21 best US TV shows in the last 21 years

by v-e-e | last updated - 13 Jan 2015 | Public

21 amazing and/or groundbreaking TV shows made in USA 1990-2011, listed by year. I have only included shows I have watched in their entirety.

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1. Twin Peaks (1990–1991)

TV-14 | 47 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

8.9
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  

An idiosyncratic FBI agent investigates the murder of a young woman in the even more idiosyncratic town of Twin Peaks.

Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook

Votes: 135,826

Exceptional, extraordinary, groundbreaking. Bob still scares me.

2. Seinfeld (1989–1998)

TV-PG | 22 min | Comedy

8.9
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  

The continuing misadventures of neurotic New York stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his equally neurotic New York friends.

Stars: Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards, Jason Alexander

Votes: 197,520

Absurdly funny. Jerry is a bad actor but a hilarious comedian.

3. Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–1999)

TV-14 | 60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

8.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  

A police homicide investigation unit investigates violent crimes in the city of Baltimore.

Stars: Richard Belzer, Clark Johnson, Yaphet Kotto, Kyle Secor

Votes: 9,598

A-M-A-Z-I-N-G show from David Simon (who was later to create The Wire).

4. Beavis and Butt-Head (1993–2011)

TV-14 | 15 min | Animation, Comedy, Music

7.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Animated MTV series about two teenage heavy-metal music fans who occasionally do idiotic things because they're bored. For them, everything is "cool" or "sucks."

Stars: Mike Judge, Dale Revo, Kristofor Brown, Tracy Grandstaff

Votes: 23,360

From a time when MTV was still a _music_ television, comes this tale of ultimate metalheads.

5. My So-Called Life (1994–1995)

TV-14 | 60 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

8.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

A 15-year-old girl and her trials and tribulations of being a teenager and dealing with friends, guys, parents and school.

Stars: Bess Armstrong, Wilson Cruz, Claire Danes, Devon Gummersall

Votes: 16,876

For most people 'Freaks and Geeks' seems to be the best high-school show. I disagree. Predating F&G by 5 years, this show captured the best and the worst of the high-school experience in a (mostly) realistic manner and launched the careers of Claire Danes and Jared Leto. Like F&G, it was cancelled after only 1 season.

6. Oz (1997–2003)

TV-MA | 55 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

8.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  

A series chronicling the daily activities of an unusual prison facility and its criminal inhabitants.

Stars: Ernie Hudson, J.K. Simmons, Lee Tergesen, Dean Winters

Votes: 74,454

This show works on a plethora of dramatic levels and is outstanding in every way. The hot naked guys are just a bonus.

7. Daria (1997–2001)

TV-14 | 30 min | Animation, Comedy, Drama

8.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A smart and cynical girl goes through teenage life as a proud outsider in a world of mainly idiotic adolescents and condescending adults.

Stars: Tracy Grandstaff, Wendy Hoopes, Julian Rebolledo, John Lynn

Votes: 20,151

My hero.

8. South Park (1997– )

TV-MA | 22 min | Animation, Comedy

8.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  

Follows the misadventures of four irreverent grade-schoolers in the quiet, dysfunctional town of South Park, Colorado.

Stars: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes, Mona Marshall

Votes: 273,182

The early seasons were funny and interesting. The recent ones not so much.. with an odd exception here and there.

9. Sex and the City (1998–2004)

TV-MA | 30 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

7.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Four female New Yorkers gossip about their sex lives (or lack thereof) and find new ways to deal with being a woman in the '90s.

Stars: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon

Votes: 87,766

A show that defined a generation of women... for better or worse.

10. The Sopranos (1999–2007)

TV-MA | 55 min | Crime, Drama

9.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.2/10 X  

New Jersey mob boss, Tony Soprano, deals with personal and professional issues in his home and business life, which affects his mental state and ends up seeking professional psychiatric counseling.

Stars: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli

Votes: 219,376

11. Invader ZIM (2001–2004)

TV-PG | 24 min | Animation, Comedy, Family

8.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

An alien from the planet Irk is sent to Earth, not realising that his leaders were fooling him and didn't think a planet was there. He manages to fit in with school children but one boy sees through his disguise.

Stars: Andy Berman, Richard Steven Horvitz, Rikki Simons, Melissa Fahn

Votes: 16,764

By Jhonen Vasquez, the creator of "Johnny the Homicidal Maniac" and "Squee". Sadly, has under 30 episodes...

12. Deadwood (2004–2006)

TV-MA | 55 min | Crime, Drama, History

8.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  

A show set in the late 1800s, revolving around the characters of Deadwood, South Dakota; a town of deep corruption and crime.

Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Brad Dourif

Votes: 73,914

Shakespeare meets the western. Love, love, LOVE the dialogues.

13. Rescue Me (2004–2011)

TV-MA | 60 min | Drama, Comedy

8.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

Tommy Gavin deals with the fears of his job as a firefighter and seeing his ex-wife dating other men.

Stars: Denis Leary, Michael Lombardi, Steven Pasquale, Andrea Roth

Votes: 23,034

Funny scripts, very dynamic storylines, interwoven with poignant and thought provoking moments.

14. House M.D. (2004–2012)

TV-14 | 44 min | Drama, Mystery

8.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  

An antisocial maverick doctor who specializes in diagnostic medicine does whatever it takes to solve puzzling cases that come his way using his crack team of doctors and his wits.

Stars: Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard, Jesse Spencer

Votes: 342,063

When it first aired, there was nothing quite like it. Sadly it has grown too predictable and derivative. It should have been cancelled a few seasons ago so we could remember it for its brilliance and not the rom-com-drama-whatever drivel it has turned into.

15. Entourage (2004–2011)

TV-MA | 28 min | Comedy, Drama

8.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

Film star Vince Chase navigates the vapid terrain of Los Angeles with a close circle of friends and his trusty agent.

Stars: Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara

Votes: 144,647

An ironic peek into the film industry.

16. 30 Rock (2006–2013)

TV-14 | 22 min | Comedy

8.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

Liz Lemon, head writer of the sketch comedy show "TGS with Tracy Jordan", must deal with an arrogant new boss and a crazy new star, all while trying to run a successful television show without losing her mind.

Stars: Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer

Votes: 98,026

Liz Lemon is like a grown-up "Daria", and Jack Donaghy is a comedy version of SATC's Mr. Big.

17. Dexter (2006–2013)

TV-MA | 53 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

8.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  

By day, mild-mannered Dexter is a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami police. But at night, he is a serial killer who only targets other murderers.

Stars: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas, James Remar

Votes: 551,920

Is it weird that I like the antagonists more than the main characters? John Lithgow was beyond amazing.

18. Californication (2007–2014)

TV-MA | 28 min | Comedy, Drama

8.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

A writer tries to juggle his career, his relationship with his daughter and his ex-girlfriend, as well as his appetite for beautiful women.

Stars: David Duchovny, Natascha McElhone, Evan Handler, Pamela Adlon

Votes: 155,315

Season 2 is the best. I loved Lew Ashby!!

19. Sons of Anarchy (2008–2014)

TV-MA | 45 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

8.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  

A man in his early 30s struggles to find a balance in his life between being a new dad and his involvement in a motorcycle club.

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates

Votes: 207,962

20. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)

TV-MA | 49 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

9.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.5/10 X  

A high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer turns to manufacturing and selling methamphetamine in order to secure his family's future.

Stars: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Betsy Brandt

Votes: 1,042,030

21. Justified (2010–2015)

TV-MA | 44 min | Action, Crime, Drama

8.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  

Old-school U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is reassigned from Miami to his childhood home in the poor, rural coal-mining towns in Eastern Kentucky.

Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts

Votes: 70,601

The best show currently on TV. The scripts are always engaging, funny and to the point, Olyphant is brilliant as Rayland Givens, and Walton Goggins steals every scene he appears in.