10 Best Television Series of the Decade

Last week, The Movie Sleuth explored some of the best films of the 2010’s.  Following suit, here are ten of the best television series of the decade, along with a few honorable mentions. 


Featuring an unforgettable ensemble cast, Rectify is a slow burn humanistic journey from the brink of despair into the heart of morality and forgiveness.  After DNA evidence sets a convicted murderer free, he sets about trying to reintegrate into a normal life.  What makes this show so special is its intentionally slow pace and its absolute refusal to allow for any sort simplistic closure or “ah hah” moment.  This is a heartbreaking, life affirming, truly remarkable experience. 


Without a doubt, Noah Hawley’s brilliant superhero origin story is the of one of the best things born from our spandex overlords' newly cemented reign.  Wildly stylish, terrifying, and mind-blowing virtually all at the same time, there is, almost nothing quite like this show.  Featuring psychic dance competitions, silent film horror vignettes, and mature, boundary pushing subject matter, Legion is top tier small screen bravura.


If art is a reflection of our times, Atlanta is the looking glass inverted, shining a dangerous light into the horror of the nightmare that modern America has become.  Donald Glover/Childish Gambino’s approach to complex issues is nuanced and plays out over each episode in unexpected ways.  Featuring extremely well-developed characters and the infamous (ly amazing) Teddy Perkins episode, Atlanta is perhaps the most important show on this list. 


The best surprise of 2019, Hulu’s Reprisal is a creatively flawed madhouse.  Focusing on a female revenge plot, the story takes places in a world outside of time with flip phones, unique rituals, and wars that never happened.  Neon soaked sets abound while dueling gangs of bikers and muscle car thugs play out in a city known only as The River.  Abigail Spencer’s towering central performance is only overshadowed by the ambition of the series that (mostly) works throughout the first season’s 10 episodes. 


The mere existence of this show; an existential, artistically focused, homoerotic serial killer epic, is a miracle, considering it debuted on a major network and not a premium channel.  Regardless, Mads Mikkelson’s unforgettable turn as the infamous (but reimagined) Hannibal Lecter is one of the best performances of the decade.  Beyond this, however, is a traumatizing amalgam of brutal violence and awe inducing aesthetic. 

Twin Peaks: The Return

David Lynch’s 18 hour magnum opus was recently named the #1 film of the year by Cahiers du Cinema.  Debuting on Showtime in 2017, one of the best things about the event is in how it subverts viewers’ expectations, with much of the action (and lack thereof) transpiring in different locations throughout time.  A loving homage to the magic of hindsight, Lynch’s monumental achievement is also a potent reminder that obsession, be it with fandoms, morality, or closure, is a finicky god in a world where there is no religion. 


Another miracle born of the MCU’s rise to pop cultural ascendancy, Damon Lindelof’s imaginative sequel to Alan Moore’s definitive classic is pure perfection.  It is perhaps the only cinematic member of the Watchmen universe that truly understands its source material while simultaneously also understanding the diseased heart of America all too well.  Taking place in an alternate future, after the finale of the original graphic novel, the series explores a complex murder investigation that spans across time and space. 

Z Nation

The Walking Dead has become an embarrassing shadow of what made the comics so great.  An endless slog of melodrama and downright meanness mixed with frustrating writing decisions.  The remedy?  Syfy’s absolutely insane Z Nation.  What begins as a (admittedly) cheesy satire in the first season slowly transitions to one of the best shot series of the century. How this scrappy cast and crew are able to take such a laughable premise (It’s the Zombie Apocalypse with Viagra dosed walking corpses, Juggalo Killers, etc.) and turn it into a genuine reflection on family and loyalty is one of life’s great mysteries.   In addition, a prequel series (also directed by the amazing John Hyams) Black Summer is currently streaming on Netflix, though its tone is 100% in the opposite direction. 

The Leftovers

A profound achievement, Damon Lindelof’s dreamlike epic is a beautiful reflection on life, love, and conviction.  Based on Tom Stoppard’s novel, the story begins after 2% of the world’s population mysteriously vanishes.  What follows is three seasons of heart wrenching character development, apocalyptic omens, and surreal near-death experiences.   There has never been anything so organically human committed to the small screen.


Graham Yost’s neo-western is one of the greatest artistic achievements of the century.  Bringing the lawman gunslinger archetype into the 2010’s is an interesting choice, and Timothy Olyphant’s legendary Raylan Givens is more than capable.  Focusing on the criminal underworld of Kentucky, Raylan faces against neo-nazis, crooked businessmen, bluegrass gangsters, and most importantly: himself.  This is a show that is not only about the death of the ideals that created a country, but also the final breaths of an age that may have never existed in the first place.

Honorable Mentions

Fargo, Fleabag, The Americans, Russian Doll, Mr. Robot

--Kyle Jonathan