The early 2000s represented a cultural shift for which we’re still very grateful. This is when TV was reborn and suddenly TV executives were enamored with the idea of making the format bigger and more cinematic. Of course, technology played a big role in this, as high-definition content became available in the comfort of our own homes.
Yes, reruns of the most important shows of the ’90s were and still are huge players in the game of TV broadcasts but also during the 2000s streaming started to be taken more seriously. It was the beginning of an unstoppable trend that gets more and more popular every day. The conversation about TV being bigger than cinema is worth checking out.
How did it all start, you might ask? With these huge TV series that confirmed the game was changing and was now worth taking the risks that came with television.
There’s no question Lost broke the rules and rearranged the dynamics of drama television. Here was a show whose showrunners seemed to control everything from the very beginning. Aside from a few missteps, they always seemed to have in mind where everything would end. It wasn’t just about people stranded on an island, and if you still don’t know what it is about, then a rewatch would come in handy.
The ending? If you disagree with it, then we would love to see your version of how such a complex TV series should end in order to appeal to everybody after a six-season run.
19 How I Met Your Mother
Let’s be clear about something. There’s no discussing whether How I Met Your Mother is better than Friends or not because they’re entirely different shows. That being said, the CBS response to the ’90s NBC juggernaut of a sitcom is pretty solid. It’s downright silly when it has to be, and it’s risqué enough to make your day every now and then. For those of you who don’t give it a chance because of the whole discussion mentioned before, give it a shot. You won’t regret it, and it’s not as similar as you would think.
When CSI was released in 2000, we had seen nothing like it. Here was a cool group of forensic investigators that were capable of fighting crime after analyzing gruesome scenes that always hid several clues. Video games were made for following up on the show’s massive success, and even Quentin Tarantino was so fascinated with the series he directed a season finale. It recently had a revival, but it’s yet to match the clever storytelling style of the original, as well as its compelling characters. There were other CSIs in other cities, but Las Vegas remains a favorite.
17 Mad Men
The insides of the Sterling Cooper advertising group in the 1950s are only a part of the plot of Mad Men, the highly successful AMC show that proved good writing and a good cast are sometimes enough to let a show run its natural course for seasons. There’s no secret as to why the story of executive Don Draper is so engaging: success turns to self-doubt as the social dynamics suffer the shifts of the ’60s.
16 Aqua Teen Hunger Force
The adventures of fast food items that constantly interact with their neighbor and go on adventures in New Jersey. Aqua Teen Hunger Force is a great example of an adult animated show that’s remained pristine since its release in regard to its surreal basis of a story. It’s exactly what it sounds like, and if you think there are no stories that can be told about these four characters, then you haven’t seen one of the strangest and most interesting animated shows in TV history.
15 The Shield
In The Shield, Michael Chiklis plays Vic Mackey, a police officer that literally will do anything for justice. Yes, even being a corrupt agent in the LAPD. The FX show stills feels like a fantastic adaptation of a TV trope that we’ve seen countless times, but not with the dramatic force of the scripts that made it run for seven seasons. The Shield’s cast is impressive, and it only got better with the years when Mackey’s run became darker and more compelling.
14 True Blood
If you still haven’t seen HBO’s True Blood because it’s a vampire show, and you’re honestly tired of the horror subgenre, give yourself the chance to go through a couple of episodes. We guarantee you’ll fall for the adventures of a Louisiana waitress who’s got enough powers to deal with the vampires that have been accepted into society because they now drink synthetic blood. No, this is not another version of Buffy. This is one sexy show that gets flooded with great characters in every season and will possibly change your mind about the bloodsuckers genre.
13 Chappelle’s Show
Dave Chappelle may get canceled in every corner of Earth, but this doesn’t mean his 2003 show isn’t funny anymore. Full of wit and powered by a great cast, Chappelle’s Show had a great run in the early 2000s that confirmed the value of the comedian who lacked any restraints for speaking his mind. This one is reminiscent of times when cable TV was open-minded enough to be more than risky: it was dangerous.
Fringe supposedly intended to fill a void in TV. It looked like other sci-fi shows of its nature, but quickly it turned into its own thing when the characters’ storylines were interesting enough to drift away from the usually underdeveloped concepts and ideas of a procedural TV show. It told the story of an agency that uses fringe science to investigate weird and paranormal events, but then it became much more than a series of script ideas that were solved in one episode. If you give it a shot, you’ll notice what we’re talking about.
In the land of reality television, Survivor remains a solid concept that’s still running decades later and with a series of offshoots that prove how popular it is. In any case, it’s as terrific as it was in the past when it constantly submits strangers to extreme circumstances. Sure, they may be all scripted, but as viewers we usually let go of these ideas and allow ourselves to be mesmerized by the adventures of regular Joes and Janes facing the improbable.
10 Curb Your Enthusiasm
Is it the improvisational nature of the show? Is it Larry David’s obnoxious attitude? Is it the fact that it doesn’t look like any other show on TV? No one’s quite sure why the show’s so damn good and manages to stay fresh even when it’s too much of a risk. We only know we love seeing Larry still being the same guy fighting political correctness from his privileged standpoint. David reinvents himself and the industry surrounding him, in every season of the show. You know how Seinfeld appeared to care nothing for the standards of society back in the ’90s? Well, Curb Your Enthusiasm is one great follow-up to that.
9 The Office
The insides of a paper-selling company were enough to serve the show that changed the dynamics of sitcoms in the 2000s. Suddenly, the US version of The Office proved formulas were a thing of the past and characters could be built out of daily circumstances that sparked from the boring lives of a small company in Scranton, PA. This is one of a small group of TV shows with almost no bad episodes. Yes, even when Michael Scott left Dunder Mifflin it had a good run.
The unacceptable attitude that characterized Dr. Gregory House in the 2000s was exactly what made him stay in our households for so long. House was a medical drama show that relied on compelling (and sometimes unbelievable) stories about the wiz doctor that was able to diagnose what no one else could. And all that in one episode. We still don’t know how his team got into people’s houses to investigate, but this was only secondary to the frame narrative of a pain-stricken doctor whose talent was clouded by his inability to show some empathy.
7 Arrested Development
The story of the Bluth family trying to overcome bankruptcy and everything that entailed is hilarious. Arrested Development portrayed the dynamics of the Bluths as they refuse to let go of their former wealthy lives. This show has what could be the funniest character on the list: Lucille Bluth, played magnificently by veteran Jessica Walter. We’re still wondering how this one had so low ratings when it was originally released. Luckily, Netflix sort of saved it, and we got more of the Bluth charm when we least expected it in 2011.
A very underrated show that never got the love it deserved. Nip/Tuck asked the right questions and made everyone uncomfortable with its honest portrayal of a plastic side of society. It told the story of two surgeons who had a plastic surgery center and often dealt with controversial and ridiculous cases. The show also delved deeply into the personal lives of Sean McNamara and Christian Troy, who had very engaging stories to tell. If you have the opportunity to binge on this one, you won’t regret it.
5 Prison Break
If you’re a person who’s easily traumatized by cliffhangers, then it’s a good thing you didn’t see Prison Break during its initial run. Every week would end with viewers chomping on their bloody fingertips as they would bite their nails in the very first minutes of each episode. Prison Break is an action spectacle about a clever guy breaking his brother out of a prison from the inside, and it’s a modern example of great television. Its last seasons weren’t as good, so if you find yourself drawn to it, stick to the first three.
The adventures of Jack Bauer occur in real-time. 24 is the format-changing show that proved good writing is always an essential part of a successful TV series. We still don’t know how people operated in the CTU for 24 hours straight, but this is one show where these kinds of questions are better left on the shelf. 24 is a great exercise in action and tension that ran for many seasons and in each one a great character seemed to reinvent himself to be as engaging as before. As viewers, we saw how Bauer broke every rule in the book, and still, we silently said to him: “We get you, man.”
3 The Wire
The Wire is one of the shows on the list that remains valid today as it was in the past. It’s a very realistic portrayal of crime in Baltimore, as the police forces try to solve the many issues that are present in an underground side of society. It’s probably the best series HBO has ever produced, and yes it’s better than the one with the dragons. We dare you to find a better casting ensemble than The Wire is on this list.
2 Six Feet Under
Six Feet Under is a very compelling portrayal of a family’s dynamics as they run a funeral home in Los Angeles. There’s not much else to say about this HBO show that took the world by surprise in 2001 and went on for five seasons of pure drama and comedy. This one’s all about characterizations in a family that doesn’t abide by the common rules and sees matters of death in the most sardonic fashion. It’s hard to see this one being made today.
1 Breaking Bad
The life of a chemistry teacher is shaken by a sudden diagnosis of a terminal illness. What would you do about it? Surely, nothing like what Walter White does in Breaking Bad.
The AMC show took things towards a morally complex territory as White becomes tangled in a drug dealing scheme and forms an unlikely friendship with a young man. They develop an unbreakable and toxic relationship that gets stronger as events progress into something very dark. The series is considered perfect by many, but you watch and be the judge.