Lost The Final Season (2010)
The decade began with an ending, the finale of one of the biggest shows of the 2000s. The phenomenon of Lost is something that will likely never be captured again. It was a network television series that became a must-see obsessive viewing for almost everyone you knew. The series was entrenched in conspiracy and theories, and each fan had their own wild take on what things meant and where the story was going. The reactions to the series finale were definitely mixed, to say the least. Some fans absolutely hated the character-focused wrap-up while others (like myself) defend how the story concluded. I followed the weekly podcast by Damon Lindeloff & Carlton Cuse religiously and knew that the first three seasons were stretched out longer than the creators wanted to. Once the series got to its fourth round of episodes, the show moved at a much faster pace with a clear intention. There was still plenty of mystery, but I argue that a lot of things were answered in subtle, ingenious ways. I also recommend watching the fan edit of Chronological Lost, where all flashbacks come first before the island, and the flash-forwards feel more cohesive. You can find that fan edit on the regular torrenting locations, and it gave me a great appreciation of the whole show.
Breaking Bad Seasons 3 – 5 (2010 – 2013)
Breaking Bad has proven to be a show that has aged awkwardly in the eyes of the public. There’s a significant contingent of people who are tired of the white male anti-hero trope believing that The Sopranos and Mad Men sort of closed the book on this. What baffled me as the show aired were the fans who fed into that dislike by rooting for Walter White and constantly disparaging his wife, Skyler. My view of the series is that Walt was a very bad man, who started his venture into narcotics production to protect his family financially. There came the point in the series where his intentions switched, and this became an escape from his mundane life and his family’s perception of him as meek and mild. By the time we reached the harrowing conclusion of season 4 and started up season 5, it was clear Breaking Bad wouldn’t be having a happy ending. Those last three episodes tear your heart out, seeing the final fate of Walt’s brother-in-law Hank. Even worse are the terms in which he leaves Skyler and their kids, a sudden moment of clarity about what he has done to these people and his life. It doesn’t seem to stick, and the show closes the curtains in a manner that is up to the individual viewer’s feelings about what it means and says about Walt.
Rev (2010 – 2014)
Tom Hollander, who co-created, co-wrote, and starred as the title character, described his thought process behind the program’s inception. After a couple of decades of British television featuring bucolic country pastors, Hollander felt there was a need to feature a contemporary, urban examination of religion in the U.K. Reverend Adam Smallbone is an Anglican pastor intent on making his ministry relevant in a place & time where it seems to be a relic of the past. His church is in constant need of repairs, his congregation is dissolving, and those who you think would be his support seem annoyed by Smallbone’s desire to do good. As with most British comedies, there is a good mix of humor & pathos. Don’t expect a happy conclusion, it’s a bittersweet ending, but totally in line with the stories, the program told from its first episode.
Boardwalk Empire (2010 – 2014)
While Terence Winter’s exploration of Prohibition-era America had a plodding start but by the end, it was one of the most introspective, jarring, and heartbreaking shows on television at the time. Ther series followed Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, a man who rose to prominence in Atlantic City and became a significant player in the organized and bootlegging business of the time. The show balanced a focus on the masculine brutality of the old system and the progressive world that was rearing its head. Women, in particular, play an essential role in the story, especially Margaret, who goes from being a domestically abused Irish immigrant housewife to attaining a level of wealth and power she never dreamed of. The reverse of this is Gillian, a mother & wife whose dark history isn’t fully revealed until the final season. Her fate and Nucky’s ends up intertwined in a manner that stunned viewers and led to shocking final moments of the series.
Mad Men Seasons 4 – 7 (2010 – 2015)
What is there to say about Mad Men that hasn’t been said a thousand times over. It’s a great show. Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss are phenomenal. The show was much centered around the men of the 1960s but in a way that they got dissected and examined through a more feminine lens, mainly through the contrasting gaze of Peggy and Joan. There’s also the theme of capitalism, explicitly questioning if advertising can be art or if it’s pure propaganda. What I took away from Mad Men when it came to a close was the caliber of acting from all parties involved. So much of what the actors did was nuanced, and high emotion rarely came into play. When someone did cry or breakdown, this was usually a male character; it was either presented as pathetic or led to a significant shift in their personality. Don Draper was, of course, the person whose emotional state was critical to the series. He lived a life behaving as he thought a man should live, based on his childhood in a brothel and the way people like him presented life in media. By the end, he becomes so intertwined with the media; he creates that it becomes the only way he can express himself and understand the world.
Community Seasons 2 – 6 (2010 – 2015)
Community is a series that has many phases, some better than others, but it brought an absurdist comedic style to the network tv sitcom. The show was originally intended to be a vehicle for comedian Joel McHale with Chevy Chase serving as the big-name supporting actor. Well, things don’t turn out how we plan. McHale’s character of Jeff was supposed to have a love interest in Britta, but that was flipped on its head. Chase’s character became the butt of jokes in a meta-twist about the actor’s own arrogance & offensive nature. The biggest star to come out of Community? Donald Glover, who has gone on to perform as Childish Gambino and create Atlanta, a show we will hear about later. When you sit down to watch Community be prepared to have your expectations upended.
30 Rock Seasons 5 – 7 (2010 – 2013)
The best description I ever heard of 30 Rock was that it was a live-action Muppet Show. That comparison sums up the tone of the comedy and the direction of its storylines. This is a cartoon starring real people living in a world where silly things can happen. There would be comedic critiques of NBC’s corporate dark side with the company being purchased in series by the Sheinhardt Wig Company, a major pollutant. Liz Lemon was originally posed as the straight person to the wilder characters (Tracy, Jenna, & Kenneth), but pretty quickly, like Community, it was clear getting everyone in on the jokes was a more fun direction for the series. 30 Rock also has one of the best series finales with a closing scene that references a fan joke while never feeling pandering.
Adventure Time (2010 – 2018)
Adventure Time changed the world. That’s a lot to put one show, but it’s true. Look at the cartoon landscape in 2019, and it has been shaped by Pendleton Ward, his strange show, and the creative crew he brought on board. So many of the writers and artists from Adventure Time have gone on to create their own projects that carry on the mission of what Adventure Time was doing. This was pure imagination and fun mixed with the healthiest things about nostalgia. Ward found a way to be nostalgic about his past without trying to foist his personal nostalgia on to kids. The show starts out with an odd but not too complicated premise but then allows itself to become dense and mythological, but also deeply personal. The scope expands so that by the final season, this is an epic, human, heartbreaking work of art. You’ll laugh at the Ice King at first and then bawl your eyes out when you learn his history and how he came to be the wacky person he is now. Adventure Time is a show that deserves to be studied and analyzed, heralded as one of the great American television programs.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Seasons 6 (2010 – present)
You think you know what Always Sunny is? A crude comedy about unlikable people living in the city of brotherly love? But at every turn, this series defies you to come up with a definition that sticks. In the episode titled “The Gang Tries Desperately to Win an Award,” the show uses meta-humor to address the fact that after a decade on the air, the show was never recognized in any capacity by the Hollywood establishment. In the series, the characters find out about an award-winning bar and scope it out to figure out how they won this honor. What follows is a breakdown of sitcom tropes with a thinly veiled nod to Cheers. The Gang tries to be like these more successful people and ultimately fail, regressing to their old rotten ways. This is just one example of what I argue is the most criminally underrated comedies of the 2010s.