A Decade of Television Excellence

The 2010’s ushered in a new era of original scripted television series created and distributed by an unprecedented number of distribution outlets, all looking to attract viewers anxious to watch content at their leisure across numerous platforms. Heading into 2019 nearly 500 scripted series could be accessed on broadcast, cable and digital streaming platforms.

Here’s a look at five shows on cable and streaming services that helped define the decade though a mix of excellence via ratings, industry awards and cultural influence.

Game of Thrones -- HBO (2011-2019)

HBO’s titanic fantasy series arguably drew more combined viewership, media coverage and social media activity --both positive and negative -- than any other show during the decade. What is not in dispute is the record 59 Emmy Awards the show won over its eight-season run.

Related: HBO, Amazon Prime Rule Emmy Awards Telecast 

Atlanta -- FX (2016 to present) 

Comedian/rapper/musician/producer in Donald Glover created a show that presents a sometimes complex but most times comedic slice of African-American life that had never existed on TV before. The result is a groundbreaking show that has earned critical acclaim and several Emmy Awards, including Glover’s Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series statuette -- the first awarded to an African-American.

Stranger Things -- Netflix (2016 to Present) 

While streaming service Netflix’s ambitious run at producing original scripted series began in earnest with such critically-acclaimed hits as House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black, it was a 1980’s-based, sci-fi thriller full of monsters and young, teen protagonists that gave Netflix a pop culture hit perfectly suited for binge viewing. 

Power -- Starz (2014-2020) 

Starz’s provocative series from executive producers Courtney Kemp and 50 Cent about a drug dealer looking to escape the world of crime and go legit found a fervent and loyal audience early and helped to dismiss the myth that a show with a predominantly African-American cast couldn't draw solid ratings numbers on premium cable television.

American Horror Story -- FX (2011 to Present) 

The series became the poster child for the resurrection of the anthology series genre with its creative ability to scare up a new story each season. American Horror Story paved the way for the success of other anthology series including HBO’s True Detective, AMC’s The Terror, Nat Geo's Genius and FX’s own American Crime Story, Fargo and Feud.

Honorable Mention:

The Walking Dead -- AMC (2010 to Present) -- The most-watched show on cable during the first half of the decade, the zombie-themed series drew a basic cable record 17.3 million viewers for its season five premiere in 2014.

Veep -- HBO (2012-2019) -- Among the most celebrated TV comedies of the decade, the series won 11 Emmy awards, including a record six straight best comedy actress statuettes for series star Julia Louis-Dreyfus from 2012 to 2017.

The Handmaid’s Tale -- Hulu (2017 to Present) -- The dark drama series arguably put the nascent streaming services on equal footing with broadcast networks and cable services by winning the digital platform's first drama series Emmy in 2017. 

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.