10. The Comeback (2005)
Starring the superb Lisa Kudrow as a washed-up sitcom actress, this comedy may have lasted only 13 episodes, but it’s the most brilliantly brutal satire of reality TV ever captured on screen.
9. Gilmore Girls (2000-2007)
Thank you, fast-talking Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, for suggesting moms and teenage daughters really can get along — all it takes is love, patience, and copious quantities of coffee.
8. The Shield (2002-2008)
Det. Vic Mackey didn’t just clean up the streets — he cleaned up on the streets. Would he pay for those sins? This gutsy TV drama kept us guessing.
7. The Office (U.K.) (2001-2003)
We love the Scranton crew. But Ricky Gervais’ mockumentary series about sadsack employees in Slough, England, is the undisputed champion of awesomely awkward cubicle hell.
6. The Wire (2002-2008)
The deft writing — which used the cop genre format to give shape to creator David Simon’s scathing social critiques — was matched by one of the deepest benches of acting talent in TV history.
5. Arrested Development (2003-2006)
This low-rated gem about a family of misfits teemed with so many smart, self-referential jokes, it may have been the reason TiVo was invented.
4. American Idol (2002-present)
It’s given us Kelly, Carrie, Daughtry, and J. Hud. Idol rules the reality roost because the winners of Fox’s ratings juggernaut actually do go on to greatness. And Taylor Hicks? He’s the exception that proves the rule.
3. The Daily Show (1996-present)
No target is too big (U.S. foreign policy) or too small (Tucker Carlson) for Jon Stewart and his fake news correspondents, who skewer American politics and our increasingly alarmist media.
2. Lost (2004-present)
Plane crash. Smoke monster. Polar bear. Crazy French lady. The Others. The hatch. The Dharma Initiative. Time-travel flashes. Name another network drama that can so wondrously turn a ? into a !
1. The Sopranos (1999-2007)
David Chase took a baseball bat to the knees of the term ”family drama” and created this landmark Mafioso show whose nuanced characters were riddled with conflict and, of course, bullets.
For more Bests of the Decade, see the Dec. 11 issue of Entertainment Weekly.