To celebrate Awards Circuit’s 9-year anniversary, the site will be dropping a new Top 9 piece every hour, on the hour! Each one will take on a different list – from movies, to television, to the Oscars and more. Thanks to all the readers for their continued engagement in our community over the years. We look forward to engaging for another 9!
Welcome to the latest in the Awards Circuit Anniversary Series! For our 9-year anniversary today, we’re running down the best TV series of the last nine years. Luckily for Awards Circuit, our site came into existence just as the phenomenon of “Peak TV” began to lay its seeds. With so many incredible series coming out over the last nine years, we had to lay down some ground rules. First, a series had to run for at least three full seasons (during Awards Circuit’s existence) before being eligible. This means several shows that are currently airing did not qualify (“The Leftovers,” “black-ish,” “Fargo”), and some shows finishing up their runs missed the cut (“The Wire”). Considering how close some other shows came to making the list, we’ve listed the “next out” and “watch for in the future” categories below. Let’s get started!
Next Out Shows
- “The Office”
- “Friday Night Lights”
- “The Americans”
- “Modern Family”
Watch Out for These Shows
- “The Leftovers”
- “Rick and Morty”
HONORABLE MENTION: “American Horror Story” (FX, 2o11-Present)
Our honorable mention is the horror goliath “American Horror Story.” While the series can be wildly inconsistent from episode to episode (and especially from season to season), the show undeniably shaped television in recent years. With its launch in 2011, the reintroduction of the anthology series became the hottest trend in TV. “True Detective,” “American Crime Story,” “Fargo,” “American Crime” and many others were brought to fruition. If for no other reason than this, “AHS” deserves its due.
Best Seasons: “My Roanoke Nightmare (6)” “Murder House (1),” “Asylum (2)”
9. “Hannibal” (NBC, 2o13-2015)
While “American Horror Story” tries to be scary, no show feels more like a fever dream/nightmare come to life than NBC’s “Hannibal.” Can we all just take another second to ponder how this show was somehow on NBC? It was easily the most violent and gory show on cable television in the last decade. It also features outright great performances by Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy. What makes “Hannibal” one of the best series of the last decade is the production value. The series had incredible cinematography and featured some top-notch makeup effects. On top of that, the production design was extremely inspired given that we’d previously seen this world in film. More than any other show on the list, this series just drips style, and despite running only three seasons, remains a nearly perfect, yet extremely dark, series.
Best Episodes: “Mizumono,” “The Number of the Beast is 666,” “Apéritif”
8. “Veep” (HBO, 2o12-Present)
The show that made Julia Louis-Dreyfus the all-time leading actress in Emmy wins and nominations is perhaps the funniest workplace comedy ever made. It’s all made that much funnier by using the White House and Washington D.C. as a workplace. A series that has an extremely deep ensemble, the writers have found ways to showcase everyone to the best of their abilities. It’s an impressive feat in its own right, but the comedy gold that the writers have uncovered with profanity-laden rants might be the show’s lasting legacy. You haven’t heard swearing until you’ve seen “Veep” (or at least “The Thick of It”).
Best Episodes: “Election Night,” “Mother,” “Testimony”
7. “Silicon Valley” (HBO, 2014-Present)
Leave it to the genius Mike Judge to find a way to turn the tech boom into an incredibly relatable comedy about a group of computer geeks. One of the most striking things about the series is its love for its characters. The show seems to root for its characters, even though none of the characters can seem to catch a break. There’s a hopefulness that’s present in the series that makes all the crude humor and hilarity worth it. A great blend of cast and expertly delivered sight gags makes “Silicon Valley” one of the most impressive series on TV today. While it is absolutely the newest series on the list (it is literally airing season 4 right now), it has already carved its place in the Mount Rushmore of peak comedy TV.
Best Episodes: “Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency,” “Daily Active Users,” “Two Days of Candor”
6. “Louie” (FX, 2010-Present)
The genius of Louis C.K. is pretty much solidified at this point. However, even when the artist and their art is appreciated for its creativity, no show has had a bigger mark on comedy TV in peak TV than this. The freedom that C.K. got when making the show was one of the first real victories for writers/creators in the modern age of TV. You can craft a direct line from C.K., to Aziz Ansari in “Master of None” and Donald Glover’s “Atlanta.” Simply put, the series could be whatever it wanted to be in any given episode. It was a radical ideal, but without “Louie,” TV is far more formulaic. It’ll be interesting to see if C.K. ever returns to do more, but even if he doesn’t, the series is a masterpiece.
Best Episodes: “Late Show, Part 3,” “Duckling,” “Daddy’s Girlfriend, Part 2”
5. “30 Rock” (NBC, 2006-2013)
The joke-a-minute formula works to perfection in “30 Rock,” and it remains one of the most quotable comedies in TV history. Written and created by Tina Fey, the series follows a fictionalized version of Fey in Liz Lemon, who writes for a variety late-night show. Fey is able to cash in on her years of experience, while creating wholly unique characters. Alec Baldwin gave one of the best comedic performances of the past 15 years on TV, and Tracy Morgan comes close to the second best. The small ensemble works like a charm, and credit goes to Jane Krakowski and others for making it work. With so many winning jokes in every scene, you’ll come away from each episode with a joke stuck in your head for years to come.
Best Episodes: “Dealbreakers Talk Show #0001,” “Live From Studio 6H,” “Kidney Now”
4. “Mad Men” (AMC, 2007-2015)
“Mad Men” remains as influential today as it was when it premiered. Perhaps no show signaled the beginning of the age of “Peak TV” more than “Mad Men,” and it should remain one of the most cited series of all-time. Matthew Weiner’s vision for the series was masterful, and no show may perfectly encompass an era the way that “Mad Men” handles a gender and subculture revolution. What might be most surprising about the series is the fact the era is told from the most privileged people of the time. It’s an extraordinary series that features incredible performances from Jon Hamm, Christina Hendricks and Elizabeth Moss. However, the writing is what truly carries the series. No drama has better comedy, and no moment may prove it more than the time someone’s foot got run over by a lawnmower in the office. Yup.
Best Episodes: “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency,” “The Suitcase,” “Waterloo”
3. “Parks and Recreation” (NBC, 2009-2015)
No show flew under the radar quite like “Parks and Recreation,” but few shows hold a stronger cultural footprint. “Parks and Recreation” may already be the “Cheers” of its generation, and has continued to grow in critical esteem since leaving the air. Half the cast have become superstars since the show, and with a cast 10 members deep, more may be coming. With an all-star cast including Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Aubrey Plaza, Billy Eichner, Rob Lowe, Rashida Jones and Nick Offerman, there may not be a stronger cast in a comedy series since Awards Circuit opened for business. With a rotating list of incredible guest stars, the series’ message of hope and a call for action in our local communities may be more important today than the day it released. Emmy missed the boat, and it might be their biggest mistake of the last 20 years.
Best Episodes: “Flu Season,” “One Last Ride,” “Leslie and Ben”
2. “Breaking Bad” (AMC, 2008-2013)
There is still a question about “Breaking Bad” that still bugs me to this day. How on earth did Vince Gilligan make this show work? No show in history may be more perfectly written, and “Breaking Bad” deserved the love the series achieved as it finished up its run. While the first few seasons had depressingly low ratings, the world caught up to Gilligan’s incredible work, and thank god they did. Another drama that has surprisingly strong comedic leanings, “Breaking Bad” is simply perfect in almost every way. You can never discuss the series without discussing the impeccable work from both Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. In fact, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, and Giancarlo Esposito all need to take another bow. There are two other amazing characters, but they got their own awesome show, so they’ll be fine.
Best Episodes: “Ozymandias,” “Say My Name,” “Full Measure”
1.”Game of Thrones” (HBO, 2011-Present)
There are plenty of questions about whether “Game of Thrones” will stick the landing as it reaches its penultimate season. At this point, it doesn’t even matter. “GOT” is a cultural behemoth that simply can’t be stopped, and has no plan to slow down despite its plan to end by 2019. The world of Westeros has been so immaculately constructed that no fictional world in TV history may feel more real. The cast is absolutely sprawling, and there are simply too many to cite (although Peter Dinklage still deserves his due). A series has never been so grandiose and yet carried such personal stakes. The mix of strong performances, very strong writing and practical set/world building is incredible. The series is the most impressive undertaking in TV history and has reaffirmed HBO’s stake in it.
Best Episodes: “Hardhome,” “The Rains of Castamere,” “The Door”