Hello! It’s too late to post my favorite TV shows and films of 2021, because it’s now 2022 and no one cares! Or maybe someone cares. In any event, it pleases me to post this information and at least give my WordPress skills a workout.
Normally I write A Whole Thing about what the year in TV meant to me, yada yada. Who has the energy? I don’t! Whatever energy I do have is going into writing a book. I am excited to bring Burn It Down into the world and I am focusing on almost nothing else for the next several months. I am nervous about writing my first book, and the world continues to be A Lot, but I have a new mantra from Gerri:
Here are the usual rules about why some shows/films are not on the lists below. It is possible that:
I didn’t have time to get to it.
I sampled it and didn’t like it as much as you did.
I tried it and strongly disliked it. What were they thinking?
I’m a cruel hellbeast determined to bring pain and suffering to the world. (This is probably the reason.)
Three lists coming at you: My Top 10 TV Shows (the best of the best in a very strong year!), My Top 10 Movies, and a longer Top 40 TV Shows roster (there was so much variety in what was good this year. Sincere thanks to everyone who worked hard to make good shit during a very hard time).
I love reading critics’s end-of-year lists and, because I’m a nerd, I also enjoy making lists of things I should check out (at this point, my Things to Watch Google Doc is one of history’s greatest epics). It’s weird how other critics’ lists are correct and the lists I post annually are also perfectly correct.
But my lists are the most right!
Before I get to the core of this post, I want to mention that I’m moderating a Better Off Ted reunion for charity on Dec. 27. Stop by if you care to — it should be fun! (Of course, for Veridian employees, this event is a mandatory training session.)
All right, as usual, you could make a pretty good Top 10 list of things I have only seen part of or have not seen at all. Not sure if you were aware of this fact, but there is a lot of #content out there.
So this list, especially given how often quarantine brain derailed me this year, is not comprehensive. I’m sure, in the next week or two, I’ll watch more things I wish I’d included. Regardless, I’m glad for the existence of all these shows — and movies, documentaries, multi-part documentaries, films-that-are-probably-not-TV, TV-that-might-be-movies and documentary-scripted hybrids, plus unicorns that are also 10-hour films, etc.
Two omissions from these lists that were still important parts of my 2020 viewing experience: The Great British Baking Show (which goes by the nickname GBBO in its original habitat) and the Great Canadian Baking Show. I’d like to unburden myself a bit regarding both of those programs. A bit later in this post, I delve into how what’s good about them relates to key aspects of my favorite scripted programs of 2020. Skip ahead to the lists if you don’t want to wade through this part!
This is my personal list of the top 100 101* programs of the decade.
I only considered programs that premiered after January 1, 2010. If you get mad about an omission, there’s a 98% chance that the show you’re cranky about premiered before that date. I’m almost annoyed at myself for imposing that limitation, because it means I can’t include Men of a Certain Age, which is so, so great (and which premiered in December 2009). But that’s the rule I decided on, so it is what it is.
Here’s what I decided not to consider for the list: Commentary programs (like “Full Frontal”), documentaries, comedy specials or any kind of reality TV. Though I didn’t set out to exclude it, I also ended up without any shows primarily aimed at kids. No hate for any of these genres: I just ended up organically focusing on the kinds of scripted storytelling I love.
So this list consists of scripted TV released in the last decade that I saw and liked enough overall to put it on this list. My best-of-the-decade roster would have been much longer if I could have put selected seasons of some shows on it. But I went with the “all or nothing” approach. There are shows below that had occasional dips in quality, but they also had something special, were pretty consistently good and/or had a number of excellent or great runs during their lifespans, so they made the cut. And of course some of these programs are notably more ambitious than others! But they each brought something special to the game and I am glad I watched them all.
Where to see these shows depends on what country you live in and what company has the rights to a particular show at a given point in time. Given that those circumstances can and do change, I’d consult justwatch.com if you want to know where to find all this delicious content.
I watched a lot of TV in the past decade. A lot. Probably more than is strictly advisable. No regrets. This is the best of what I saw. Let’s get into it, shall we?