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The 11 most popular TV shows from 2013 to 2023

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2013: “The Americans”

The critically acclaimed drama “The Americans” garnered insufficient attention during its six-season run on FX from 2013 to 2018. Despite modest ratings and a lack of mainstream recognition compared to some contemporaries, the show maintained its status as a favorite among both critics and a dedicated audience. Unfolding the intricate narrative of the Jennings family, “The Americans” consistently delivered top-tier drama against the backdrop of the tense 1980s, enriched with elements of classic espionage. Starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as the enigmatic Mr. and Mrs. Definitely-Not-Russian-Spies, the series captivated viewers with its narrative finesse and compelling character moments throughout its entire duration.

2014: “BoJack Horseman”

The 2010s witnessed a surge in animated TV shows targeting adult audiences, propelled by the success of “Rick & Morty” and the growing prominence of streaming platforms. At the forefront of this trend was “BoJack Horseman,” a Netflix original that ran for six seasons until its series finale in 2020. After a tentative first season, “BoJack Horseman” evolved into a hidden gem, seamlessly blending the wild surrealism of featuring an alcoholic horse as the main character with a sincere and introspective exploration of weighty real-life topics.

2015: “Better Call Saul”

When the announcement of “Better Call Saul” as a spinoff of the immensely successful “Breaking Bad” series surfaced, understandable skepticism prevailed. Vince Gilligan, having achieved unprecedented success with the original series, defied conventional expectations by avoiding the pitfalls of a notorious series finale. Venturing back into the “Breaking Bad” world seemed risky, given the track record of numerous failed spinoffs from beloved TV shows. However, such concerns proved unwarranted. “Better Call Saul” not only became the quintessential blueprint for a successful prequel but also arguably surpassed “Breaking Bad” with its gripping, meticulously plotted storylines and poignant character twists.

2016: “Fleabag”

While 2016 may be remembered as a challenging year for Western democracies, it emerged as a standout year in the realm of television. The fact that the Netflix juggernaut “Stranger Things” only receives an honorable mention underscores the exceptional quality available as streaming services disrupted the stale status quo of traditional TV. Rising above the competition, “Fleabag,” a modest British comedy penned by Phoebe Waller-Bridge based on her eponymous stage show, claimed the top spot. Fast forward to 2023, and Waller-Bridge has evolved into a sought-after Hollywood talent, contributing to iconic franchises like James Bond, Indiana Jones, and more. The success of “Fleabag” played a pivotal role in shaping Waller-Bridge’s acclaimed career trajectory.

2017: “Twin Peaks: The Return”

The decision to revive “Twin Peaks” 27 years after the original David Lynch masterpiece raised eyebrows. Given the strong cult following, the series had faced a decline with an inferior second season, a famously ambiguous finale, and a box office disappointment in the form of a movie prequel. The resurrection of “Twin Peaks” in “The Return” seemed poised for either a pretentious downfall or a rekindling of the captivating allure that made “who killed Laura Palmer?” the talk of TV town in 1990. Thankfully, it proved to be the latter. “Twin Peaks: The Return” not only lived up to the esteemed reputation of its predecessor but also managed to enhance the legend of David Lynch’s surreal crime story, captivating audiences despite decades of continuous speculation.

2018: “Succession”

While “Succession” initially gained global recognition in its later seasons, it made its debut on small screens in 2018, introducing audiences to the trials and tribulations of the Roy family. The success of “Succession” started modestly but burgeoned over time, reaching its zenith with the conclusion of season 4 in early 2023. By then, Logan Roy’s colorful vocabulary had become a bona fide sensation, transcending geographical borders and appealing to a diverse TV demographic. The series finale garnered higher viewing figures than any previous episode, solidifying “Succession’s” status as a cultural phenomenon. Described as a fusion of “King Lear” and the Murdoch family saga, the show’s real-world applications only intensified the allure of its explosive drama.

2019: “Chernobyl”

While few TV shows can legitimately claim to be all-time greats, even fewer can assert that they have fundamentally transformed the medium itself. Series such as “Band of Brothers,” “Lost,” and “The Simpsons” have each played pivotal roles in shaping the future of television. In 2019, “Chernobyl” rightfully earned its place on this exclusive list. Retelling the 1986 disaster and its aftermath with meticulous and harrowing detail, “Chernobyl” elevated the small screen by introducing new levels of cinematic atmosphere. Beyond its visually compelling and haunting aesthetics, the series made the historical tragedy more visceral by framing the underlying issues within a contemporary context, deliberately emphasizing themes that remained profoundly relevant in 2019.

2020: “The Queen’s Gambit”

As people spent considerable time indoors in 2020, Netflix witnessed a surge in viewership. The streaming giant achieved significant success with hits like “Tiger King” and “The Queen’s Gambit.” While the tale of Joe Exotic in “Tiger King” may not stand among TV’s proudest moments, “The Queen’s Gambit” certainly does. Anya Taylor-Joy’s star was already ascending swiftly, but in her role as chess prodigy Beth Harmon, her acting prowess was showcased before a captivated audience with limited alternatives. “The Queen’s Gambit” justified its popularity by presenting a poignant narrative of womanhood, competition, mental health, and family, concurrently sparking a sudden surge of interest in the sport of chess.

2021: “It’s A Sin”

When not enchanting audiences with sci-fi wonders in blue boxes, Russell T Davies showcases his talent in crafting compelling TV dramas, exemplified by the 2021 masterpiece, “It’s A Sin.” This poignant series navigates the sensitive topic of AIDS in 1980s London, offering an empathetic portrayal that encapsulates the full spectrum of human emotions. By spotlighting the struggles of the gay community and shedding light on the widespread ignorance surrounding HIV and AIDS, “It’s A Sin” stands out as 2021’s most impactful TV narrative. While the directorial prowess of Russell T Davies played a significant role in the series’ popularity and critical acclaim, the surprisingly well-rounded lead performance from Olly Alexander, the lead singer of Years & Years, equally contributed to its success.

2022: “The Bear”

In an unexpected turn of events, kitchen-based dramas gained prominence in 2022, with “The Bear,” “Boiling Point,” and “The Menu” premiering in quick succession. As the second season concludes, “The Bear’s” stature has significantly risen since its debut, positioning itself as one of the most discussed shows of the 2020s. Offering a blend of tragedy, humor, and surrealism, “The Bear” transcends the conventions of a typical fictional workplace, and, most notably, the show is poised for further growth as it approaches its third season.

2023: “The Last Of Us”

The stigma once associated with live-action video game adaptations, akin to parking fines and the flu, has gradually diminished with the success of family-friendly ventures like “Sonic the Hedgehog” and “Detective Pikachu.” Shattering preconceived notions is “The Last of Us,” which, given the immense popularity of the game, had the potential for missteps. Through fidelity to the source material and the impeccable casting of Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey as Joel and Ellie, respectively, HBO’s “The Last of Us” defies expectations, emerging as a standout TV highlight of both 2023 and the decade thus far.

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