Best TV Drama Series of the Past 10 Years

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Top 10 TV Drama Series of the past 10 years

Breaking Bad Drama Series
Photo credit: AMC.

The past 10 years of television have brought some of the best characters, stories and dramatic moments ever. And this is only a handful of the incredibly unique and well-written shows to send viewers through a maze of emotions. Here are the best of the best, the top 10 TV dramas from 2006-2016.

*This list only contains drama series that have been on for more than 3 seasons. That’s why shows such as Narcos, True Detective, Fargo, Better Call Saul, Outlander and more don’t appear here. 

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Honorable Mention: Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)

Friday Night Lights
Photo credit: NBC.

Friday Night Lights begins when Coach Eric Taylor is hired to coach the Dillon High School Panthers in Texas, a small town’s team of heroes. The movie-turned-drama series illustrates how much pressure a town can put on high school players and coaches to win along with how a football team can give a town hope. The show is based on the original Peter Berg-directed 2004 movie of the same title. This series isn’t full of drug deals or shootings or zombies like the remainder of series listed, but it is full of emotion. It’s a wonderfully written series that provides a realistic look at small town and asks the hard questions humans face every day. 

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10. Grey's Anatomy (2005— )

Grey's Anatomy
Photo credit: ABC.

This TV medical drama, which has managed to stay on the air for 10 years, focuses on aspiring surgeon Meredith Grey and all of the problems she faces both personally and professionally alongside her fellow surgeons at Seattle Grace Hospital. Although the ER cases and medical jargon are interesting, the show’s biggest draw is the constantly changing cast’s chemistry. Whether it be Meredith and Derek or Meredith and her friends, there’s always a believable connection present. It’s smart, but more importantly, it constantly reminds its audience that they’re only human. 

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9. Downton Abbey (2010-2016)

Downton Abbey
Photo credit: PBS/Masterpiece.

This period drama starts in pre-World War I England just after the RMS Titanic sank. Many refer to this series as a sort of upstairs/downstairs drama since it follows the struggles of a family of nobility, the Crawley family, living on an estate called Downton Abbey and the lives of the servants that reside downstairs. One of the show's draws is that it isn't cynical or sexual; it’s romantic (a rare find these days). Another is that it tells great stories. It is full of stories and instances that touch on marital tribulations, inheritance, class differences and more. 

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8. The Walking Dead (2010—)

The Walking Dead
Photo credit: AMC.

 The Walking Dead fuels the world’s obsession with the idea of a post-apocalyptic era. The series, based on Robert Kirkman’s comic series of the same name, begins after County Sheriff Rick Grimes wakes from a coma in an empty hospital to find that a zombie epidemic has taken over the world. At its heart, the series is about survival and how humans can appear to be the most dangerous no matter what sort of creatures are roaming the earth. And like any good drama, it's not afraid to take risks and it continues to evolve. People just can’t get enough!

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7. Homeland (2011—)

Photo credit: Showtime.

Carrie Mathison, played by the exquisite Claire Danes, is a CIA operations officer who is on probation for going through with an unapproved operation in Iraq. While she was there, she learned that one of the American prisoners was turned Al-Qaeda. When she’s reassigned to the counter terrorism center, she suspects U.S. Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody, a hostage who was rescued from Iraq, is the impostor. Homeland taps into our curiosity concerning the government and what they are actually doing! The writing is extraordinary and extremely relevant. The plot is also very fast-paced and thrilling; the characters are dynamic, flawed and human. But more importantly, it's relevant!

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6. Sherlock (2011—)

Photo credit: BBC One.

Sherlock is a modern take on the well-known tales of Sherlock Holmes and his doctor partner John Watson. This time, they are solving crimes in 21st century London. Benedict Cumberbatch is stunning as Sherlock as is Martin Freeman as the loyal Dr. Watson. This fast-paced series has the ability to stay funny while it dives deeper and deeper into Sherlock’s dark mind. What makes it so fascinating is that this seemingly ancient literary character is still interesting. Maybe it’s the fact that Sherlock isn’t like a normal person; his appeal is in his imperfections.

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5. The Wire (2002-2008)

The Wire
Photo credit: HBO.

The Wire examines the drug scene in Baltimore from both sides of the situation. Viewers see what it is like to be a Baltimore cop trying to infiltrate a huge drug ring and what it is like to be caught up in organized crime. Creator David Simon, who spent more than 10 years working for the Baltimore Sun, takes the drama a step further and illustrates the systematic corruption in Baltimore’s task force and political leadership along with problems in the public school system and the media’s role in everything. Combine that with amazing writing and superb acting, and you have a fictional show that feels all too real. 

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4. Mad Men (2007-2015)

Mad Men
Photo credit: AMC.

This binge-worthy series filters a feeling of nostalgia through its main character Don Draper, an ad executive at one of the largest New York City advertising firms at the start of the '60s. It tackles the life and emotions of one seriously complicated man, but more than that, it exposes the ever-changing workplace and how historical events affected the personal and professional lives of the people living through them. Mad Men gives viewers a lens into the '60s not only through its characters and plot but through its scenery, wardrobe, camera work and odd little details. At its core, it is a story of finding one’s identity at a time when everyone was getting lost.

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3. Game of Thrones (2011—)

Game of Thrones Poster
Game of Thrones Season 6 Poster. Photo credit: HBO.

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ Game of Thrones depicts a fantastical world where a civil war continues to heat up between many noble families, and a threatening race returns from the North. Though Game of Thrones may be nothing more than a fantasy series based on the books by George R.R. Martin to some, anyone who watches it knows that its excellence stems from the dialogue and relationships that make it a drama. The show has the ability to dive into several characters’ stories while maintaining a sense of connectivity, and the farther along the series gets, the more (or less) the characters begin to cross paths. So far, it has been filled with twists and deaths that have shocked and devastated viewers everywhere. Here’s to hoping the series, which returns April 24 on HBO, keeps doing so! 

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2. The Sopranos (1999-2007)

The Sopranos
Photo credit: HBO.

From the outside, The Sopranos looks like just another show about the Italian mob and its boss, Tony Soprano, in New Jersey. But when the writers pitched the series to the network, they didn’t focus on the fact that Tony is a mob boss. They zeroed in on him as a sometimes unlikable man going through a mid-life crisis. Creator David Chase taught viewers to root for the anti-hero as Tony worked to balance his family life and his professional woes while shining a light on violence in America. The show has been named the best-written television show in history by the Writer’s Guild of America.

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1. Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

Breaking Bad
Photo credit: AMC.

AMC'Breaking Bad follows a chemistry teacher, Walter White, who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and turns to an old student, Jesse Pinkman, to help him earn some extra cash by cooking and selling crystal meth. The chemistry between the two actors is dynamic. It is never clear whether they will work in harmony or argue through an entire episode. But that isn’t what makes Breaking Bad appear at the top of this list. What makes this show so incredible is Walt’s transformation from a downtrodden, pitiable high school teacher to one of the most notorious American criminals in this fictional world. The more powerful he becomes, the more his initial desperation turns into fearlessness. And that fearlessness, combined with the dangers of a meth-dealing world, creates a suspense that has viewers craving the next episode no matter how many times they've watched the series.