In today’s media landscape, there are certain shows that have become modern-day classics. These shows have captured the hearts of audiences and have given us a place to escape and be free. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, where we will be exploring some of the best scripted shows of the 21st century.
Before we begin, it’s important to note that the shows in question could have begun before the year 2000, as long as they aired a majority of their run in the 21st century. We will only be including scripted shows, so reality TV, talk shows, and animation will not be included.
With that being said, let’s dive into some of the best shows of the 21st century.
Starting off at number 20, we have Stranger Things. Netflix’s flagship series transported audiences to Hawkins, Indiana, for classic sci-fi horror and more ’80s references than you can shake a stick at. Steeped in the works of Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, John Carpenter, and others, this series gained an instant following and quickly became a cultural phenomenon. It managed to kickstart and reinvigorate several acting careers and pick up plenty of accolades along the way, including five Primetime Emmy wins and four Golden Globe nominations.
Moving on to number 19, we have Six Feet Under. This show has to be one of the most relentlessly morose yet weirdly uplifting things ever put on television. It primarily deals with human mortality and the pain and philosophical quandary that represents. The plot follows the proprietors of a funeral home and their interactions with each other and the grieving people who walk through their doors. It explores many heavy and dense themes concerning mortality, but it also finds time for contentment and tranquility, and its brilliant finale remains one of the most beautiful and soul-soothing episodes ever aired on TV.
Coming in at number 18, we have The Good Place. This show shares a lot in common with Six Feet Under, only it’s light-hearted and hilarious instead of relentlessly soul-crushing. During your time on Earth, every one of your actions had a positive or a negative value depending on how much good or bad that action put into the universe. This show is creator Michael Schur’s third show, following the acclaimed Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and it is arguably the best of the bunch. It contains their signature rapid-fire wit and cuddly warmth but also explores deeper themes about the human condition.
Moving to number 17, we have Barry. This isn’t quite what we expected from Bill Hader, but alright. Barry follows the titular Barry, a hitman who wants nothing more than to leave his criminal past behind and become a full-time actor. The show shares a lot in common with Breaking Bad as it contains similar themes and tones, not to mention the whole idea of a man hiding his true identity from those who are closest to him. Of course, this is also much, much funnier than Breaking Bad ever was, given its more dark comedy than a drama.
At number 16, we have 30 Rock. Despite receiving consistent praise and even being named one of the best-written shows of all time by the Writers Guild of America, this show significantly struggled in the ratings. It’s a shame because it deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. The show is lightly adapted from Tina Fey’s experiences working at Saturday Night Live, and it follows the cast, crew, and corporate overlords of a similar sketch comedy program.
Coming in at number 15, we have Battlestar Galactica. This show is arguably the greatest science fiction show of all time. Like all great science fiction stories, this one uses its futuristic setting as an allegory to explore topical themes like the war on terror and the Catholic Church. Of course, you can just ignore all that and enjoy the incredible story and scenery at face value. It’s a treat for the mind, the eyes, and the heart.
Up next, we have Chappelle’s Show at number 14. This is arguably the most important sketch comedy show of all time, not only due to the quality of the show itself but also for what it represents. Chappelle’s Show contained many hilarious topical and thematic sketches, and it introduced a host of timeless characters into the pop-culture consciousness, primarily the crack-addicted Tyrone Biggums.
Last but not least, we have Deadwood at number 13. The series tells the sort-of-true, sort-of-made-up story of Deadwood, a small town in South Dakota. The series charts a path through the town’s rough-and-tumble not-quite-legal origins to its official status as a recognized town, complete with historical figures like Seth Bullock, Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Al Swearengen. David Milch uses the story of Deadwood as a microcosm to explore the greater merits of civilization, the very act of disparate individuals putting aside their differences and working together to form a greater and more prosperous whole.
In conclusion, these shows have become modern-day classics for a reason. They have given us a place to escape and be free, while also exploring deeper themes and making us think. Whether you’re a fan of science fiction, dark comedy, or sketch comedy, there’s something for everyone in these shows.