Decade in Review: The Top 10 Television Shows of the Decade

Today I will discuss my top 10 favorite television shows of the decade. These shows simply are the ones that kept me engaged that were consistent in their greatness or, if they lasted only a short time, made a serious impact in my mind. Like I’ve said before, due to a lack of time to watch television, as well as not having money for cable, shows like Lost, Entourage, Friday Night Lights, Breaking Bad, In Treatment, etc. will not appear on the list. Hopefully over the next few years I’ll catch up.

As I’ve said, the shows on my list had to have premiered between the summer of 1999 and the spring of 2009 because sometimes a season spreads over two different years.

Here are my top 10 television shows of the decade:

10. Gossip Girl

When I first heard about this show I wrote it off as another teen show about whinnying rich kids. However, one summer afternoon I had nothing to do and there was nothing to watch on TV, so I decided to watch GG, which was on. Needless to say I was hooked. The performances were surprisingly good for a cast full of unknowns (Leighton Meester’s performance is #49 on my 50 best TV performances of the decade). The writing was top notch and filled with smart comments. Also, every episode title is modeled after a classic or popular, yet great, movie. It also takes on some serious topics which other shows have been afraid of taking on. Soon it became one of the shows that was on my must watch list.

9. John Adams

I watched this mini series on DVD because of all the acclaim and awards it received. It starred Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, two of the best performers working today, and it was produced by Tom Hanks, so I had nothing to lose. The first episode, despite having the actors living up to their promise, was kind of dull. However, as each episode passed, I was won over. The history of that time is interesting, and it was great to see it from John Adams and his family’s point of view. We also get to see his interaction with his family which makes him more than a historic figure, but human. By the time the series was over I had experienced one of the best crafted TV events ever, with two of the ten best TV performances of the decade.

8. The Office

This show is sometimes painful to watch, but only because some scenes are too realistic for what one might expect from a work-place comedy. But the mix of the realism combined with the hilarious moments that the writers provide, makes for one of the most unique shows I’ve seen, despite the fact that it is a remake. The entire cast fits perfectly with their respective, especially Steve Carell as Michael Scott, the annoying and possibly crazy, yet lovable boss.

7. 30 Rock

This show about what goes on behind an SNL-like show is currently the best written television show on air. However, it is not a traditional sitcom, or even like The Office or Arrested Development. Every single character has some sort of personality quirk that is played out every week. Also, not a lot of comedies have random musical numbers, puppet-vision, monkey obsessions, murder (attempts) by strawberries, episodes full of Harry and the Hendersons references in only one season. The cast is also quite easily the best in television, headlined by the great Tina Fey and the great Alec Baldwin.

6. Spongebob Squarepants

This premiered in the summer of 1999, so it barely made it into the list. But why is it on the list? Simply because it is damn good. The animation, the voice performances, and the writing make this more than a kid’s show. It is a show that everyone in the family can enjoy because it is smart, and it doesn’t talk down to kids, and it is stupid, but it does not offend the mind of mature adults. It is also full of creative and quirky situations that make one wonder how the writers come up with them. It also spawned one of my favorite movies of the decade.

5. Pushing Daisies

Originality and creativity is something one rarely comes across on TV anymore. All people seem to be interested in watching is reality shows or cop shows. However, every once a while a show comes along and tries something new; and when that happens it is a thing a beauty. Pushing Daisies was such a show. Although it was sort of like a cop show, the situations everyone got involved in, from the crimes to the love stories, made it stand apart from the rest. Sadly, in only lasted for 22 episodes. For more on Pushing Daisies read my Elegy for Pushing Daisies.

4. Firefly

Yet another original and amazing show that was cancelled way too soon. This was a space-set western about a group of former soldiers that spend their time transporting people who may have some sort of shady past. Every episode was cleverly written and had great performances from the entire cast. Both of this things combined made for an exhilarating, hilarious, and emotional experience that most people who watched the show remember fondly.

3.  Arrested Development

The story of a wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together is quite possibly the best comedy of all time. Every episode delived countless laughs and quotable lines as well as outrageous characters that, oddly, most people will relate to. Even though it was critically loved and received many awards, the folks at FOX, in all their infinite wisdom decided it to cancel the show, even though it still had a couple more seasons in it. It may not have lasted long, but it still provided for some of the finest comedy moments in the history of television.

2. Rome

Everything about the show was epic. The story, writing, production, performances, everything in this show was awe inspiring. I had never seen anyone take on these times in such a realistic manner, even though the creators took some creative license. I won’t complain about how long the show lasted because it ended in a satisfactory note, but how I wish it had lasted a little bit longer just to experience the lavish production a bit more.

1. Battlestar Galactica.

No other show this decade has been truer about the human condition this decade. Taking place in the future, it tells us about what would happen if almost the entire human population was destroyed. It covers everything from the chaos, the emotion, to the struggle to remain civilized when everything that we hold dear was destroyed. Anchored by great performance from Edward James Olmost, Mary McDonnel, Tricia Helfer, Katee Sackoff, and great writing in every episode, Battlestar Galatica is the most compelling television show I’ve ever experienced.


One thought on “Decade in Review: The Top 10 Television Shows of the Decade

  1. I haven’t watched Rome, but I absolutely adored BSG. It is easily my top show to ever come onto television. Quite a shame more people haven’t watched the show.

    I have only watched two other shows on your list. I watched about half of the first season of Arrested Development, which was great.

    The Office is the other show I have watched and I am completely caught up on it.

    Curious if you have seen Damages or Mad Men.

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