Top 10 Decade Defining Shows of the 2010s

Written by Max Bledstein Even halfway through the current decade, we’d already seen some incredible television. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 decade defining TV shows of the first half of the 2010s. For our series on the Top Decade Defining Shows Per Era, we picked series that spoke to the period in which they were made, and set the standard for television during that time. These shows were chosen for how important they were in the 2010s, regardless of when they started or finished. We left out shows like “True Detective” that are still in their infancy, because we want to see more of them before we decide how great they really are. Special thanks to our users Eric Turpel and Andrew A. Dennison for submitting the idea through our Suggest Tool at WatchMojo.comSuggest
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Written by Max Bledstein

Top 10 Decade Defining Shows of the 2010s


Even halfway through the current decade, we’d already seen some incredible television. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we`re counting down our picks for the top 10 decade defining TV shows of the first half of the 2010s.

For our series on the Top Decade Defining Shows Per Era, we picked series that spoke to the period in which they were made, and set the standard for television during that time. These shows were chosen for how important they were in the 2010s, regardless of when they started or finished. We left out shows like “True Detective” that are still in their infancy, because we want to see more of them before we decide how great they really are.

#10: “The Big Bang Theory” (2007-)

You don’t have to be a nerd to enjoy this sitcom – but it probably helps. It centers on four geeky, socially awkward scientists and their relationship with Penny, the gorgeous waitress who lives across the hall from two of them. Enjoying high ratings since its debut, “The Big Bang Theory” is a syndication darling whose success has only increased with time. The show’s clever references to science and sci-fi are hilarious, and make the Chuck Lorre series unique. And, the excellent cast chemistry, ensemble of actors and killer cameos hold it all together.

#9: “Sherlock” (2010-)

This BBC series proves that, even though the books that inspired this detective show were written over 100 years ago, the stories still resonate in a modern setting. The British crime drama brings Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brainiac sleuth and his crime-solving adventures with his milquetoast sidekick Watson into the 21st century, and the results are thrilling. The intricate mysteries are fascinating to watch being unraveled, and we can’t get enough of Benedict Cumberbatch’s star-making performance as the titular investigator.

#8: “Community” (2009-)

Though this cult comedy is constantly on the verge of extinction, you wouldn’t know it from how hilarious and witty it is. The Dan Harmon show intersperses meta-humor and pop culture references into its depiction of students at a California community college, making it feel unlike any series we’ve ever seen. Even after losing hysterical actors like Donald Glover, stalwarts like Joel McHale and Alison Brie kept the ensemble strong. We’re still hoping for six seasons and a movie.

#7: “House of Cards” (2013-)

This political drama is notable for being the first big original series on Netflix, but it would’ve merited a spot on our list regardless of how it’d been distributed. A strong supporting cast has helped the show nab awards nominations aplenty, including a Golden Globe for Robin Wright. But Kevin Spacey gives an unforgettable turn as Frank Underwood, a ruthless Republican politician who’s willing to do anything for power. The strong writing ensures that he always has interesting things to say, especially when he’s delivering soliloquies directly into the camera.

#6: “Modern Family” (2009-)

Families in the 21st century look very different than they once did, and, true to its name, this sitcom memorably portrays contemporary clans. Its mockumentary style is the perfect form for depicting the lives of three related families in suburban L.A. The ensemble cast is outstanding from top to bottom, though we particularly love the “cool dad” Phil. Their witty banter is just as entertaining as it is insightful, and ensured the show nabbed tons of awards, critical acclaim, and viewers galore.

#5: “Boardwalk Empire” (2010-)

We wouldn’t want to’ve lived during Prohibition, but it sure makes for an entertaining setting for this crime drama. Earning 18 Primetime Emmy nods in its first season alone, this HBO show has received widespread critical acclaim. After years as a supporting actor, Steve Buscemi finally got a starring role as Nucky Thompson, a corrupt politician who colludes with mobsters and others in the interest of acquiring power. The gorgeous period set design is the perfect backdrop for the compelling interactions between him and the rest of the stellar cast.

#4: “Mad Men” (2007-15)

This was the first series after AMC’s formatting change to prove the channel knew how to do original content. A romantic period drama about people who work in advertising, it’s the most fun you’ll ever have in a history lesson. And the beautiful costumes bring the 1960s setting to life. But, of course, it’s the people wearing them who drive the show, particularly Don Draper, played with remarkable charisma by Jon Hamm. His tumultuous life never fails to keep us entertained, and it has tugged at our heartstrings more than a few times.


#3: “The Walking Dead” (2010-)

Though zombie stories have been told many times, this series manages to provide a fresh take on the genre. Another success for AMC, “The Walking Dead” is as popular with critics as it is in the ratings. Adapted from Robert Kirkman’s comic book series of the same name, the show depicts the lives of a group of survivors of a zombie apocalypse, led by the courageous sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes. Their struggles to cooperate make up much of the drama, but it’s the impressively gruesome zombie action that really gets us.

#2: “Game of Thrones” (2011-)

The sheer scale of this fantasy adaptation would be enough for it to make our list, but its unpredictable plot twists and compelling characters put it over the top. Based on George R.R. Martin’s novels, this HBO drama set viewership records, won multiple awards and is consistently the most-pirated show online. Whether it’s the battles in the North or power struggles in King’s Landing, the show has a wealth of strong stories. Though we hate seeing our favorite characters die, we know that equally awesome ones will take their place. TV has never been this epic.

Before we unveil our pick for Decade Defining Show of the first half of the 2010s, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Orange is the New Black” (2013-)
- “Luther” (2010-13)
- “Louie” (2010-)
- “Homeland” (2011-)
- “Downton Abbey” (2010-)
- “American Horror Story” (2011-)

#1: “Breaking Bad” (2008-13)

As much as we grew to hate Walter White over this AMC show’s five-seasons, we had to put his show on top. He’s a high school chemistry teacher who starts cooking meth with his former student Jesse to provide for his family after he’s diagnosed with cancer. Unsurprisingly, he gets in over his head, though what’s rough for him is riveting for us. Bryan Cranston does an incredible job of portraying both Walt’s tenderness and his ferocity. All that made this the highest-rated show ever, as well as an awards juggernaut whose finale did not disappoint.

Do you agree with our list? What TV show do you think best defined the first half of the 2010s? For more memorable top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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