When it comes to TV, the past decade has given us everything from Firefly to Friends, Colbert to Cartman. Now, with the 00s coming to a close, it's time to salute the best of the boob tube. From Baltimore to the boardroom, this is the absolute best TV of the last ten years. Oh, and by the way, reality TV need not apply.
Remember ten years ago, when critics around America couldnt shut up about how great The Sopranos was, which contributed to its enormous ratings success? Sure you do. Why didnt this strategy work for The Wire, not just the greatest television series of the decade but possibly the finest television series ever crafted? Maybe spectacular plotting, truly human protagonists and some of the most brilliant visual storytelling of the decade arent enough if you dont have as simple a concept as "Mafioso goes to the shrink." This five season epic from David Simon was about the best and worst humanity has to offer, and is destined to be remembered as one of the finest artistic accomplishments of the 21st century.
While everyone was making fun of (or laughing an intoxicated laugh at) Spongebob Squarepants, Nickelodeon quietly released the most exciting action series ever. Avatar: The Last Airbender, a show about a bunch of kids with superpowers overthrowing an evil emperor, only sounds formulaic on paper. On screen, this gorgeously animated series told one of the best stories of the decade, with every episode seemingly better than the (already spectacular) one before it. Hilarious without ever being silly, action-packed without ever sacrificing character, unexpectedly badass (one character can control the very blood in your body - it's even creepier than it sounds) and not a bad episode in the entire series Avatar: The Last Airbender is television at its finest. (M. Night Shyamalans going to screw it up, we just know it.)
At some point over the last ten years, The Daily Show went from a funny but low-rent satirical news show featuring celebrity interviews with "the third lead on Angel" to the most respected social satire in America, in which interviews with respected world leaders are commonplace and even expected. Thanks to the witty, self-effacing humor of host Jon Stewart, The Daily Show elicits belly-laughs from the most horrific events of the day (sometimes as often as four days a week!). Although the Daily Show skews left (often pretty far left), its greatest achievement hasn’t been its skewering of politics but rather its ongoing efforts to keep other news shows honest. In an age of 24 hour news stations sacrificing integrity for ratings, Comedy Central’s parody of the news became a vitally important series of checks and balances not just for television but for society at large.
Satoshi Kon’s perfect one-season wonder about a mysterious series of brutal assaults in Japan may be one of the decade’s most unique accomplishments. Each episode focused on a potential victim of "Shonen Bat," a terrifying and unknown kid on rollerblades with a malevolently dented baseball bat, revealing the unspeakable beauty and highly detailed horror underneath our everyday facades. As the series progresses, the episodic nature of Paranoia Agent falls to the wayside as everything makes a sudden and terrifying sense and no less than the entire world succumbs to madness. But it’s the heartwarming episode about three lonely souls repeatedly trying, and hilariously failing, to commit suicide together that will stick with you forever.