I’ve reflected on my theatregoing over the decade and before I look ahead to 2020, I wanted to look back at some of the fantastic television that appeared on my screen over the last 10 years.
For me, there was so much to enjoy and with the ever growing platforms, seeing everything is now just impossible and therefore I’m fully aware that my list probably won’t include some shows that you may think should have been included, so let me know what yours were. I might not even have watched them!
1. Suits (2011 – 2019)
There really could only be one show at the top of my list. Not only was Suits a series that I’ve found entertaining and engaging since 2011 when it first appeared on Dave (that’s a channel here in the UK), before later moving to Netflix, it also provided me with some of my favourite television characters and relationships of the last ten years too. For me to truly invest in a series, especially over 8 seasons, I need to care about the characters and Suits certainly provided so many characters to root for. Whether it was quirky Louis Litt, who you couldn’t stand and then loved, the complex emotional development of Harvey Specter, the bromance of him and protege Mike Ross, or the force that was Jessica Pearson, the determination of paralegal Rachel Zane, or the fabulous Donna Paulsen, whose self-confidence saw her soar, there was a character for every viewer.
Then of course there was Darvey. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know how much I loved the Donna and Harvey dynamic, making it my favourite on screen relationship (sorry Mulder & Scully). Not only all of this, but thanks to Suits and the positive aspects of social media, I’ve made some wonderful friends through the series, as well as it providing an excuse for some Toronto holidays. You were fabulous Suits. You’ll be missed.
2. Game of Thrones (2011 – 2019)
I know so many people have declared the entire of Game of Thrones trash now, due to their annoyance at season eight and that’s fair enough, but for me, it’ll remain one of the best television series created and remains a favourite. Yes, season 8 was rushed. The story strands needed a few more episodes to breathe in the way they did in earlier years, but I genuinely didn’t hate any of it and mostly expected the conclusions that occurred, with the final episode not proving a let down for me (I’ve had that feeling with shows I’ve loved, so I feel for anyone who felt that way).
Crucially, I still view the series as a whole and in doing so simply see a series that brought wonderful characters to life, whether good or dreadfully unpleasant, or somewhere in between, by a superb ensemble of actors. With such a vast story to tell, any weak acting links would have damaged the series as a whole, which thankfully didn’t happen. Visually it was gorgeous (I would still happily pay to watch it on a big screen) and the accompanying score, especially in later years, was an extra character of the series. Lastly, it raised the audience expectation of what television should be and therefore helped raised the quality of television as a result.
3. Sherlock (2010 – 2017?)
They may be starting off 2020 with a new adaptation of a classic on BBC One, but its’s the first joint effort by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, which started in the summer of 2010, that I wanted to talk about now. Sherlock was another series that helped change television. It was clever, exciting, engaging and with two such superb lead performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, we shouldn’t be surprised how successful it (and its actors) have become. Yes, for me, the last series wasn’t as strong as previous ones (and certainly not the level reached by season 2), but it remained a must-watch drama that surpassed a lot of the competition. It might be back one day. I certainly hope so.
4. Line of Duty (2012 – present)
Bodyguard may have exploded in the US, earning recognition at the television awards, but it was Jed Mercurio’s first series that was unmissable viewing over the decade. Late to the party, I caught up as series two started and the interest began to grow following that shocker of a season two opener and I’ve been hooked ever since. Yes, series 3 was the pinnacle for me and those seasons since haven’t quite been as impressive, or as unpredictable, but Line of Duty is still one of the best dramas on television. Not only is the core team of Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar always brilliant, but the guest casts have provided some of the highlights of the decade, especially Keeley Hawes and Craig Parkinson. Roll on season 6!
5. Succession (2018 – present)
Having missed Succession last year, I finally joined the fan club this year, after a number of friends told me I was missing out. They were certainly correct about that, with the series providing some of the finest written and acted scripts on television at the moment. The fact the writing team includes a few playwrights doesn’t surprise me, with certain scenes feeling as if they are part of a stage play. Also, it’s very rare that a series only gets better and better, but that’s true of Succession, with its second series standing out as some of the best television I’ve seen. Its ensemble is also another big strength – Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong (who is being criminally overlooked by the awards), Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, Matthew Macfadyen and Nicholas Braun all bring such life to these characters, as do the other supporting cast. Yes, I may not like many of them, but I love watching them. Hurry up series 3!
6. Broadchurch (2013 – 2017)
Olivia Colman may now be an Oscar winning superstar, but my favourite performance of hers of this decade is easily that of Ellie Miller in Broadchurch, alongside David Tennant. From the moment I saw episode one at a preview screening, I suspected this was going to be a very promising series and indeed series one went on to become a national talking point for weeks. The story of the murder of a young boy in a picturesque seaside town, it was tense (heightened by the superbly atmospheric score), emotional and yet still found moments for lightness, mainly thanks to the dynamic between Tennant and Colman. Later seasons may not have been as popular, but I enjoyed each series and was very sad to see it end.
7. Parade’s End (2012)
A second series for Benedict Cumberbatch on my list is Parade’s End, the five part series, adapted by Tom Stoppard, that aired on the BBC (and HBO in the USA) and his role of Christopher Tietjens is, in my opinion, in some respects better than his work on Sherlock. It was such a moving and powerful story, anchored by Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hill and Adelaide Clemens, telling the story of three people whose lives have such a significant impact on each other and are all affected by the First World War, especially Tietjens. Beautifully shot, this adaptation of a book I have struggled to try and read in the past, is a series I continue to return to every so often.
8. The Crown (2016 – present)
I’ve already spoken about the quality of television upping its game over the decade and another example of a series whose quality would in the past have been reserved for the big screen, is The Crown. Chronicling the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II, it impressed me right from the start (with its first two episodes remaining some of the best television of the decade for me). The production values are crazy on this series, whether the sets, costumes or score, everything is superb. Not only that, but without the talent of the original cast, including Claire Foy, Matt Smith. Vanessa Kirby, Jared Harris and John Lithgow, it was easy to forget this wasn’t real! Although I preferred the earlier years of the first two series, the third series (led by Olivia Colman) was still excellent television. Whether I’ll be able to sit through later seasons, as it delves in to the tragedies of the 1990s is yet to be seen, but The Crown was certainly a highlight of the last decade.
9. The Good Wife (2009 – 2016)
I admit that I didn’t love the last two seasons of The Good Wife, where I felt it lost its way a little, but it was still a firm favourite of the last ten years. This was an intelligent and engaging legal drama, during which we watched Alicia Florrick navigate a return to the legal profession after taking years away to raise her family, all for her husband to thank her by humiliating her on a national scale. Not only were the cases interesting, but the relationships of the characters kept me invested, as I rooted for Alicia to ditch her dreadful husband (Chris Noth) and pursue a relationship with colleague and old friend Will (the superb Josh Charles). Yet, my favourite relationship of The Good Wife? The friendship between Will and Diane (Christine Baranski). I loved them and could have watched them for years more.
10. The Hour (2011 – 2012)
I still don’t understand why the BBC stopped making The Hour after only two seasons. It was well received, won awards (including in the US at a time when this seemed less common) and had one of the finest casts of the time – Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai, Dominic West, Anna Chancellor all helped bring this series about a television news programme and its staff, set in the 1950s, to life. I know writer Abi Morgan has spoken in the past about her desire to return to the story, perhaps in a film and I still hold on to hope that we’ll see that one day.
11. Breaking Bad (2008 – 2013)
Yes, this series straddled two decades, but seeing as it only continued to get better and better, culminating in such an incredible final season, it had to be included on this list. A series fully deserving of all the acclaim it received, everything about Breaking Bad lives up to expectation – the writing, directorial choices and cinematography, combined with such phenomenal acting, doesn’t come around too often. Plus it ended perfectly. It may not be a show I’ll return to as often as others on this list, whose characters I loved more, but Breaking Bad was comfortably one of the best shows ever made for television.
So, those are my television choices of the last decade. It really has been an impressive period for the small screen. Hopefully the 2020’s will continue to maintain this level of quality!