The Best TV of the Decade: Part One

by thethreepennyguignol

Well, we did the worst of the decade – and trust me, my negative backside was tempted to leave it at that – but I suppose it’s only fair that we see things out of the 2010s with a little positivity, right? Since I have So Many Opinions, I’ve broken down my best TV of the decade into two posts – or, let’s face it, about fifteen by the time I’m done deciding what has actually made the cut and what hasn’t. Without further ado, to the list!

Search Party 

Ever since I decided I was going to put together these big-ass posts, I knew that Search Party would be on this list. Following Alia Shawkat (my personal bitch and queen) and her entitled millenial nightmare crew as they try to track down a missing woman from their social circle, it starts out as a quirky mystery, and soon devolves into introspective meta-commentary on the place of people who search for meaning in a modern world devoid of one. Does it hit a little too close to home? Yes. Is that precisely what I like about it? Yes. 

Drama, comedy, satire, thriller, some masterful mess of all of the above – it’s just one of the most inventive, unique, and utterly compelling pieces of television I’ve ever seen, and the fact that I don’t see more people rhapsodising it’s brilliance is, frankly, an offence against me personally. Search Party is a millenial masterpiece, and that’s why it’s the first spot on my best of the decade.

Alias Grace

You know, I get it – The Handmaid’s Tale is fantastic. But when it comes to Margaret Atwood adaptations of the last few years, Alias Grace is the unassailable claimant to the best-of trophy.

An adaptation of Atwood’s seminal, brilliant novel of the same name, starring Sarah Gadon as the possibly-murderous maid whose life story becomes the focus of an unsettling investigation, Alias Grace is the feminist historical counterpart to the feminist future storytelling of Handmaid’s tale. And, as an iconic history slut, of course that’s the one that appeals to me the most.

I’m really into any show that can dip and dart between genres, narrations, and what exactly the truth looks like for the characters we’re following, and Alias Grace offers all of the above and more. Tautly written, endlessly inventive, and featuring an utterly compelling central performance from Gadon, this is another show that has been consistently overlooked – so get on that before the decade’s out, so you can agree with me on this one for good.

Hannibal

Look, I’m in love with a man who has a Will Graham/Hannibal murder husbands poster over our couch, and that didn’t happen by accident.

It took me a while to get into Hannibal, but, quite honestly, this is the show that made me believe that TV could match cinema in terms of sheer artistic ambition. Bryan Fuller doesn’t make this an easy show to get into, in a lot of ways, with his abstract art-school take on the serial killer classic, but once you’ve pushed through all the ambient percussive soundtracks and long ASMR scenes of Mads Mikklesen cooking human flesh, this is just a masterful, twisted love story unlike anything else I’ve ever seen on TV.

I love horror, and Hannibal really captures what horror truly is to me: that creeping dread, the hand on the back of your neck, the fear that even you may not know yourself the way you need to. Visually inventive, immaculately performed, and making sure to hang on to that sly sense of humour to stop it all getting too self-righteous, this earned its place on this list before I so much as graduated university. You’ve probably seen it by now, but if you haven’t – there’s always room for one more on the murder husband ship. All aboard!

Riverdale

This shouldn’t be on this list. It shouldn’t be. I reviewed this show for two seasons and I know in my soul, in my heart of hearts, that it is bad: that it is a sexy adaptation of the Archie comics which, on so many levels, sucks.

But no show captures the batshit insanity of this decade of television the way Riverdale does. It could never have existed and actually thrived outside this bizarro world of televisual ridiculousness – Greg Berlanti and company could never have made a neo-noir Twin Peaks 90210 chock full of Paul Auster references and Big Sleep parodies at any other time than this one. Is that a good thing? Is that a bad one? I honestly have no fucking idea, and I’ve written about this show for literal years now.

But its slippery attachment to genre, the sheer balls on this motherfucker – I have to include Riverdale on this list. For all the ways it struggles, and God knows that it does, it’s the only show I’ve ever seen try to pull off something this abjectly ambitious and actually earn a fanbase and some real screentime because of its sheer dedication to the bit. I can’t say no to a trainwreck, and Riverdale is one of the best-made on television. And so, like too meteors hurtling towards each other at terminal velocity in the void of space, it crashes into this list and leaves no survivors.

The Haunting of Hill House

Sometimes, I just think about a scene from the Hill House adaptation last year, and I need to go into the woods and scream for a few hours, you know?

The Haunting of Hill House is Mike Flanagan’s eight-episode encouragement for me to start therapy, as well as claiming to be a terrifying horror show about the trauma that comes from familial unrest. Artistically ambitious and beautifully made (as one would expect from the modern king of auteur horror), I could break down the technical elements of this a million times over to convince you that it’s really as good as all that.

But that would be ignoring the main reason I love it so: because it fucking got me. I have rarely seen a show which captures with such pinpoint accuracy how it feels to struggle against your own brain, and Hill House draws those truly terrifying notions into sharp relief in a way that felt like an assault on me personally, and also a gift as a huge fan of the Shirley Jackson book on which it’s based. Put it this way: I once overheard someone on a train shit-talking this show before I had even finished the first season, and had to be restrained from climbing over the seats and remonstrating with them personally on the matter.

So that’s the first half of this list! Any shows you agree with? Any you don’t? Any you would put on your best-ofs that I have missed? Let me know in the comments below and, as ever, if you like this article and want to see more stuff like it, please consider supporting me on Patreon!

(header image via Vox)