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The 12 Best TV Shows of the Past Decade

From 'Barry,' to 'Veep,' here's the cream of the crop from 2010 through 2019

Barry

En español | If you threw Breaking Bad in reverse and upped the dark-comedy quotient, you'd get this soulful story of a hit man (Bill Hader, 41) trying to go good and reinvent himself as an actor. Made with a Coen Brothers–like virtuosity, Barry also merits inclusion for giving Henry Winkler, 74, the role of his career — and that's saying something for the iconic former Fonz — as the breathtakingly self-involved yet somehow still sweet acting teacher Gene Cousineau. (Watch on HBO, Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu)

Blue Bloods

Prime-time network TV's most underrated drama has found the perfect recipe for creative and commercial success: equal parts family drama and police procedural. Donnie Wahlberg, 50, brings genuine street cred to his role as Detective Danny Reagan, while Tom Selleck, 74, and Len Cariou, 80, lend lovable gravitas as his father and grandfather, respectively. Plus, Selleck's mustache is so widely recognized, it deserves separate billing in the opening credits. (Watch on CBS, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, FuboTV)

Boardwalk Empire

The rise and fall of Atlantic City gangster Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi, 61) was chronicled in an epic drama that can stand with The Godfather and The Sopranos in the mob genre's top echelon. With sumptuously cinematic production values and operatic plot swings, Boardwalk Empire also benefited from a Murderers Row of supporting players, including three skilled men named Michael: Shannon, 45; Stuhlbarg, 51; and Kenneth Williams, 53. (Watch on HBO, Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu)

Bosch

The decade's most under-the-radar masterpiece is this adaptation of Michael Connelly's crime-fiction series about a relentless LAPD detective, embodied with simmering charisma by Titus Welliver, 57. Like a West Coast version of The Wire, Bosch examines the seamy underbelly of an American city via its police department, media and political institutions. Yet it's also observed with a remarkable sensitivity, especially in Bosch's heartbreakingly believable bond with his teenage daughter, Maddie (Madison Lintz). (Watch on Amazon)

Breaking Bad

Perhaps the most aptly titled TV series ever, Vince Gilligan's immorality play painstakingly charted the ethical decline of high school science teacher turned drug kingpin Walter White (Bryan Cranston, 63, in a performance of expertly minute calibration). Thank goodness the producers changed plans and didn't kill off Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul, 40) early in the show's run — the charged interplay between the meth wizard and his protégé made Breaking Bad the decade's most exquisite small-screen addiction. (Watch on Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

The best sitcoms bring together performers who might seem incompatible: Think of Taxi, on which Judd Hirsch, Andy Kaufman and Tony Danza brilliantly coexisted. The same holds true for this squad-room farce, where former SNL goofball Andy Samberg, 41; muscular NFL veteran Terry Crews, 51; and ex-Homicide powerhouse Andre Braugher, 57, coalesce with combustible chemistry. Best of all is Joe Lo Truglio, 49, whose nerdy, needy Charles Boyle is as singular a creation as Frasier Crane or Sheldon Cooper. (Watch on NBC, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube, fubo TV)

Justified

The mordant tone of Elmore Leonard's crime novels can be tough to capture on-screen, but it's never been done better than in this tale of trigger-happy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant, 51), who's sent back to his old coal-mining turf in Kentucky. There he faces a plethora of estimable nemeses played by such gifted actors as Walton Goggins, 48; Sam Elliott, 75; and Margo Martindale, 68, whose 2011 Emmy win was deeply justified. (Watch on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu)

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

In its second decade on the air, TV's longest-running drama series has grown only stronger, relying less on stunt-casting guest stars and drawing on the talent pool of New York's finest theater actors. Anchoring it all are the rock-solid Mariska Hargitay, 55, as the deeply empathetic Olivia Benson and Ice-T, 61, as the eternally cool Fin Tutuola. Who would've guessed the “Cop Killer” rapper would become one of TV's top cops? (Watch on NBC, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube, FuboTV)

Mad Men

The casually toxic masculinity depicted in this ‘60s period piece makes Matthew Weiner's NYC ad agency saga seem even timelier in the #MeToo era. Centered on the spiritually rudderless Don Draper (Jon Hamm, 48, whose cocktail of stoicism and vulnerability can only be described as William Holden–esque), Mad Men shattered the mold for TV dramas. Each week it felt less like you were watching a cable series than a finely crafted foreign film. (Watch on Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

When you put the word “marvelous” in the title of your show, you'd better deliver the goods, and creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, 53, does, with breakneck speed. Rachel Brosnahan's eye-popping period costumes seem as perfectly tailored as she is to the title role of a stand-up flouting gender norms in the 1950s. Among the teeming cast, Tony Shalhoub, 66, and Alex Borstein, 46, stand out with arguably the highest laughs-to-lines ratios in history. (Watch on Amazon)

Ray Donovan

It sounds like the setup to a joke: a fixer who can fix everything except his own fractured family. But Ray Donovan is no Everybody Loves Raymond. It's as dead serious as the titular time bomb of bottled-up rage, played with a mesmerizing intensity by Liev Schreiber, 52. And you can't help but have fun watching Jon Voight, 80, sink his teeth into the role of Ray's gleefully unrepentant felon of a father. (Watch on Showtime, Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play)

Veep

Our country may be more politically divided than ever, but we can all agree on one thing: Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, 58) is the funniest officeholder of all time. Surrounded by a flawless ensemble, Louis-Dreyfus strode into the pantheon of comediennes alongside Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett and Mary Tyler Moore. Behind the scenes, Veep changed administrations seamlessly as show runner David Mandel took over from creator Armando Iannucci without missing a wickedly witty beat. (Watch on HBO, Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu)

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