Writing an article on the best television of the past decade is a daunting task for me, as I have spent countless hours watching various genres of TV. Reality shows, quiz shows, dramas, current affairs, sports, true crime, and even some kids’ programs have all been part of my viewing experience. Although I may have missed some shows, I have compiled a list based on anything that premiered between 2010 and 2019, as long as I have viewed it. However, some great shows did not make the cut due to significant drops in quality mid-series, with THE WALKING DEAD being a prime example. Additionally, several British dramas narrowly missed being included on my list.
Among them are:-
THREE GIRLS – A harrowing three part drama based on the Rochdale grooming gang scandal
LITTLE BOY BLUE – Based on the real life murder of Rhys Jones in Liverpool back in 2007. Starring the amazing Stephen Graham of which you’ll see a lot more of later
CILLA – A fantastic biopic of Liverpool’s most famous daughter played by Sheridan Smith
Honestly, I could curate a list of top-notch shows solely featuring the aforementioned Graham and Smith. Their presence alone is enough to pique my interest in any advertised show. These two have an uncanny ability to steal the show with their performances. I’m such a fan that I’d even watch Graham cross the road! However, before I dive into the list, let’s acknowledge some shows that despite being over-hyped or subpar, still have a devoted following.
This list could go on for ever but I’ve kept it to just 3 shows. It would have been 4 but MIRANDA missed out by 52 days!
MRS BROWNS BOYS
None of them appealed to me. MRS BROWNS BOYS lacked humour and became tiresome after the first few episodes. Similarly, LUTHER was touted as the best cop show of the decade, but I found it uninteresting. Despite calls for Idris Elba to play James Bond, I believe he is a one-dimensional actor who does not deserve the role. As for PEAKY BLINDERS, I watched three seasons and found it monotonous. Even the addition of Tom Hardy did not make it more engaging. I have heard rumours that Stephen Graham will appear in season 6, but I will not be tuning in.
Moving forward, here are my top 15 television shows from the last 10 years. It’s a blend of American and British programs, with an Australian series included for good measure. Among the selection, you’ll find 12 dramas, a standout reality show (trust me on this), and two documentaries. You won’t spy a traditional comedy in the bunch.
15) No Offence
This drama, created by the same person who brought us Shameless, seems to have flown under the radar since its debut in 2015. It centers around the police officers of the fictional Friday Street police station in Manchester and is a cross between Shameless and The Bill.
The first season follows the hunt for a serial killer, the second focuses on human trafficking, child exploitation, and FGM, while the third tackles the extremism of right-wing politics.
Leading the team of sex-crazed, drug and alcohol fueled cops is the uncompromising Viv Deering. She is rude and un-PC, bullying and browbeating anyone who stands in her way. However, her direct and unapologetic approach is refreshing, and she always gets the job done. Despite her tough exterior, she has a heart of gold, and her loyalty to her team is unwavering, often leading them to go above and beyond for her.
Deering has earned a spot in my top ten TV cops of all time. Unfortunately, Channel 4 pulled the plug after three seasons, possibly to make room for more Love Island-esque garbage.
14) Shameless (US)
Rarely does a US adaptation outshine the original, but in my opinion, the Chicago Gallagher family far surpasses the Manchester Gallagher clan.
Although the first six episodes mimic the British version, the show takes off after that. Its secret weapon is character longevity, with only a few cast changes in its ten seasons.
This allows for more character development and fewer extraneous characters. All the beloved characters are present, including Fiona, Lip, Ian, Debbie, Carl, Liam, Kev, Veronica, and of course, the charmingly despicable Frank. If you’re in search of a binge-worthy show, this is it. You won’t be disappointed.
13) Making a Murderer
True crime has become a popular trend. It’s reality TV taking on its rarest form. Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey were relatively unknown until December 2015 when a well-known streaming service aired their story.
As a fan of true crime since the early 80s, when the likes of the Yorkshire Ripper and Dennis Nielsen dominated BBC news, I have watched a lot of it. From the infamous Ted Bundy to the recent 10-part series on a seemingly simple man from Manitowoc County, Wisconsin,
I have seen it all. Without giving too much away, the police in Manitowoc County need to take a serious look at themselves as this may be the biggest miscarriage of justice in history.
Let’s talk about an incredible British drama that stars Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhasker as police officers who head a cold case department in a London police station. Unlike many police dramas that rely on action-packed scenes, Unforgotten takes a slower, more thoughtful approach that makes it all the more engaging.
Currently, there have been three series, with a fourth on the horizon. Instead of resorting to cheap twists that can insult the audience’s intelligence, Unforgotten presents a list of possible suspects that Walker and Bhasker diligently unravel for us. This show demonstrates that exceptional writing and acting are more than enough to captivate viewers, without needing to rely on high-octane action.
11) When They See Us
This drama delves into the lives and families of five men who were wrongly accused and prosecuted for the rape and assault of a woman in Central Park, New York City. What makes this even more chilling is that it is based on true events. Tune in and feel the anger.
10) The Virtues
Shane Meadows and Jack Thorne have collaborated to bring forth a semi-autobiographical drama that delves into themes of revenge and redemption. The protagonist, Joseph, portrayed by Stephen Graham, is a recovering alcoholic whose mental state is already precarious. As his son is set to leave for Australia, Joseph embarks on a journey to reunite with Anna, his long-lost sister from the south of Ireland. While integrating into the local community, Joseph’s encounter with Craigy triggers painful and repressed memories.
UNBELIEVABLE, like some other entries on this list, is inspired by a true story. This fact only adds to the emotional weight of the story. The show portrays the Washington and Colorado serial rape cases that occurred between 2008 and 2011. It chronicles the journey of “Marie,” a teenager who was accused of falsely claiming to have been raped, and the two detectives who embarked on a complex investigation to uncover the truth.
8) The Keepers
This is another entry in the TRUE CRIME category. What begins as separate investigations by law enforcement into the disappearances of Sister Cathy Cesnick and office employee Joyce Malecki gradually evolves into a comprehensive probe into their killings, as well as the issue of sexual impropriety within the Catholic Church. This documentary can be disturbing at times, and it will undoubtedly leave you feeling both incredulous and indignant.
MINDHUNTER, a fictional drama, draws heavily from real-life events. It follows the inception of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, akin to the television show Criminal Minds, as imagined by the show’s creators. The lead characters, though fictional, profile actual serial killers such as Charles Manson, Ed Kempner, Richard Speck, and David Berkowitz. Despite its potential for success, the show was cancelled by its streaming service due to poor audience reception, which is strange since I personally enjoyed it immensely.
Time now for a reimagining, not a remake. Those who are as old as me may recall stumbling home from the pub in the late 80s and tuning in to Prisoner: Cell Block H, one of Australia’s greatest exports. The show’s shaky sets and even shakier acting were its trademarks. To avoid confusion with the 1960s sci-fi drama The Prisoner, we had to add the Cell Block H qualifier. Nearly three decades later, the producers decided to give the tales of incarcerated women a modern spin. And boy, did they succeed. The drama is grossly underrated, possibly due to its checkered past and the fact that C5 in the UK has relegated it to one of its more obscure digital channels. It’s also available on a well-known streaming platform. If you haven’t watched it yet, give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.
Chernobyl is currently ranked as one of the top dramas on IMDB, tied with Band of Brothers and Breaking Bad. The show portrays the devastating nuclear disaster that took place and highlights the courage of the people who risked their lives to prevent further catastrophe. Despite knowing the outcome, the show’s masterful execution kept us captivated throughout.
4) This is Us
Everyone has a family, and every family has a unique tale. THIS IS US tracks the Pearson family’s journey through the years, from Jack and Rebecca’s early parenthood in the 1980s to the present-day search for love and contentment by their grown children, Kevin, Kate, and Randall.
This heartfelt and authentic drama delves into how even the smallest experiences in our lives shape who we are, and how our relationships with one another can surpass time, distance, and even mortality. We accompany the BIG THREE from infancy through their formative years, adolescence, young adulthood, and into their 40s and beyond. I have laughed and cried, and oh, how I’ve cried.
This American series didn’t quite take off in the UK, with C4 discontinuing it due to audience confusion, but I, for one, fully understand and appreciate it.
3) Whitehouse & Mortimer: Gone Fishing
The show that takes the cake for being the most surprising on the list is, in fact, a fishing show. However, the fishing aspect is only a minor part of the program. It’s more of a buddy program, a travelogue showcasing two friends having fun and going on adventures that include fishing.
Comedians Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer, both of whom have had heart issues, came up with the idea of going on a fishing trip to aid in their recovery. The BBC caught wind of their plans and thought it would make for great TV, and they were right.
In each episode, they catch a specific type of fish, with Whitehouse providing guidance while Mortimer seeks out heart-healthy meals and accommodations. If you’re looking for a 30-minute escape from reality, this show is perfect. There are no scripts or special effects, just two friends, a few fishing rods, and plenty of laughs. This is what reality TV should be all about.
2) Line of Duty
At first, this exceptional show was hidden away on BBC2 between Top Gear and reruns of Sgt. Bilko. However, after a few seasons (I despise using the term “seasons” – it should be “series”!), its brilliance began to spread, and the BBC began promoting it as a top-tier program, leading to its inevitable move to BBC1.
The three main stars, former Scottish professional footballer Martin Compston, the underrated (prior to Line of Duty) Adrian Dunbar, and one of the UK’s finest talents, Vicky McClure, are joined by a supporting cast of acting luminaries, including Neil Morrissey, Lenny James, Gina McKee, Craig Parkinson, Jambo from Hollyoaks, Keeley Hawes, Daniel Mays, Thandie Newton, Jason Watkins, and Stephen Graham. Rumors have already begun circulating that Kelly McDonald, famous for her role in Trainspotting, will appear as the “villain” in season 6.
Although we now watch television at different speeds thanks to catch-up and streaming services, Line of Duty is a rarity that the majority of us watched as it aired. We all shared in the plot twists and tension as it unfolded, without the need to avoid Twitter. I have a sense that we will be discussing Line of Duty as one of the greatest television shows of all time – it is that good.
1) This Is England
This series originated from a 2007 feature film of the same name and three years later became the greatest British TV drama of the decade. Despite featuring a relatively unknown cast, including Vicky McClure, Joe Gilgun, Thomas Turgoose, Chanel Cresswell, and Stephen Graham, who have since gone on to bigger things, the series was just as bleak as the film.
The main protagonists navigate their way through the 80s and 90s, encountering rape, murder, and violence, but also some touching moments and plenty of dark humor. The series also offers a big helping of nostalgia, including references to Coal not dole, World Cup 86, Margaret Thatcher, and more.
Each episode of the series is set during a different season and the final installment features an incredible scene in which Lol and Woody must tell the gang about Combo’s impending release from jail and the truth about the death of Lol and Kelly’s dad. Despite the series being over, there has been talk of a final film set at the millennium titled This Is England ’00, with writer and director Shane Meadows describing the story as “an absolute banger.”
So there you have it. My top 15 TV shows of the last decade.