The best TV shows of the decade, ranked for you to argue about

It’s been a truly transformative ten years for the small screen, with the big budgets of Netflix, Amazon and their rivals bringing Hollywood-level production budgets and talent to the small screen.

Here, the WIRED team have each picked a favourite television show that they’ve enjoyed in the last ten years, and then we’ve ranked them in a by no means arbitrary fashion. Note: we’re only counting shows that started after 2010, so no Breaking Bad.

14. Peaky Blinders

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The series that started out in 2013 as a regional BBC curiosity has spent the best part of a decade becoming a global cultural phenomenon – the 2019 John Lewis Retail Report even mentions the “Peaky Blinders Effect” as a factor in the surge of popularity in tweeds, flat caps and waistcoats (no word on razor blades, though). Peaky Blinders follows the misadventures of the Shelby clan as they claw their way up from being 1920s ne’er-do-well Birmingham ruffians to bookmakers, hooch-distillers, tank manufacturers (yes, really) and eventually stalking the corridors of Parliament, all with a healthy dose of gypsy hoo-doo and down-and-dirty gang warfare – it’s like Dynasty with cobbles and a gleeful embrace of the absurd. Mike Dent

13. Line of Duty

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“None of my people would plant evidence. They know I would throw the book at them. Followed by the bookshelf.” These immortal words from Ted Hastings, whose catchphrases have sparked their own genre of parody videos on YouTube, are at the heart of the best drama the BBC has produced in the last decade. Hastings is the head of AC-12, the most despised unit in the entire UK police force – because they investigate police corruption. With a plot that has more twists and turns than a bowl of spaghetti, and where everyone (including his own team) are suspects, this clever detective story leaves no stone unturned. With a stellar guest cast led by powerhouses Thandie Newton, Keeley Hawes and Stephen Graham, you will learn more police lingo than you ever thought possible. Natasha Bernal

12. American Horror Story

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Murder House, the first season of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s anthology series, debuted in 2011. Over the eight following years, American Horror Story devoted each season to exploring the locales – sideshows, mental institutions, hotels – and circumstances – nuclear warfare, racism, Donald Trump – that most trigger the US’s fears. Invariably camp and on-the-nose, but just as invariably graced with fantastic acting by stars including Lady Gaga, Sarah Paulson, and Jessica Lange, American Horror Story has grown into a dependable laboratory to experiment with and analyse the evolution of the scary, the eldritch, and the eerie. No prizes for guessing that, more often than not, the real horror is society. Gian Volpicelli

11. The Americans

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The Americans is criminally underwatched. Set in the 1980s, Philip and Elizabeth Jennings seem like normal Americans. They have two kids, run a travel agency and become good friends with their new neighbour, FBI agent Stan Beeman. There’s one tiny problem. They’re Russian spies, sent to America as ‘illegals’ who embed themselves in the community. It’s a recipe for numerous tense action sequences, but The Americans is far more than a by-the-numbers spy thriller. Its killer 80s soundtrack and flawless production design dazzle, and the way The Americans builds complex, flawed but ultimately sympathetic characters will have you hooked. It’s a show packed with great performances, but Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell – who met and married through the show – are incredible as the deeply conflicted couple at its core. Its six seasons rarely dip in quality and The Americans nails the landing with one TVs best ever finales. Andy Vandervell

10. Girls

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Since the first series, Girls faced myriad criticism – for a vision of womanhood that was too white, too privileged, too entitled. But while some criticism might be justified, two things need to be remembered. One, the show is not supposed to be populated with role models (and isn’t that a fairly ridiculous expectation of a TV show?), and two, the type of criticism levelled at the characters in the show – that they’re whiny, unlikeable, bitchy – is the type routinely employed to undermine women in general. As one of the very few female-created shows about women, Girls was expected to represent and appeal to all women. It doesn’t. It follows the lives of four friends from very particular backgrounds in New York. But that doesn’t mean it’s not an exceptional show. It boasts truly great writing, it’s genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, it’s zany and absorbing. Laurie Clarke

9. Sense8

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It’s the most marmite TV series of the decade, but its fans will Stan it fo another decade. Sense8 fans famously ran a massive renewal campaign after the show was axed, and they wore Netflix down to the extent that the streaming service was forced to bring it back for one last episode, making it the only show that Netflix has brought back after cancellation. It’s a show about eight strangers across the world who suddenly find themselves telepathically linked and able to feel each other’s emotions. It’s both happy and sad, and will have you going from pumping the air in joy to crying all the tears when you see your favourite character going through pain. And how can we forget all those really, really weird moments that had us all going ‘WTF? I LOVE THIS SHOW!’. From psychic orgies to outrageous scenes with guns and bazookas, Sense8 is the weirdest show of the decade, and we love it. Alex Lee

8. Rick and Morty

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There are only two acceptable responses to Rick and Morty: you’ve watched a handful of episodes and “couldn’t get into it” or you’re an evangelist at risk of mistaking a clever cartoon for a worldview. A show that’s more than the sum of its (sometimes) toxic fans, Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s weird animation about the portal-jumping space adventures of a Bad Grandad – Rick – and his nervous grandson – Morty – has been as much a fixture of 2010s TV as Girls or BoJack. It’s the kind of post-modern trickster show that makes fun of TV catchphrases then sets out to get TV catchphrases stuck in your head. The writers go poignant and political just to show they can then just as enthusiastically lurch back to – literal – toilet humour. Now midway through season four, the first batch in Adult Swim’s huge long-term 70 episode order, Rick and Morty is everything and nothing and the joke’s almost certainly on us. Sophie Charara

7. Master of None

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Aziz Ansari co-writes and stars in this sweet but sharply observed comedy-drama about a struggling 30-something actor in New York City that’s quite unlike anything else you’ll ever watch. Unlike some other sitcoms set in the city, it’s got a diverse cast of actually likeable characters – and it touches on areas that other shows won’t touch. There have been other comedy shows fronted by non-white characters before, but this is one of the few where the character’s ethnicity is incidental, and not the driver of every plot. It’s really refreshing. Amit Katwala

6. The OA

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The OA was a thing of beauty, tragically cut short. It’s hard to describe the show without giving too much away – in its beginning it is about a blind girl who went missing, only to appear seven years later with her sight miraculously restored. As the series progresses, it explores life after death, strange magic, and a journey to another world. High school children perform movements to help an angel find the one she loves. A detective searches for a missing girl who got lost in another world. Despite co-writer Brit Marling announcing the show’s cancellation in August 2019 after two series, we’re still supporting the conspiracy theory that it was all just a media publicity stunt and series 3 will be with us soon. Maria Mellor

5. Black Mirror

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“Oh, that’s a bit Black Mirror!”, has, in recent years, come to define the unerringly dystopian direction of technological progress. From the rise of the surveillance state to porcine dalliances, Charlie Brooker’s often acerbic and always prophetic anthology series has, in many respects, continued to grow and improve. A big-budget takeover by Netflix enabled Brooker and executive producer Annabel Jones to be even more ambitious with their storytelling, with ‘San Junipero’ and ‘USS Callister’ rightly regarded as amongst the show’s best episodes. Sure, season five might have amounted to little more than an angry screed with little nuance, but for the past eight years Black Mirror has rightly claimed its place in the popular culture hall of fame. James Temperton

4. Game of Thrones

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Forget about the ending – and really the entire final season. Taken as a whole, Game of Thrones has been one of the best shows to ever hit our screens. All 63.5 hours of the series are one long power battle, with every family vying for control. Go back to the early seasons to get a slightly rawer feel to the episodes and a faster moving plot. What makes Game of Thrones worth being on this list though is its unpredictability. Have a favourite character? They’ll probably be exiled, dead, or on the throne in a couple of episodes time. There have been other fantasy epics, but George R. R. Martin’s will remain a must watch (and read) for decades to come. Matt Burgess

3. Fleabag

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With Fleabag, Phoebe Waller-Bridge brings whole new meaning to the idea of a “strong female lead”, veering far away from clichés to portray a protagonist who is tragic and comic, and deeply, deeply flawed. The first series threw us unrelentingly into Fleabag’s world of grief, lust and guinea pigs as she manages to self-sabotage at every step, ultimately breaking the few familial relationships she has left. Second series are always difficult, but Waller-Bridge plays a blinder by introducing the character of Andrew Scott’s priest, who is just as witty and just as damaged as her eponymous anti-hero. It’s an absolutely unexpected direction in a series that is brazenly unafraid of tackling tough topics, from miscarriage to mental health, in a way that seems sensitive and well-informed while never dampening the black humour throughout. Victoria Turk

2. Chernobyl

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If you can get through the toe-curlingly terrifying first scene, you’re in for a treat. A relentlessly depressing and bemaddening treat, but a treat nonetheless. Who would have thought that the writer behind The Hangover Part II and Part III would end up creating the hardest-hitting miniseries of the decade? While Chernobyl is ostensibly about the search for answers in the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear power disaster, it’s also a startling personal story of the thousands of people who paid the ultimate price to undo the damage done. In all, it’s a stunningly produce slice of drama about the cost of lies and a disaster that, according to Mikhail Gorbachev, precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. Matt Reynolds

1. BoJack Horseman

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In a decade warped by awful middle-aged men, it takes some justification to recommend a show starring one. Yet BoJack Horseman proved essential because it examined toxic masculinity without exonerating its perpetrators, and in doing so offered one of the most intelligent takes on the #MeToo crisis. Combine this achievement with a cast of deep, hilarious secondary characters, plus some good old fashioned AAA joke writing, and you have a cartoon worthy of rivalling the best seasons of The Simpsons – moving, hilarious and profound. Will Bedingfield

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