Peaks: The Return

At the end of Season 2 of "Twin Peaks," Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) promised Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) that she would see him again in 25 years. And indeed, 25 years later, we got "Twin Peaks: The Return," which is Metacritic's 14th best show of the decade.

Don't make the mistake of thinking this is just some nostalgia exercise that rests on the old show's laurels. David Lynch is too ambitious — and far too committed to his own unique vision — to ever produce anything so generically reassuring as a simple trip down memory lane. Instead, viewers got something darkly sublime. We were treated to answers we never expected and new questions we never imagined. At least two — "got a light?" and "what year is this?" — already feel iconic.

The series' mystique is part of its appeal. As IGN's Matt Fowler wrote, "True to form, 'Twin Peaks' came back and did something completely unlike anything else on television. ... [The new] 'Twin Peaks' was deep and rich and frustrating and, unlike most TV nowadays (even as good as a lot of it is), it required a few days of 'processing' after the fact." The show sweeps you up in an immersive, wholly convincing dream. You might not know for sure what it means, but you know you'll remember it.


"Veep" isn't just an outstanding comedy, it's also educational. Watch any given episode, and you'll come away with new blisteringly obscene insults to levy at your enemies — although it's possible you won't deliver them with quite this much brio.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina Meyer, a vice president whose ambitions are frustrated by her virtually powerless position and her frequent humiliations — ones she and her incompetent staff tend to produce and exacerbate at regular intervals. The acting and writing sparkle, making this cast of selfish buffoons into a priceless comedic goldmine. Truly, this is cringe humor at its finest. And since the show was never afraid to shake up its status quo, the flood of new excruciating and schadenfreude-laden situations is just about unending.

Grantland's Andy Greenwald wrote that as the show headed into its fourth season, things were stronger than ever, saying, "The banana peels are bigger, the slips more outrageous, the falls more perilous and absurd. ... There's simply nothing sharper or funnier on television." With spectacular laughs and biting satire, "Veep" is going to go down in TV history, and we're pleased to see it ranked 13th on Metacritic's list.


Intense, moody, and full of some of the most sumptuous banquets you'll ever want to stay far away from, NBC's "Hannibal" is a dark delight that tied for 11th place on Metacritic. Its lush, baroque sets and striking costume make every frame look like a museum-ready oil painting. Even the gore looks gorgeous. Sure, you might not want to see a dead body impaled on antlers, but if you have to see it, you want it to look like this.

The show's early setup — a pre-capture Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), still a successful psychiatrist, aids the FBI in their investigations — combines a crime procedural's dependability with huge doses of gothic horror and dread. The combination is sold via the two great lead performances. Mikkelsen is sublimely unnerving and all-too-charismatic, and Hugh Dancy gives damaged profiler Will Graham all the necessary vulnerability and sharp intelligence. The supporting cast is also uniformly excellent. When you create characters who can steal a scene away from pop culture's most famous cannibal, you know you've done something right.

Haunting, chilling, and utterly riveting, "Hannibal" is a treat. If you're craving something different, sit down to dinner with Dr. Lecter.

The Good Place

In 11th place alongside "Hannibal" is "The Good Place." The show started out as a smart, cheeky, unusually thoughtful sitcom about "dirtbag" Eleanor (Kristen Bell) navigating a "Good Place" afterlife that she knows she's not supposed to be in. And then it turned out to be not only enjoyable but also a twisty, incredibly inventive comedy with huge surprises and even bigger stakes. It also introduced one of our favorite sitcom ensembles, surrounding Eleanor with characters like the terminally indecisive Chidi (William Jackson Harper), name-dropping socialite Tahani (Jameela Jamil), and goofy low-level criminal and Jackson Jaguars super-fan Jason (Manny Jacinto). And that's without even getting into the cosmic beings played by Ted Danson and D'Arcy Camden.

Audiences and critics alike embraced the wild ride of "The Good Place." As Gail Pennington at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said, "[The show] takes off in absurd, insane, and delightful directions, with episodes so rich in asides and throwaway bits that they might need to be watched more than once." We can vouch for that. Rewatches only improve the show's ample delights. Knowing what's in store for you might take away the surprise, but it only adds to the anticipation.

Stranger Things

No. 10 on Metacritic's list is Netflix hit "Stranger Things." This is '80s nostalgia done right. A glorious hodgepodge of Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, and Cold War paranoia, "Stranger Things" makes the small town of Hawkins a creepy, adventurous delight. From an evil government agency experimenting with psychic powers to a Soviet operation in the mall to hideous monsters from another dimension, the show loves its classic horror and science fiction tropes. And it does them right. With the Duffer brothers' instinct for storytelling and a fantastic cast (including hit child actors Finn Wolfhard and Millie Bobby Brown), the end result is more than a fun homage. It's a series that's heartfelt and exciting all on its own.

The show is widely watched, but even more importantly, it's widely loved. When writing up the first season, David Wiegand of The San Francisco Chronicle said, "'Stranger Things' reminds us of a time marked by a kind of no-strings escapism. ... [We yearn] for it because the Duffers have made it so irresistibly appealing." He's right. We can't resist the appeal of "Stranger Things," and we don't want to. We'll just be over here with our Eggos, starting another rewatch.

Parks and Recreation

With sunny and slightly manic optimism, "Parks and Recreation" metamorphosed from a successor to "The Office" into its own colorful, crowd-pleasing show, and it's that transformation that puts it on so many critics' "best of" lists. And while the first season is usually regarded as a little rocky, the show soon found its feet.

Its winning approach involves a warmhearted embrace of its characters in all their goofy glory. It gives all of them fabulous opportunities to shine and, of course, plenty of good jokes. On top of all that, the show offers two of the best and most adorable sitcom romances around.

We'd like to sell you on "Parks and Rec" with some of Leslie Knope's own enthusiasm. As Entertainment Weekly noted, you can give the series some very specific praise, which at least makes your pitches interesting: "Coolest local government comedy in history! Funniest all-time series with a shoe-shining musician!" We'll settle for saying that if you've somehow missed this sweet, funny, and thoroughly quirky show, you've missed a treat. The next time there's a rainy day, put on "Parks and Rec" and see if the world doesn't seem just a little bit brighter. No wonder it claimed the ninth spot on Metacritic's list.

BoJack Horseman

We wish we could've been a fly on the wall when Raphael Bob-Waksberg pitched "BoJack Horseman" to Netflix. "See, it's an animated show where people exist alongside anthropomorphic animals, and it's a celebrity satire that's also an unflinching examination of depression, addiction, and trauma that will rip audiences apart emotionally. But don't worry, it's funny and full of sight gags! And did I mention the star is a horse who's a washed-up sitcom actor?"

It doesn't sound like it could realistically come together. Luckily, Bob-Waksberg is a genius who could not only pull this show off but make it one of funniest, bleakest, and most agonizing shows on TV. It's eighth in Metacritic's ranking.

It's also one of the best Netflix shows to binge, if only because you'll be on tenterhooks to see if BoJack and all the other people in his world are able to somehow make it through and wind up happy — or at least stable and on the road to healing. Our anxiety over what will happen to them makes us all the more grateful for every superbly crafted joke.

Mad Men

No. 7 on Metacritic's list, "Mad Men" immerses viewers in the enticing and deeply flawed world of 1960s advertising. The show is full of vivid and complex performances, and it's hard for any TV leads to outshine Jon Hamm's Don Draper or Elisabeth Moss' Peggy Olson. And both of them deservedly gathered up a huge number of awards and nominations, as did the rest of the cast and crew.

While its ad agency setting makes it seem a little tamer than a lot of the big TV dramas, make no mistake — "Mad Men" has its own brand of intensity, and it can get pretty wild. It can make us (and its characters) cry over ad pitches, and then it won't hesitate to chop a guy's foot off with a lawnmower. Never let anybody tell you it's too classy to be entertaining.

In general, the show had a gift for coming up with scenes we'll always remember. Some — like Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) falling down a flight of stairs or Megan Draper (Jessica Paré) giving her husband a sultry performance of "Zou Bisou Bisou" at his birthday party — were instant internet sensations. And others, like Don taking Peggy's hand at the end of Season 4's "The Suitcase," just go straight to our hearts. In the end, the emotional versatility of "Mad Men" is one of its greatest strengths.


Donald Glover's "Atlanta" is a dramedy that feels completely fresh and distinctive. With a borderline Lynchian flair — Glover described the show as "'Twin Peaks' with rappers" — and a sharp, creative point-of-view, the series clocks in at sixth on Metacritic's list.

Glover plays Earn, a down-on-his-luck aspiring rapper who's barely making ends meet, and he has to make his way through a strange world — one that's both our own and a few degrees off, just dreamlike enough to make it feel even more surprising and luminous. The show isn't afraid to tackle difficult issues, but it's too funny to ever qualify as grim. Instead, it's simultaneously plugged in and laid-back, with a vibe that's all its own. (Maybe it hits its zenith with the almost transcendentally off-kilter Darius, a supporting character played by Lakeith Stanfield.)

As Variety points out, "Atlanta" could coast by on Glover's considerable screen presence and fan cachet, or it could resort to basically just putting his standup on the air, but instead, it does something more complex. It's "more slice-of-life than joke-a-minute, creating a tapestry of experience that is as much about place and character as it is about the funny person at the center." It's a show that feels like it couldn't have been headed up by anyone but Glover and couldn't have existed anytime but now, and it's well-worth all the praise.

The Americans

Sometimes a high-octane spy thriller with a potboiler-ready premise — Soviet spies live next door to an FBI agent! — and sometimes a thoughtful, in-depth look at marriage and family, "The Americans" is ultra-intriguing and deeply engaging.

With its focus on married couple Elizabeth and Philip Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) and their troubled but ultimately loving relationship, "The Americans" put a spin on the traditional prestige drama/antihero format. The show cares about its human element as much — or maybe even more — than it cares about its spy derring-do and web of murders and plots. In fact, the show kicks into a whole new gear when the stakes start turning irreversibly intimate. We know how things shook out between the United States and the USSR. But week after week, we waited with bated breath to see what would happen with Paige, Philip and Elizabeth's daughter. Would she become a spy like her parents? Would Philip and Elizabeth split for good over their divided opinion on what was right for the kids?

The show's combination of intense family drama and simmering espionage wins it the fifth spot in the Metacritic ranking. Oh, and we can't forget its abundance of wigs. With Philip and Elizabeth's penchant for disguises, "The Americans" had the best wig game on TV.

Breaking Bad

"Breaking Bad" is about as good as TV gets. And it has one of the all-time great premises: Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher with lots of bottled-up frustration, finds out he has cancer. He wants to leave his family some money, but any treatment is likely to bankrupt them. And besides, there's nothing much to leave. With the help of a former student, Jesse (Aaron Paul), he starts cooking meth. And he's very, very good at it. It's no surprise that the show snagged the fourth-highest spot on Metacritic's list.

Walt's long, destructive fall into villainy is one of our favorite tragic arcs. Watching him fight his way to the top and frantically maneuver to avoid getting caught is magnetically compelling, but the further he goes and the higher he climbs, the more monstrous he becomes. Paul's Jesse is the perfect counterpoint, becoming more human and vulnerable as the series progresses, and he absorbs all the moral costs Walt refuses to feel. The two make for one of the most watchable duos ever.

Directly or indirectly, "Breaking Bad" may be the single most influential TV series of the last 10 years.

Game of Thrones

HBO didn't do high fantasy. Then "Game of Thrones" came along.

The epic series of dragons, White Walkers, and the war for the Iron Throne of Westeros shattered expectations of what prestige TV could look like, and everyone got hooked. As counterintuitive as it might seem at first, the show was a perfect fit for HBO. After all, despite its fantasy trappings, it still had plenty of the political gamesmanship, violence, and darkness that the network does so well. And HBO poured in plenty of money to make sure that the key battles and effects were utterly convincing.

While the controversial series finale slightly tarnished the series' reputation, the show as a whole remains as game-changing and remarkable as ever. If you watched it week-to-week as it aired, you had an unforgettable shared viewing experience — and probably more than a few unforgettable water cooler conversations and internet debates. With incredible worldbuilding, breathtaking scope, and enormous cast of well-realized characters who range from beloved to loathsome, "Game of Thrones" gets the No. 3 spot on Metacritic's list.


One of the newest shows on this list, it might seem like "Fleabag" is punching above its weight by taking the No. 2 spot on Metacritic's tally of the best shows of the last decade. But Phoebe Waller-Bridge's smart, witty, and sometimes emotionally devastating comedy deserves the acclaim. With its lengthy list of awards and accolades, it's no surprise that so many critics singled it out as a favorite.

"Fleabag" revolves around Waller-Bridge's technically unnamed character — Fleabag herself, to viewers — who is dealing (badly) with grief and the slightly manic struggle to connect and fill the void via a lot of (mostly ill-advised) sex. She makes endless bad decisions, but her gradual evolution towards getting better means that audiences can't help getting invested in her fate. Besides, her regular breaking of the fourth wall — she's fond of directly addressing the camera — adds intimacy as well as humor.

The show is as heart-wrenching as it is funny. As Variety's Maureen Ryan puts it, the show hooks you with "economical storytelling, savage honesty, and tender wit." Soon, you can't imagine not tuning in, even though it's leaving you emotionally raw.

The Leftovers

Sublime and surreal, "The Leftovers" has the kind of high-concept pitch we can't resist. It takes place after 2% of the world's population has suddenly disappeared, and everyone else is struggling to move forward through their pain and uncertainty. Some, like Nora Durst (Carrie Coon), who lost her husband and children, start off drowning in grief. Some take refuge in cults that seem to offer a kind of answer. Others, like lead Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), just try to hold onto the family they have left.

While the show's first season hews relatively closely to the Tom Perrotta novel it's based on, the next two seasons go off in dizzyingly bold directions of their own, ones that clearly demonstrate showrunner Damon Lindelof's flair for tackling the unknown. In these seasons, the show really finds itself, taking on a mythic approach and romanticism it's hard to find anywhere else. With dream worlds involving genital-scanning and magic karaoke, sincere searches for God, and a delicate and moving love story, "The Leftovers" commits to its own vision.

We have no intention of arguing with this No. 1 pick. "The Leftovers" dazzles us, and we can't imagine the 2010s without its peculiar genius.