30. Parks and Recreation
The Office may have popularized NBC’s brand of sweet, sentimental comedies with a razor-sharp edge, but Parks and Recreation perfected it. Following a team of public servants in Pawnee Indiana, it would take a couple of seasons to shake off that Office comparison and find its own identity. But it did, especially once Adam Scott and Rob Lowe joined the show. Ben Wyatt and Chris Traeger would become Parks and Rec’s missing puzzle pieces, the characters swinging between foil and friend before taking their places as one-half of the best couples in this new golden age of television.
And while Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson has become a lifestyle icon and Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope stands shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Carol Burnett and Mary Tyler Moore for the greatest TV comediennes, it’s the strength of its ancillary characters that makes you come back binge after binge, like Donna’s confidence, Andy’s affability, and April’s morbidity. There’s also so much to admire in the shows approach to positive masculinity, allowing everyone from Ben to Chris, Ron to Jerry, to show the spectrum of what it means to really be a man: take care of yourself, have a code of ethics, and show compassionate humility. Like hot soup on a sick day, you just feel better when you’re watching Parks and Recreation. (Jacob Trussell)
29. Better Call Saul
Better Call Saul is better than Breaking Bad. There, I said it. Breaking Bad is incredible, and I know this list is going to go against my personal hierarchy, but for my money, the Bob Odenkirk-led prequel is the real winner. The action is a little less frantic — there are fewer desperate murders and more arguments about who’s going to be law partners with whom. And the end is already in sight — apart from a few spare black and white post-Breaking Bad forays, we know for a fact that the events we’re seeing are going to lead Jimmy McGill to become the Saul Goodman we already know and love. But this apparent lowering of stakes works magnificently in the show’s favor, sweeping the table clear for an honest-to-god drama that’s so meticulously crafted and gorgeously acted, you’ll forget that somewhere in this version of Albuquerque, Walter White is supposedly teaching chemistry with a full head of hair. (Liz Baessler)
28. Key & Peele
I knew Key & Peele was something special when I showed my wife, Lisa, the Hype Man sketch. I’m not sure I had ever seen anything as funny or as brutal before, and I was giddy with anticipation watching her watch them as an epic battle rap went from the profane to the profoundly mournful. Her reaction to seeing Keegan-Michael Key’s Diller Killer Of Mice And Men Jordan Peele’s Hype Man because he lost himself in the part radically shook me. She exploded in tears as the gun fired, and I sank into myself. Oh no. In the span of five minutes, Lisa invested fully into the Hype Man’s persona, empathizing with his uncontrollable desire to get Diller Killer’s back. He was too much. He had to go, but he did not deserve the lake, the sunset, or the revolver. Key & Peele delighted in mixing comedy and tragedy with most laughs stabbing like a knife, or bursting with gunpowder. Steinbeck, y’all. (Brad Gullickson)
Horror TV is almost always sequestered to channels like HBO or Netflix where there aren’t content restrictions. But NBC threw caution to the wind when they picked up Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal, a show about infamous cannibal Hannibal Lecter (played by the delectable Mads Mikkelsen). This adaptation loosely follows aspects of Thomas Harris’ novels Red Dragon, Hannibal, and Hannibal Rising as FBI agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) becomes close with Lecter. The show is, in a word, horrifying, with each episode’s death more gruesome than the next. But, in each death, there is a stunning beauty, something almost artistic about how each killer views and manipulates the human body. Yes, murder is bad, but Fuller isn’t afraid to address the potential beauty that can be found in such a thing. Hannibal is daring, breathtaking, and disgusting. It is a triumph of horror television that found a home in a strange place like NBC. We need more TV like Hannibal. (Mary Beth McAndrews)
26. Killing Eve
In the year of our lord 2019, Sandra Oh is finally receiving the love and recognition she deserves thanks to a little show called Killing Eve. The Phoebe-Waller-Bridge-created series follows Oh as MI5 agent Eve Polastri who becomes obsessed with female assassin Villanelle, played by the astoundingly talented Jodie Comer. While Eve is calm, calculated, yet obsessive, Villanelle is decadent, impulsive, and also obsessive. They become intertwined in this strange relationship fueled by violence, blood, and sexual tension. It is has a show that has given the world so much: the Sanda Oh renaissance, a newfound obsession with Jodie Comer, memes aplenty, and some good gay content. It is a show that puts female excellence, insanity, and competency on full display. Killing Eve shows women as complicated, difficult characters without condemning or chastising them. (Mary Beth McAndrews)
25. Rick and Morty
Despite an abrasive and obnoxious chunk of the fan base ruining healthy obsessives’ opportunity to praise the show without being associated with bros who can’t handle dissenting opinions, Rick & Morty is as genius as it’s often made out to be. Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland utilize the infinite possibilities that come with having the entire unknown universe at one’s fingertips with bewildering brilliance. They explore the wildest sci-fi concepts we’ve ever encountered in the pop-culture sphere without sacrificing dramatic depth or comedy or affecting commentary on the human condition. In fact, it’s Rick & Morty‘s blend of constant gut-busting laughter, profound existential philosophizing, and deeply relatable characterization that makes it stand out so clearly among all current TV shows. It has everything, and it never settles for less (hence, the ungodly wait between seasons). It’s a show that, if one is paying attention, actually expands the mind by challenging us to think in ways we haven’t, and that can’t be said of many TV shows. Sincere thoughtfulness and relatability that doesn’t stray from originality, surrender to cliches or sacrifice comedy is a rarity these days. Rick & Morty is the new standard. (Luke Hicks)
Following up on a Coen Brothers film feels like you’re asking for disappointment, but the Fargo television series can absolutely stand on its own. The three seasons that aired during this decade held some of the greatest shocks on television. The dark comedy and fantastic performances rounded out an all-around prestigious crime show. Humanity is on full display in all its multitudes in each season of Fargo, which each burn their distinctive, thrilling flame. Fargo shows how to build off an already perfect film and take it to the next level for television. (Emily Kubincanek)
23. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
It’s Always Sunny is the longest-running live-action sitcom for a reason: it’s fucking brilliant. What began as a deeply satisfying and original take on the situational comedy in August 2005 has evolved into something no one could’ve seen coming. It might be the richest example of characterization in modern television, each episode standing alone in its greatness while contributing to the ever-changing narrative of a larger whole. Over the years, Dee, Mac, Dennis, and Charlie have been given so much depth, it’s often difficult to remember their entire histories. Mac puts on enormous weight, familial relations aren’t what they seem, Dennis descends into sociopathic and predatory madness, Charlie turns out to be a masterful musician, Frank tries professional wrestling, Mac comes out of the closet, etc.
On top of the gang’s unparalleled chemistry, the show also deserves immense credit for addressing all of the most controversial issues in America over the past 15 years without ever sinking into a habit of lazy writing or getting called out for insensitive portrayals. On the contrary, each issue is handled by approaching it through every lens, illuminating the complexities at the heart of hot topics and providing significant insight as to how certain viewpoints might be justified on all sides. Every episode they compose, every issue they address, every argument they indulge is handled with the utmost absurdity of five people who truly belong at the bottom of humanity’s barrel, and we’re lucky the gang isn’t stopping anytime soon. (Luke Hicks)
Many storytellers drawn to political subjects imagine the upper echelons of government as filled with morally questionable but highly intelligent schemers who go head to head with their opponents in veritable chess matches of carefully thought out moves and counter-moves. Armando Iannucci, however, sees politics—and life more generally—as a comedy of errors. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is absolutely phenomenal as the career politician and utter narcissist Selina Meyer at the center of it all, and each and every one of the whopping six Emmys she’s taken home for playing the role over the years is completely and utterly deserved. While The Thick of It was a delight, Veep saw Iannucci really come into his own and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that when it comes to crafting characters that are totally unlikeable but utterly enjoyable, he’s utterly unmatched. (Ciara Wardlow)
21. Documentary Now!
Parody can be viewed as a lower form of comedy sometimes, but imitation can be its own art form. Documentary Now! uses two of Saturday Night Live‘s best, Bill Hader and Fred Armisen, to create the highest tier of comedy on television. They’re no longer constrained to skits in this show and the longer they commit to a bit, the better in Documentary Now! The music in some episodes is so well done we kinda wish that The Blue Jean Committee and Co-Op were real. Examining nonfiction elements of our culture and creating fantastic comedy out of them is yet another gift Bill Hader has given to television this decade. (Emily Kubincanek)