My Top Ten TV of the 2010's

It was a helluva good decade for television. To be clear, there are individual seasons that were downright amazing (Jessica Jones Season One, for one) but if the whole show didn’t hold together as well as any single season (I’m looking at you, Sherlock) it didn’t make the cut.

10. John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City

One of the funniest hours of television I’ve ever seen. And endlessly rewatchable. Which is wierd, cos I already know all the jokes. But something about his rhythm and timing makes it more like listening to a great album over and over again and seeing a great artist at work that just watching someone try to be funny.

9. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

There’s a trope that lawful good characters can’t be interesting, and certainly not funny. After proving that notion utterly ridiculous with Leslie Knope in Parks and Rec, Michael Schur did it again twice with Captain Raymond Holt and Detective Amy Santiago in his next workplace comedy. He also put the lie to the notion that once the will they/won’t they couple get together, the show is sunk, but instead here it got more interesting with Santiago and Jake Peralta becoming a couple. And certainly you couldn’t have a show set in a major metropolitan area where the demographics of the cast actually matched the demographic of the setting. But in fact it does. So much so that actors Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz could not believe that they both had been cast in the show because since when is there room for two Latinx characters in prime time? But as we’ll see again later in this list, Schur routinely breaks rules and gets away with it. And in his case, it’s actually a good thing. And it’s a testament to the universality that Schur’s specificity creates that this is the one show my mother in law, myself, and my son all enjoy across three generations.

8. The Mandalorian

Proving that less is actually more, this spare Western from John Favreau boasts incredible cinematography, elegant visuals, and compelling characters who generally don’t say very much.

7. The Good Place

There is ambitious and then there is AMBITIOUS. And then there is Michael Schurr executing near-perfectly on an insane vision. It wasn’t just the scope of what he set out to accomplish, or the originality of it (which I’m being vague about because the less you know going in, the better), but the fact that it was all engineered to be kind without sacrificing one ounce of comedic gold.

A masterclass in long game character arcs, a peerless ensemble delivers on Schur’s hilarious, imaginative four-season-long seminar in moral philosophy that, in educating us about it in the most entertaining way possible, forms its own moral philosophy which I agree with wholeheartedly.

6. Westworld

I saw the original Westworld and was like, that’s okay, I guess. But how are you gonna build a series around it? But Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan didn’t just build a series around it, they built a series about, like, everything. Emergence, consciousness, technology, theory of mind, what does it mean to be human? But, most of all, it is a story about slavery. A very potent, often gory story about slavery, but a story about slavery nonetheless that explores how the have’s almost inevitably fashion their own destruction by how they treat the have-not’s.

5. Last Week Tonight

In an age when we chase the sound bite, Last Week Tonight came along to say we can wait a week to analyze the news. And we can take twenty minutes to explore a topic in-depth. And make it very, very funny. Delivering on the promise of The Daily Show and creating a new spur in that evolutionary tree now picked up by the likes of Patriot Act, John Oliver’s funny exploration of sad topics gave a moral compass to a time when facts were fungible and power went unexamined. The episode where they explore social media shaming shows just how much thought they were giving to this topic when they reveal their own line of thinking when deciding who to “go after” and the notion of “punching up”. Also, they engineered some of the most hilarious interactive campaigns that sometimes actually gave the powers that be pause, or at least pissed them off to no end.

4. Chernobyl

There’s something heartbreaking, and yet intensely compelling, in the way that showrunner Craig Mazin lays out his retelling of the worst nuclear disaster in history. The last thing he is going for is spectacle. And yet the scale, and human cost, of the tragedy only grows from episode to episode. Bringing it all home are intense performances from Stellan Skarsgård, Emily Watson, and a career-best Jared Harris. In an age where lies were commonplace, Chernobyl forces us to ask, “what is the cost of lies?”

3. Breaking Bad

You don’t need me to tell you “Breaking Bad was the greatest show ever!” But I can tell you, in my opinion, it lives up to the hype. Vince Gilligan’s vision was simple. Take a timid guy and turn him into the devil. Plausibly. Over five seasons. What sets this show apart from your run of the mill white-dude-anti-hero show you got a ton of in the 00’s and 10’s, other than the clockwork plotting, intense characterizations, and stunning visual work is the cost. Gilligan never lets you forget the cost of Walter White’s ego, even when he looks cool doing it. And, unlike most shows, it sticks the landing.

2. Atlanta

There was simply no other show like Atlanta in the 2010’s nor will there ever be because it’s just too damn unique. At it’s core are a bunch of super-compelling flawed characters doing their best to get by. But how that manifests itself from episode to episode is utterly unpredictable, especially in season two where the very genre of the show might change from one episode to the next. What remains consistent is the wicked sense of humor and satirical bite of showrunner Donald Glover, and outstanding performances from Glover, Zazie Beets, Brian Tyree Henry, and a never better Lakeith Stanfield.

1. Watchmen

Yeah. I know. I just wrote about this in the top ten of 2019. But I’m telling you. It’s that good. It holds together soooo well. Watching it a second time there are things they are hitting you over the head with that you don’t realize they’re hitting you over the head with because of what you didn’t know the first time and that’s a mark of excellent structure. The story it’s telling about race is so relevant and, sadly will probably be relevant for a very long time, which is part of the point of the flashback and backstory approach it borrows from the original graphic novel but uses here to great social effect. Because just as the past of the Watchmen graphic novel narrative informs its present, so does the racial past of the Watchmen television show narrative inform its present and our present and that’s kind of the whole point.

Honorable mentions: Fleabag, Broadchurch, Killing Eve, Stranger Things, Archer



Big fan of treating people like people. Author, Design for Cognitive Bias. Founder, CEO, David Dylan Thomas, LLC. Speaker, Lots of Places.

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David Dylan Thomas

Big fan of treating people like people. Author, Design for Cognitive Bias. Founder, CEO, David Dylan Thomas, LLC. Speaker, Lots of Places.