Mental Floss

The 25 Best TV Shows of the 21st Century, According to Critics

Ellen Gutoskey
Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You.
Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You. / Natalie Seery/HBO

Since we’re now nearly a quarter of the way into the 21st century—and the TV industry has evolved rapidly during that time—BBC Culture decided to find out which shows experts consider the greatest ones so far.

After asking “critics, journalists, academics, and industry figures” from across the globe to rank their 10 favorite programs released in 2000 or later, the publication used that data to come up with an overall list of the 100 best ones. In terms of genre, the top 25 has something for everyone: fantasy epics like Game of Thrones, dark comedies like Fleabag and Six Feet Under, period dramas like The Crown and Deadwood, and more. Topping the list is a trio of dramas so acclaimed and widely watched that you might get scolded if you mention that you haven’t seen them: The Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad.

If you're wondering where The Sopranos landed, it's not on the list—not because it's not beloved by critics, but because the list was restricted to series that premiered in 2000 or beyond. Which is why you won't see Friends on the list either. The U.S. version of The Office, meanwhile, did make the top 100—but it came in 39th place, a solid 30 spots below its UK predecessor.

In short, there’s plenty of opportunity to disagree with the rundown, which BBC Culture is encouraging you to do. If you share your hot takes on social media, tag @bbc_culture (on Instagram and Twitter) and hashtag #TVOfTheCentury to join the discourse. If your take is that the list mostly comprises male-created English-language shows, you’re correct. In fact, BBC Culture calculated that 79 of the top 100 shows were made by men, and 92 of them are mainly in English—stats that “[reflect] significant biases” and “speak to systemic industry inequities.”

See the top 25 below, and find out how your personal favorites fared on the full list of 100 here.

  1. The Wire // 2002-2008
  2. Mad Men // 2007-2015
  3. Breaking Bad // 2008-2013
  4. Fleabag // 2016-2019
  5. Game of Thrones // 2011-2019
  6. I May Destroy You // 2020
  7. The Leftovers // 2014-2017
  8. The Americans // 2013-2018
  9. The Office (UK) // 2001-2003
  10. Succession // 2018-Present
  11. BoJack Horseman // 2014-2020
  12. Six Feet Under // 2001-2005
  13. Twin Peaks: The Return // 2017
  14. Atlanta // 2016-Present
  15. Chernobyl // 2019
  16. The Crown // 2016-Present
  17. 30 Rock // 2006-2013
  18. Deadwood // 2004-2006
  19. Lost // 2004-2010
  20. The Thick of It // 2005-2012
  21. Curb Your Enthusiasm // 2000-Present
  22. Black Mirror // 2011-Present
  23. Better Call Saul // 2015-2022
  24. Veep // 2012-2019
  25. Sherlock // 2010-2017

Do you love television? Do you spend most weekends lounging on the couch binge-watching your favorite TV shows? Would you like to learn some incredibly fascinating facts about the best series of the past 20 years and the people who made them? Then pick up our new book, The Curious Viewer: A Miscellany of Streaming Bingeable Shows from the Last 20 Years, out now!