100 best TV show seasons of the 21st century, according to critics

November 9, 2022

100 best TV show seasons of the 21st century, according to critics

The early 2000s ushered in a new era of television that broke classic conventions and took artistry in new directions with critical hit TV shows like "The Corner" and "The Wire." But the experimentation and boundary-pushing didn't stop there. Shows like "Abbott Elementary," "A Black Lady Sketch Show," "Atlanta," and "The Night Of" are a few of the many recent series on our list to examine race in compelling ways.

Others paint eerie and dystopian futures, like "The Handmaid's Tale," where women were stripped of their power and only used for procreative purposes, or "Battlestar Galactica," which follows the last of humanity ravaged by war. Shows like "Justified" and "Deadwood" reckon with America's present by showing its troubled past.

Megahits like "Breaking Bad," "The Sopranos," and "Mad Men" made the cut, yet other runaway successes like "Law & Order"—with all its spinoffs—are examples of popular shows that, according to critics at least, aren't in the top 100.

Stacker looked at all seasons of TV with a Metascore from the 21st century and ranked the top 100, using data available as of October 2022. Ties were broken internally at Metacritic, where their data goes deeper than presented online.

#100. Boomtown: Season 1

- Metascore: 89
- Premiere date: Sept. 29, 2002

Every episode in the innovative series "Boomtown" portrays a crime set in Los Angeles from an array of perspectives—the criminals, victims, police, paramedics, reporters, prosecutors, and politicians. The lead detectives are played by Donnie Wahlberg and Mykelti Williamson. Executive producer Graham Yost would move on to other successful TV projects, including "Justified" and "The Americans."

#99. The Good Wife: Season 6

- Metascore: 89
- Premiere date: Sept. 21, 2014

Julianna Margulies heads the cast of "The Good Wife," which also includes Christine Baranski, Alan Cumming, Josh Charles, and Chris Noth. Margulies plays the wife of a disgraced and imprisoned politician going back to work as an attorney. It was loosely inspired by the case of former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, whose wife Silda Spitzer stood at his side when he resigned and admitted to patronizing sex workers.

#98. Orange is the New Black: Season 2

- Metascore: 89
- Premiere date: June 6, 2014

In this adaptation of a real-life prison memoir, Taylor Schilling stars as Piper, a woman convicted of abetting her drug-dealing girlfriend 10 years prior. In season two, Piper is stripped of innocence and naivete, facing new charges after perjured testimony and a violent brawl. Lorraine Toussaint joins the cast as the fierce, new villainess Vee.

#97. A Black Lady Sketch Show: Season 1

- Metascore: 89
- Premiere date: August 2, 2019

On "A Black Lady Sketch Show"—featuring creator and star Robin Thede—all the show's writers are Black women, as are its leading cast members. Thede has written for Queen Latifah, Kevin Hart, and Chris Rock. Angela Bassett appeared as a guest star in the first episode of the show, which first ran on HBO in 2019.

#96. Rectify: Season 3

- Metascore: 89
- Premiere date: July 9, 2015

The third season of the acclaimed show "Rectify" continues to follow wrongfully convicted Daniel (Aden Young) after he's released from death row. Back home but out of place, the haunted and taciturn former inmate struggles to build a new life surrounded by damaged family members and unforgiving townspeople. He is battered by nightmares and the threat of being sent back to prison as the drama focuses on the original crime and its traumatic aftermath.

#95. Succession: Season 2

- Metascore: 89
- Premiere date: August 11, 2019

HBO's "Succession" portrays members of a dysfunctional family that controls a global media empire as they jockey for power. They form alliances, plot against one another, stage backroom deals, and commit vicious betrayals, all while hoisting the family business to heights of power or pushing it to the brink of collapse.

#94. American Crime: Season 3

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: March 12, 2017

"American Crime" used a top-notch cast of actors who played roles in a different storyline each season: a racially charged murder, a cover-up of a sexual assault at a prestigious school, and the abuse of undocumented workers. Among the actors were Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton, Regina King, and Lili Taylor. The show got critical raves but poor ratings, and it was canceled by ABC after three seasons.

#93. Veep: Season 4

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: April 29, 2012

While the series begins with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, in a role that won her six Emmy awards, as Selina Meyer, the U.S. Vice President, by the end of season three, she becomes the President after her predecessor resigns. Season four follows her stint as the leader of the free world, complete with the comedy's signature mishaps and scandals as she runs for reelection. The acclaimed season ends with an election night cliffhanger.

#92. The Vietnam War: Season 1

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: Sept. 17, 2017

Award-winning documentary filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick made "The Vietnam War" looking at the conflict's history, U.S. and global politics, American public opinion, the anti-war movement, prisoners of war, the lasting impact on survivors and veterans, and views from contemporary Vietnam. The nearly 17-hour, 10-part PBS series took a decade to make, drawing on dozens of interviews and rare footage.

#91. Game of Thrones: Season 2

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: April 1, 2012

In the aftermath of Ned Stark's execution and Daenerys Targaryen's emergence from fire with baby dragons, factions continue to vie for the Iron Throne and control of the Seven Kingdoms. Brutal Joffrey wields violent havoc in King's Landing while in the North, Robb Stark vies for control as the Baratheons advance and the Stark siblings remain separated in this violent fantasy filled with sinister magic and mayhem.

#90. Insecure: Season 2

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: July 23, 2017

"Insecure," which appears on HBO, stars its creator, Issa Rae, playing the lead character. She and her best friend are two Black women dealing with relationships, romance, and work in Los Angeles. The character development and storylines over four seasons raised issues such as friendship, ambition, racism, and mental health.

#89. Silicon Valley: Season 3

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: April 24, 2016

"Silicon Valley" is a satire of Northern California's high-tech industry. It features computer whizzes, hackers, and a fictional startup called Pied Piper. The dark comedy ran six seasons on HBO, concluding in 2019.

#88. American Crime Story: Season 1

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: Feb. 2, 2016

"The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story" was the Emmy award-winning first season of the FX series showcasing true crime dramas. It recreated the historic murder case against the legendary football star. The following season depicts the manhunt for killer Andrew Cunanan, murderer of designer Gianni Versace. The third season is based on the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

#87. Louie: Season 2

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: June 23, 2011

Comedian Louis C.K. created, wrote, and starred in "Louie," a series whose main character, a divorced father raising two daughters, is loosely based on the creator's real life. It ran on FX, which severed its ties after Louis C.K. was accused of and admitted to sexual misconduct in 2017.

#86. Rescue Me: Season 3

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: May 30, 2006

Denis Leary plays a troubled firefighter in "Rescue Me," as he and the rest of his New York City firehouse crew face issues of life and death. It ran for seven seasons on FX.

#85. BoJack Horseman: Season 2

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: July 17, 2015

After a middling critical response to season one, the second season of Netflix's animated series took off. The show takes place in a fictional version of Hollywood populated by humans and anthropomorphic animals. Will Arnett voices the titular BoJack, a has-been, depressive actor looking to make a comeback.

#84. The Corner: Season 1

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: April 16, 2000

"The Corner" is a chronicle of life in impoverished Baltimore, riddled with dealers and addicts alongside families craving better lives and children tempted by the instant gratification of drug use and crime. It is based on a book of the same name by David Simon, who later wrote "The Wire," and Edward Burns, a Baltimore police veteran.

#83. Atlanta: Season 1

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: Sept. 6, 2016

"Atlanta," created by actor and musician Donald Glover, features cousins Earn (Glover) and Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) making their way in the Southern city's rap scene. As they do, they grapple with racism and economic peril. Glover was the first Black person to win an Emmy for Directing a Comedy Series. He also won for acting.

#82. The Last Dance: Season 1

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: April 19, 2020

"The Last Dance," released in 2020 on Netflix, follows the career and ascendancy of basketball star Michael Jordan playing for the Chicago Bulls. With fellow players Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman and coach Phil Jackson, the documentary chronicles the team's string of six NBA championships in the 1990s.

#81. The Night Of: Season 1

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: July 10, 2016

"The Night Of" recounts the story of a Pakistani American college student whose planned evening at a party in Manhattan goes devastatingly awry, and he faces murder charges. His grim and hapless descent into the criminal justice system takes a terrible toll on his family but captures the notice of a down-on-his-luck defense lawyer played by John Turturro. Riz Ahmed, a British Pakistani actor and rapper who also goes by Riz MC, plays the accused killer.

#80. Big Mouth: Season 2

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: Oct. 5, 2018

The animated "Big Mouth" features adolescent friends facing puberty, beset by hormones, sexual urges, maturing bodies, and confusing emotions. The show's creators Andrew Goldberg and Nick Kroll have said they hope the show dispels some of the secrecy and shame attached to the process of growing up.

#79. Last Chance U: Basketball: Season 1

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: March 10, 2021

Netflix's "Last Chance U," the streaming giant's first original sports documentary series, was initially focused on college football, but in the switch to basketball, the real-life drama becomes even more addicting and searing. The players and coaches at East Los Angeles College contend with the challenges and hopes of their season in the midst of the looming COVID-19 pandemic.

#78. Justified: Season 4

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: Jan. 8, 2013

"Justified" stars Timothy Olyphant as a U.S. marshal whose style and job performance earn him a post back to the town where he grew up in rural eastern Kentucky. The series is based on a short story called "Fire in the Hole" by the crime writer Elmore Leonard.

#77. Transparent: Season 3

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: Sept. 23, 2016

Season three shows the three Pfefferman siblings (Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker, and Jay Duplass) coping with relationships and loss. Kathryn Hahn plays Rabbi Raquel, a woman caught up in the emotional lives of the family. The season ends with the Pfefferman kids on a cruise with their parents, and their mom Shelly (Judith Light) performs a moving one-woman show that adds depth to her status as an outsider in the family. The show was met with criticism because Jeffrey Tambor—who won an Emmy for his portrayal of Maura (a transgender woman) in season one—is a cisgender male who faced sexual misconduct allegations in 2017.

#76. Abbott Elementary: Season 2

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: Sept. 21, 2022

Showrunner Quinta Brunson won a writing Emmy for this runaway hit comedy set in a Philadelphia elementary school. Hilarious and heartfelt at the same time, Brunson also leads the ensemble cast in a show that uses the mockumentary format to zoom in on the lives of teachers. In season two, Brunson's character, Janine, reels from her recent breakup, leaving her open to new romantic possibilities, including shy teacher Gregory (Tyler James Williams).

#75. The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling: Season 1

- Metascore: 90
- Premiere date: March 26, 2018

Judd Apatow directs and produces this acclaimed documentary about the life and career of comedian Gary Shandling. The two-part series won an Emmy for Outstanding Documentary. It features interviews with major comedians such as Jim Carrey, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Jerry Seinfeld remarking on Shandling's influence and creating a moving tribute to a fascinating funny man.

#74. Downton Abbey: Season 1

- Metascore: 91
- Premiere date: Sept. 26, 2010

The British period drama ran for six seasons and spawned two feature films in its ongoing depiction of the aristocratic Crawley family and their castle estate maintained by an army of servants. Season one takes place in 1912 as the inheritance of the Downton estate is imperiled without suitable male heirs. The Crawley daughters, including Mary (Michelle Dockery), must marry well to maintain their social status during a time of vast social change in this soapy, addictive melodrama.

#73. Game of Thrones: Season 3

- Metascore: 91
- Premiere date: March 31, 2013

Season three unleashes Daenerys' dragons upon slavers as warring families continue to fight for control of Westeros. The icy zombie White Walkers resume their advance across the land. This season features the infamous Red Wedding massacre known for its brutal violence, elimination of key characters, and shocking blackmail.

#72. Sherlock: Season 2

- Metascore: 91
- Premiere date: Jan. 1, 2012

"Sherlock" sets the classic detective story in modern-day London, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular sleuth and Martin Freeman as Doctor Watson, a wounded war veteran who fought in Afghanistan. In the version that aired on PBS Masterpiece Mystery!, selected letters in red in the closing credits would spell out a word linked to the episode.

#71. Frozen Planet: Season 1

- Metascore: 91
- Premiere date: Oct. 26, 2011

Made by the BBC, "Frozen Planet" is a cinematographically stunning look at the Earth's polar regions and the impact of global warming in the Arctic and Antarctic. It is narrated by naturalist Sir David Attenborough, and it offers images from underneath the ice, inside an erupting volcano, and on the trail of wildlife whose existence is in grave danger.

#70. Broadchurch: Season 1

- Metascore: 91
- Premiere date: August 7, 2013

Olivia Colman and David Tennant play cops who investigate the death of a child in a small coastal town in this acclaimed British drama. The eight-episode series features taut plotting as it dives into the lives of the locals in a sensitive examination of grief and pain that rises above the average police procedural.

#69. Justified: Season 2

- Metascore: 91
- Premiere date: Feb. 9, 2011

Set in Kentucky, this modern Western stars Timothy Olyphant as a sheriff gunslinger going up against locales. Margo Martindale stole her scenes as Mags Bennett, a powerfully brutal matriarch and the second season's villain. Martindale won an acting Emmy for her riveting performance.

#68. Borgen: Season 1

- Metascore: 91
- Premiere date: Oct. 29, 2011

The award-winning Danish political drama "Borgen" follows the rise to power of a prime minister amid the ambitions of a chorus of politicians, strategists, and journalists. Netflix purchased rights to the show and returned for a fourth season in 2022, after a nine-year hiatus.

#67. Master of None: Season 2

- Metascore: 91
- Premiere date: May 12, 2017

Season two of the Netflix comedy "Master of None" follows Dev, played by showrunner Aziz Ansari, as he relocates to Italy, where he meets another woman but obsesses over his ex, Rachel (Noël Wells). The season focuses on Dev's dating life and includes a plotline on sexual harassment. Similar accusations arose in Aziz's real life in January 2018.

#66. BoJack Horseman: Season 6.5

- Metascore: 91
- Premiere date: Jan. 31, 2020

The final season of Netflix's animated comedy for adults is acclaimed for its inventive retooling of adult cartoons in stories that are hilarious, heartfelt, and existential. Voice talent includes Will Arnett as the antihero Bojack, with Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, and Aaron Paul as Todd, a long-time houseguest in this funny and sad sendup of Hollywood life.

#65. Master of None: Season 1

- Metascore: 91
- Premiere date: Nov. 6, 2015

Aziz Ansari won a Golden Globe for his lead performance in the comedy "Master of None" on Netflix. His character, Dev, tries to work as an actor, meet women, and keep his immigrant family happy, with mixed success. The show ran for two seasons but was put on hiatus following accusations of Ansari's sexual misconduct. A third season premiered in 2021, focusing on Dev's friend, Denise (Lena Waithe), and her wife Alicia (Naomi Ackie).

#64. Game of Thrones: Season 5

- Metascore: 91
- Premiere date: April 12, 2015

Season five introduces the Sparrows, a fanatical order of monks who dispense justice in King's Landing. In this season, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) gets married to the torturer Ramsay Bolton in a controversial sequence that features gratuitous violence and rape. The season also features the torturous death of a child princess and ends with the murderous betrayal of a beloved main character.

#63. This Is Going To Hurt: Season 1

- Metascore: 91
- Premiere date: June 2, 2022

Ben Whishaw shines as an overworked doctor in this British true-story drama based on a memoir by Adam Kay. Episodes careen through harrowing deliveries as staff attempt to do right by patients in a crumbling system. Realistic medical emergencies proceed with sardonic wit rooted in a riveting emotional core.

#62. The Last Movie Stars: Season 1

- Metascore: 91
- Premiere date: July 21, 2022

Ethan Hawke directs this star-studded documentary about the life and marriage of film legends Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. The acting couple were married for over 50 years and starred in 16 movies together. Hawke's series is based on transcribed interviews with the couple (Newman destroyed the tapes before his death) and features George Clooney and Laura Linney reading the words of the famous pair.

#61. Louie: Season 5

- Metascore: 91
- Premiere date: April 9, 2015

Acclaimed by critics for its awkward pathos, "Louie" features stand-up comedy interspersed with random vignettes depicting the life of a single dad comedian. The show's fifth season explored the comedian's biases, turning it on its head, such as Louie's assumption that his daughter wasn't paying attention to a play only to find out she was researching its roots on her phone. Showrunner Louie C.K. admitted to the truth of sexual misconduct allegations after the show's fifth season. A documentary on these circumstances and the aftermath is reportedly in the works.

#60. The Hollow Crown: Season 1

- Metascore: 91
- Premiere date: Sept. 20, 2013

"The Hollow Crown" is a set of four stories adapted from the history plays by William Shakespeare and made by British television. Its stellar cast includes Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Hugh Bonneville, Michael Gambon, John Hurt, Judi Dench, and Sally Hawkins.

#59. Catastrophe: Season 4

- Metascore: 91
- Premiere date: March 15, 2019

This British comedy stars Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney as a couple, Rob and Sharon, who marry after the pregnancy resulting from their casual fling romance. Carrie Fisher plays Rob's mother in season three, and the fourth season begins with that character's funeral as Rob and Sharon struggle with alcoholism, job insecurity, and yet another pregnancy.

#58. The Returned: Season 1

- Metascore: 92
- Premiere date: Oct. 31, 2013

"The Returned," shown on A&E, is set in a small town where dead people start coming back to life. Their return is greeted by a mix of joy, puzzlement, and fear, and the phenomenon has dire consequences. It is based on a 2012 French television series entitled "Les Revenants'' which, in turn, was based on a 2004 film of the same name.

#57. Transparent: Season 1

- Metascore: 92
- Premiere date: Sept. 26, 2014

The first season of "Transparent" was applauded for its sensitive portrayal of LGBTQ+ people. It also gave Amazon Prime serious cred when it came to streaming, earning Emmys for lead actor Jeffrey Tambor and director (and creator) Joey Soloway. The premiere season introduces viewers to Maura (Tambor), who reveals she is transgender to her children. As the season goes on, audiences learn more about how the lives of Maura's children have been inadvertently affected by the secret, long before its revelation.

#56. The Handmaid's Tale: Season 1

- Metascore: 92
- Premiere date: April 30, 2017

The first season of Hulu's acclaimed adaptation of Margaret Atwood's chilling dystopian novel won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series, with Elisabeth Moss and Ann Dowd taking the awards for acting. The terrifying series takes place in Gilead, a far-right, authoritarian Christian nation where women and young girls are forced to be handmaidens and bear children for Christofascist commanders and their wives through rape and coercion.

#55. My Brilliant Friend: Season 2

- Metascore: 92
- Premiere date: March 16, 2020

Set in Naples, HBO's "My Brilliant Friend" is the story of a friendship between two young girls, recounted by one of them as an elderly woman looking back at the paths of their lives. The show is based on the popular Neapolitan quartet of novels by Elena Ferrante.

#54. Succession: Season 3

- Metascore: 92
- Premiere date: Oct. 17, 2021

Season three of the HBO drama about the backstabbing Roy family who own a multibillion-dollar corporation begins in the aftermath of Kendall's (Jeremy Strong) whistleblowing betrayal of his father, Logan (Brian Cox). Kendall's siblings, Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin), also scheme for power until the season finale's bitter, shocking conclusion about who will remain in power.

#53. Homeland: Season 1

- Metascore: 92
- Premiere date: Oct. 2, 2011

Showtime's espionage thriller pits CIA agent Carrie (Claire Danes) against released POW Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) in a taut opening season about a U.S. marine, who is possibly an al-Qaeda spy. Carrie's out-of-the-box investigation methods conflict with Brody's public persona as a war hero trying to adjust to civilian life. Despite their conflicts and suspicions, the two have an affair.

#52. Rectify: Season 2

- Metascore: 92
- Premiere date: June 19, 2014

"Rectify" is a Southern Gothic story that follows Daniel (Aden Young) returning to his small hometown in Georgia after spending 19 years on death row. The moody drama zeroes in on Daniel's pain and the anguish and trauma of his family, the victim's family, and the locals. In the second season, characters grapple with solving the original and subsequent crimes.

#51. Evil: Season 3

- Metascore: 92
- Premiere date: June 12, 2022

Katja Herbers plays Dr. Kristen Bouchard, a skeptical forensic pathologist who's paired with a devout priest, David Acosta (Mike Colter), as the two investigate all manner of demonic evil for the Catholic church. In the third season, the two finally kiss while Kristen becomes increasingly enigmatic as the series ramps up the intrigue and horror.

#50. The Americans: Season 3

- Metascore: 92
- Premiere date: Jan. 28, 2015

"The Americans" on FX portrays a seemingly typical couple who are, in fact, Soviet spies raising their children in a benign D.C. suburb. Secretly, the husband and wife in a KGB-arranged marriage—played by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell—don disguises, steal state secrets, and kill enemy agents while eluding discovery, especially by their neighbor, an FBI agent. The show was inspired by the real-life arrests and deportations of several suspected Soviet agents in 2010, including a couple living under false names with their children in a New Jersey suburb.

#49. Halt and Catch Fire: Season 4

- Metascore: 92
- Premiere date: August 19, 2017

AMC's period drama takes place during the burgeoning computer era in the 1980s and '90s, portraying the development of personal computing. Focusing on a fictional company, the series dramatizes the invention of the internet and stars Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, and Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe, a punk programming genius recruited for her visionary talents.

#48. Better Call Saul: Season 5

- Metascore: 92
- Premiere date: Feb. 23, 2020

"Better Call Saul" is the darkly comic spinoff prequel to the runaway hit "Breaking Bad," featuring Bob Odenkirk as a hustling and at times sympathetic lawyer with a rented office in the windowless backroom of a nail salon. It features Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut, a former crooked cop turned parking lot attendant before he becomes the flinty-eyed hitman of "Breaking Bad."

#47. The Shield: Season 1

- Metascore: 92
- Premiere date: March 12, 2002

For seven seasons on FX, "The Shield" told the story of dangerous gangs and corrupt police waging battle in Los Angeles. The profiteering Strike Team of police is headed by a hard-edged detective played by Michael Chiklis. In 2002, Chiklis earned an Outstanding Lead Actor Emmy for his performance.

#46. Mad Men: Season 4

- Metascore: 92
- Premiere date: July 25, 2010

The megahit "Mad Men'' was set in the stylized world of advertising in the early 1960s, with a cast led by Jon Hamm as the enigmatic, womanizing advertising genius Don Draper. The show—teeming with office affairs, high-flying business deals, riveting betrayals, and seemingly endless cocktails—became a cultural touchstone, reviving tastes for Old-Fashioneds, pencil skirts, and cat-eyed liner. It was created by Matthew Weiner, a writer of the hit show "The Sopranos."

#45. The Americans: Season 6

- Metascore: 92
- Premiere date: March 28, 2018

The acclaimed, popular Russian-spies-next-door thriller concludes in its suspense-driven final sixth season. The twists and tensions wove a dark web as Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, played by real-life couple Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, impersonated average American parents while carrying out espionage for their true homeland, Russia. The pair are transplanted to the U.S. in an arranged marriage, but their relationship grows apart as they get caught up in American family values.

#44. Atlanta: Season 3

- Metascore: 93
- Premiere date: March 24, 2022

"Atlanta" has a total of four seasons depicting the life and times of Earn (Donald Glover) and his friends Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry), Darius X (LaKeith Stanfield), and Van (Zazie Beetz). Aside from starring and directing, Glover also co-produces and co-writes with his brother, Stephen Glover. The third season transports the action to Europe and features bold and creative style and storytelling.

#43. Bleak House: Season 1

- Metascore: 93
- Premiere date: Oct. 27, 2005

"Bleak House," set in 19th century England, was an award-winning 15-episode BBC miniseries in 2005. It is based on a novel of treachery and mystery by Charles Dickens. The show stars Gillian Anderon and Carey Mulligan.

#42. Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 3

- Metascore: 93
- Premiere date: Sept. 15, 2002

Larry David stars in HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" as a caustic curmudgeon based on himself, as he manages to irritate and antagonize friends and strangers on a regular basis. David also created "Seinfeld," making hundreds of millions of dollars from the show's syndication rights.

#41. Louie: Season 4

- Metascore: 93
- Premiere date: May 5, 2014

Louie C.K.'s "Louie" is loosely based on his life as a stand-up comedian and single dad of two. In the fourth season, the show sticks with one story arc, a departure from its previous seasons. Critics found the show to offer a realistic, often surreal portrayal of the absurdity of Louie's everyday life.

#40. Better Things: Season 5

- Metascore: 93
- Premiere date: Feb. 28, 2022

In the FX raw comedy "Better Things," Pamela Adlon plays a blunt-talking single mother of three daughters who works as an actress in Los Angeles and takes care of her eccentric mother living across the street. The first two seasons were a writing and creative collaboration of Adlon with comedian Louis C.K. He left the show in 2017 following accusations of sexual misconduct, which he admitted, and Adlon took creative control.

#39. PEN15: Season 2

- Metascore: 93
- Premiere date: Sept. 18, 2020

In the autobiographical premise, actresses Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle play themselves in middle school. Both in their early 30s, they embody their 13-year-old selves, surrounded by teenage cast members. The disjunction of the casting somehow makes the ache of adolescence even more realistic and funny.

#38. City So Real: Season 1

- Metascore: 93
- Premiere date: Oct. 29, 2020

Acclaimed documentarian Steve James of "Hoop Dreams," "Life Itself," and "America to Me" often focuses on subjects in or around the city of Chicago. "City So Real" examines race relations and politics through a look at the 2018 Chicago mayoral race and the trial and sentencing of Jason Van Dyke, a police officer who shot 17-year-old Black teen Laquan McDonald. The series chronicles Lori Lightfoot's surprise win, as well as examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests on the city and its citizens.

#37. Deadwood: Season 2

- Metascore: 93
- Premiere date: March 6, 2005

"Deadwood" is a drama set in a lawless, violent South Dakota town in 1876. It is a dangerous place of bars and brothels, criminals, and fortune-seekers. The intense, profanity-filled show was canceled by HBO after three seasons.

#36. Reservation Dogs: Season 2

- Metascore: 93
- Premiere date: August 3, 2022

This hit series follows four Indigenous teenagers coming of age on a reservation in Oklahoma, which they're working to leave behind for California. Taika Waititi and Sterlin Harjo created the show, working with a team of Indigenous writers and actors in this acclaimed comedy-drama hailed for its originality and innovative immersion in the lives of its young characters, played by Paulina Alexis, Devery Jacobs, Elva Guerra, and D'Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai.

#35. The Office (UK): Season 2

- Metascore: 93
- Premiere date: Sept. 30, 2002

In season two of the British mockumentary "The Office," David Brent (Ricky Gervais) the deluded, egotistical regional manager of a Slough office finds himself with a new boss after a company merger. The season features new characters and relocated employees joining the office, as Brent aims to stay in charge. Steve Carell plays the self-involved regional manager in the subsequent American version.

#34. The Americans: Season 5

- Metascore: 94
- Premiere date: March 7, 2017

In season five, the gripping suspense of the espionage thriller continues to build. "The Americans" is notable for taking place in a suburban nuclear family that becomes the setting for betrayal, violence, and intrigue. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys play the parents of the seemingly mild-mannered Jennings family. The FBI agent who investigates Russian spies lives next door and when his son starts dating their daughter, exposure of their true identity seems imminent.

#33. Louie: Season 3

- Metascore: 94
- Premiere date: June 28, 2012

Louie C.K.'s autobiographical show features unconnected vignettes and multiple guest stars rather than a recurring cast and ongoing plotline. Third-season guests include Robin Williams, Amy Poehler, Parker Posey, and Melissa Leo, who won an Emmy for her performance.

#32. Transparent: Season 2

- Metascore: 94
- Premiere date: Dec. 4, 2015

Showrunner Joey Soloway's "Transparent" dives into the relationship chaos of Maura (Jeffery Tambor) and Shelly's (Judith Light) three grown children. Sarah (Amy Landecker) copes with the aftermath of her marriage breakup, while Ali (Gaby Hoffman) explores her gender and sexuality as Josh (Jay Duplass) faces being a parent.

#31. Barry: Season 3

- Metascore: 94
- Premiere date: April 24, 2022

The dark comedy "Barry" stars Bill Hader, formerly of "Saturday Night Live," as a discontented hitman from the Midwest who moves to Los Angeles and takes up a new career as an aspiring actor. His previous employers, however, don't let him go easily. "Happy Days" star Henry Winkler plays his acting teacher.

#30. Battlestar Galactica: Season 3

- Metascore: 94
- Premiere date: Oct. 6, 2006

"Battlestar Galactica" is a science fiction tale of survivors of a war in outer space. They travel the universe while being hunted and facing their possible destruction as they search for the lost colony of Earth. The futuristic saga ran four seasons on the Syfy Channel.

#29. Game of Thrones: Season 4

- Metascore: 94
- Premiere date: April 6, 2014

Early in season four, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), faces a trial and accusations of allegedly poisoning his nephew, King Joffrey, as the Lannister family fractures in betrayal. Bran Stark, wounded in the first episode of the series, has grown into a warg (a telepath who is able to enter into the minds of other living beings) now on the run. This season also focuses on the Night's Watch and battles near the large ice wall that's keeping both the Wildings and the zombie White Walkers at bay.

#28. Better Call Saul: Season 6

- Metascore: 94
- Premiere date: April 18, 2022

The first half of the final season begins with an army of cops breaking down the nouveau-riche mansion of Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) now hiding out as a Cinnabon manager in Nebraska. As a flashback series, audiences know where Saul ends up, but not the whys and hows of the outcomes for essential characters like Kim (Rhea Seehorn) and Nacho (Michael Mando). The first six episodes released in spring 2022. The final wrap-up premiered that same summer after a seven-week hiatus and features cameos from three "Breaking Bad" characters.

#27. Better Things: Season 3

- Metascore: 94
- Premiere date: Feb. 28, 2019

In this multigenerational comedy about moms and daughters set in Hollywood, Pamela Adlon tries to keep it together as Sam, a working actress with three daughters and a mom who also needs tending. In the third season, the family of women goes through ups and downs with innovative storytelling, superb performances, and portrayals that break sitcom stereotypes.

#26. Harley Quinn: Season 3

- Metascore: 94
- Premiere date: July 28, 2022

Kaley Cuoco gives voice to DC comics character Harley Quinn who becomes a supervillain in her own right after breaking up with the Joker. Lake Bell voices Poison Ivy, and in the third season, the couple takes on various nemeses in Gotham City in this raucous cartoon with romance and lively mayhem.

#25. Better Call Saul: Season 6.5

- Metascore: 95
- Premiere date: July 11, 2022

Part two of "Better Call Saul's" final season begins in the aftermath of a major character's death as Kim (Rhea Seehorn) and Saul (Bob Odenkirk) reel from Lalo's (Tony Dalton) violent chaos. The couple starts the season married but finds themselves pulled apart in an epic finale that makes their bond the central focus against a backdrop of criminal drug empires.

#24. The Wire: Season 2

- Metascore: 95
- Premiere date: June 1, 2003

Police and drug dealers, all portrayed in shades of corruption, spar in "The Wire," created by the celebrated writer David Simon. Each of its five seasons on HBO approaches life in Baltimore from a different angle—from loading docks to failing schools. The show stars Dominic West, Wendell Pierce, and Idris Elba.

#23. The Americans: Season 4

- Metascore: 95
- Premiere date: March 16, 2016

The stars of this espionage thriller, Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, play Russian spies moonlighting as an average suburban couple. In the fourth season, the pair's daughter becomes further embroiled in the true identity of her parents as the tension mounts.

#22. Enlightened: Season 2

- Metascore: 95
- Premiere date: Jan. 13, 2013

Laura Dern plays the lead in "Enlightened," a show about a self-destructive employee who moves from the top rung to the bottom at a company and tries to repair her havoc-filled life while plotting revenge. Set in a cookie-cutter California suburb, the cast features Diane Ladd, Dern's real-life mother who also plays her fictional mother, and Luke Wilson.

#21. Catastrophe: Season 3

- Metascore: 96
- Premiere date: April 28, 2017

The British farce "Catastrophe" revolves around an American businessman and a London schoolteacher whose one-week fling results in her pregnancy. They try to make the best of it by moving in together, with comical consequences. The show is available in the U.S. on Amazon Prime Video.

#20. Planet Earth II: Season 1

- Metascore: 96
- Premiere date: Nov. 6, 2016

The BBC's "Planet Earth II" travels to spectacular heights and remote places to capture images of wildlife and nature. Viewers meet tiny pygmy three-toed sloths, jungle dolphins, and locust swarms, courtesy of its inventive and innovative camera work. The narration is provided by none other than naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

#19. Fargo: Season 2

- Metascore: 96
- Premiere date: Oct. 12, 2015

The dramatic stories of "Fargo" bring together a memorable set of characters—including local gangsters, drifters, police officers, and migrant workers—often causing havoc or plotting crime in the small town. The darkly funny series was inspired by the 1996 film of the same name by Joel and Ethan Coen, who were executive producers for the show.

#18. Fleabag: Season 2

- Metascore: 96
- Premiere date: March 4, 2019

The two-season British comedy "Fleabag" was created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, based on her 2013 one-woman show. Waller-Bridge stars as its candid, unedited protagonist, who runs a struggling guinea pig-themed cafe. It won six Emmys in 2019, including Outstanding Comedy Series.

#17. Better Things: Season 2

- Metascore: 96
- Premiere date: Sept. 14, 2017

Pamela Adlon, who stars in and also produces, was nominated for an acting Emmy for her performance in the second and third seasons of this comedy about Sam, a single mom of three who's a working actress in Hollywood. Sam's mother is also on hand, living across the street, and adding to the chaos.

#16. The Sopranos: Season 6

- Metascore: 96
- Premiere date: March 12, 2006

The final season of the acclaimed "The Sopranos" contains one of the most famous episodes in television history. The series' final sequence ends without definitive closure. After a season where Tony Soprano's (James Gandolfini) fate builds to a head and enemies abound, the show never overtly reveals what happened to the famous mobster and his family.

#15. Breaking Bad: Season 4

- Metascore: 96
- Premiere date: July 17, 2011

The enormously popular and acclaimed "Breaking Bad" tells the story of high school chemistry teacher Walter White who becomes a murderous and merciless drug lord. Set against the picturesque beauty of the New Mexico desert, the tense, ruthless show offers up unforgettable characters like his partner (Aaron Paul), his wife (Anna Gunn), and his DEA brother-in-law (Dean Norris). Other gripping characters are the lawyer played by Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks' menacing hitman, and Giancarlo Esposito as a cunning criminal rival.

#14. What We Do in the Shadows: Season 3

- Metascore: 96
- Premiere date: Sept. 2, 2021

Based on the 2014 feature film mockumentary with the same title, this comedy follows vampire roommates in Staten Island as they adapt to modern life and interact with various fantasy creatures. Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, and Natasia Demetriou star as the ancient bloodsuckers, with Harvey Guillén as Guillermo, their human familiar who happens to be a descendant of vampire-killer Van Helsing.

#13. O.J.: Made in America: Season 1

- Metascore: 96
- Premiere date: June 11, 2016

"O.J.: Made in America" is a documentary made by ESPN about the infamous murder trial of professional football legend O.J. Simpson. It looks at the case while analyzing issues of media, race, and criminal justice, using interviews with more than 70 people. It won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2017.

#12. Homeland: Season 2

- Metascore: 96
- Premiere date: Sept. 30, 2012

Season two resumes with Carrie (Claire Danes) recovering from bipolar disorder treatment and her CIA suspension, but she's soon working again for her boss, Saul (Mandy Patinkin). Brody (Damian Lewis) rises as a politician becoming close to the vice president. Carrie and Brody continue to play international cat-and-mouse as threats of terrorism loom and complicate their love affair.

#11. America to Me: Season 1

- Metascore: 96
- Premiere date: August 26, 2018

"America to Me" is a 10-part documentary released in 2018 by filmmakers who spent a year at an elite high school in suburban Chicago. They collected the unscripted stories of students and faculty in more than 1,400 hours of footage while looking at issues of class and race.

#10. The Sopranos: Season 3

- Metascore: 97
- Premiere date: March 4, 2001

Lorraine Bracco starred as a mobster's wife in "Goodfellas" and plays Dr. Melfi, the longtime therapist of one of the famous American gangster archetypes in "The Sopranos." Dr. Melfi goes through a harrowing trauma in season three but chooses not to tell the mob boss. James Gandolfini plays the titular crime kingpin in a series famous for bringing a cinematic aesthetic to television.

#9. Atlanta: Season 2

- Metascore: 97
- Premiere date: March 1, 2018

Widely considered a masterpiece by critics, Donald Glover's show about producing rap music in Atlanta was nominated for 16 Emmy awards in its second season. In Season Two, titled "Robbin' Season," the writers chose to tell one cohesive story rather than short stories in vignettes. "Tiny Toons: How I Spent My Summer Vacation" inspired the show's approach.

#8. The Sopranos: Season 2

- Metascore: 97
- Premiere date: Jan. 16, 2000

Considered by many critics to be one of television's best shows ever, "The Sopranos" centers on the personal and professional lives of organized crime families in northern New Jersey. In the second season, mob boss Tony Soprano's uncle is in jail, his mother is hospitalized, and his best friend is missing. Life doesn't seem to be as smooth sailing as it should be for a man on top.

#7. The Wire: Season 4

- Metascore: 98
- Premiere date: Sept. 10, 2006

Season Four of the Baltimore-set epic weaves together the impact of politics and crime on local communities. The acclaimed fourth season focuses on adolescence and a local school, and a former cop Prez, played by Jim True-Frost, who becomes a middle school teacher. Wendell Pierce and Lance Reddick lead the ensemble cast as police department stalwarts who've seen it all.

#6. The Wire: Season 3

- Metascore: 98
- Premiere date: Sept. 19, 2004

Idris Elba plays Stringer, the drug trafficker turned real estate developer and politico who moves up the ranks in the first three seasons. Stringer's tense conflict with Omar Little (Michael Kenneth Williams) and Brother Mouzone (Michael Potts) marks a shocking penultimate episode in Season Three.

#5. The Leftovers: Season 3

- Metascore: 98
- Premiere date: April 16, 2017

At the start of "The Leftovers," 2% of the population disappears, leaving the rest of the world broken, mystified, and afraid. The surreal, mystical series follows an array of characters trying to make sense of what happened, rebuilding families, joining cults, drowning in grief, and getting lost in delusions. Appearing in the three-season show on HBO are Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston, Scott Glenn, Liv Tyler, Regina King, and Ann Dowd.

#4. The Office (UK): Season 1

- Metascore: 98
- Premiere date: July 9, 2001

The British mockumentary "The Office" depicts workers in a nondescript town at a nondescript company, where manager David Brent, played by comedian Ricky Gervais, mistakenly considers himself clever, popular, and going places. Fellow office workers entertain themselves with childish behavior, unrequited loves, and worries that the office will be closed down.

#3. The Office (UK): Season 3

- Metascore: 98
- Premiere date: Dec. 26, 2003

The two-episode "Christmas Special" marks the finale of the hugely popular mockumentary that catapulted Ricky Gervais to stardom as the obnoxious office manager, David Brent. In the final episodes, Brent sues the office for firing him and continues his relentless and cringey pursuit of women.

#2. Breaking Bad: Season 5

- Metascore: 99
- Premiere date: July 15, 2012

The final season of "Breaking Bad" premiered in two installments, with the first ending on a cliffhanger as Hank (Dean Norris) realizes his brother-in-law Walt (Bryan Cranston) is the notorious drug king Heisenberg. The concluding episodes gave Todd (Jesse Plemons) a greater role. He and his gang of white supremacist drug dealers take over distribution after Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) is eliminated.

#1. Rectify: Season 4

- Metascore: 99
- Premiere date: Oct. 26, 2016

The final season of "Rectify" relocates wrongfully convicted death row ex-convict Daniel (Aden Young) to Nashville, away from his small Georgia hometown that was the site of all the trauma. Season Four focuses on Daniel's healing and therapy. The original culprits who raped and murdered Hanna are finally revealed so families and townspeople can move on from the traumatic crime that fueled the series.

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