20 TV Shows From the 2010s You Should Binge
From Fleabag to The Americans to Orphan Black, these are the shows to marathon.
The 2010s were an amazing time for television: Streaming was introduced by Netflix in 2007, but it really took off over the last 10 years, with new streaming services popping up everywhere and delivering a staggering amount of original programming alongside cable and network offerings. In the era of peak TV, more diverse stories were told, and the quality of storytelling and cinematography attracted big screen stars to TV in droves. There were so many series to marathon, it was actually daunting. To help you sort through it all, we've rounded up the best 2010s TV shows to binge. And don't worry: This is a spoiler-free zone.
The Leftovers (2014-2017)
It's no ordinary day when 140 million people fall off the face of the earth. The so-called "Sudden Departure" is the starting point for HBO's supernatural drama series The Leftovers, based on the Tom Perrotta novel of the same name. The show revolves around several characters—including police chief Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux); Nora Durst (Carrie Coon), a woman who has lost her entire family; and former reverend Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston)—as they try to rebuild their lives after the inexplicable global event.
The Americans (2013-2018)
FX's spy thriller The Americans, set during the Cold War, didn't ever get the appreciation, awards, or viewership it deserved. Real-life couple Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are outstanding as husband-and-wife KGB officers Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, and the show is, essentially, about their relationship.
"The Americans is at its core a marriage story," showrunner Joel Fields told Slate. "International relations is just an allegory for the human relations. Sometimes, when you're struggling in your marriage or with your kid, it feels like life or death. For Philip and Elizabeth, it often is."
Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag has come a long way since it began as a one-woman show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013. Fast-forward six years and it was ranked 8th on The Guardian's list of the 100 best TV shows of the 20th century, and has earned a slew of awards, including several Emmys. Fans of the flawed, charming Fleabag and her fourth-wall-breaking ways are desperate for a third season—as is Amazon Studios boss Jennifer Salke—but Waller-Bridge has always been adamant that it was a two-season story.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015-2019)
Don't judge a book by its cover—or a TV show by its title. The CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, starring series co-creator Rachel Bloom as lovesick lawyer Rebecca Bunch, has far more nuance than you might assume. The show is clever, touching, and funny, not to mention one of the most sensitive portrayals of mental illness to date.
And if you're partial to musical comedy, the four seasons feature no less than 157 original songs, providing ample opportunity to parody every genre from rap ("JAP Battle" in Season 1) to swing ("Don't Be a Lawyer" in Season 4).
Orphan Black (2013-2017)
A sci-fi show that even people who don't love sci-fi can't get enough of, BBC America's Orphan Black stars Tatiana Maslany in… several roles. She plays small-time con artist Sarah Manning and each of her clones, including a cop, a suburban mom, and a religious extremist. It's worth watching for Maslany's performance alone—you really do forget the same actress is behind all the different characters.
She finally won an Emmy in 2016, saying in her acceptance speech that she felt "so lucky to be on a show that puts women at the center."
HBO's comedy-drama Girls, inspired by the real life of creator-writer-actor Lena Dunham, is a must-watch for anyone navigating their twenties "one mistake at a time," like Dunham's character Hannah and her friends Marnie (Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke), and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet).
"Gossip Girl was teens duking it out on the Upper East Side and Sex and the City was women who [had] figured out work and friends and now want to nail love and family life," Dunham explained to The Hollywood Reporter. "There was this 'hole-in-between' space that hadn't really been addressed."
Orange Is the New Black (2013-2019)
The Netflix original series that really started it all, Orange Is the New Black is based on Piper Kerman's memoir about her experiences at a minimum-security federal prison. Creator Jenji Kohan described the main character—the white, privileged Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling)—as a "Trojan Horse" for the show, allowing it to ultimately focus on characters normally underrepresented on TV.
"If you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories," Kohan told NPR.
Boasting one of the best ensemble casts of all time—there's Timothy Olyphant, Joelle Carter, and Walton Goggins for starters—FX's Justified is based on a short story by the late, great Elmore Leonard, who was an executive producer on the show until he died in 2013. Leonard hailed the show as one of the best interpretations of his work, and singled out Olyphant for his performance as U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens.
"Tim Olyphant plays the character exactly the way I wrote him," he told The Wall Street Journal. "I couldn't believe it … There are very few actors who recite the lines exactly the way you hear them when you're writing the book."
Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
From the start, HBO's Game of Thrones had all the ingredients for success—a first-class cast, including Sean Bean, Lena Headey, and Peter Dinklage; amazing sets; and plenty of sex, violence and dragons—but it still surpassed expectations and became a true cultural phenomenon. The series, based on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novel series, received more Primetime Emmy Awards than any other TV drama in history.
FYI, it takes two days, 22 hours and 15 minutes to watch all seven seasons of Game of Thrones in one sitting, and some people have actually done this. If you have the time, the mental endurance, and the necessary snacks, go for it.
There's not much in the way of family drama the extended Braverman clan didn't have to contend with. From adoption to Asperger's, NBC's Parenthood (loosely based on the 1989 film of the same name), has something every viewer can connect with on some level.
The New York Times summed the show up perfectly, describing it as "a coming-of-age drama for all ages." Despite consistently positive reviews from critics and a hardcore-loyal fan base, Parenthood missed out on all major awards—although Monica Potter received a well deserved Critics' Choice TV Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2013.
The critically acclaimed and multi-award-winning political comedy Veep, which aired on HBO, starred Julia Louis-Dreyfus as fictional vice president Selina Meyer. British satirist Armando Iannucci adapted the series from his celebrated U.K. sitcom The Thick of It. Unlike many other long-running shows, Veep never had a "bad" season. The seventh and final season received a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 96 percent, with the review site stating, "Brash and bonkers as ever, Veep bows out with an unapologetically absurd final season that solidifies its status as one of TV's greatest comedies."
Penny Dreadful (2014-2016)
Eva Green is tremendous in her first major TV role as the enigmatic clairvoyant Vanessa Ives in Showtime's Gothic horror series Penny Dreadful. Against the dark, moody backdrop of Victorian London, Ives teams up with explorer Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) and gunslinger Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) to battle evil forces from the underworld.
With appearances from many well-known characters from British and Irish Gothic fiction—Victor Frankenstein, Count Dracula, and Dorian Gray, among them—Penny Dreadful has major appeal for fans of the macabre.
You'll be hard pressed to find a TV series with a more realistic take on marriage and raising young kids than Channel 4's Catastrophe, which streamed on Amazon Prime for U.S. audiences. The show was created by Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, who star as Irish Sharon and American Rob, a pair whose one-night stand turned into a pregnancy.
From the first episode to the last scene of the fourth and final season, Catastrophe manages to be funny, profound, and tragic. And speaking of the final scene, it should go down in sitcom history as one of the all-time best endings. We promised no spoilers, but rest assured, it will stay in your mind for all the right reasons.
Downton Abbey (2010-2015)
The ultimate escapism for period drama lovers, British series Downton Abbey follows the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants through decades of major historical events like the First World War and the Marconi scandal. But it's the characters' personal challenges and dramas that make the series so watchable, from miscarriage and grief to adultery and blackmail. And then there's Maggie Smith, who is superb as the Dowager Countess of Grantham, and responsible for some of the show's best one-liners and most withering put-downs.
Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014)
HBO's crime drama Boardwalk Empire, set during the Prohibition era of the 1920s, is based on the life of businessman and racketeer Enoch L. Johnson, the driving force behind a corrupt political machine in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Steve Buscemi plays the similarly named Enoch "Nucky" Thompson, with Kelly Macdonald as young widow Margaret Thompson and Michael Pitt as Nucky's protegé Jimmy Darmody.
Boardwalk Empire created a buzz before the first episode even aired, when it was announced that Martin Scorsese would direct the pilot—the first time he had directed an episode of a TV show since he worked on Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories in 1986.
Jane the Virgin (2014-2019)
If you can get your head around the preposterous premise of The CW's Jane the Virgin—a devout Catholic 20-something virgin gets accidentally inseminated during a routine gynecological appointment and ends up pregnant with her ex-crush's child—there's so much to love.
This is largely due to Gina Rodriguez's portrayal of Jane. Rodriguez, who won a Golden Globe for the role in 2015, helps make Jane a multi-dimensional character. But just as complex (yet woefully underrated) is the character of Petra Solano (Yael Grobglas), who turns out to be so much more than a devious ice queen.
It doesn't take long to become invested in the characters of the Southern Gothic mystery Rectify, particularly Daniel Holden (Aden Young), a man who is released from death row after serving 19 years in solitary confinement for rape and murder. The Sundance series is sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, but always thought-provoking. It's one of those shows that critics make sweeping statements about, like "Rectify is the best series I have ever seen on television" and "it has the soul of a great novel." It didn't perform well in terms of ratings, but that doesn't mean it's not worth a binge.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015-2019)
What NBC lost when it shelved Tina Fey and Robert Carlock's follow-up to 30 Rock was Netflix's gain. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt turned out to be a huge hit for the streaming service, with viewers quickly falling in love with Ellie Kemper in the titular role as a former "mole woman" (she was imprisoned in a bunker by a self-styled reverend for 15 years) trying to carve out a life for herself in New York City.
A comedy about a woman who was locked up and abused for years has the potential to hit the wrong note, but Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is smart, brave, and never loses sight of its fundamental message of female resilience.
Happy Endings (2011-2013)
Happy Endings deserves a spot on another list (TV shows that were canceled too soon), but three seasons are better than none. The ensemble comedy stars Elisha Cuthbert, Eliza Coupe, Zachary Knighton, Adam Pally, Damon Wayans, Jr., and Casey Wilson as a group of friends doing their best to stay that way after one of them leaves another at the altar.
In August, ABC revealed that a Happy Endings revival was being discussed, which is all the more reason to binge the original series. "I will never say never; I'm hearing whispers," ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke told The Hollywood Reporter. "I'm hearing that there's a remote possibility of something."
Broad City (2014-2019)
Comedy Central's Broad City is another TV show about being in your 20s and not having a clue where your life is going, but it's head and shoulders above the rest. Abbi and Ilana (portrayed by their real-life counterparts, comedians Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer) give a whole new meaning to the "soulmate" label. Who needs a love interest when you have a BFF who thinks you're the best thing ever?
It's women-centric comedy at its finest, but beneath its constant stream of gags and inside jokes, Broad City (which was developed from Jacobson and Glazer's independent web series of the same name) relies on a strong emotional compass to explore the nuances of female friendship.