Skip to main content

Main Area

Main

100 best seasons of TV in the 21st century

  • 100 best seasons of TV in the 21st century

    Television series ebb and flow. Some seasons boast powerful performances, side-splitting comedy, scintillating storylines, and pitch-perfect writing, while others from the same show are just, well, meh. Often a show has a stunning debut season only to fall into the proverbial sophomore slump; or the reverse, a series will start out slow, take a while to catch its groove, and then stun audiences and critics with its brilliance.

    Stacker gathered data from Rotten Tomatoes on all seasons of television in the 21st century that have a 100% fresh rating. It ranked them by the number of reviews that contributed to their score, the #1 spot having the most reviews and reflecting the most agreed-upon choice. Ties were broken by audience score and further broken by number of audience ratings. Some shows appear on the list for more than one season. The list covers data through Dec. 14, 2020.

    The television shows on this list run the gamut in terms of longevity, genre, and networks. Many have remained on the air for the better part of a decade while others were one-hit wonders that provided viewers with a single perfect season. There are cult classics, hilarious comedies, groundbreaking series, animated gems, and period dramas. One show is a mockumentary that reimagines and satirizes classic documentaries, another is a grotesquely funny look at the joys and pitfalls of adolescence. They come from cable television stations like HBO and Showtime, from the major networks like ABC, NBC, and CBS, and from streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.

    Peruse the list and find out if you agree with the critics and if your favorite season made the cut as one of the 100 best seasons of television in the 21st century.

    You may also like: Best single-season TV shows

  • #100. South Side—Season 1 (2019)

    - Tomatometer: 100%
    - Number of critic ratings: 22
    - Audience score: 78%

    This series on Comedy Central depicts life on the South Side of Chicago in a humorous and meaningful way. The first season finds Simon and Kareem fresh out of community college and attempting to start careers. Melanie McFarland, writing for Salon, notes, “The fact that it is a straightforward, frenetically paced laugh machine makes it stand out among the more severe portrayals of the city that we see on [other] shows like Lena Waithe’s ‘The Chi,’ Gina Torres’ ‘Pearson,’ and CBS’s intense limited series ‘The Red Line.’”

  • #99. Giri/Haji—Season 1 (2019)

    - Tomatometer: 100%
    - Number of critic ratings: 22
    - Audience score: 88%

    In this crime thriller, a Tokyo detective searches London for his brother who stands accused of murder and has ties to the Yakuza, an organized crime syndicate that originated in Japan. Though the season received critical acclaim, neither Netflix nor the BBC chose to renew it for a second season.

  • #98. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend—Season 2 (2016)

    - Tomatometer: 100%
    - Number of critic ratings: 22
    - Audience score: 88%

    Rebecca Bunch has it all, including a successful career as a New York attorney, but when she runs into an old boyfriend, she gives it all up and follows him to California to find happiness. In season two, things get much darker as both friendships and romances are destroyed and renewed. In 2016, Rachel Bloom, the show’s star and creator, won a Golden Globe for best performance by an actress in a television series—musical or comedy.

  • #97. 24—Day 5 (2006)

    - Tomatometer: 100%
    - Number of critic ratings: 22
    - Audience score: 91%

    Each hour was a separate episode, and each season covered a 24-hour period in the life of counterterrorist agent Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland. Day 5, aka season five, is the only season to receive a 100% fresh rating and understandably so given the intense plot involving Russian separatists coming after the United States and its citizens with weaponized nerve gas. The show aired on the Fox network for nine seasons.

  • #96. Broad City—Season 3 (2016)

    - Tomatometer: 100%
    - Number of critic ratings: 22
    - Audience score: 91%

    From the minds of Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, “Broad City” is based on their successful YouTube web series that turned the drudgery of entry-level jobs and difficulty of finding romance in New York City into comedic gold. Season three homes in on their professional and personal lives as the ladies deal with job loss and boyfriend troubles. The season also featured a who’s who list of guest stars including Alan Alda, Whoopi Goldberg, and Hillary Clinton.

    You may also like: 100 best 'Twilight Zone' episodes of all time

  • #95. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.—Season 3 (2015)

    - Tomatometer: 100%
    - Number of critic ratings: 22
    - Audience score: 91%

    Based on Marvel Comics superhero peacekeeping and spy organization, S.H.I.E.L.D stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. Season three reveals more shocking truths as the agents battle Hydra and Hive. Two agents exit the organization.

  • #94. Making It—Season 1 (2018)

    - Tomatometer: 100%
    - Number of critic ratings: 22
    - Audience score: 92%

    Comedy veterans Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman hosted the first season of this show featuring eight crafters competing to win $100,000 and the title of “Master Maker.” Writing for Slate, Willa Paskin noted, “In Poehler and Offerman, ‘Making It’ has the funniest and most accomplished hosts a competition show could ask for, and it makes the most of them.”

  • #93. Counterpart—Season 2 (2018)

    - Tomatometer: 100%
    - Number of critic ratings: 22
    - Audience score: 93%

    Starz presented this espionage series about a United Nations employee (played by J.K. Simmons) who discovers a parallel dimension where another version of himself exists. Season two features Howard and his counterpart getting trapped in the other’s world and learning to adapt while the Cold War rages. This marked the final season of the critically acclaimed series.

  • #92. High Maintenance—Season 2 (2018)

    - Tomatometer: 100%
    - Number of critic ratings: 22
    - Audience score: 96%

    Based on the web series created by Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair, this HBO comedy is about a New York cannabis dealer and his clientele. Season two gives viewers a deeper look into The Guy’s life while still focusing on his clients’ anxieties and quirks. 

  • #91. Cowboy Bebop—Series 1 (2001)

    - Tomatometer: 100%
    - Number of critic ratings: 22
    - Audience score: 96%

    This Cartoon Network anime series is considered a classic that melds many genres. The first and only season featured the adventures of a bounty hunter, Spike Spiegel, and his crew while living on a ship—the Bebop—and roaming through outer space. The title of almost every episode comes from a popular song by artists like The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, and Frank Sinatra.

    You may also like: Most anticipated TV shows coming out in 2020