As 2019 draws to an end, so too does a decade of amazing television. Celebrate the conclusion of the 2010s by taking a look back at the best TV shows of the decade, starting with "Game of Thrones." The HBO fantasy-drama debuted in 2011 and ran for eight seasons until mid-2019. Over the course of those eight years, stars Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner (among others) became household names. The series also broke viewership and awards records: In 2016, "Game of Thrones" — which has inspired several upcoming spinoffs — became the most-awarded TV show in Emmy history. Now keep reading for more of the decade's finest television offerings…
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"The Walking Dead," which debuted on AMC in 2010 and entered its 10th season in October 2019, has been the No. 1 show on cable television for years. The horror-drama shows no signs of slowing down and has launched two spinoffs so far: "Fear the Walking Dead" will enter its sixth season in 2020, and another still-untitled series is set to debut in 2020. There are also plans to release several made-for-TV movies set within the "The Walking Dead" universe.
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"The Big Bang Theory" debuted on CBS in 2007 and went on to crush multiple ratings records during its 12-season run before coming to an end in May 2019. The Emmy-winning sitcom launched the prequel series "Young Sheldon," which entered its third season in September 2019, and turned cast members Kaley Cuoco, Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki into major stars.
"Breaking Bad" — one of the most universally lauded TV dramas of all time — debuted on AMC in 2008 and came to an end after five seasons in 2013. The drama benefitted from Netflix binge-watching, quadrupling its ratings from the first four seasons during Season 5. Its impact can still be felt today: A prequel series, "Better Call Saul," will enter its fifth season in 2020, while a sequel film, "El Camino," debuted on Netflix in October 2019.
"The Office" debuted on NBC in 2005 and came to an end after nine seasons in 2013, but thanks to its wild popularity on Netflix, it hardly feels like the hit sitcom ever went away. On the contrary, it's been winning new fans for the past six years, meaning this show is just as impactful in the 2010s as it was during the aughts.
"Mad Men" changed the game for AMC when it debuted in 2007, proving that the cable channel was capable of producing stellar original programing. The critically acclaimed period drama, which won the Emmy for outstanding drama series four times, came to an end after seven seasons in 2015. In that time, stars Jon Hamm, January Jones, Christina Hendricks and Elisabeth Moss became household names.
"Keeping Up With the Kardashians" debuted on E! in 2007 but took a few years to become a major pop culture force. The reality show, which has launched countless spinoffs, entered its 17th season in September 2019 and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
"Modern Family" debuted in 2009 and will come to an end after 11 seasons in 2020. Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell and Eric Stonestreet have all won Emmys for their performances on the ABC sitcom, which also won the Emmy for best comedy series five times and made Sofia Vergara a household name.
"The Real Housewives of Orange County," which entered its 14th season in August 2019, debuted on Bravo in 2006. In the process, it launched one of the biggest TV franchises in history. The franchise now includes several beloved national and international iterations, including "The Real Housewives of New York City," which wrapped its 11th season in July 2019, "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," which wrapped its 11th season in May 2019 and "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," which wrapped its ninth season in March 2019.
It only took three seasons for "Stranger Things" — which debuted in 2016 and made huge stars of its young cast members — to become one of the biggest shows of the decade! The Netflix sci-fi series, which has crushed viewership records for the streamer, kicked off its third season in July 2019. (A fourth season is due sometime in the near future.)
Like "Stranger Things," NBC's "This Is Us" has made a huge impact in a super-short period of time. Millions of Americans have fallen in love with the Pearson family on the lauded drama, which debuted in 2016 and entered its fourth season in September 2019. Awards voters have also fallen in love with "This Is Us" — many of the adult cast members have earned Emmy nominations for their work on the show.
Though the first season of "The Bachelor" debuted all the way back in 2002, the dating show has dominated the pop-culture landscape just as much in the 2010s as it did in the aughts. Season 24 — which will see Peter Weber looking for love — is currently in production for a January 2020 debut, while spinoff "The Bachelorette" just wrapped its 15th season in mid-2019. The last decade also saw the debut of three more spinoffs: "Bachelor Pad," which ran for three seasons between 2010 and 2012; "Bachelor in Paradise," which concluded its sixth season in the summer of 2019; and "The Bachelor Winter Games," which ran for just one season in early 2018.
"Two and a Half Men" debuted on CBS all the way back in 2003, but when it came to an end after 12 seasons in 2015, it was on top of the ratings game — a shocker considering creator Chuck Lorre gave star Charlie Sheen the boot following Season 8 after the actor publicly criticized his boss, went to rehab three times in 12 months and engaged in bizarre behavior that dominated headlines for most of 2011. The sitcom scored a new lease on life when Ashton Kutcher joined the cast in Season 9.
Another show that debuted in 2003 and continues to have a major impact? The "JAG" spinoff "NCIS." The CBS police procedural's 17th season kicked off in September 2019. The series, which has maintained consistently high ratings over the years, has spawned two spinoffs so far: "NCIS: Los Angeles," which entered its 11th season in September 2019, and "NCIS: New Orleans," which kicked off its sixth season in September 2019.
Marvel has the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC has The CW's Arrowverse. The superhero-themed television franchise kicked off in 2012 with "Arrow," which entered its eighth and final season in 2019, and now includes four more TV shows and two web series. In 2019, "The Flash" entered its sixth season, "Supergirl" kicked off its fifth season and "Batwoman" debuted. "Lends of Tomorrow," meanwhile, will return for its fifth season in early 2020.
Another major TV franchise of the teens? Dick Wolf's "Chicago" series, which exists in the same universe as the "Law & Order" franchise. It all started in 2012 with "Chicago Fire," which entered its eighth season on Sept. 25, 2019 — the same day "Chicago P.D." launched its seventh season and "Chicago Med" debuted its fifth season. "Chicago Justice," meanwhile, ran for just one season in early 2017.
Though Ellen Pompeo's Dr. Meredith Grey made her big debut on "Grey's Anatomy" in 2005, she and her colleagues at Seattle Grace Hospital show no signs of slowing down — even though half as many people are tuning in now as they did during Season 1. The 16th season of the hit ABC medical drama debuted in September 2019.
Amy Poehler racked up Emmy nominations for her work on the beloved sitcom "Parks and Recreation," which aired on NBC for seven hilarious seasons between 2009 and 2015. The comedy's viewership numbers actually climbed in its final season!
"Flip or Flop" debuted on HGTV in 2013 and is still going strong, with Season 8 debuting in August 2019. The home renovation show — which spawned a franchise that now includes iterations across the country — survived the divorce of stars Christina Anstead and Tarek El Moussa, who've both scored spinoffs of their own since they called time on the romantic side of their partnership.
Another real-life couple who capitalized on the home-renovation-show craze? Chip Gaines and Joanna Gaines, who starred on the HGTV series "Fixer Upper" for five seasons between 2013 and 2018. The couple have since said goodbye to the show that made them stars, though their legacy lives on through the home-design fads they popularized (shiplap, anyone?), as well as their other businesses — including an upcoming cable TV network of their own.
"The Voice" debuted on NBC in 2011, unseating aughts ratings juggernaut "American Idol" as the country's favorite signing competition. The reality show — which features a host of rotating celebrity coaches — entered its 17th season in September 2019 with Kelly Clarkson, Gwen Stefani, John Legend and Blake Shelton.
During its seven-season run, which launched in 2012 and came to an end in May 2019, "Veep" won the Emmy for best comedy series three times. Star Julia Louis-Dreyfus also won six Emmys for her work as titular politician Selina Meyer, making the HBO comedy one of the most well-decorated series of the decade.
"Downton Abbey" debuted in 2010 (on PBS in the United States and on ITV in the U.K.) and came to an end after six Emmy-worthy seasons in 2015. But that wasn't the end of the beloved upstairs-downstairs drama: The "Downton Abbey" movie debuted to raves (and box-office success!) in September 2019.
Though "How I Met Your Mother" debuted on CBS in 2005, it's nine-season run didn't come to an end until 2014 — and the sitcom actually gained viewers during its final season, proving that it had the most impact during its final years. The Emmy-winning comedy marked a major comeback for Neil Patrick Harris, turned Jason Segel into a household name and made Josh Radner, Cobie Smulders and Alyson Hannigan some of the biggest stars on the planet during the first half of the decade.
"Pretty Little Liars," which spawned two short-lived spinoffs, was a huge hit for ABC Family when it debuted in mid-2010. The thrilling teen drama came to an end after seven seasons in 2017. By that point, ABC Family had become Freeform and cast members Shay Mitchell, Lucy Hale, Troian Bellisario and Ashley Benson had become major stars.
"Supernatural" might have debuted midway through the aughts (in September 2005), but the majority of its 15-season run on The CW, which will finally come to an end in early 2020, has been during the last decade. The final season of the horror-drama series debuted in October 2019.
For a few years, there was no escaping "Glee." The musical high school dramedy was a huge hit for FOX when it debuted in 2009. Though its viewership had dropped dramatically by the time it came to an end after six seasons in early 2015, it was nonetheless a major pop culture force during its first few seasons, tackling major subject matter never before seen on network TV and spawning several hit soundtrack albums as well as a live concert tour.
"Dancing With the Stars" debuted on ABC in 2005, and although its format has changed dramatically over the years, the Emmy-winning reality show is still chugging along — even as ratings have declined in recent seasons. Season 28 debuted in September 2019.
"Black-ish" has been a huge hit with critics and audiences alike since it debuted on ABC in 2014. The family sitcom, which entered its sixth season in September 2019, has earned praise for the way it handles real-world issues — from racism and police brutality to current politics and the LGBTQ community. So far, "Black-ish" has spawned two spinoffs: "Grown-ish," which will kick off its third season in 2020, and "Mixed-ish," which debuted in September 2019. It's also made huge stars of its younger cast members: Marsai Martin, Marcus Scribner, Yara Shahidi and Miles Brown.
The lauded Russian spy thriller "The Americans" ran on FX for six seasons between 2013 and 2018. It wasn't just critics and audiences who fell in love with the drama: Stars Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell were also feeling the love — they started dating and now have a son together.
"Orange Is the New Black" debuted on Netflix in 2013 and ran for seven seasons until the summer of 2019. In that time, the prison-set dramedy made stars of many of its cast members including Laverne Cox, Danielle Brooks and Uzo Aduba, who won two Emmys for her work on the show.
"Bones" ran for 12 seasons on FOX between 2005 and 2017 and spawned a short-lived spinoff, 2012's "The Finder." The beloved police procedural has a surprising legacy: The cast and creators sued 21st Century Fox for cheating them out of residuals by selling broadcasting and streaming rights to the show to partners at a price that's below the series' fair market value. The lawsuit, which ended with a September 2019 settlement, set a precedent in Hollywood, protecting creatives from shady profit-sharing practices.
America's got… an obsession with reality TV shows! The Simon Cowell-created NBC competition series "America's Got Talent," which wrapped up its 14th season in September 2019, has been a ratings juggernaut since it debuted in 2006.
Another reality competition show that debuted in 2006 and is still going strong? "Top Chef." The Padma Lakshmi-hosted Bravo series, which has spawned a handful of spinoffs and international iterations over the years, is currently shooting its 17th season — rumored to be an all-star season that would debut in December 2019. The show kicked off the decade by winning the Emmy for outstanding reality competition program in 2010.
"The Vampire Diaries," which debuted on The CW in 2009, capitalized on the vampire craze spurred by "Twilight" the previous year. The teen fantasy-drama series ran for eight seasons through 2017, turned Nina Dobrev into a huge star and spawned two spinoffs: "The Originals," which came to an end after five seasons in 2018, and "Legacies," which entered its second season in October 2019.
Clearly, the first half of the decade was huge for fans of vampire dramas. "True Blood" debuted on HBO in 2008 and ran for seven seasons until 2014. In the process, it launched Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer and Joe Manganiello to superstardom.
Kerry Washington reached an insane level of fame after she starred as fixer Olivia Pope on ABC's "Scandal," which aired for seven seasons between 2012 and 2018. During its time on the air, the wildly popular political thriller was a huge hit in the ratings department. It even won a few Emmys!
Can you believe it's been a decade since "Blue Bloods" debuted on CBS in 2010?! The police procedural, which entered its 10th season in September 2019, may not get a lot of buzz, but it's still one of the top-rated shows on television.
When "Power" debuted on Starz in 2014, it didn't exactly win raves from critics. Fortunately, the Omari Hardwick-led crime-drama has sweetened with age. In the years leading up to its sixth and final season, which debuted in August 2019, viewership numbers grew as reviews became increasingly positive. No doubt 50 Cent's constant posting on social media and coining of the phrase "get the strap" had something to do with the series' increased popularity.
"Criminal Minds," which debuted on CBS in 2005, is finally coming to an end. The long-running police procedural will enter its 15th and final season in late 2019 or early 2020. (The network has yet to release a premiere date.) Over the course of its run of more than a decade, the drama spawned two short-lived spinoffs: 2011's "Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior," which lasted just one season, and "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders," which ran for two seasons in 2016 and 2017.
"Outlander" took audiences by storm — spawning fan conventions and launching cast members Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe to stardom — when it debuted on Starz in 2014. The historical-romance sci-fi show, which is based on a book series of the same name, will enter its fifth season in early 2020.
When "Suits" debuted on the USA Network in 2011, it wasn't exactly a huge hit. But the moderately successful legal drama, which came to an end after nine seasons in September 2019, gained major popularity in its final seasons thanks to a particular cast member: Meghan Markle, who left the show after Season 7 to marry Prince Harry and become the woman we now know as Duchess Meghan.
"American Horror Story" debuted on FX in 2011 and brought with it the age of the anthology series. There have been eight more seasons since "Murder House" first aired: "Asylum," "Coven," "Freak Show," "Hotel," "Roanoke," "Cult," "Apocalypse" and "1984," which debuted in September 2019.
Though "Empire" had lost some of its shine by the time its sixth and final season debuted in 2019, it was incredibly popular in its early years. The FOX musical drama, which debuted in 2015, made stars of most of its cast members and spawned several soundtrack albums, the first of which received gold certification.
"Jon & Kate Plus 8" debuted on the Discovery Health channel in 2007 before moving to TLC the following year for the remainder of its 11-season run, during which it launched the popularity of reality shows centered around large family units. During the height of their fame, Jon Gosselin and Kate Gosselin appeared on countless tabloid covers along with their twin daughters and mixed-gender sextuplets. Jon left the show after Season 5 following his divorce from Kate. At that point, the series was renamed "Kate Plus 8."
The cult comedy "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" kicked off back in 2005. The 14th season of the series — which moved from FX to FXX in 2013 — debuted in September 2019, making it one of the two longest running live-action sitcoms in American TV history. (The other is "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," which came to an end after 14 seasons in 1966.)
"Sons of Anarchy" debuted to raves on FX in 2008. By the time the crime-drama series came to an end after seven seasons in 2014, star Charlie Hunnam had practically become a household name.
Julianna Margulies won two Emmys for her work as Alicia Florrick on "The Good Wife," which debuted to raves in 2009 and came to an end after seven seasons in 2016. The CBS legal drama's spinoff, "The Good Fight," wrapped up its third season on CBS All Access in May 2019. A fourth season is due in early 2020.
Viola Davis made history in 2015 when she became the first black woman to take home the Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a drama series. She won for her work on "How to Get Away with Murder," which debuted in 2014. The legal drama, which was hugely popular during its first two seasons, will conclude in February 2020 after six seasons on ABC.
Lena Dunham shot into the spotlight with "Girls," an HBO dramedy about the lives of four millennial females — a show she created and on which she also starred. The multi-hyphenate racked up Emmy nominations for the wildly popular series, which debuted in 2012 and came to an end after six seasons in 2017.
Zooey Deschanel shot to a new level of fame after starring on FOX's "New Girl" for seven seasons between 2011 and 2018.
There were a number of years during which it was practically impossible to escape "Toddlers & Tiaras," the TLC reality show that gave the world Honey Boo Boo, sketti and go-go juice. The series, which debuted in 2009, came to an end after seven seasons in 2016. The biggest personalities to arise from the world of child beauty pageants lived on in spinoffs "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," "Eden's World," "Mama June: From Not to Hot" and more.
"Dexter" started off with a bang on Showtime in 2006 and quickly became fodder for water-cooler convos across the nation, launching Michael C. Hall to superstardom in the process. The crime-drama series came to an end after eight seasons in 2013.
"House of Cards" changed the game for Netflix when it debuted in 2013, becoming the streamer's first original series. The political drama, which signaled a major comeback for Robin Wright, took home a handful of Emmys over the years but sadly lost steam in its final season following sexual assault allegations against star Kevin Spacey, who in 2017 got the boot from the show he popularized.
The Duggars took the world by storm when "17 Kids and Counting" debuted on TLC in 2008. More and more viewers tuned in each season as the reality clan continued to grow — which led the network to change the series' name twice to reflect new additions. "19 Kids and Counting" came to an end after 10 seasons in 2015 — amid a headline-making sexual abuse scandal centered around Josh Duggar. The family members who walked away from the scandal went on to headline the spinoff "Counting On," which entered its 10th season in October 2019.