We are living in a golden age of television, and with the rise and proliferation of streaming services, binging an entire series has become a standard part of media consumption in recent years. Some shows are at their best when voraciously consumed seasons at a time.
I’ve chosen ten of the best series made in the 2010s, in no particular order, that are ideal for binge-watching, along with being absolutely excellent shows.
One of the decade’s most fascinating antiheroes came in the polished, handsome package of ’60s ad man Don Draper, perfectly embodied by Jon Hamm (“Baby Driver”) in his breakout role. The devilishly stylish drama follows a group of advertising executives and their families in 1960s Manhattan, but it mostly tracks the rises and falls its protagonist, backed by an exceptional ensemble. Bad decisions, heartache, and debauchery never looked so glamorous.
Bryan Cranston was known as the goofy dad on sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle” when he became a dramatic powerhouse virtually overnight with his role as dying high school chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin in the AMC drama “Breaking Bad.” The slow, methodical pacing of the series compellingly show how dire circumstances can lead a reasonable and intelligent person to cross a line, and then another, and then another.
Walter White’s descent from a good man just wanting to take care of his family to a vicious, power-hungry criminal is astounding to behold, supplemented by Cranston’s brilliant acting. The rest of the cast, including Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”), Aaron Paul (“The Path”), Jonathan Banks (“Airplane!”), Giancarlo Esposito (“The Usual Suspects”), and Anna Gunn (“Deadwood”), provide an excellent ensemble.
Although the final episode of “Downton Abbey” aired in 2015, the costume drama retains a loyal and passionate fanbase to this day, to the point where a film continuation years later was released to great success. Following the denizens of the eponymous house, the series tracks the lives of both the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants through joy, heartbreak, and scandal.
The game is on! Benedict Cumberbatch (“Doctor Strange”) became a star in his brilliant portrayal of the eponymous detective Sherlock Holmes, and for good reason. He gives a masterclass performance as the aloof genius, assisted by a worthy partner in Martin Freeman (“The Hobbit” trilogy) as John Watson.
The supporting cast is likewise excellent, with Mark Gatiss (“Dr. Who”), Rupert Graves (“Room with a View”), and Andrew Scott (“1917”) all at career-best. The exceptional writing partnership between Gatiss and Stephen Moffat is on full display in this must-watch series.
‘Game of Thrones’
It feels almost reductive to include “Game of Thrones” on a list of binge-worthy television, but not including the juggernaut HBO fantasy would be a far worse crime. The show melded brilliant writing and strong performances to create the cultural phenomenon that enraptured the world for nine years.
Regardless of your thoughts on the frustrating final season, the early seasons are a bona fide masterpiece, reminding viewers why the show was such a hit in the first place. If you haven’t seen the show yet, it’s well overdue for a watch. For Thrones fans, a the show is extraordinarily rewatchable, and definitely worth a second (or third) viewing.
The formula of two cops with clashing perspectives and personalities working together to solve the crime with begrudging respect and friendship is well-worn and clichéd, but you would never realize that watching “Broadchurch.” The series breathes fresh air into the genre, providing a captivating viewing experience.
The show follows Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”) as Ellie Miller, a detective sergeant passed over for promotion in her local police department by the brilliant newcomer Alec Hardy, played by David Tennant (‘Dr. Who’). When the son of Ellie’s friend is murdered, the pair’s investigation unearths secrets of every resident of their once quiet seaside town. Everyone is a suspect, and no one is exactly who he seems, and viewers will want to keep watching until they know all.
‘House of Cards’
From his opening narration, corrupt politician Frank Underwood instantly enthralls the audience. The political thriller is a character study into the delightfully corrupt politician, played effortlessly by Kevin Spacey (“American Beauty”) in one of his best roles.
The first few seasons are among the best of all television. Although, like many shows, later seasons suffer diminishing returns, all but the final season are still thoroughly watchable. After a series of sexual abuse allegations were leveled against the actor, Spacey was fired, and one final season was produced sans Frank, which proved unfocused and unenjoyable. Watching the political operatives scheme and undercut each other is thrilling and endlessly entertaining.
Netflix has become a powerhouse in TV production over the past few years, but no show in their lineup is as ambitious or expensive as the Queen Elizabeth II bio-series “The Crown.” The attention to detail afforded by Netflix’s commitment really shows, as the show’s costumes and design are stunning and suit the series ideally.
Claire Foy (“First Man”) became a household name for her portrayal of the titular Queen for a moving portrayal of a young woman with royalty thrust upon her. Foy is simultaneously delicate and aloof, balancing the two polars beautifully.
Matt Smith (“Dr. Who”) excels as the increasingly insecure Prince Phillip, John Lithgow (“Bombshell”) shines as the aging Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Vanessa Kirby (“Hobbs and Shaw”) charms as Princess Margaret. Season 3 replaced the main cast to highlight the passage of time, with Olivia Colman sliding into the role of Queen Elizabeth beautifully, and Helena Bonham Carter (“Harry Potter” series) taking on the role of the queen’s irresponsible younger sister, Margaret.
To effectively create a series about serial killers, the creators must effectively balance the intriguing dangerous side of the killers with a more human side. This dichotomy is stunningly displayed in “Mindhunter” protagonist Holden Ford, portrayed brilliantly by Jonathan Groff (“Hamilton”).
“Mindhunter” tells the story of the the creation of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, where FBI agents interviewed serial killers to understand how they killed and why. Anna Torv (“Secret City”) and Hold McCallany (“Sully”) play Holden’s partners, both exceptional in their own rights, but Groff is truly the stand out, alongside direction from show runner David Fincher (“Fight Club”). Fincher’s deft touch and overwhelming talent at creating tense and compelling thrillers is in full view in “Mindhunter.”
‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’
In the initial marketing, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” appeared to be nothing more than a fun and frivolous chick flick. However, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is one of the funniest shows on television, thanks to the brilliantly written stand-up, charming situations, and witty dialogue by series creators Daniel Paladino and Amy Sherman-Paladino.
It tells the story of perfect 1950s housewife Midge Maisel, who discovers a talent for comedy after her husband leaves her. Leading lady Rachel Brosnahan (“House of Cards”) excels as Midge, with both the dramatic chops and comedic timing required to pull off the role, and a talented ensemble including Tony Shaloub (“Monk”), Marin Hinkle (“Two and a Half Men”), and Michael Zegen (“Boardwalk Empire”) rounds out the excellent series.