This is a list of the best 10 shows of the 2010s, in my opinion, because this is my column and thus my opinion. “Game of Thrones” is not on this list. So shoot me, or do whatever characters in “Game of Thrones” do to their enemies — no wait, that’s probably really bad. I don’t want an arrow in my back or a sword or axe swung in my direction. Just disagree with me. It will be fine. You can even email me with your own top 10 list, and maybe I can add something to my watchlist.
And if you don’t want a top 10 list because it’s not really the end of the decade, that’s fine, too. Wander over to the next page and read about some politics or something, instead.
This list is including shows that aired at least partly in the 2010s. This beautifully scripted show started airing on AMC in 2007, when I was working in the Life department here at The Times. I had just barely started watching it when its costume director, a Brenau Academy graduate, visited Gainesville. Myself and the features editor at the time trekked over to the campus to hear her speak and pepper her with questions. Had I been watching the show longer, I would have had a lot more questions for her about Jon Hamm, who plays the enigmatic main character. But the costumes on the 1960s-era show are striking, too. By the 2010s, I was hooked and buying the DVD sets of each season. It’s a show full of stellar one-liners, classic styles, superb acting and a well-played anti-hero, who you don’t know whether to love or hate but who displays the complexities that make us all human. I love a good anti-hero.
Speaking of anti-heroes, there is Dexter. The writers somehow make you like a serial killer — at least a little bit. It’s a lot to handle, and I didn’t enjoy it the first time I tried watching. But I eventually was hooked, and by the time the series ended — a controversial ending I did not love — I felt like someone I knew had died, or at least like a co-worker whose company I enjoyed had left for another job far, far away. This show puts you in the mind of the killer. You hear his every thought, which is interesting and, as it turns out, builds a close relationship between viewer and character.
Maybe I was supposed to hate Dexter by the end of that series. I did hate Walter White by the end of this one. His spiral into the world of drug deals and cartels was certainly binge-worthy. There’s a lot of excitement and suspense in this series. The acting and camera work are on point. By the end, the drugs have destroyed everything, and you wonder whether Walter White was ever a good person.
This USA show is a more light-hearted anti-hero tale. It’s not as popular as some others on this list, but it is certainly one of my favorites. Neal Caffrey is a white-collar criminal who loves good art and finds himself working with FBI agent Peter Burke to catch other criminals. The push-and-pull relationship between those two make this show. And characters like Caffrey’s eccentric friend Mozzie, who is reasonably paranoid and only ever refers to Peter Burke as “Suit” and his wife as “Mrs. Suit,” make it especially enjoyable.
These are suits of a different kind — they’re more expensive for one. Another USA show, it’s also light-hearted and features a solid bromance between talented and aggressive attorney Harvey Specter and college dropout Mike Ross who happens to be brilliant. Ross cons his way into a job at the big city law firm. The characters and quick humor are a lot of fun to watch. I’d also like to own Meghan Markle’s wardrobe from this show — but the price tag on that likely skyrocketed when she married in to the British royal family.
This is an epic romance story with a lot of Scottish accents. A strong female lead set in the 1700s — at least some of the time — makes it particularly interesting. She’s navigating a world in which her role is made clear by sword-wielding men, but she finds a way to triumph. There’s time travel and witch trials and Red Coats and so many kilts — what’s not to love.
“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
This is another strong female lead navigating a world that isn’t ready for her. She’s a 1960s homemaker with a quick wit who stumbles her way into the world of stand-up comedy. The rapid-fire dialogue is smart and funny, but the best part is uniquely wonderful characters like Mrs. Maisel’s agent and rich parents, who each have more than a few quirks.
“This is Us”
As you can tell by now, dramas are my go-to. And this more recent piece on NBC is a solid gold family drama. I don’t tear up at every episode like some, but I appreciate the way this show explores serious topics. It’s emotional but never feels overbearing or preachy like some family dramas. When the show introduced a child in foster care, I got a bit nervous about how that would be portrayed. But the writers have done an especially excellent job showing the girl’s connection to her birth mother and the realities of the emotions foster care brings into a family.
“Parks and Recreation”
I avoided this show for a while. I’m not a big fan of Amy Poehler’s style, but once I finally started watching, it became one of my all-time favorite comedies. The setting in a small government office allows for some jokes that this journalist can appreciate. Ron Swanson in a circular desk persistently spinning away from a member of the public who has a question is gif-worthy. And don’t worry, that gif exists. Though one of the moments I laughed at the most was a montage of police officers telling a story in copspeak. If you read that a suspect fled on foot from a car red in color, you know a journalist didn’t do his job to tell you the man ran away from the red car.
This is another show I avoided for a while. Despite the name, it’s actually quite a heart-warming family dramedy. It’s probably not for everyone, but watching a previously rich family adjust to living in a motel in small town America is hilarious at first, and as the show progresses, the characters who start as shallow and self-obsessed gradually begin to find relationship and meaning they likely never had in their old life.