These TV Shows Defined the 2010s

It’s hard to believe that the 2010s are over. Now, more than ever, entertainment junkies have more TV to watch than they can possibly consume. And a lot of changes have come over the course of the past ten years. Here’s a look back at five of the decade’s most-defining series. (Note: We only included series that began and ended in the 2010s, with one tiny exception for a show that will end in early 2020.)

‘Pretty Little Liars’ (2010–2017)

'Pretty Little Liars' Season 6 cast
‘Pretty Little Liars’ Season 6 cast | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

When Pretty Little Liars, a teen mystery drama based on a book series of the same name, debuted in 2010, critics were braced for Gossip Girl 2.0 (which is coming, but that’s neither here now there). What we got instead was something entirely new: A revolution.

Pretty Little Liars revealed just how important social media is to TV. Week after week, fans tuned in to react in real-time as more and more ludicrous discoveries were made. The series was perfectly timed with the rise of Twitter, and the two became so intertwined that it’s hard to imagine PLL without the all-important reaction hashtags. Others have come close, but none have surpassed the digital footprint of PLL.

‘Game of Thrones’ (2011–2019)

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The final season. #GameofThrones

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This entry is no surprise to anyone who watched TV (or consumed any entertainment at all) in the past ten years. The cultural impact of Game of Thrones, the fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin’s novel series, is hard to sum up. But we’ll attempt.

GoT earned 160 total Emmy nominations over eight seasons, for a total of 59 Emmys. It broke its own records for viewing on HBO and was without a doubt the most-talked-about final season of a series this decade. Yes, it received a lot of harsh criticism (especially for the last season), but you’d be hard-pressed to find a series with a bigger cultural impact.

‘BoJack Horseman’ (2014–2020)

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damn it todd i said you can have a few friends over

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A bit more surprising for its inclusion on this list, BoJack Horseman hasn’t been around that long. It hasn’t broken any major records that we know of, and while it’s very highly regarded, it isn’t causing any riots. Fans of the series love it for what it is — something very unique.

BoJack Horseman represents a few interesting markers of the decade in TV. It’s animation for adults, which was previously reserved for shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy. But there’s a lot more to BoJack — it gets very deep and addresses subjects like depression, addiction, and much more. It’s also on Netflix, a streaming service. If any series represents how much TV has changed over the past decade, it’s this one.

‘House of Cards’ (2013–2018)

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The Final Season. November 2. #MyTurn

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Speaking of streaming, we have to talk about the show that started it all. Yes, House of Cards flamed out in a big way — which arguably, makes it even more defining of the decade. But when the political drama began, it ushered in an era of prestige TV in a way that no one saw coming.

HoC was among the first true Netflix Original Series, and brought with it the pedigree of actor Kevin Spacey and director David Fincher — in other words, we saw that movie stars and big Hollywood producers were ready to invest in television. It also helped to bring about the binge model and earned Netflix a place at the table when it comes to awards shows.

‘Jane the Virgin’ (2014–2019)

Year over year, we learn new things. New information about ourselves, about the industry, and about the world as a whole. Jane the Virgin came about at a time when women — and, more than that, women of color — were finally being seen as not token characters in a story, but as actually fully realized individuals around whom a series can orbit (shocking, we know).

Jane the Virgin was a series that wouldn’t have gotten a chance years prior. A CW drama, based on a telenovela, about a woman who has never had sex, yet gets pregnant. What’s more, what it evolved into — a beautiful story with enrapturing storylines, poignant messages, and plenty of silly moments woven in — was far beyond what anyone could have imagined.