Ranked: Iconic Scripted TV Shows Of The Past DecadePublished on December 4, 2019. Updated March 18, 2020
The end of 2019 marks not only the end of yet another year, but the transition into a whole new decade! As it is time to say goodbye to the 2010’s and usher in the 2020’s, what better time to look back at the past decade in entertainment, and namely some of the greatest shows on TV over the past 10 years? All of these series premiered in 2010 or later, and have become some of the most popular and successful series of the past ten years, with loyal and passionate fanbases — and often many awards. Check out iconic scripted TV shows of the past decade ranked:
25. This Is Us
Premiere Date: September 20, 2016
The world of prime-time television dramas has been an especially difficult one for networks to break into with new shows, but NBC more than succeeded with This Is Us. Before the full cast or premise of the series was announced, a teaser trailer for the drama broke viewership records, and the hype only continued when the series finally premiered in the fall of 2016. While many felt the show has struggled to maintain the same magic as its first season, there are few new drama series that have made the same impact on television and with viewers that This Is Us has.
Premiere Date: February 7, 2016
Many may not have heard of Letterkenny, but there is no denying the impressive impact the series has had. Since its premiere in 2016 the Canadian comedian has already had seven seasons, and has been recognized for its originality, wit, and cast chemistry. Although it started as a small Canadian production, it was soon tapped into in the United States where its popularity grew even more. Letterkenny breathed new life into the world of scripted TV while also marking its place in Canadian TV history.
23. The Good Place
Premiere Date: September 19, 2016
With heavy-hitting stars like Kristen Bell and Ted Danson touted to lead NBC’s The Good Place, audiences expected a good show, but the series went on to exceed expectations. The Good Place was framed as a comedy but is actually a critique on innate human behaviors, existential thought, and a very broad adaptation of what the after-life could be like. In a day and age where audiences are more in-tune than ever with predicting twists and turns, absolutely no one saw coming what the first season had in store and it was then that critics and viewers alike really appreciated how carefully crafted the series was. It is hard for comedies to really make their mark amid hard-hitting dramas and thrillers, but The Good Place has done just that.
Premiere Date: April 5, 2012
After leaning on Grey’s Anatomy for so long, ABC decided it had found something special with Shonda Rhimes and with shows with strong female leads, and the network delivered yet again with Scandal. The political thriller premiered in 2012 with not only a great storyline, but one of the decade’s best show leads: Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope. After its first season, it was clear to everyone that Scandal was going to be a show at the top of the ratings for quite some time after it was awarded Television Program of the Year at the AFI Awards. Not only did Scandal begin in the 2010’s but it also ended in the 2010’s, and it has earned its way to being named one of the best series of the decade.
21. The Walking Dead
Premiere Date: October 31, 2010
All successful series have loyal fandoms, and get buzzed about in the media, but very few have had quite the monumental impact on pop culture as a whole that The Walking Dead has. After premiering at the beginning of the decade, The Walking Dead gained so much momentum that it essentially took over not only television but products as well. By 2014, the total viewership for the show’s fifth-season premiere was 17.3 million, making it the most-watched series episode in cable history. Unfortunately, ratings and viewership has slowly fell in more recent years due to storylines, the exit of stars, and fans getting tired of the series, but none of that negate the fact it is without a doubt one of the most iconic television series of all time let alone of the decade.
20. The Goldbergs
Premiere Date: September 24, 2013
There are a handful of family sitcoms that have stood the test of time. Roseanne, Home Improvement, Full House, Happy Days and more are all great examples of family-based comedies that have great humor, an incredible cast, and are relatable for viewers of all demographics, and one of the most underrated from the most recent decade is The Goldbergs. Those who haven’t seen the series are definitely missing out. The laugh-out-loud moments mixed with the harsh lessons that come with growing up are expertly portrayed by the cast, so much so that it was given its own spin-off Schooled. Many, may not talk about The Goldbergs, but it is one that definitely stands out from the 2010’s in television.
19. Big Little Lies
Premiere Date: February 19, 2017
Big Little Lies made waves early into productions thanks to its star-studded lineup including Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz and Laura Dern, and the end result was a truly fascinating show that had audiences hooked from beginning to end. With strong female leads, a thrilling murder investigation, and complex relationships being explored quickly made Big Little Lies one of the standout shows of the year — and the decade!
Premiere Date: January 9, 2011
American television has adapted many British series, and while sometimes the adaptation doesn’t have the same impact on American audiences, that certainly wasn’t the case with the dark comedy-drama series Shameless. When the series premiered in 2011, not many thought that a series about a poor, often drunk father who is having difficulty raising his six children would go very far, but it more than exceeded expectations. Thanks to an incredible ensemble cast and the deep-dive into the complexity of the lives of the Gallagher family, Shameless has enjoyed 10 seasons already, with possibly more to come.
17. The Ranch
Premiere Date: April 1, 2016
Most family comedies on TV follow the same framework, but Netflix’s The Ranch brought a whole new template to the world of comedies centered around family with the Bennetts. Along with a star-studded cast including Sam Elliott, Ashton Kutcher, Debra Winger and for the first few seasons, Danny Masterson, The Ranch wasn’t afraid to make less than politically-correct jokes. Audiences appreciate the raw humor and the real-world views the characters portrayed. Unfortunately, the show seemed to lose a lot of its chemistry with the loss of Masterson after season three, but it definitely made its mark in terms of outstanding TV shows (especially comedies) from seasons one to three.
Premiere Date: March 2, 2010
Before This Is Us, everyone was shedding tears over the story of the Braverman family in Parenthood. The dynamic and compelling series dealt with not one but many heavy issues, but did so with genuine heart and compassion that drew viewers in. Unlike many of the other shows on this list, Parenthood never quite received the critical acclaim or recognition that many thought it deserved, but that doesn’t stop it from being a show that has found a place in the heart of million of viewers.
15. Orange Is The New Black
Premiere Date: July 11, 2013
Orange is the New Black was one of Netflix’s first major series, and it not only boosted Netflix’s popularity but became one of the most-talked about series of the decade. With so many incredible characters and developments, what made OITNB remarkable was the range of strong and powerful female leads who commanded the entire show. Although no season was quite as great as season one, Orange is the New Black is a show that will be remembered long after the 2010’s are over.
14. The Crown
Premiere Date: November 4, 2016
The lifestyle of Britain’s rich and distinguished became quite the trend in the 2010’s and The Crown stepped in bolder than ever when it premiered in November, 2016. Based on the early years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, the series has had to walk a fine line of delivering factual and historical information while also making the series dramatic enough to stay interesting, but has walked that line quite well.
13. Hawaii Five-O
Premiere Date: September 20, 2010
Throughout the 2010’s, audiences have made it clear that they have had enough of the remakes and reboots, but they certainly haven’t had enough of Hawaii Five-O. While rebooting or remaking any series is a challenge that is sure to be met with criticism, the 2010 Hawaii Five-O has been extremely successful since premiering in September of 2010. With Alex O’Loughlin as Steve McGarrett and Scott Caan as Danny “Danno” Williams, the new Hawaii Five-O was able to induce nostalgia while also making the show its own unique legacy.
12. Schitt’s Creek
Premiere Date: January 13, 2015
Letterkenny wasn’t the only Canadian television series to make waves across North American television in the 2010’s. After its premiere in 2015, the sitcom Schitt’s Creek soon gained a group of loyal fans, which has only grown over the years. Creator and star Daniel Levy coordinated with his real-life father Eugene Levy along with Annie Murphy and iconic Home Alone actress Catherine O’Hara to become the Rose family. The unique comedy takes viewers through the trials and tribulations of the once wealthy Rose family, and has delivered true comedy, as well as a lot of heart, and some of the greatest character developments on television.
11. American Crime Story
Premiere Date: February 2, 2016
Limited series really took over the decade in terms of television content, and one of the best was The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Ryan Murphy’s look back on one of the most well-known legal cases in history was captivating, nostalgic, informative, and entertaining all in one. While season one greatly stood out compared to seasons two and three, it was without a doubt due to the powerhouse cast, which helped earned the series a whopping 22 Primetime Emmy Award nominations with nine wins, including Outstanding Limited series. It went on to win the Golden Globe for Best Miniseries or Television Film.
10. Better Call Saul
Premiere Date: February 8, 2015
While unfortunately Breaking Bad premiered in 2008, setting it outside of the decade, its spinoff Better Call Saul definitely has its place on this list! Following up one of the best television shows of all time is no easy task, but Vince Gilligan succeeded with the series based on the character portrayed by Bob Odenkirk. Luckily with the same creator at the helm, the magic that made Breaking Bad so great held true with Better Call Saul, while diving deeper into the seedy underground group of Albuquerque’s criminals. Much like its predecessor, and the transformation of Walter White, the best part about Better Call Saul is the character arc of Jimmy McGill turning into Saul Goodman.
Premiere Date: September 6, 2016
Donald Glover was a force to be reckoned with in the late 2010’s and his hit show Atlanta is one of the reasons why. In terms of impactful and expertly done series, Atlanta resides near the top as it goes so deep into the lives of its characters that audiences can’t help but become attached. The show offers commentary on many major issues including politics, race, gender, class, drugs and more, but does it in a way that shoes how natural all these things really are in the everyday life of so many people. The eye-opening series is one of the very best because of the heart and humanity behind it, which has been appreciated by audiences and critics alike.
8. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Premiere Date: September 17, 2013
It is a struggle for comedies to be held in the same regard as hard-hitting dramas on television, but TV of the 2010’s would not have been the same without Brooklyn Nine-Nine. In its first few seasons, the series was criminally underrated and unlike so many other shows, it has somehow only gotten better rather than faltered throughout its many seasons. What makes Brooklyn Nine-Nine standout the most however is how carefully crafted each character is and the humor and effect that each bring to the series. Despite so many “leads” the show never feels packed or confusing, and in fact removing one from the series would be something deeply felt because of how important each character and star is to the show and its development. Also, enough can’t be said for how effortlessly inclusive the show has always been by making minority characters major facets and telling their stories without making it seemed force for the sake of inclusivity.
7. Downton Abbey
Premiere Date: September 26, 2010
Historical period dramas are a tricky genre to get quite right, but there is no denying that Downton Abbey succeeded far above initial expectations. After first airing in Britain, it is one of few shows to make an equally successful transition after it began airing in the U.S. in the fall of 2010. Fans were enamored by the Crawley family and although the series came to an end in 2015 after six seasons, audiences were far from done with the series. Downton Abbey continued its domination of the 2010’s with a film adaptation in 2016, which was helped along by the cry from fans for even more Downton Abbey!
Premiere Date: March 16, 2010
Justified was another FX network hit that had six seasons from 2010 to 2015. Many thought it might have been a risk banking on a contemporary western, but it was a risk that certainly paid off. What made Justified exceptional more than storylines or scripts was the incredible cast. Timothy Olyphant as U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens and Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder anchored the series but were surrounded by an incredible supporting cast that had audiences believing every moment of the tension and drama. While Justified only lasted six seasons, and many wished for more, most fans appreciated that Justified knew to go out on a high note and not ruin something great by dragging it out, as all too many series have done.
5. True Detective
Premiere Date: January 12, 2014
The art of a limited series and self-contained narrative changed the course of many shows when True Detective perfected it with its premiere season in 2014. With Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey announced as the stars of the first season, interest for the series was at an all-time high, and then it delivered an absolutely remarkable season. After making such a huge impact on television, season two was extremely disappointing and the series was able to rebound with season three. Most importantly the series opened the door for countless limited series and individual story seasons that have come since.
Premiere Date: April 22, 2012
When Veep premiered in 2012, many just expect a lot of great laughs from HBO’s show rife with political satire, but they got a lot more than that. In a real-world political climate of tension and fear, Veep hit a lot closer to home than maybe what was originally intended, but it did it with wit and poise, and an absolutely outstanding cast. Julia Louis-Dreyfus was so good in the role of Selina Meyer she won six consecutive Primetime Emmy Awards, three SAGS, and two Critics’ Choice Awards. Where the show could have abruptly failed, it instead succeeded brilliantly and is a show not soon to be forgotten.
3. The Americans
Premiere Date: January 30, 2013
For many, The Americans might very well be the top series of the 2010’s. The series captured fans because it managed to be a Soviet spies and the inner difficulties of life, family and marriage without being hard to grasp. The Americans was able to breakup the monotony of shows just about family life and the drama of cheating by adding the intensity of Philip and Elizabeth’s line of work. Giving such a human element to spies intrigued audiences, but what really made the series iconic was the performances of Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell. In the end, the authenticity of the show and its consistency of delivering greatness season after season (and one of TV’s best ever finales) is what made The Americans stand out amongst a decade of really great shows.
2. Game of Thrones
Premiere Date: April 17, 2011
There is absolutely no denying that Game of Thrones faltered heavily in its final seasons, but that does not erase the cultural impact it had overall. Despite complex storylines, unpredictable character exits, and some more than questionable relationships, Game of Thrones unified viewers of all demographics from young to old and even those not usually interested in sci-fi or fantasy television series. From the acting to the production, everything about Game of Thrones altered the realm of television and audience’s expectations for what is great television. It is a series that will never be forgotten and continually talked about thanks to its role in television history.
1. Stranger Things
Premiere Date: July 15, 2016
There is no denying that the 2010’s saw a surge in Netflix more than ever before. The giant streaming service continued with its sharing of big films and series but also delved more into the world of original content, and in the summer of 2016 changed the world of television with the release of season one of Stranger Things. The series achieved something that many only aspire to do which is stand-out amid the endless depths of television content and also entertain audiences of all demographics. The nostalgia of the ’80s paired with the sci-fi base of the show and the heart of the real emotions has made Stranger Things one of the most iconic shows in television history, not only of just the past 10 years.